Nigeria turned up as, hands-down, the best-dressed team at Russia 2018, with those brilliant shirts flying off the shelves, even if the Super Eagles who wore them didn’t fly quite as high.
In the four years that have followed, Nigeria have still looked fly, their current home kits also a thing of beauty. Chances were they’d have been just-as-fly at the next World Cup – only they won’t be there, thanks to west African neighbours Ghana.
So, yes, the Black Stars – returning to the World Cup for the first time since 2014 – have a responsibility to, at the very least, look as good as the Nigerians would have. And yet, just about three months to the tournament’s commencement, it’s apparent that Ghana have already failed the sartorial bit of the test.
Not that it’s the country’s fault, though you have to wonder if the Ghana Football Association (GFA) couldn’t have invested a bit more than the next-to-nothing input they seemingly made towards designing the new set of kits PUMA have now unveiled for the Stars.
My candid thoughts?
Let’s just say neither shirt particularly resembles a product of considerable imagination or ingenuity, in keeping with PUMA’s notorious hit-and-miss record as far as Ghana’s national teams are concerned.
The first-choice jersey is predominantly white, as we’ve come to expect it to be (wrongly or rightly), but every fibre of it reeks of a thoroughly upsetting lack of originality. You’ll find the sleeve pattern (in reverse order, that is) on Senegal’s white shirt; for the retro-ish collar, cool as it looks, see Serbia’s own set of whites.
(PUMA claims this jersey is “inspired by iconic moments from national team history,” but that’s obviously garnished bollocks.)
In creating the change strips, PUMA decided to show they’re capable of producing something truly mind-blowing, as some of their major rivals so regularly do, but they have only succeeded in coming up with mind-boggling stuff.
Let’s not pretend we’re shocked, though.
Nearly every time PUMA tries to push the envelope, they push it a bit too far and things only end up taking a drastic turn for the worse – recall the roundly-derided third kits served some of European football’s biggest clubs last season?
Well, a similar reception has greeted the German manufacturer’s fresh attempt to evade the clutches of predictability and head left-field.
You wouldn’t find, in any of the nations whose teams are to be ‘adorned’ by PUMA’s hot-off-the-press releases, a swelling chorus of delight; if you do at all, you can be sure that applause certainly won’t be emanating from these shores.
The cut of this Ghana shirt – surprise, surprise – is not very different from some of the others it arrived with. The problem isn’t that it’s mainly of a red hue (hardly unexpected, if we’re being honest); it’s, well, everything else.
See, PUMA didn’t just dare to think outside the box this time; they went so far as to pick the box itself – topped with a likeness of the Ghana flag, in which the eponymous black star is flanked on a zig-zagged field by the GFA logo and (weirdly still) the name Ghana – and dropped it bang in the middle of the shirt, into which the numbers would fit to give off Total 90 vibes (but without the same aesthetic appeal).
The resulting product looks ridiculously amateurish, the kind of thing you’d not want to see, much less purchase – definitely not for almost €90… and probably not even for the significantly lower going rate of the cheaper Kantamanto knockoffs.
We’ve had some real let-downs in the Ghana wardrobe over the years, I know, but the overwhelmingly negative feedback to the latest entry suggests PUMA has reached unprecedented lows, if not necessarily rock-bottom.
A jersey, of course, is only ever as popular as the memories that it is associated with, and if the Stars manage to shatter a glass barrier or two come the end-of-year global event, perhaps we might be inclined to look upon this offering with some approval or fondness.
And maybe that’s the only way Ghana can now outdo the Nigeria that might have graced Qatar 2022: by simply dressing playing better.