Home 2018 – AMS
Right, let’s just get it all off our chests. Yes, Djibouti has a somewhat humorous name which unfortunately lends itself to all manner of insufferable puns regarding a certain part of the human anatomy, and yes, the temptation to simply fill this post with said puns and have done with it wasn’t easy to resist. To do so, however, would be a gross disservice to a fascinating, vibrant nation, that frankly deserves better than to be made the butt of lazy jokes, just because a cheeky sod like me couldn’t be arsed to come up with anything more original and well-rounded. So, with this in mind let’s crack on, get twerk (to work, get it? OK, that one was a bit of a stretch) and try to get a good firm grasp on Djibouti. Alright, I’ll stop now.
Anyway, the country can be found on Africa’s Red Sea coast, a highly advantageous position as it incorporates one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. Indeed, Djibouti may be small (tehehe), but they have some pretty grand plans afoot, chiefly the development of the capital Djibouti City into an international logistics hub with the stated aim of becoming the ‘Dubai of East Africa’, something I feel we should all get behind, not for any political or economic reasons, but so we can all henceforth refer to the country’s leader as ‘Sheikh Djibouti’. Last one I promise. Away from the capital, where over 70% of the population resides, the land is dry, desolate and sparsely inhabited by nomadic peoples such as the Afar, a tribe whose women are sadly subject to some of the highest rates of female genital mutilation in the world, although, on the plus side, they’re also renowned for often filing down their teeth into sharpened points for decorative purposes, which at least affords them the opportunity to inflict some karma whenever their husband’s birthday rolls around.
Despite the nation’s French colonial past – it was known as French Somaliland before independence in 1977 – Djibouti’s cuisine could best be described as ‘interesting.’ Traditional meals might include things like goat’s liver, boiled sheep and curried camel, while the signature national dish, according to Lonely Planet, is roasted stuffed kid, which seems quite an escalation from a simple clip around the ear or a spell on the naughty step. Meanwhile, as the women slave away in the kitchen preparing these, ahem, culinary delights, Djiboutian men can usually be found indulging in their favourite pastime of chewing khat, a mildly intoxicating plant that also acts as an appetite suppressant, assuming of course that the smell of their imminent supper hasn’t accomplished this already.
When it comes to football, Djibouti’s international record reads like one long tragic tale of woe. Having joined FIFA in 1994, the national team made their competitive debut during the 2000 African Cup of Nations qualifiers and were promptly squashed 12-1 on aggregate by Kenya, while their inaugural World Cup campaign in 2002 saw them cop a 10-2 hiding over two legs against DR Congo. Sadly, this has proved to be very much a case of start as you mean to continue and recent qualification efforts have seen the ‘Red Sea Shoremen’ plunge fresh levels of haplessness, with tiny Swaziland emphatically ending their interest in Russia 2018 via an 8-1 aggregate rout, meanwhile the 2019 AFCON is also already out of reach following a humiliating capitulation to Africa’s newest nation South Sudan, this after the Djiboutians had actually won the first match 2-0 but somehow contrived to lose 6-0 in the return. Dear oh dear.
For the record, aside from this ultimately hollow first leg victory, Djibouti do have two other official wins to their name, both coming against neighbours Somalia, including a 2010 World Cup qualifier – played over a single leg in Djibouti City due to the Somali capital Mogadishu resembling a dry run for the apocalypse – in which the home side sneaked through 1-0, thus earning a spot in the second round group stage for the first and only time, where they subsequently embarked on a series of predictably hefty defeats.
Ah, this is better. After a string of fairly sedate and safe designs across my most recent three posts (Cyprus, Czechia and Denmark) this beast of a shirt from Australian manufacturers AMS serves to tip the balance back towards loud, proud and garish, whilst also looking like something that Duffman from the Simpsons might be forced to stuff himself into should the Duff brewery ever be bought out by Heineken.
Djibouti’s complete and total ineptitude on the pitch, combined with the nation’s general obscurity, always made their shirts one of the toughest to nail down. Step in AMS, who began peddling these little delights at the back end of 2016 with the intention that they would be utilised by the team throughout 2017/18, great news for collectors, many of whom I know snapped them up immediately. However this is where things start to get a trifle muddled. While there is photographic evidence of the players posing and training in the green away version (see picture at the top of this post), any time Djibouti took to the field for an actual match during this time period they were instead clad in generic Adidas templates, as shown below. Honestly, I’m really not sure what’s going on here. AMS do have a laudable past when it comes to supplying minor African nations with unique kits, having previously produced some really nice stuff for the likes of South Sudan, Rwanda and Eritrea. I’m also told that they were close to getting the contract to manufacture Somalia shirts last year, even going so far as to ship out some prototypes for use in a friendly, only for them to be held up at customs to the point where the match came and went. So it’s possible, given that Djibouti lies in the same neck of the woods, that these tops simply never got through to the team either. Currently, the AMS website still has this blue version listed as the official home shirt. Will be interesting to see if this is ever borne out on the pitch.