Wed | Aug 15, 2018

Nigeria's bright uniforms a big hit

Published:Wednesday | June 13, 2018 | 12:19 AM
In this June 5, 2018 photo a man stands in front of a Nigerian national football team jersey is on display at a shop in London.

NEW YORK (AP):

Spain, your asymmetry is showing. Nigeria, you're so bright I need shades! Croatia, Russia's fresh out of Big Boy restaurants.

No worries, though, your party duds will be just the ticket once the World Cup gets underway June 14.

Those countries are among several of the more festive standouts in jerseys for the global football showcase, with loads of sentimental touches in the designs of the 32 teams.

With millions in exposure and retail sales at stake, the World Cup kits of 2018 can be categorised, generally speaking, like this: Team Plain, Team Retro and Team Cool Kid on the Pitch.

"We didn't used to care so much," said Roger Bennett, who is half the wacky British duo of the "Men in Blazers" football show on NBC Sports.

"What's changed is the fusion of the World Cup and the Premier League and the Champions League and television as a global platform, and advertising, which has essentially transformed them from being just functional garments, nothing to see here, just polyester, everybody move along, to the single-most lucrative billboard in the world," he said. "They may as well be spun from gold in terms of the impact that they have on the sports manufacturing brands that propel them."

Or, in the case of Australia, gold with a riot of jagged lines on shoulders and sleeves of home jerseys. The algae green lines celebrate waves and the country's proximity to various oceans and seas, said Nike football apparel senior design director Pete Hoppins. The away kit is all green with a diagonal slash of yellow and lighter green touches on the front, in tribute to Australia's 2006 jerseys .

 

The fans

 

Fans have been buzzing for weeks about Nigeria's shirts, to the delight of supplier Nike but not so much among folks back home who consider the US$85 price tag out of reach . The away shirts are a screeching bright green, white and black with trippy jagged edging on a chevron pattern that may just be the World Cup's shining Rorschach moment, along with an ode to the country's style and pop culture energy.

The we-have-arrived look is a modern reinvention of Nigeria's 1994 kits, the first time the country qualified for the World Cup. The new shirts sold out in minutes on the first day of sales in some spots, including Nike's flagship store in London and online, Hoppins said, after stakeholders decided early on to go bold and market the strips in a collection that also includes hats, T-shirts and jackets.

"We've never seen anything like this before in terms of excitement, in terms of people queuing around the block," Hoppins said, referring to the crowd that showed up June 1. "It's something that Nike has never really done before, which is going all out and having fun with it. We want Nigeria to be everyone's second team."