In normal times, thousands of people would take to the streets, deck out the town in bright colours, stage boisterous parties and parades and forget about the struggles of everyday life for a few days.
Cologne are one club who would traditionally release a football shirt to match, with the North Rhine-Westphalia club adopting lederhosen and even tassels as a theme to mark the occasion over the years. They continued the tradition last November, when they employed the services of a melancholy clown to launch the colourful patchwork kit.
However, Cologne have been well and truly usurped this year, with Bundesliga rivals Mainz taking the carnival spirit to a new level entirely.
Mainz first produced a carnival shirt — or “Fastnachtstrikot” — back in 2016, where they simply adopted the bold primary colours of the traditional jester’s cap, which has become a seasonal icon. The red, yellow and blue colourway is back for their 2020-21 jersey, but this season’s offering includes a very special bonus.
The limited run of 1905 shirts (the year of their foundation) will help Mainz to do their bit to aid the local pub and hospitality industry by including a complimentary bar tab with each shirt.
Yes, you read that correctly. Every replica Fastnachtstrikot comes with a tab worth €11 ($13), which fans will be able to redeem at one of 27 participating pubs and taverns when the city is able to open up again.
The voucher is valid for the rest of 2021 at bars with names including “Krokodil” (“Crocodile”) and “Zum Heringsbrunnen” (“At the Herring Fountain,” where the kit was launched), with the distinct hope being that lockdown restrictions are eased before then.
The announcement was made at 11:11 a.m. local time, which is ordinarily the time that carnival season officially begins each year on Nov. 11.
Mainz also confirmed that fans can either spend the €11 on drinks for themselves or, alternatively, hand the voucher over the bar as a straightforward donation to the pub of their choice.
As a further personal touch, the new Mainz carnival shirt also features on the back the names of all the season-ticket holders who waived their right to claim refunds on all the games played behind closed doors last season, instead allowing the club to keep the money.
“We say thank you to all loyal season ticket holders who waived their refund for the 2019-20 season,” the club said on their website, where you can order the jersey for €84.95 ($102). “As recognition and thanks, they have the opportunity to be immortalised with their names on the jersey.”
We’ll drink to that!
ESPN’s Germany correspondent Stephan Uersfeld contributed to this report