Home 1998 – Kappa
Landlocked in West Africa and not exactly flush with natural resources, Burkina Faso is traditionally one of the world’s poorest nations with much of the population surviving (or not as is often the case) on less than £1 per day, a paltry sum usually distributed to the hordes of irritable, overworked machete-wielding farmhands with a jovial “don’t spend it all at once” by tiresome government officials, whose life expectancy is consequently negligible even by African standards. To compound matter further the country also suffers from one of the lowest adult literacy rates at just 36%, ahead only of South Sudan (31.9), Niger (19.1) and the core “readership” of toxic British shitrag the Sun, for whom words are generally unnecessary provided that Ashleigh, 23 from Kettering, has a nice enough set of norks. Consequently children often end up lumbered with any task that requires a working knowledge of the alphabet. This includes reading their own bedtime stories, with a particular favourite being the one about the Burkinabe prince and princess who lived happily ever after, which loosely translated means they made it to 35.
The name Burkina Faso stems from the native Moore and Dioula languages and translates as “Land of the honest men” indicating a society not quite up to speed that when a woman asks “does my bum look big in this?” the correct response is not “Well, biggER”, although this may be yet another factor in why so few of the menfolk in these parts live to see their 40th birthdays. Prior to 1984 the country was know as “Upper Volta” in reference to the numerous Volta rivers including the Red Volta, White Volta, Black Volta and Johntra Volta, even though that last one is actually in Greece (in Grease, get it? Oh please yourself.) Burkina Faso’s towns and cities also throw up a few interesting (i.e. daft) place names including Rambo, Bouroum Bouroum, and the epically titled capital Ouagadougou. There’s even a settlement that’s literally called “Silly” so it’s quite possible they’re just taking the piss.
As with many countries in their neck of the woods, Burkina Faso fell under French colonial administration in the 19th century. However the invaders found the going here to be tough, thanks in no small part to the native Mossi tribe’s skilled horsemanship and subsequent ability to elude direct conflict, a strategy that really struck a chord with France’s top military brass who were always on the lookout for new and exciting techniques in the field of running away. Following independence in 1960 the Burkinabe soon reestablished their equestrian culture and today are often referred to as the ‘cowboys of Africa’ thanks to an impressive mastery of their animals, some colourful getup and a complete inability to build towns large enough for everybody.
In keeping with this national passion for horses, Burkina Faso’s national team are nicknamed “The Stallions” (at least I hope that’s a reference to horses) and are historically the poor relations of West African football, typically languishing well behind regional powerhouses like Ghana, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast. Despite this, and despite the general poverty of the nation, Burkina Faso were surprisingly awarded hosting rights to the 1998 Africa Cup of Nations thanks to the CAF’s selection policy at the time*, which apparently revolved around a map of Africa, a pin and the words ‘eenie, meenie, miny and moe.’ At the tournament itself yhe unfancied Burkinabe pulled off a massive shock by reaching the semi-finals, ousting both Algeria and Tunisia along the way before bowing out to eventual champions Egypt. Sadly the most memorable part of the Stallions’ campaign came in an utter farce of a third place match against DR Congo. Leading 4-1 with just four minutes remaining and seemingly coasting to the bronze medals, the hosts somehow contrived to concede three quickfire goals before ultimately losing on penalties, a collapse only surpassed during the 2010 edition by Angola’s baffling disinclination to beat Mali despite a 4-0 lead and just 11 minutes remaining.
*Other questionable hosts around this period included Mali in 2002 and originally Zimbabwe in 2000, although the latter was ultimately rescinded upon the realisation that Robert Mugabe was an utter cock womble.
More recently, and especially in the past five years or so, Burkina Faso have shown themselves to be Africa’s most improved team hands down. In 2013, against most bookmakers’ prognosis, the team ploughed their way through to the business end of the Cup of Nations, eliminating tournament favourites Ghana in the semis before being narrowly edged out 1-0 by Nigeria in the final. Four years later, as if to prove this were no mere flash in the pan, the team once again took a stroll deep into the 2017 tournament where only a penalty shootout loss to Egypt in the last four prevented them from gatecrashing another final. In between these AFCON heroics, Burkina Faso also came agonisingly close to a first ever World Cup appearance, missing out on a 2014 trip to Brazil by virtue of an away goals play-off defeat by Algeria following a 3-3 aggregate draw. At the time of writing the team are doing their best to heal these wounds and they currently sit atop their qualifying group for Russia 2018, with their fate most likely hanging on the next three fixtures; Senegal home and away, followed by South Africa away. Chances are that a seven point haul from these games might just take them over the finishing line this time. We’ll see.
I’ll let you in on a little secret; I LOVE Kappa football shirts from the mid-late nineties. As well as this retina-burning lime green design donned by the Stallions at their home 1998 Cup of Nations, I have elsewhere among my collection similarly loud and garish efforts representing the likes of Jamaica, Guinea, South Africa, Georgia, Mali and the Ivory Coast, all of which absolutely knock the spots off of anything the likes of Adidas, Nike and Puma spit out these days.
Sadly, Kappa’s enthusiasm for the more is more principle died out sometime around the new millennium. By this time their national client list – now consisting chiefly of just Italy and Wales – were instead being kitted out in dull monochrome shirts featuring state of the art, skin-tight, grab-proof fabric. While this did wonders for the sleek, handsome, sleek olive-skinned Italian players, it wasn’t so flattering when clinging to the average Welsh fan’s physique, or indeed to John Hartson’s.
Anyway, back to the shirt at hand. Burkina Faso’s crest depicts a pair of horses (because of course it does) grazing on a football while the national flag makes a subtle appearance at the front of the collar. The slightly odd design features red overlapping the green and white overlapping the red, at a glance creating a sort of optical illusion of three different shirts lying on top of each other with the largest at the bottom and the smallest on top. In terms of rarity, this particular shirt is fairly scarce and usually costs a pretty penny whenever it does crop up on ebay etc, although it might ultimately diminish in value if the Burkina Faso team continue to set new high-water marks thus cooling the nostalgic value. Not that I’ll be selling it of course.