Day 6

Underdogs turned fashionistas: Nigeria's team jerseys are a big hit at this year's World Cup

Nigeria is a long shot to win the World Cup, but the team's fashion choices have earned it a global following.

'It's hard to tell if it's original or fake, but they don't care; they're just happy to have the jersey'

Detail of the Nigeria badge and shirt during the International Friendly match between England and Nigeria at Wembley Stadium on June 2, 2018, in London, England. (Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
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They may be a long shot to win the World Cup, but Nigeria's Super Eagles are one of the most talked-about teams at this year's competition — thanks in no small part to their jerseys.

The team, which is set to face off against Croatia on June 16, is the youngest in competition this year. According to CNN, they're also the most stylish.

While the team has never made it past the World Cup's second round, Nigerian journalist Yomi Kazeem says the Super Eagles' fashion savvy has given them a positive push leading into the most-watched sports event of 2018.

"This year, the Super Eagles are getting a lot of momentum and attention," Kazeem told Day 6. "And a huge part of that is because of the jerseys."

Jerseys gone viral

The Super Eagles have been turning heads since February, when the first images of their stylish soccer kits went public.

Kazeem says the home jersey, in particular, stands out.

"It almost looks like the feathers of a bird, or in this case, an eagle, since that's what the national team is called. And it's super catchy — you see it, you notice it. It's different from pretty much anything else at the World Cup."

It's hard to tell if it's original or fake, but they don't care; they're just happy to have the jersey.- Yomi Kazeem, reporter for Quartz Africa

The jersey's green, white and black design holds special significance to Nigerian soccer fans. It was inspired by Nigeria's 1994 World Cup team — the first in the country to make it to the competition.

"That automatically triggered nostalgia," Kazeem said.

"After it was launched everybody simply wanted to have a piece of it."

Customers look at a Nigerian World Cup jerseys in a Nike store in Lagos on June 4, 2018. (STEFAN HEUNIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Fashion-driven fandom

By the time the kits were finally made available for purchase in June, they'd become a hot commodity around the world.

"Prominent football blogs, prominent football websites, all reviewed the jersey and all came to the same conclusion that it was most likely going to be one of the best, if not the best jerseys at the World Cup," Kazeem said.

The hype around the jerseys has translated into a lot more attention on the football team.- Yomi Kazeem, reporter for Quartz Africa

On Nike's official website, the jerseys sold out in less than three hours. At physical stores around the world, people lined up around the block for their chance to get their hands on the attire.

But that hasn't deterred Nigerian fans.

"Back in Nigeria there is a thriving market of bootleg fake jerseys from Asia that are being imported and sold," Kazeem said. "And so now, if you walk down the streets of Lagos, you are bound to see someone wearing the jersey. It's hard to tell if it's original or fake, but they don't care; they're just happy to have the jersey."

A man wearing a Nigerian World Cup jersey poses for a photo in one of the alleyways in Balogun Market in Lagos on June 14, 2018. (STEFAN HEUNIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Growing momentum

Since their arrival in Russia for the 2018 World Cup, the Super Eagles' fashion sense has continued to draw attention.

"When they landed in Russia, while everybody else showed up in suits, the Super Eagles landed wearing traditional attire with hats, and down to the sandal — all of them looking the same and looking really good."

All that attention has had a positive effect on the team, according to Kazeem.

"The hype around the jerseys has translated into a lot more attention on the football team," he said. "There are non-Nigerians who have bought the jerseys and now automatically root for Nigeria, and will most likely pay attention to the football team."

Still, it remains to be seen whether the Super Eagles can translate that enthusiasm into success on the field.

"They've never gone into the World Cup being one of the most talked about teams, and even though that might ordinarily invite some pressure, the feeling is that they're excited by the attention," Kazeem said.

"We're hoping that they can step up to the plate and match just how good we've looked off the pitch … on the pitch."

Nigeria's William Ekong heads the ball during Nigeria's official training on the eve of the match between Croatia and Nigeria at the 2018 World Cup. (AP / Petr David Josek)

To hear more from Yomi Kazeem, download our podcast or click the 'Listen' button at the top of this page.

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