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Aesthetic history of the African Cup of Nations

From the vuvuzelas to armhole kits and American-inspired shirts, CAF has always had some great surprises in store

Aesthetic history of the African Cup of Nations From the vuvuzelas to armhole kits and American-inspired shirts, CAF has always had some great surprises in store

The 2022 African Cup of Nations opens on 9 January. It was postponed last year due to the Covid affair and was in danger of being cancelled for the same reasons. However, CAF has imposed itself and the competition will be held regularly in Cameroon. They will go all out against Algeria, the reigning champions, who in the course of this event could even break Italy's unbeaten record, which has stopped at 37 consecutive useful results.

And amidst folklore, music, magical traditions and an explosion of colours that is also reflected in the common clothing, the African Nations Cup is ready to offer a spectacle on the pitch and in the stands. From the famous vuvuzelas, which became famous in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, to armhole kits and American-inspired shirts, the event has always offered flashes of great originality since its first edition in 1957. Here are the most eccentric and unusual uniforms in the history of the African Cup of Nations. 

Cameroon, the 'Untameable Lions' on sleeves

And the journey through the history of the Black Continent competition begins with the hosts Cameroon. The "Indomitable Lions", with the king of the forest as their national team crest, have enriched the event over the years with original and sometimes revolutionary uniforms. In the 2002 edition, Eto'o and his teammates arrived in Mali with a basketball-style shirt by Puma. A sleeveless vest that brought them luck, with the team managing to win the cup. 

Nigeria and a sold-out jersey worldwide


Also iconic are some of the uniforms in which Nigeria has appeared in various editions of the African Cup of Nations. In 1994, Nike made an Away jersey with a white background on and a green, white and black rectangular pattern scattered throughout the surface of the uniform. Also reminiscent of this is the kit also made by Nike in 2018, with which the Super Eagles took part in both the World Cup in Russia 2018 and the continental cup. It was a jersey that encapsulated all the Nigerian style, the Naija, and which sold like hot cakes all over the world with over 3 million copies sold. Nigeria's coat of arms features an eagle, the country's representative animal. 

Guinea, American style in 2004


Among the participants in the African Cup of Nations, there is also Guinea, which in the 2004 edition brought on the field a very special innovation that took up a theme known from American sports and in particular from the NBA. On the front of the jerseys, with their classic fiery red colour, the words 'Guinee' appeared in large letters. Guinean footballers are nicknamed the 'Sily', or elephants, which are characteristic of the country. A green elephant wielding a red and yellow shield was one of the national team's emblems in the past. 

Algeria, the fox Fennec arrives on shirts


Turning to the reigning champions of Algeria, in the 2010 edition they presented themselves with a uniform that reflected their nickname: "Les Fennec", a name that refers to the Fennec fox, a particular species of the Algerian nation. The animal's image also appeared in the top right-hand corner of the official shirts that Puma created for the team 12 years ago. 


L’esordio in blu di Capo Verde

Nel 2013 Capo Verde partecipò per la prima volta alla Coppa d’Africa, sorprendendo tutti arrivando fino ai quarti di finale. In quell’occasione, la Nazionale indossò un kit della Tepa con maglia blu a pois rossi. E proprio il colore blu predominante rimanda anche al soprannome della selezione africana: gli “Squali Blu”, che fa riferimento agli animali che nuotano nelle acque delle isole al largo dell'Oceano Atlantico e che è presente anche sullo stemma di Capo Verde. 

Le fiamme del Malawi

Tra le Nazionali outsider della competizione, c’è sicuramente il Malawi che, tra stemma e bandiera del Paese, racchiude in se una storia curiosa e caratteristica. Lo stendardo rappresenta il sole mentre sta albeggiando, con tanto di raggi tutt’intorno a esso. Per questo motivo, la squadra è soprannominata “Le Fiamme” che compaiono anche nello stemma sulla maglia con le fiaccole che accerchiano un pallone. 

Gabon in stile Marvel

Captained by star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the Gabonese national team is one of the teams to cheer for Marvel fans. The country's symbol is in fact the black panther, an animal that also appears in the coat of arms and which in 2013 Puma styled as the background of the team's total yellow jersey. In the past, the Arsenal striker has often cheered wearing the mask of the superhero Black Panther. 

The Malian eagle in 2019


The eagles are the inspiration for many of the nicknames of various African national teams, including Mali. "Les Aquiles", in French, showed up in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations wearing an Airness uniform with a pattern that was reminiscent of the hunting birds of prey used by the Tuaregs. In the centre of the pattern was an eagle with three long green, yellow and red stripes that almost seemed to represent the direct extension of wings and tail. 

Tunisia, black and three-dimensionality 


The eagle also appears in Tunisia's iconography, with the national team's players nicknamed "The Eagles of Carthage" as a reference to the Carthaginian Empire of which the Tunisian city was the epicentre. In 2019, Kappa dressed the team in a very special third jersey: total black, with red collar and sleeve edges, and a three-dimensional pattern depicting the very face of the bird. 

Senegal, between vintage and colours


Senegal is one of the selections that has often shown a lot of colour and originality in its uniforms, but in the 2000 African Cup of Nations it decided to surprise everyone by wearing an all-white jersey with green stripes on the collar and the words "SENEGAL" on the chest. The home kit worn in the 2017 edition was more unusual. It was white with green left sleeves and a stylised lion's head on the right side ready to bite its rivals, symbolising Senegal's hunger for football.