By Chibuike Chukwu
It’s very unlikely that Nigeria will be taking home the World Cup this year. Very, very unlikely. In fact, no African country is among the teams considered as favourites for this year’s Mundial and that is understandable given the level of football development in the continent.
But one title is already sure for Nigeria. According to a pool conducted by Sky Sport, with other internationally recognised media outlets, the Super Eagles will be wearing the 2018 World Cup’s best kit.
The media outlets have been proved right as Nigeria’s new kits have kept fans almost sleeping at the Film House, 142 Wardour St, Soho, Nike London office wanting to buy the now sold out jerseys.
In fact, the demand for the clothing has almost taking the shine off the preparations of the team, who will be donning the outfit when hostilities start in Russia in four days time.
Nike, the world renowned kit manufacturing company, kiting the Super Eagles at the World Cup for the third time, came up with a home and away jerseys featuring an outright lemon-like green colour and a zigzag design for the country’s players for this year’s Mundial.
What’s more, the (kits) broke pre-order records with a staggering three million ordered even before they were thrown into the market. They outsold Man United’s home kit for this season.
In February, four months before the release of the kits, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) revealed the three million pre-orders for the outfit, making it the most-sought-after 2018 World Cup wears.
With a price tag of $90, which is beyond the reach of millions of fans of the Super Eagles, there were indications that the jerseys may suffer low patronage but the football house confirm the huge demand for the outfit, saying that no Nigerian jersey had been so demanded.
To underscore how the kits were accepted by Nigerian football fans, both the home and away strips were already sold out on the Nike website, as the company claimed that there were no plans for a restock. The shirt alone is priced by Nike at £64.95 at the online store.
According to www.dalystar.co.uk, the jerseys are also being sold for well above their asking price, with one seller even asking for £220 for one shirt.
Nike confirmed the depressing news on Twitter, adding that there were no plans for restocking the much sought after kit. Responding to a fan’s query on why he was having difficulties ordering the jersey online, Nike said: “All three Nigeria jerseys have now sold out. There are no current plans for a restock.”
Meanwhile, the high demand of the outfit seems to have outshone their wearers, the players of the Super Eagles, whose test matches lately have been everything but impressive. Nigeria played six test matches since it qualified for the World Cup with two wins, three losses and a draw.
But on the Internet, demand for the jerseys has continued to soar with fans based in Nigeria exploiting the huge urge to make brisk businesses through what commentators called fake products. A fan twitted that since the jersey was not readily available in Nigeria, Nigeria-base fans had resorted to their own way of getting it.
The NFF, meanwhile, called against buying the fake products, saying through its twitter handle that it would notify Nigerians on when the original merchandise are available so as not to purchase substandard products.
“Our new 2018 kit by @Nike are not yet available on sale. As soon as they are, we will let you know. Everything currently being advertised and sold now is fake. Support the Super Eagles, buy original.”
The statement described merchandise being sold as fake, and urged Nigerian football supporters to be patient for the official release of the jerseys.
But Ben Bruce, a senator from Bayelsa State, attributed the fake kits to the country’s desire to produce the jerseys abroad, questioning why the contract was not given to home grown designers, who, he said, could have done even better. He lamented that by manufacturing the kits abroad, the authorites succeeded in denying the nation’s economy of about $100 million.
“Just imagine if those three million Nigerian Super Eagles jerseys were made by a firm in Aba rather than NIKE. Aba tailors have the capacity to produce them. We just lost an opportunity to infuse at least $100 million into the Nigerian economy and provide jobs for our youths. That is why people have resorted to making fake ones,” he said.
Those who supported Bruce agreed that the quality, if produced in Nigeria, may not be the same but however, said that Nigerians and fans were not paying N40, 000 because Nike jersey may not tear at the slightest touch but that because they feel that they are paying for brands. Nike, they noted, has become a household name in sports wear manufacturing.
Commenting on the demand for the jersey, the manufacturers, Nike, said that since Nigeria was a British colony, the country’s confidence had been irresistible, applauding Nigerians for showing faith with the wears.
“From its beginnings playing as a British colony to reaching the world stage in 1994, Nigeria’s confidence is irresistible,” Nike said.
“Now, all eyes are on the young Super Eagles to show the world what they can do.”
Meanwhile, since the kits were released, fans and stakeholders have continued to comment on it.
Etim Esin, former Super Eagles midfielder, commended the NFF for the outfit, saying that it reminded him of the nation’s exploit in their maiden campaign at the World Cup.
“The new Nike jersey is unique and reminds me of the exploits of the Super Eagles at USA ’94. “I like the design since it is coming from Nike and it will be top quality for the players to do their stuff in Russia.”
But one issue that has trailed the kits was the colour as so many fans have said that the colours were not true of Nigerian colours. According to a cross section of Nigerians, the colours were not the deep green the country is noted for.
But NFF President, Amaju Pinnick, while answering such criticisms, noted that the wears show the Nigeria and the federation’s rich tradition.
“A constant in Nigeria is an endearing love of football,” Pinnick said during the unveiling of the new kits in London. “When football is on, everything stops. The new Nike kit designs honour our federation’s rich traditions. Moreover, they celebrate everything we relish about our culture,” he said.
Pinnick’s position echoed that of Dan Farron, Nike’s Football Design Director, who had earlier stated that the new kits demonstrate Nigeria’s attitude, which takes into account players’ identities.
“We started to see trends in attitude and energy connecting the athletes to music, fashion and more. “They are part of a resoundingly cool culture,” admitted Farron, who was head of the Nike Football design group that also had series of interactions with Eagles stars.
Nike made in road into Nigeria’s national team for the first time in 1998 when it kited the Super Eagles to France for the 1998 World Cup.
Painfully, the change from Adidas to Nike at the World Cup did little to affect the overall performance of the team.
Despite qualifying from a group that had the likes of Spain, Paraguay and Bulgaria, the Eagles were sent home at the Round of 16 following Denmark’s 4-1 bashing. Nigeria won two games, draw none and lost two games; scoring six goals and conceded nine (-3) to finish on the 12th position, three spots behind the 9th spot it finished at US ’94.
The company returned to kit the Super Eagles in the 2012 World Cup where it provided a V-neck lemon-like green with white stripes at both sides. The NFF resorted to Adidas in both the 2010 and 2014 World Cups in South Africa and Brazil respectively but returned to Nike for this year’s edition taking place in Russia.