Kits Out of Africa
(Posted on 07/05/15)
African football shirts provide a wealth of interest for any football kit fanatics. African kit designs in the past decade have been known for their individuality, flair, boldness and ground-breaking innovation. Whether it’s in the World Cup or the continent’s own ‘African Cup of Nations’ its always fascinating to see what strips will be worn. Recent years have seen a plethora of richly coloured designs grace the field of play, filled with pattern, symbols and decoration that perfectly encapsulate the African spirit and culture. Many of these have been spearheaded by Puma who have championed African football for some years.
It was Puma that caused quite a stir on two occasions with strips provided for African side Cameroon. For the 2002 African Cup of Nations ‘Les Lions Indomptables’ won the tournament sporting cutting-edge sleeveless tops. However FIFA didn’t look kindly on the brave sartorial move and promptly banned the team from wearing the designs in that year’s World Cup and black sleeves were added to the tops. Two years later Cameroon and Puma found themselves in hot water again when the team sported a one-piece kit design (complete with stunning lion ‘claw marks’ on each side) in the early stages of that year’s Cup of Nations. Again FIFA stepped in and banned the side from wearing the unconventional ‘onesies’ in the latter stages of the tournament. Claiming they didn’t have time to produce a new kit, the side flaunted the ban by again sporting the controversial outfits and promptly found themselves on the end of a fine and a 6 point deduction ahead of the World Cup later that year. However, following protests from Cameroon and Puma the points were eventually reinstated.
Since then African kit controversy has fortunately been left behind, but the trend for stylish and exciting designs has not lessened. The past two World Cups in particular saw many of the African sides embracing their national heritage with their skin-tight strips incorporating symbolic watermarks and traditional tribal patterns and colours.
Another memorable kit, and one that far extended it’s ‘on the pitch’ remit was the African Unity shirt (another Puma creation) that was unveiled in January 2010 and marketed as ‘the first continental football shirt’. The inspirational ensemble was intended to spiritually and conceptually bring the teams of Africa together and featured a sky blue shirt that faded gradually into brown shorts and socks symbolising the soil and the sky of Africa. Yellow embellishments represented the African sun. In a first for football apparel, the outfit was designed to be worn as a third kit by all of Puma’s 12 African teams competing in that year’s Cup of Nations and World Cup with the only differences coming from the addition of the appropriate team badges.
The lesser known African nations also hold their own when it comes to interesting kit designs though. This year’s Sierra Leone strips, produced by sportswear manufacturers AMS Clothing, are brilliant examples of the vibrancy of African kit design. The home shirt is green with a broad blue and white panel across the chest but its the away strip that’s a real stunner and like all minor African nation jerseys, replica versions are proving increasingly difficult to find. The shirt features a bold and lively West African tonal pattern throughout the fabric, topped off with a neat baseball-style neck design. The strip is unmistakably African, but stands out extremely well against its peers and symbolises the continent’s unique approach to football style.
The new Sierra Leone Home and Away Shirts for just Â£39.99 can be bought here