Why this kit is good:
Firstly, I’m a sucker for shirts with club/association badges exploded across the whole front (shout out to Pumas UNAM!). Zaire, modern day Democratic Republic of Congo, nails it with the leopard badge in the middle for the country’s World Cup debut. Big, bold, and bad. Cats of prey are bad. Zaire’s leopard is even mauling the stupid soccer ball.
The shirt’s simplicity, aside from the complementary shoulder striping, puts its message in front and center: we are Zaire, and we are here. The fitted yellow shirt field creates great contrast with the dark green badge and letters. And the shorts are quality: not the gym class duds of the 70s, 80s, and 90s, but almost contemporary in their shape and detailing. Hats off, Zaire!
That free kick. It turns out this seemingly crazy moment is actually a political moment. Zaire was the first all-black team in World Cup history, as well as being the political tool of Mobutu Sese Seko, the infamous long-standing president of Zaire. This story is worth knowing and reminds us that mega-sporting events are always already social and political platforms.
This kit reminds me of:
Strangely, Eintracht Braunschweig’s somewhat famous 1983 kit, which was the first shirt to feature a sponsor (Jägermeister in this case). Of course, Zaire’s shirt predates this design by nine years, and, ironically, is the inversion of the Braunschweig’s shirt: association badge instead of corporate badge, nation name instead of sponsor name.
Rating out of 10:
9 out of 10. This kit still pops off the screen and pleases the eye. The yellows and greens evoke good feelings. Summertime! Smiles! Hipster t-shirts! Still a classic and always a classic.
Which non-football related function would I wear it to?
Everywhere during the summer, especially at my township’s 4th of July party during a World Cup year. This kit sings swimming pool, beers on the porch, sweat-soaked outdoor festivals, hell, even the campground. Yeah… the campground. This shirt would do dirt smudges so well.