A few days ago, Nigeriaâ€™s Russia 2018 World Cup kit was unveiled in London to mixed reactions, mostly positive. The home jersey is a daring throwback to the mid-nineties, with lemon green and black making rare appearances. Love it or hate, you canâ€™t ignore the fact itâ€™s a bold statement.
The kit is representative of the new wave of optimism surrounding the Super Eagles as the World Cup approaches. The positive vibes result from the ease with which the Eagles breezed through a qualifying group that looked daunting initially. The Eagles swathed aside the challenge of highly rated Algeria, Cameroon and Zambia, qualifying with a game to spare.
The current form shouldnâ€™t be taken for granted, coming off the back of the senior national team failing to qualify for two editions of the African Nations Cup since winning in 2013.
The Nigeria Football Federation led by Amaju Pinnick must be commended for getting the choice of team manager right. Gernot Rohr has managed to put together a team that isnâ€™t only competitive, but also vibrant and entertaining.
For the first ever, the NFF has detailed an early plan for friendly matches and camp sites. A glamour game against England at Wembley on June 2 is the pick of the bunch, with the Eagles to also play Poland (March 23), Serbia (March 27), DR Congo (May 28), Czech Republic (June 6) and possibly, a yet-to-be-announced South American side before the teamâ€™s opening World Cup match against Croatia in Kaliningrad on June 16.
Argentina and Iceland are the other teams Nigeria will play at the World Cup in a group already touted as the â€œGroup of Deathâ€. The Super Eagles will head into the World Cup with no fear though, after recently dazing a strong Argentine team 4-2 in a friendly.
According to Nike, Nigeriaâ€™s new kit draws inspiration from this optimistic spirit of Naija.
â€œThe word Naija has many uses. As a descriptor, it defines a certain future-focused optimism â€” one that has catalyzed a new generation of Nigerians to celebrate the nationâ€™s vibrant culture. Use of the word requires attitude, even panache.
â€œIt isnâ€™t simply a stand-in for Nigeria; instead, Naija reflects a youthful exuberance, pride and fresh perspective on patriotism. To some, Naija translates directly to â€˜the new Nigeria.â€™ With boundless potential and an undoubtedly infectious palpable charisma, the squad begs fandom from anyone â€” interest in football notwithstanding,â€ Nike explained in a piece titled, â€˜For Naijaâ€™.
At heart it says, the looks are driven by a desire to channel a healthy reserve of exuberance.
â€œWith Nigeria, we wanted to tap into the attitude of the nation,â€ according to Dan Farron, Nike Football Design Director. Along with other members of the Nike Football design group, Farron dug into learning more about Nigeria’s players. “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.â€
The fashion forward nature of the Nigerian collection doesnâ€™t end with the home kit. The wing-inspired pattern on it extends to Nigeriaâ€™s anthem jacket along with pre-match and training apparel. The latter features taping along the shoulders emblazoned with Super Eagles, while the jacket sleeve reads â€œNaija.â€
As a natural contrast to the home kit, the away kit introduces a cool, refined vision of a classic Nigeria full-green strip.
â€œOverall, the two uniforms form the perfect yin/yang of kits. We counterbalanced the energy of the home with a super-dark deep green away look.â€
Naija zeal extends further in the off-pitch portion of the collection. Most notably, thereâ€™s the travel suit â€” a tonal green floral affair with significant swagger. Accessories, including bucket hats, add personality, and each piece is designed to be mixed and matched to preference.
By the time Nigeriaâ€™s opening World Cup game against Croatia comes around, the Nigerian team would have earned new fans not just because of its exploits on the field, but because of the just unveiled collection.
With the kits of more than half of the 32 World Cup teams unveiled to the public, the Nigerian home jersey was ranked the best by the UK Mirror.
According to the newspaper, the glorious effort from Nigeria is a deserving No. 1. â€œIt’s incredible, frankly, and is bound to turn us all into Super Eagles in the summer,â€ the newspaper predicts.
A young and daring team that plays with swagger in a refreshing new look means it will be fashionable to be a Super Eagles fan once again.