Exploring the global appeal behind the Nigeria kit enjoying huge demand

Alex Iwobi of Nigeria Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Nigeria announced on Thursday that the national team's new 2018 kit line had hit a record three million pre-orders, far outstripping anything that preceded it.

While this was the first time such official sales figures have been announced, it's clearly a number that leaves everything else in its wake.

Such high demand for a Nigeria kit is unprecedented, but NFF Vice President Shehu Dikko explained that they the federation were informed at a meeting with Nike on Thursday that the novel, throwback design was behind the broad appeal.

"They told us Nigeria is their best selling kit due to the uniqueness," Dikko told KweséESPN, "so it appeals to everyone both from a sporting and fashion point of view."

The VP was also quick to end any scepticism about the validity of the figures.

"The three million are not actual sales but orders placed by all of their stores across the world," Dikko added. "These orders will not be delivered at once, but probably over the lifespan of the jerseys, which have a cycle of about two years.

"They cannot produce without orders, and some of these orders may not be delivered until next year," he continued, "but the stores have placed them now to ensure they have consistent supply and don't run out of stock."

It's been nearly three months since the kit reveal, and frustration has grown among Nigerians who have been unable to purchase the attire, especially with less than a month to the World Cup.

Cheap knockoffs have flooded the market as a result, retailing for around N10,000, significantly less than the expected $85 (N30,000) that the original will trade for.

This is a constant source of frustration for both the federation and its equipment suppliers, with Dikko arguing that it devalues the brand and compromises the country's ability to negotiate good deals with equipment manufacturers.

"The people who will criticise the NFF for not getting a so-called big sponsorship kit deal are the same ones who will undermine our ability to do so by buying the counterfeit jerseys," said the football official.

"It is hard to negotiate a good deal when the people you are negotiating with have to worry about fakes being sold openly in the market."

It is a situation that is almost unique to Nigeria, where sellers of the fake knockoffs advertise their wares openly online and offline with no fear of consequences.

"It is shocking," says Biola Kazeem, a sports marketing consultant.

"Nigeria is the only place where this kind of criminal behaviour will be allowed to go unchecked. Something needs to be done."

As it stands, Nike do not seem unduly troubled by the rush of fake jerseys flooding the market...perhaps the record number of orders may have had something to do with it.