'The Coca-Cola Kid': When Kazim-Richards Was Part Of A Unique Football Transfer

The forward turns 37 on Saturday
13:00, 26 Aug 2023

All told, Colin Kazim-Richards has been transferred close to 20 times in a nomadic football career. There have been 13 permanent senior moves, plus loans, and the London-born Turkey international, who turns 37 on Saturday, was most recently seen playing for Turkish Super Lig side Fatih Karagumruk having previously played in England, Scotland, France, Greece, the Netherlands, Brazil and Mexico.

But among all of those moves around the globe there was one which stands out from the rest. His 2005 transfer from Bury to Brighton & Hove Albion was his first between senior outfits and only came after the most peculiar of competitions which saw Kazim-Richards labelled ‘the Coca-Cola Kid’ across the English football fraternity.

At the time, the EFL was on its knees. The collapse of big-spending broadcast partner ITV Digital earlier in the decade had left many of the clubs and the organisation itself counting the cost of years’ worth of contracted income which was no longer guaranteed. Clubs went into administration, staff were laid off here, there and everywhere, and ticket prices were suddenly increased all over the country as the millions of pounds of shortfall left previously stable institutions scrambling to stay afloat.


A Sky Sports TV deal helped a little, but clubs were still out of pocket to the tune of a combined £220 million and they couldn’t exactly raise the asking price of their star players since all the potential buyers had been left every bit as cash-strapped as the sellers. When the existing sponsorship of the Football League by Nationwide Building Society ended in 2004, a new deal with Coca-Cola opened up an unexpected avenue.

The drinks giant began advertising in the colours of the 72 EFL clubs rather than just in its traditional red and white, while a fun new initiative gave fans the opportunity to make a tangible difference to their favourite team. It was announced during the 2004-05 season that any supporter who bought a can of Coke and entered a draw could help to win a £250,000 cash injection for their chosen side to spend on a new player.

The ‘Win a Player’ campaign was a massive success, with clubs in all three divisions encouraging their fanbase to get involved so big was the incentive of an extra quarter-million pound asset at a time when the vast majority of the 72 were still feeling the effects of the ITV Digital fiasco.

It was Brighton fan Aaron Berry who was the lucky Coca-Cola customer, leaving Albion boss Mark McGhee with the choice of who to snap up with the extra cash in the coffers. And it was Kazim-Richards, then 18 and having built a decent reputation for himself at Gigg Lane, who the Scot plumped for.

While the forward scored only six goals in 44 games in the following season as Albion were relegated to the third tier, Sheffield United manager Neil Warnock saw something in him and snapped him up to play in the Premier League at Bramall Lane in 2006-07.

Again, he struggled for goals, but he still did enough to impress Fenerbahce, who brought him on board in the summer of 2007 just a week after he had made his Turkey debut.

He went on to represent the country of his mother’s heritage at the Euro 2008 finals, playing 37 times in total for the Crescent Stars and going on to live a nomadic but fruitful life in football. While his cousin Andros Townsend might have gone on to have a more memorable spell at Premier League level, Kazim-Richards’ senior career has seen him represent the likes of Galatasaray, Olympiacos, Corinthians and Celtic, gaining a decent name for giving his all along the way.

But to many fans of a certain vintage, Kazim-Richards will always be the ‘Coca-Cola Kid’, the young star paid for by a soft drink company who within two years was playing in a European Championship semi-final. It was the sort of speedy ascent that had never been seen before.


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