IKENWA NNABUOGOR wonders whether the Super Eagles could now go past making a fashion statement at the World Cup…
Super Eagles launched a set of flamboyant green and white jerseys at the 1994 World Cup in the United States of America for the world savour a brand-new fashion showpiece.
Before then, Mexico World Cup goalkeeper Jorge Campos’ colourful jerseys added glamour and unique entertainment to the beautiful game.
Eagles USA’94 jerseys not only fascinated the fans, but also helped to change the fashion sense the beautiful game has come to be associated with.
The coach Clemens Westerhof-inspired side also matched their fashion razzmatazz with breathtaking performances that kept the world rooting for the African champions, but the super run in the USA was sadly cut short.
Bulgaria fell to the fierce firepower of the African kings who thumped the Eastern Europeans, who had pipped France at the death in the qualifiers to pick their US’94 ticket, 3-0 in Eagles’ first ever World Cup game, donning their colourful apparels.
Though, Italy stopped the Westerhof-tutored men in the second round that ended their well-mapped out plans to conquer the world, they were without doubt the best dressed team.
Added to the honour, was the second best entertaining team award that still has a place in the history of World Cup.
Fast forward to Korea/Japan 2002 World Cup, Nike had taken over as the new Eagles kit sponsors and rolled out another unique kit design, but this time the lemon-green colours added a new fashion twist for the Africans.
Eagles were the only team who showcased unique colours that got the world admiring the colours and cheering on the Africans.
The global showpiece in the Orient, first of its kind in the World Cup history , was not kind to Super Eagles who took an early walk even with their flashy colours.
Not only did Julius Aghahowa thrill the world with his breathtaking cartwheel celebrations, the emergence of Enyimba’s 20-year-old goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, who stood between England and goals in the insignificant last group game after two losses to Argentina and Sweden, was also a talking point.
Enyeama would go on to become Nigeria’s record capped player alongside his Japan-Korea World Cup debutant, Joseph Yobo, with 101 appearances apiece.
If the Japan-Korea 2002 World Cup Eagles colours failed to lift the West African giants, the breathtaking designs of Russia 2018 World Cup helped to put Nigeria right back on the world map as the all-time World Cup best dressed team.
The colours reminded the world about the 1994 World Cup, but with some touch of more advanced aesthetic designs, yet the colours failed to fly Eagles past the group stage.
What about the track suits?
Even the Louis Vuittons, the D&Gs, the Salvatore Ferregamos and the best fashion designers of the world applauded the design ingenuity that American sportswear manufacturers Nike came to associate the three-time African champions with.
Demands for replicas reached sky-high, imitations by clubs and countries were also warmly welcomed and also helped install Eagles as the most fashionable at the World Cup.
Nike is certainly not done with making fashion statements with their biggest African clients, the new designs that greeted Eagles return to football after the Covid-19 restrictions have continued to excite the fashion circles.
But what have these attractive designs brought success to the Eagles since their 1994 African Nations Cup triumph?
Success with the colours has not been guaranteed, but the world has been awaken to the reality that Nigeria have actively advanced fashion in football.
Now have the designs turned out to be fashion entertainment gimmicks only and not matching it with success?
Eagles return to football after 344 days in Covid-19 restriction wilderness was anything but convincing, but expectations are high for improvement.
Whether the Eagles will eventually begin to achieve success with their attractively-designed jerseys, they have made the fashion statement to the rest of the world and kit sponsor Nike does not look like slowing down just yet.