AFCON kit rankings – 24 teams, 18 manufacturers go from boring to bold

The Africa Cup of Nations has contributed some of the most eye-catching and memorable kits in the history of football.

No one can forget South Africa’s 1996 design – prompting Nelson Mandela to slip into the chaotic Kappa design – or Cameroon’s sleeveless effort in 2002. The years have passed, but these two contributions to the African football catwalk – and many others – still hold a precious place in the hearts of sartorially minded supporters.

Will any of this year’s kit collections – contributed by 18 different manufacturers — take their place in the pantheon of all-time great AFCON kits?

24. Namibia

The Namibian Football Association withdrew some of the intended Namibian designs on the eve of the tournament due to the colours being reminiscent of those associated with the SWAPO Party, currently the dominant party in the nation’s parliament, in this an election year.

It remains to be seen whether Umbro’s away white kit, with blue and red gradient bands reminiscent of the Russian tricolour, will still be used.

23. Tunisia

World Cup qualifiers who didn’t opt to stick with their Qatar kit, the key design element of this Tunisia effort is a graphic of the Amphitheatre of El Jem – one of the country’s ancient Roman landmarks – transposed on the body of the kit.

Not as sleek as we might expect from Kappa, with a rare collared entry – unique among Nations Cup teams this time around – while someone also thought it was a good idea to channel Chelsea and opt for an iridescent logo. It wasn’t.

22. Zambia

A disappointing contribution from Zambia and KoPa, with the copper kit just not as…copper-y…as we were hoping for.

The Chipolopolo looked so class when they won the title in 2012, and there’s a sense that the manufacturers aren’t making the most of one of the most unique colour combos in world football.

The away kit, as memorably worn at the Women’s World Cup in 2023, lifts the collection, with a vertical copper-black design on a green base.

21. Mozambique

Straightforward and inoffensive stuff from Mozambique, the first fruit of their partnership with Viper Sportswear. Os Mambas have a pair of basic red and yellow home and away kits for the tournament, each set off with a black trim.

20. Cameroon

Little-known manufacturers One All Sports have been one of the hallmarks of Samuel Eto’o’s tenure as FECAFOOT president, although they got off to a stuttering start with some poorly received kits in 2022.

The World Cup designs – with chest-plate motifs – have been retained for the Nations Cup, despite rumours of a new ‘leopard print’ design being unveiled ahead of the AFCON.

Considering the iconic Cameroon kits of the past, it’s an underwhelming contribution for the five-time champions.

19. Algeria

Adidas and Algeria enjoy a long-standing relationship, and while they’ve collaborated on some memorable designs over the years, their latest isn’t particularly eye-catching.

The home kit is a white effort with blurred green strips down one side, with the away design an inversion of the colour scheme. The blurred graphic doesn’t marry well with the bold Adidas stripes on the shoulders, and even the gold trim can’t save this one.

18. Ivory Coast

Puma somehow managed to make a bright orange kit insipid, having chosen a particularly staid and mundane shade for the hosts. It’s all a bit Dutch, with the orange not as vibrant as it used to be, and no sign of the green trim that set off the Golden Generation’s best efforts.

The ‘texture’ on the body of the shirt comes appears to be ironed on, making it a bit tacky, and considering some of the excellent work Puma have done with the Elephants in the past, more could have been expected.

For the away design, the hosts are still in their 2022 white kit with the unflattering box design that was worn by 12 of the participants at the World Cup. It’s a shame the hosts didn’t merit fresh designs.

17. Mauritania

Two fairly understated contributions from Mauritania, although we applaud the innovative use of foil for the kit’s numbering.

Both the home and away kits have unique fabric designs around the team crest, a unique little touch by manufacturers AB Sports, although – like the team – we’re worried these additions will be lost in the shuffle.

16. Equatorial Guinea

Macron’s ‘thunderbolt’ fabric feels a little bit like it was designed by an infant, even if it is a nod to the country’s ‘National Thunder’ nickname. However, the unique two-tone collar is a cool touch on the home design.

For the white and blue away and third kits, we’re impressed by the national flag fading vertically through the middle of the shirt, putting Italy-inspired Equatorial Guinea 16th in our AFCON kit rankings.

15. Tanzania

Middle-of-the-field home entry by the Taifa Stars, who began a partnership with Dar es Salaam-based outfitters Sandaland – also responsible for equipping domestic heavyweights Simba SC – last year after parting ways with Uhlsport.

The fabric has a Tanzanite Gem texture to it, and the blue and yellow makes a fun combo for this somewhat lightweight Tanzania team.

The thick-striped yellow and blue away kit, set off with a green collar and thin stripes down the middle is a winner, and should stand apart from the rest of the pack.

14. DR Congo

Someone at Umbro appeared determined to get as many different shades of blue into this design, and while fans of that colour will surely appreciate it, the kit isn’t really ‘leopard-y’ enough for us.

We also can’t decide what we think about the somewhat random bright red design on the right sleeve (but not on the left). Quite why Umbro decided to include this after taking the mantle from Irish manufacturer O’Neills, no one knows, although it continues to be a mystery why the DRC – responsible for arguably the greatest ever African kit, for the 1974 World Cup – continue to fall short of their potential.

The away kit lifts the collection, with three (presumably) leopard-claw scratches, in the national colours, adorning the shoulder and chest.

13. Ghana

The home kit does the business, and is exactly what is required for a Ghana kit. Familiar to fans who watched them in the World Cup; crisp white kit, massive black star in the centre, Ghana flag trim on the sleeves and collar. Clean, simple, eye on the detail.

However, their relatively low placement in our ranking – despite such a sterling home kit – is that miserable away effort, where Puma have insisted on persevering with this red kit with an overbearing yellow box design in the centre.

