Why Are Nottingham Forest Called The Garibaldi? (Explained)

Football fans in stadium

Most of us will know them as The Reds or simply Forest, maybe a few of us will call them The Tricky Trees.

But one of the world’s oldest clubs does have another nickname…

So why are Nottingham Forest called The Garibaldi?

We delve deep back into history to find out…

Why Are Nottingham Forest Called The Garibaldi?

One of Nottingham Forest’s nicknames is The Garibaldi, as the club play in the colour Garibaldi Red. The name of the colour comes from the 19th-century Italian freedom fighter of the same name whose followers were famous for wearing red shirts. Garibaldi was hugely popular in Britain in the 1850s and 1860s, at the same time Nottingham Forest were founded and decided on their colours.

Introducing General Garibaldi…

The reason Nottingham Forest are called The Garibaldi is all down to one man.

The Italian general and freedom fighter Guiseppe Garibaldi.

What is the link with a team based in the Midlands of England and an aging patriot from Southern Europe (who never visited Nottingham I should add) I hear you ask?

Well Nottingham Forest were founded back in 1865. This makes them possibly the oldest football league club in existence. 

Both Stoke City and Crystal Palace claim to be older, however, Forest have been accepted as the oldest professional football league club by the EFL.

The political and geographical landscape of Europe was much different back in 1865, compared to now.

Whilst football was evolving in the UK, across Europe Guiseppe Garibaldi was fighting to unify his country.

In the 1840s and 1850s Italy was a series of city-states that were under Austrian control.

But Italian nationalists were fighting to unite Italy and create a single country liberated from foreign control.

One of the key figures in this fight was Guiseppe Garibaldi and his famous band of ‘redshirts’, named after the colour of the iconic loose shirts they wore as a uniform.

Garibaldi and his redshirts were successful in overthrowing the monarchy of Sicily and Southern Italy and uniting the country.

Garibaldi and Nottingham

In the process, Garibaldi became a celebrity across Europe, particularly in Britain and more particularly in Nottingham.

In 1860 a Garibaldi music band appeared in the town. In 1861 a lecture was delivered in the city on his adventures.

His name became associated with a racehorse, a biscuit and a sauce.

A rifle volunteer unit was formed in the city and donned shirts in what was the now famous ‘Garibaldi Red’.

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Such was Garibaldi’s popularity that when he visited England in 1864 an estimated half a million people witnessed his arrival in London.

However the British government was reticent to allow the radical Garibaldi out and about in the country, so his stay was restricted to the capital.

This meant he couldn’t take up an invitation to visit the MP for Nottingham, Sir Robert Clifton, at Clifton Hall.

However, he had already made his mark on the city.

And this was demonstrated in 1865 when a group of shinty players meet at the Clinton Arms on Nottingham’s Shakespeare Street proposing to play association football.

At these embryonic stages in the development of football, teams did not play in kits in the same way they do today.

Instead they would wear whatever kit they had to hand and then use a coloured cap or scarf to distinguish themselves.

At that initial meeting, the group decided the club’s official colours would be Garibaldi Red and they purchased 12 tasselled caps in that very colour.

Around 1869, they moved from the red caps to the red shirts that they wear to this day.

From the outset newspaper reports referred to them as either ‘the Foresters’ or ‘Garibaldi Reds’.

And whilst the nickname is not used as often today, it is still associated with the club.

In fact in 2016, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the formation of the club, a group of fans set up a new community group for the supporters called Forza Garibaldi.

The group’s aim was to ‘reinvigorate the support at NFFC’ and to remind other supporters of the Garibaldi connection and the origins of the club.

They also regularly unveil banners at games of the Italian general, who inadvertently played such an important role in the formative years of Nottingham Forest.

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The Forest Influence

As one of the world’s oldest football teams, Nottingham Forest’s influence on the game is hard to understate.

They are believed to have been the first team to use shinpads in 1874, the first to have given the referee a whistle in 1878 and also created the 2-3-5 formation, which was used almost universally until the 1960s.

Their Garibaldi Red kit was also adopted by a number of teams that followed in their wake.

Most notably Arsenal were founded in 1886 (initially as Dial Square) by three former Nottingham Forest players, Fred Beardsley, Bill Parr and Charlie Bates.

They wrote to Forest asking for help setting up the new club and were sent a set of kit and a ball. Red has remained their choice of colour ever since.

Other clubs that have gone on to wear Garibaldi red as a result of Nottingham Forest’s original adoption of the colour include Ajax, Sparta Prague, Sporting Braga and the Argentinian club Independiente. 

So What Became of Guiseppe Garibaldi?

We all know what became of Nottingham Forest, they have gone on to have an illustrious history and remain unique in the fact they have won more European Cups than league titles.

But what happened to Guiseppe Garibaldi?

In 1867 he was shot in the leg as he led a march on the city of Rome. 

After being imprisoned for some time he effectively retired to Caprera, an island he had bought half of in 1854 using an inheritance from the death of his brother.

He was elected to the Italian parliament twice and in 1879 founded the League of Democracy, but by 1880 he was largely confined to his bed by arthritis.

He died on 2 June 1882, a month before his 75th birthday.

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Final Thoughts

If you have wondered why one of Nottingham Forest’s nicknames is The Garibaldi, well now you know why!

When the club was first formed they wore the colour red which was so closely associated with the Italian freedom fighter Guiseppe Garibaldi that it was known as Garibaldi Red.

Being one of the very first football teams in the world, the colour became synonymous with them very early on.

They were even referred to in early match reports as the Garibaldi Reds.

The name and the connection remain to this very day and has even been revived by supporters following the club’s 150th anniversary in 2016.


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