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Aldyr Schlee, designer of Brazil’s iconic soccer uniform, dies at 83

NEW YORK — Aldyr Schlee, a professor who designed the Brazilian soccer team’s iconic uniform, died Thursday at a hospital in Pelotas, Brazil, according to news reports. He was 83.

The Associated Press, which reported Mr. Schlee’s death, said he had skin cancer.

Mr. Schlee was a professor for 30 years at the Federal University of Pelotas, and an award-winning journalist and author, the Agencia Brasil website reported, but he was best known for his design of the Brazilian soccer team’s jersey.

In 1950, Uruguay beat Brazil in the World Cup, which was hosted in Rio de Janeiro that year. Brazilians considered the loss to be the worst soccer defeat in their history. The losing team was dressed in an all-white uniform and after the loss, it wanted a more patriotic look.

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A newspaper in Rio de Janeiro, Correio da Manhã (The Morning Mail), sponsored a contest in 1953 for the best design for a new uniform. The only requirement was it had to include the colors of the Brazilian flag: blue, green, white and yellow.

Mr. Schlee was 19 and working as an illustrator at a newspaper in Pelotas. He was puzzled at the contest requirement.

“No team uses four colors. And the colors in the flag are colors that don’t go well together,” he told Fox News in 2014.

Mr. Schlee won the contest, and what he created was one of the most iconic uniforms in professional sports, said Tom O’Grady, founder and chief creative officer of Gameplan Creative, a branding agency in Chicago.

“It completely changed the game,” he said Sunday. “It is the most popular and most iconic graphic of that sport.” O’Grady has designed jerseys for the New York Knicks, Phoenix Suns, Toronto Raptors, and Memphis Grizzlies.

Mr. Schlee’s design would not be suggested today because it’s too simple, O’Grady said, adding, “There is more ornamentation on uniforms today.”

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The new team colors debuted in March 1954.

Brazil played the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland and reached the quarterfinals wearing the colors designed by Mr. Schlee and has kept them ever since.

In 1958, when Pele and Mane Garrincha shook up the World Cup in Sweden, Brazil was not allowed to wear the yellow shirt and blue shorts in the final. Those were also the colors of Sweden. Wearing a blue shirt and white shorts, Brazil beat the Swedes, 5-2.

Brazil wore yellow and blue when it won its other World Cup finals in 1962, 1970, 1994, and 2002.

The Brazilian great Pelé raised the jersey’s intrinsic value with his skill and flair.

By 1970, fans did not have to be in the stadium to watch the players or have a radio to listen to announcers celebrate a goal. They could watch on television as Pelé led the team to victory. In the World Cup final, the team’s yellow jerseys contrasted starkly against the green field and the blue jerseys of the opposing Italian team.

“Once you step on the field and the team starts winning, it freezes it in lock and step,” O’Grady said. “There is such a connection to the jersey and winning now that it almost parks it in eternity.”

Aldyr Garcia Schlee was born Nov. 22, 1934, in Jaguarão, Brazil, a municipality that borders Uruguay, the Brazilian news site Globo reported.

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Mr. Schlee had an intertwined history with Uruguay and Brazil. Though he designed the jersey for Brazil, he rooted for the Uruguayan team.

On Friday, players from Brazil and Uruguay observed a moment of silence for Mr. Schlee before a game in London.

Members of the Uruguayan team, in their blue jerseys, stood on the field with members of the Brazilian team who wore the uniforms of canary yellow, ocean blue, Kelly green and stark white that Mr. Schlee had designed.


Material from the Associated Press was used in this obituary.