Nigeria Home 2002-2004
After winning their group and defeating Ghana in the Quarter Finals at the 2002 African Cup of Nations, the Super Eagles met Senegal in the Semis. The Lions of Teranga defeated Nigeria 2-1 before falling to Cameroon in the Final, with the Super Eagles recovering to beat the hosts Mail in the Third Place game. Julius Aghahowa was joint top scorer and made the Team of the Tournament with defenders Taribo West and Ifeanyi Udeze.
Nigeria continued their association with Nike and released a new jersey ahead of the 2002 World Cup in Japan/South Korea, which the Super Eagles had qualified for by winning a very competitive group.
Their reward was a tough section featuring Argentina, England and Sweden. The opener against Argentina was played at a very high pace with great technical ability but Los Albicelestes won 1-0. Another defeat came against Sweden which eliminated Festus Onigbinde’s men, and then Nigeria played out a 0-0 draw against the Three Lions to finish last in the group. Notable players from this team were Yobo, Babayaro, Kanu (one of my favorites), West, Okocha, Aghahowa, Utaka, and Enyeama with Yobo and Enyeama still on the team in at Brazil 2014.
As for the kit, this was the era of the throat patch collar and breathable areas in the rib cage and torso. Distinctive but not one of Nike’s better templates. Wondering through a Nike outlet store there it was, in all its marshmallowy, sherbety, throat patchy glory—the 2002 World Cup home shirt for Nigeria. A steal at less than $30, I picked one up and then . . . never wore it.
Had it been a darker green I probably would have worn it more. Let’s say I have a very conservative fashion sense and it was difficult for me to pull off wearing this shirt either around town or on the pitch. The jersey eventually fell victim to one of my occasional kit purges but for those five minutes in the store, I really thought I had something.
This post caused me to look at the evolution of the Nigeria shirt. Using the following color chart, it looks like the progression looks something like this: 1998 fern/2002 lime/2006 green/2008 basil/2014 shamrock/emerald. Let me know what you think.