It’s simultaneously too cluttered, and too plain, and is surely better suited to being training wear than in-match attire.

12. Egypt

Is this a kit fitting for Mohamed Salah to finally get his hands on the Nations Cup? We’re unconvinced. The Puma pinstripes are lovely, at least at first glance, but why don’t they go to the edges of the shirt?

The pinstripes’ failure to go the distance leaves this one feeling a little half-hearted, and there’s little worse than half-hearted pinstripes.

The Egyptian flag trim on the collar and sleeves is classy, while the remarkable seven stars atop the national team crest – one for each of the Pharaohs’ AFCON wins — go a long way to salvaging this one.

For the away kit, Puma offered a modification on their ‘box’ template with a circular design in the centre. Apart from that, a white shirt with black trim is unlikely to set pulses racing…

11. Guinea

The pinstripes on Guinea’s home kit at least appear a little more committed than those on Egypt’s design, and go all the way up to the shoulder before halting abruptly.

The away design is eye-catching – if a little random — with a simple white base offset by thin diagonal green and yellow stripes, and a thicker red block behind the club crest.

At least Puma didn’t afflict Guinea with that familiar (and unpopular) ‘box’ design template.

10. Gambia

There is A LOT going on with this kit…probably, if we’re being honest, a little too much. The massive scorpion (lobster?) on the shoulder is sure to be terrifying for Gambian players and opponents alike, and we appreciate the flag splashed like a rainbow across the chest.

It’s meant to represent the River Gambia, flowing through the heart of the country, and GermΓ‘n manufacturers Saller were clearly so proud of their idea that they stamped their name on BOTH the chest and the shoulder of the kit.

We didn’t get round to analysing the body of this overly busy design, so exhausted were we looking at the upper half of this kit!

9. South Africa

Not the ‘Rainbow Nation’ design of yesteryear, but Le Coq Sportif have kept things simple and classy, while also maintaining a vibrancy about these kits, which were already worn by Banyana Banyana at the Women’s World Cup last year.

SAFA continue to insist on having two federation logos on their kit – one on each chest – but it’s a design that works, with the golden home kit set off by an elegant dark green trim on the neck and (curiously) on the left sleeve.

The home kit certainly suits a beaming Percy Tau, while the dark green-and-gold away design is also a hit.

8. Angola

Angola opted to unveil a new kit for their Nations Cup opener just hours ahead of their clash with Algeria, sticking with long-term partners Lacatoni and duly launching another classy design.

The kit’s defining feature is a thick horizontal black block, accented with a bold and intricate traditional design, across a textured red background.

It’s a sleek and timeless addition to our AFCON catwalk.

7. Cape Verde

Massive points for Cape Verde and Tempo, who ditched the giant shark on the body of their former kit and instead opted to map out the island nation’s archipelago, a design – complete with compass — that’s sure to come in handy for any seafaring supporter.

The blue shirt is set off by a classy red trim, and the white away kit – also replete with red trim – is effortlessly elegant, even if the map is barely perceptible in the design.

6. Nigeria

Nigeria set the bar so high in 2018, they’ve found the Russia World Cup effort a hard, hard act to follow.

This year’s home design by Nike is texture upon texture, green upon green…with a flying eagle soaring across the centre. It’s busy, without truly being striking, but a solid sequel from Nike.

The away kit, however, threatens to be one of the best kits of the whole tournament. Nike have channelled some of the beautiful mid-90s deigns to produce a white shirt, with dark green trim, and a striking traditional fabric design across the shoulders.

5. Guinea-Bissau

This Guisport-Guinea-Bissau collection has grown on us since our last AFCON kit power ranking – when we placed them tenth – with the designs bringing real joyfulness and vitality to the party.

The islanders are benefiting from a partnership with a local manufacturer keen to bring some personality to the kits, even though we are still getting golf course vibes from the green strip they wore in their opener against the Ivory Coast.

4. Burkina Faso

One of the most eye-catching items in the whole tournament, both home (green) and even more successful away (white) have a background of tribal fabric , with the country’s flag tearing through the middle of the kid in a non-centred sash.

The jagged sash design gives the impression of the shirt being ripped away to reveal the country’s flag – truly the ‘under-armour’ of each player — while the green-red trim on the sleeves and underarms really sets this design off.

It’s an ambitious effort from local brand Tovio (who replaced Kappa in 2021), and gets a big thumbs up from us.

3. Senegal

Puma are still sticking with the World Cup 2022 design for Senegal, with the bold chevrons across the chest giving the kit a lovely retro feel.

The red on the trim is a nod to the iconic generation of 2002 that reached the World Cup knockouts, although the unfortunate ‘box’ template lets down the green away kit.

It feels a glaring oversight that neither Cameroon nor Senegal have a lion on their jersey.

2. Morocco

If something’s not broken, don’t change it! Regardless of Morocco’s heroics in Qatar, the Atlas Lions’ 2022 Puma design was an instant classic that harked back to the fantastic kit of the ’98 World Cup generation.

It was a top dripping with nostalgia, and is now immortalised by the North Africans’ run to the semifinals.

The clean, classic white away design is a delight as well.

1. Mali

Airness are back again with some dazzling Mali kits, having won over many admirers with their bold designs at the last Nations Cup.

The giant eagle – slap bang in the heart of the kit – is back again, like a Pokemon evolution of the 2022 incarnation, with its wings of flames, directing its attack straight at the West Africans’ adversaries.

So vicious is this particular creature, that the kit also features eagle scratches down the flanks, with the white background truly making the vibrant colours pop.

As if the eagle isn’t enough animal hardware, the Airness logo also features a black panther, and if Mali are ever going to end their wait to win the Nations Cup, this could be the kit in which to do it.

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