Shirt Stories: Africa Unity by Puma

Where have those 10 years gone since South Africa hosted the 2010 World Cup?!

Here for a look at the shirt Puma produced for their African nations ahead of that tournament, please welcome back our special guest and friend of Sartorial.Soccer, Steve Halliwell.

Over to you Steve!

Cast your mind back to the vuvuzela World Cup of 2010, when Puma launched an absolute stunner of a shirt under the banner of ‘Play For Life.’

Play for Life: The full Africa Unity strip by Puma

A noble thought indeed and without wishing to bore you so early on in my transcript here is how the manufacturers described it:

“It has a unique and inspirational colourway.

The brown pantone was created by mixing actual soil samples from Ghana, Ivory Coast, South Africa and Cameroon.

The colour gradient transitions from brown to blue is a visual metaphor for soil to sky.

And all of the applications, such as the number and the badge are cast in yellow to represent the sun shining down on Africa!”

So now you know, however here’s my description;

Beautiful, just exquisitely beautiful.

The unique colourway represented Africa’s soil, sky & sun

The shirt first came to my attention via an article in World Soccer magazine’s World Cup preview of that year, and it was to be worn by all the competing African countries as a “change” strip, or at least a third choice.

The material is very lightweight and the shirt is a joy to wear. Comfortably fitted and nicely manufactured, it’s “a very well turned-out piece of material,” as my Gran would have said.

Besides featuring in the Fabric of Football exhibition at the National Football Museum in Manchester, it made number 9 in The Football Attic’s 50 best shirts of all time, along with featuring in Richard Johnson’s fine book; The A-Z of Weird & Wonderful Football Shirts.

The Africa Unity shirt was a great idea in theory, but in reality, it never really saw the light of day.

The shirt came with a collection of badges that could be used to customise the shirt

Aside from the odd friendly match, the most memorable outing came at Puma’s launch event where a special game took place between Cameroon and an African Stars XI with Drogba, Eto’o & Appiah all in attendance.

Plus odd as it may seem, it was to be used as a back up keepers’ shirt in some of the World Cup matches.

Puma simply attached each nation’s badge as and when required alongside the Africa Unity crest on the front of the shirt.

The cynic in me reckons it was just a publicity stunt by Puma before the 2010 World Cup and that none of the nations would wear it but ‘make the right noises’ regarding it.

Puma also did a Unity beer as a sideline along with various souvenirs.

Who knew there was an Africa Unity beer?!

The replica shirts have “Africa” on the back were a players’ name would be, along with the number 10 depicting the year.

A further point to note is that the shirts were sold complete with iron-on badges for Ghana, Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Algeria (I sold mine on a well known auction site for half the cost of of what I paid for the shirt!).

The World Cup in South Africa turned the globe’s attention to the continent and there was genuine African unity through sport as nations came to together to support Ghana only for Luis Suarez’s hand to come between the Black Stars and a place in the semi-finals.

This shirt was under-appreciated back in 2010, with many fans misunderstanding it’s purpose and the inspiration behind that brown and powder blue colour scheme.

Ten years on, Puma’s Africa Unity shirt is a stone-cold classic.

We’re really proud to feature this special guest post from Steve, don’t forget to follow him on Twitter (you’ll find him at @Aspulliter)!

Africa Unity, Shirt, Tags, Puma, 2010, World Cup
Not designed for one particular nation, the shirt promoted unity across the continent through sport

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