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Aesthetics and Curiosities about the Super National Team of Ivory Coast

A story that talks about a civil war, FIFA 14, and the color orange

Aesthetics and Curiosities about the Super National Team of Ivory Coast A story that talks about a civil war, FIFA 14, and the color orange

The 34th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations - better known as the AFCON - is about to begin. The sports event will take place from January 13 to February 11 in five cities in Ivory Coast, with matches played in as many stadiums, all featuring a running track positioned around the playing field. Originally scheduled for the summer of 2023, adverse conditions in the West African country prevented its regular execution. This means that coaches of European and non-European teams won't be able to rely on the participation of some players called up for duty in these turbulent weeks for the championship matches.

For example, Ivory Coast, coached by Jean-Louis Gasset (continuing the established tradition of French coaches on their bench), has called up world-class players, including many familiar faces - both current and former - from Serie A, such as Kessié, N'Dicka, Fofana, Singo, Boga, and Kouamé, joining Bamba, Haller, Aurier, and the evergreen Gradel. These players will be tasked with bringing joy to their fans - mindful of a downturn period since 2020, between AFCON 2021 and the 2022 World Cup - and, above all, getting as close as possible to the achievement of the iconic 2015 squad. Ivory Coast, among African national teams, is one of the most significant, both in footballing and non-footballing aspects. Various anecdotes, curiosities, and a well-rooted aesthetic support this, all contributing to the Elephants' inscription in the history of world football.

The Peculiarity of the Kits

There is no information circulating on the web regarding the reasons for the prevalence of the orange color in the Ivorian national team's kit. Until 1990, Ivory Coast was one of the many African teams that played in a green jersey. It was from 1991 that a significant switch occurred, with the team preferring the use of all-over orange, not abandoning that color for the years to come. Not a random color, considering it appears on the country's flag and symbolizes the land, the savannah of the northern part of the country, and its fertility. Its permanent presence on Ivory Coast jerseys has highlighted the uniqueness of the team, currently the only African national team using orange as its social color. Orange was a protagonist in one of the most catastrophic kit clashes in recent years, in the qualification match for the 2019 AFCON against the Rwandan national team, where the guests showed up with a yellow shirt. Among the most iconic jerseys worn by the Elephants on the field, the home and away versions of 1992 deserve mention, the year when the supplier Ennerre replaced Adidas. An interesting case is the partnership between Kappa and the national team, a sponsor that in 2000 produced kits with an aesthetic very similar to that of Real Betis Balompié. Since 2005, Ivory Coast has been sponsored by PUMA, a brand with which the national team, starting in 2010, has successfully utilized the elephant symbol, incorporating it into the shirt in tone-on-tone versions.

The Historic Squad composed of Didier Drogba, Yaya Touré, Gervinho, and Max Gradel

@bayki._ cote d'ivoire 2015 c'était quelque chose #cotedivoire #pourtoi Elephants - Kiff No Beat

The football sublimation of Ivory Coast occurred in 2015 with the victory in the Africa Cup of Nations. It was the second in the history of the orange-clad national team and the culmination of an objective achieved in a competition that was at risk of not being played - initially scheduled to be held in Morocco, but moved to Equatorial Guinea due to the outbreak of an Ebola hemorrhagic fever epidemic. In addition to the emblematic Hervé Renard on the bench, the lineup of talents in that squad was incredible. Wilfried Bony and Yaya Touré are the first names that come to mind in terms of talent and stature; Gervinho, Seydou Doumbia, and Max Gradel in terms of extravagance and style. Not everyone will remember that the winger, who also played for Roma and Parma, used to appear in front of the microphones wearing a customized and self-referential snapback, bearing his name - the same one he wore upon returning to his homeland from Equatorial Guinea. Moreover, their main skills, such as acceleration and execution speed in tight spaces, have made them eternal in the videogame culture. Ivory Coast, playable in FIFA 14 and FIFA 15, has long been one of the favorite teams for many gamers, which is why the mentioned players have rightfully entered the ranks of the most memorable cards in FIFA Ultimate Team.

When Didier Drogba Halted the Civil War in Ivory Coast

Although Didier Drogba failed to win the significant trophy in 2015, he often delighted Elephants' fans with sublime plays. Yet, one of the most memorable highlights concerning him is - more or less - extracurricular. It's the year 2005, and Ivory Coast is in the midst of a civil war, with the north and south of the country in conflict. The south is a rich, advanced, and Christian-majority territory; the north is more backward, and the majority of the population is Muslim. Reconciliation seems impossible until October of the same year when Ivory Coast is playing the qualification for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. The 3-1 victory against Sudan allows the team to secure a spot in Germany. As Ivorian players are about to celebrate, Didier Drogba invites his teammates to form a circle and takes the microphone: «Ivorian friends, from the north and south, east and west, today we have shown you that Ivory Coast can coexist and play together for the same goal. We promised you that we would unite the population. We now ask you to lay down your arms and organize elections. Everything will go well.» The words of the number 9 lead to an apparent calm, dimmed by Ivory Coast's elimination in the group shared with the Netherlands and Argentina. However, Drogba does not intend to abandon his peaceful dream and proposes a final attempt. He convinces the government to organize the AFCON qualification match in Bouake, the stronghold of the anti-government militia. The match ends with not only a final score of 5-0 but because the victory rekindles the hope of uniting an entire nation. Unfortunately, this too dissipates quickly, and the African state will have to face the civil war again. Despite what happened, Drogba's attempt to defy the war cannot be considered in vain, as he succeeds, as never before, in framing football as a sport capable of connecting the hearts and hopes of people.