On Oct. 7, 2017, Alex Iwobi’s 73rd-minute strike made Nigeria Africa’s first qualifier for this summer’s major international tournament.
The 21-year-old forward, born in Lagos, but spent most of his life in England, is just one of the Super Eagles’ young stars (the majority of the roster is under 25). He and the team head to the tournament with a supreme confidence that is pure contemporary Nigeria: Audacious. Fast. Fun. Stylish.
Those terms also describe elements of Nigerian culture, which reverberates within diaspora communities in England, the United States and around the world.
The combined energy has prompted a new designation for Nigeria itself: Naija.
“I grew up in England, but Nigeria is my homeland. When I scored that goal, the players were dancing, the fans were playing trumpets and bringing drums…there was just so much passion and energy,” says Iwobi. “It is always an honor to wear the white and green. To compete this summer is not just our dream, it is also the dream of our fans. Together, we all represent Naija.”
Nike tapped superstar Wizkid, arguably Nigeria’s biggest artist at the moment to front the campaign, showcasing the National Team’s Collection. They will don these looks during the month long World Cup.
“With Nigeria, we wanted to tap into the attitude of the nation,” Dan Farron, Nike Football Design Director said. “We built this kit and collection based on the players’ full identities.”
Along with other members of the Nike Football design group, Farron dug into learning more about Nigeria’s players, “We started to see trends in attitude and energy connecting the athletes to music, fashion and more. They are part of a resoundingly cool culture.”
That culture includes one of the world’s largest film industries and a burgeoning Afrobeat music scene (which has birthed a number of global stars). Naija fashion radiates, and its food is celebrated from Brooklyn, New York, to Peckham, London. In the United States and England, along with other locales with large Nigerian populations, the exuberance of Naija culture is resounding — spurred by family, friends and football. And with boundless potential and an undoubtedly infectious palpable charisma, the squad begs fandom from anyone.
The word Naija has many uses. As a descriptor, it defines a certain future-focused optimism — one that has catalyzed a new generation of Nigerians to celebrate the nation’s vibrant culture. Use of the word requires attitude, even panache. It isn’t simply a stand-in for Nigeria; instead, Naija reflects a youthful exuberance, pride and fresh perspective on patriotism. To some, Naija translates directly to “the new Nigeria.” With boundless potential and an undoubtedly infectious palpable charisma, the squad begs fandom from anyone — interest in football notwithstanding.
“A constant in Nigeria is an endearing love of football,” Amaju Pinnick, president of the Nigeria Football Federation said. “When football is on, everything stops. The new Nike kit designs honor our federation’s rich traditions. Moreover, they celebrate everything we relish about our culture.”
The home kit pays subtle homage to Nigeria’s ’94 shirt (worn by Nigeria’s first team to qualify) with its eagle wing-inspired black-and-white sleeve and green torso.
Today, those elements are supercharged through an abstracted feather pattern and hyper colors that extend a power capable of turning heads on and off pitch.
Fittingly, the pattern extends to Nigeria’s anthem jacket along with pre-match and training apparel. The latter features taping along the shoulders emblazoned with Super Eagles (the endearing nickname for the senior team resonates for all generations), while the jacket sleeve reads “Naija.”
The 2018 FIFA World Cup will be the 21st FIFA World Cup, a quadrennial international football tournament contested by the men’s national teams of the member associations of FIFA.
The World Cup begins Thursday, June 14 in Russia.