Three minutes. That’s all it took for Nike to sell all of its super-funky Nigerian World Cup kit online. That’s almost as long as it will take for Spanish destroyer Sergio Ramos to earn his first yellow card at the global showpiece. The manufacturer had received three million pre-orders for the jerseys, which go for £64,95 a piece, and fans queued around the block at London’s NikeTown store to get their hands on one.
Other items in Nike’s Nigerian World Cup collection, including track jackets, bucket hats, and board shorts, all in the distinct shade of green and chevron pattern, were also greedily snapped up by fans. Besides the striking design, the heightened demand could also be put down to the kit being released much later than other countries’, as the Nigerian Football Federation looked to stamp out the fake replica market.
I’m no fashionista, but the Nigerian jersey, with its striking design, was always going to be a winner. When the full lineup of kits for the Russian spectacle was released, I passed over the others without too much interest, apart from hovering over the classic blue French and retro Colombian kits for a few moments. England, Germany and Brazil’s efforts bored me to tears – all clean lines, without too much charisma. The Nigerian jersey, however, is destined to become an icon – the kind of jersey you’d receive props for wearing at the club or on corporate team-building. Assuming I can get my hands on one, it will become part of my athleisure office wardrobe, alongside my Arsenal and Sharks kit.
And it’s not just on the pitch that the Nigerians will look the part – their travelling outfits, long-sleeved shirts and fitted trousers, accompanied by matching hats and shoes, have just as much panache as their playing kit.
Nike Design Director Pete Hoppins told Fader that the jersey was intended to reflect the youthfulness of the Nigerian team.
“With the Nigeria kit and collection, what we wanted to do is take a team who there is less expectations on from the media and fans in terms of both on the field performance and kit design. There is less pressure to not mess with the kit than, say, England. While no-one expects Nigeria to challenge for the World Cup, we felt that there’s something going on with Nigeria as a young team.
“There’s a confidence in all these young players, they’re going to go for it and we were attracted to that. We’ve been following them from afar, and the players on social media… a lot of them are playing in some of the top clubs in Europe, and there’s that boldness that aligns in Nigeria and Lagos and in London. We thought that there’s something in here to do something different.”
While Africans all over the world will be hoping the continent’s representatives in Russia perform well and maybe even clinch an elusive semi-final spot, it’s gratifying to know that Africa has already made a statement at the 2018 World Cup.