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Nigerians are reveling in the international accolades the Super Eagles—their national football team—are receiving for their dress as they travel to their World Cup matches in Kaliningrad. London’s Daily Mail wrote, “First, it was the announcement of their tournament kits that sent football supporters crazy. Now it is their travel attire that has everybody talking again.” According to the Sun, also based in London, “Nigeria once again won the fashion stakes at this year’s World Cup, with their incredible travel outfit.” Nigerian media is also delighted. The Guardian, based in Nigeria, all but gushed when it wrote, “This is another plus following the craze that the team’s sexy home kits has caused as it went on sale worldwide this month,” and “From head to toe, the Nigerian squad have indulged in their culture and clearly have no intention of blending in with the crowd [of] other nations looking to upset the odds in Russia.
One Nigerian commentator sounded a more sober note: “It is not a problem for the team to savour [sic] the euphoria of its global fashion rating but it should realize that the main rating will be their performance on the pitch.” Nigerians like to say that theirs is the world’s most religious country. Some urged their fellow citizens to pray for the team because of the “huge burden of expectation” the nation is imposing on the players.
The Premium Times reports that players born outside of Nigeria will likely occupy all four defender positions, creating an “oyibo wall.” (In Nigeria, oyibo is a pidgin word that usually refers to a European.) Two were born in the Netherlands, one in Germany, and one in Russia, but they all chose to play for their parents’ country of birth. They might have been born abroad, but they are still Nigerian. However, the coach of the Super Eagles, Gernot Rohr, is a German with no family connection to Nigeria. Even so, in a country with a still-developing sense of national identity, and with many regional, ethnic, and religious cleavages, the Super Eagles are a strong—perhaps the strongest—symbol of national unity.
For more on Nigeria, Matthew Page and I provide an overview of its politics, history, and culture, including the threat of Boko Haram and religious conflicts in, our new book, Nigeria: What Everyone Needs to Know, which will be published by Oxford University Press in July.