The group stages of the African Cup of Nations has been an absolute delight for those with a love of football and football shirts.
The clear expression of pride in national colours, applied to kits by a dizzying variety of brands, has been a real sight to savour.
Of the 14 (at last count) manufacturers providing kits to the 24 teams competing at AFCON 2021, a brand on top form has been our old favourites, Umbro.
The double-diamond label’s African division has supplied some lovely strips to three of this year’s lesser fancied sides in Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe.
Before a ball was kicked in this summer’s African Cup of Nations, this vivid trio of Zimbabwe shirts made us salivate a little and go, “ooooo.”
The first to catch our attention was the Warriors’ abstract looking away shirt, with its criss cross pattern looking as if it had been daubed in thick paint, before scraped across the design with a palette knife.
The overall effect takes our eyes away to the long grass. Just look at it.
Paired with green shorts and socks, this shirt was worn in Zimbabwe’s final group game, a 2-1 victory over Guinea, which sadly wasn’t enough to see them progress to the knock-out phase.
As great as the away shirt is, the star of the show is arguably the home.
Continuing the same hand-painted theme also seen in adidas’ last round of European international kits, Umbro have used their thick-brush to smother an impressionistic version of the national flag diagonally across from the left shoulder.
The colours cut-through Zimbabwe’s badge, which let’s face it, could probably do with an update.
For many neutrals, this was the shirt of the tournament and although it featured in defeats to Senegal and Malawi, UK-based collectors rushed to snap this up when it became available along with a host of Umbro’s other African designs through mandmdirect.com.
The final shirt of the three is the lesser-spotted third jersey in white and grey, which although smart enough, pales into the background when seen alongside its more colourful colleagues.
There had been talk in the days running up to the delayed AFCON 2021, that the Warriors would be expelled from the tournament, due to what FIFA saw as the wrong sort of political meddling from Zimbabwe’s government.
Fortunately that was a nightmare scenario that never came to be and we were able to see these colourful kits on the field in Cameroon.
Yes they’re a little chaotic, yes we could probably fault a few of the details including the application of that national crest to the shirts, but look past that and just enjoy them.
Aren’t they marvellous?