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Dressed in Red, dressed to win

“Red for danger”. No doubt most teenagers have been led to believe that this doctrine applies only to traffic lights. Red has, however, emerged as more than just a colour in the beautiful game and those who do chromatics, colorimetry, or simply colour science, can attest to that.

Have you asked yourself why there are three teams in the English Premiership that have dominated the scene -- Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal? Think of the currently high riding Orlando Pirates in South Africa and the six-time African Champions League winners, Al Ahly from Egypt.

In case you haven’t heard, Real Madrid have also gone red and with that strip they beat a determined Dinamo Zagreb 1-0 in the opening group match of the Champions League. What is in the colour red, you ask?

What was often described as colour psychology in ancient times is actually colour symbolism, something which colorimetry describes as the conscious associations that we are conditioned to make, based from our frames of reference that are often influence by our different cultures.

For instance, throughout the Islam states, green is the sacred colour, being the colour of the Prophet's robe. In Ireland it is considered lucky, perhaps because when its’ green outside this indicates the presence life , usually in Spring. However in England green is actually considered unlucky, possibly because of its association with disease.

There are many examples of colour symbolism, white is associated with peace and loyalty for the simple reason that it is regarded as symbol of purity. Brides wear white in many countries because it symbolises a virgin.

The short and long of it all is that white means kindness. I can hear Real Madrid fans, whose home kit is white, saying that explains why we they have been giving away points and trophies to Barcelona recently. Tottenham Hotspur fans may also be scratching their heads.

However, in Brazil, white is regarded as colour of bad luck after their disastrous loss to Uruguay in the 1950 World Cup final at the Maracana on home soil. The Samba stars were wearing white and it is believed that Brazil retired their white kit with blue trim as they felt it was “bad luck and unpatriotic”.

Let’s return to the main colour under discussion. Red is the colour of blood and is often associated with war. Perhaps this explains why Man United and Liverpool have looted the league championship 19 times apiece. Manchester City have also gone red -- their away strip for the season is red and black.

In Africa, the Egyptian “Red Devils”, Al Ahly, have dominated their domestic scene and boast of six African Champions League titles. The Egyptian national team, made mostly out of Aly Ahy, has also dominated the continent in the African Cup of Nations with seven titles.

A study published in the Journal of Sports Science has found that teams with red shirts are more successful in football than those whose home shirts are yellow, white or blue. The study claims that the way humans respond to colour affects the team’s performance.

The researchers suggest that teams wearing red have a psychological advantage as the colour is often associated with male aggression. Hence teams in red will subconsciously feel tougher and intimidate the opposition.

Liverpool played in white and blue during their first three years but switched to their famous red shirts in 1896. However, it was only in the 1960s that the all-red kit came into effect, courtesy of a piece of Bill Shankly psychology.

Ian St John, who believed the colour red carried a psychological impact, wrote about it in his autobiography, "Red for danger, red for power”. It is said that one day he came into the dressing room and threw a pair of red shorts to Ronnie Yeats. “Get into those shorts and let's see how you look,” he said. “Ronnie, you look awesome, terrifying. You look seven feet tall.”

The all-red kit made its debut at Anfield in a European Cup second-round tie with Anderlecht and the Reds won 3-0 against a side that featured seven of the 11 Belgium players who had recently held England to a draw.

In another study by Iain Greenlees, of the University of Chichester, it also emerged that football players are less likely to score from a penalty if the goalkeeper is wearing red.

According to the report, researchers examined the performances and expectations of success of 40 university football players shooting against goalkeepers wearing different coloured shirts. Each of the players took a total of 20 shots, 10 against a keeper wearing a shirt with black stripes and 10 against a keeper wearing a shirt with either blue, yellow, green or red stripes.

The colour of the goalminder's shirt didn't affect how many goals a player believed he would score. However, the scoring success rate was lowest against a goalkeeper in red (54 per cent), followed by yellow (69 per cent), blue (72 per cent) and green (75 per cent).

Maybe this could explain Itumeleng Khune’s recent downward spiral of form, he has always worn a red shirt in goals. Only recently has he been seen sporting a blue shirt. Khune, maybe it’s time you ask for your red shirt back.

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