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Culture

English Firm Experiences "Miracle of Bern"

When is an English person happy to see a German soccer shirt? When it has a price tag of over €40 on it and that person is the one with the licence to sell it. Just ask the people at TOFFS.

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Who wouldn't want an authentic 1954 Germany shirt?

Someone once said that football is not about life and death, it’s a lot more important than that. In today’s sporting climate, the one thing more important than the “be all and end all” is the amount of dollars, euros or pounds that soccer can generate.

In most cases, this is seen to be a bad thing; a commercialization of the beautiful game. But for one British-based clothing company, cashing in on football has a seemingly honorable side-effect.

The Old Fashioned Football Shirt Company, or TOFFS as it is more widely known, has made a tidy business from the sale of authentic vintage football merchandise, providing fans of European and international clubs and countries with blasts from glorious pasts in the way of shirts, tracksuits and other memorabilia.

But the Newcastle-based company seems to have hit on a very lucrative market after sealing a deal with the German Football Association (DFB).

Business deal that became a "wunder"

In the beginning, it seemed just like a sensible business agreement between TOFFS and the DFB to licence vintage shirts from the Bundesliga clubs and the German national team.

Then a certain German soccer movie was released and sales for the Germany shirt from 1954 went through the roof.

Das Wunder von Bern, Film von Sönke Wortmann, Locarno 2003

Das Wunder von Bern -- The Miracle of Bern.

That film was "Das Wunder von Bern," or "The Miracle of Bern," the story of Germany’s 1954 World Cup victory in Bern, Switzerland. It was Germany’s first World Cup win and the first step on a steady climb to the top of the game and becoming Europe’s premier side for decades to come.

Bob Malone, who handles international sales for TOFFS, told local newspaper The Journal: "We worked hard to acquire a licence with the DFB in 2000. But we had no idea just how popular the shirts were going to go on to be."

The company sold almost 1,000 shirts to customers in Germany over the Christmas and New Year period, each costing €43.81 (£29.99) each, plus €7 extra for every shirt number. However, unsurprisingly there have been considerably fewer sold to the English.

Traditional rivalry

One doesn’t have to be a soccer fan to know that the combination of Germany, World Cups, soccer and England makes for one very volatile debate on both sides of the channel. The rivalry in any soccer competition between the two old foes is the stuff of legend.

Wembley Tor 1966

A memory that is kept alive by English-German rivalry.

For the English, they continue to live on the memory of the 1966 World Cup final when they won their only major international trophy by beating Germany 4-2.

However, any mention of Germany’s three World Cup victories, three European Championships and the heart-breaking number of defeats in crucial international games and the English go decidedly quiet or rally with defensive shouts of “5-1 in Munich!” in reference to the national team’s best result against the Germans in 2001.

So for an English company to enjoy success on the back of sales of German World Cup winning shirts, it really is a case of putting traditional rivalries to one side and letting sound business sense dictate actions.

Huge demand keeps growing

The company has had to put external suppliers on standby to help meet demand for the German shirt as its own staff and the outsourced employees at other factories can’t cope. Demand is increasing further because German companies are now using the shirts for their own promotions in the run-up to the Euro 2004 tournament and the 50th anniversary of the Bern success.

So it’s not only Malone and his colleagues who are benefiting from swallowing their national pride and producing shirts that would normally inspire howls of light-hearted derision in English soccer fans. Employees at the company and elsewhere in the job-scarce North East region are also enjoying The Miracle of Bern.

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