Most of my friends aren’t big calcio fans. Mention Palermo to them and they’ll typically recall them as the team with the pink shirts. Nobody knows about Fabrizio Miccoli and Maurizio Zamparini, but everybody remembers the pink shirts.
This is hardly surprising. How many other clubs have the fortitude to stride out in a pink kit every week? This season’s Juventus away shirt is a particularly garish tone of magenta and my friend’s five-a-side team have sported a totally macho pink number for years. I think Everton’s away shirt had a splash of pink a year or two ago. Maybe.
I couldn’t name you another. Pink must be one of the most unpopular colours in the world when it comes to football kits, but Palermo have been wearing it for years. I’ve no idea why pink is so out of favour but playing in pink gives the Aquile an identity. Their shirt is unique among Europe’s top leagues and the pink gives fans something to latch onto. A casual fan probably wouldn’t be able to tell you much about Genoa or Chievo, but Palermo? “Those are the guys with the pink shirts.”
But Palermo haven’t always been pink. The club, on their 1898 inception, chose blue and red strips in a “halves” style that was almost identical to today’s Genoa and Cagliari shirts. I don’t know what the significance of these colours were. Maybe Palermo’s English founders wanted a kit comprised of two of the Union Jack’s colours, or maybe they were selected randomly. I haven’t been able to find out either way.
Regardless, the blue/red colour scheme didn’t last long. Palermo switched to their iconic pink in 1907. Giuseppe Airoldi, one of the club’s founding members, suggested the switch in a 1905 email to club councillor Joseph Whitaker. “Pink and black,” Airoldi wrote, “are the colours of the sweet and the sad. A good fit for a team characterised by results as up and down as a Swiss clock.”
The pink and black shirts, therefore, represent the club’s early inconsistency. I find this unbelievably pessimistic and unambitious, but it’s definitely appropriate. Palermo have competed in all four of Italy’s professional divisions since their formation, and they still struggle for consistency today (just look at the discrepancy between their home and away performances this season).
A lack of pink flannel in Palermo meant the club had to wait a few months for the material to be imported from England. Their first game in the new colours came against an unnamed amateur side, which Palermo won 2-1.
Change came again in 1936, but this time it wasn’t the club’s choice. Benito Mussolini’s fascist government forced Palermo to abandon their pink kits for red and yellow jerseys. He ruled that Italian clubs should wear the colours of their respective municipalities, but Palermo eventually reverted to pink and black a year after their 1941 merger with Juventina Palermo.
Not quite as interesting as Juventus’ story of borrowing black and white shirts from Notts County, but a nice story nonetheless. Learning about small details like the meaning behind a club’s colours is always good fun, and who doesn’t love a little chunk of trivia?
- U.S. Cittá di Palermo – Wikipedia.
- Palermo – official website.
- “Palermo, 100 anni di rosanero,” Vincenzo Prestigiacomo, La Gazzetta.