Just like that, matchday day 1 of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (which of course is being played in 2024; in short the tournament was delayed whilst retaining the original name) is in the books.
Africa's premierinternational tournament is a guaranteed hit when it comes to shirts, with a tasty blend of household names and plucky underdogs both in terms of the teams themselves and the manufacturers producing kits for them.
2024 Namibia shirt
There's only one place we can start. Arguably the story of AFCON so far on the pitch was Namibia's stunning victory over the much-fancied Tunisia. Namibia, ranked 85 places below their opponents in the FIFA rankings, more than played their part with a 1-0 victory. One of the heroes for the appropriately named Brave Warriors was 34 year old goalkeeper Lloyd Kazapua. As Kazapua made a string of world-class saves, he did so in a keeper kit which has me lost for words.
I've been vocal about my desire to see brands move on from the pattern heavy landscape we've found ourselves in for the past few years, but I find myself eating my own words when I see this design from the South African brand Vecchio. The purple, pink and green affair feels part traditional African garment, part Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, with a pleasing column structure combining gradients and waves.
The fact the pattern goes all the way round the back in full seals the deal for me. I'd be surprised if we see many better shirts this year, let alone better keeper shirts, and Namibia's famous victory featuring the shirt will only add to the design's legacy and collectability (though word of warning, I've tried to find the shirt online and have been unable to do so...).
2024 Tunisia shirt
Before we move on, a brief word on Tunisia. Despite being on the wrong side of an upset, the Eagles of Carthage dazzled on the kit front with their new home shirt which features iridescent Kappa logos and an iridescent crest. Though something of an ageing trend now in 2024, iridescent details are still a plus in my book, especially when combined with a tasteful design like the new Tunisia home. Look out for a possible Tunisia third sighting, which would likely be many people's shirt of the tournament should it surface.
2024 Mali shirt
Elsewhere we were treated to a top-tier kit clash courtesy of Mali vs South Africa. Mali in particular are no strangers to shirt fans, with their designs from manufacturer Airness carving out a memorable corner in the kit world. The giant eagle front and centre of their shirts has been a theme the team keep coming back to, and at this point there's little reason to try anything else. It works, and it'll be a sad day when the team eventually goes in a different direction.
2024 South Africa shirt
For South Africa, their kit is on the other end of the spectrum to Mali. If we forgive the colour clash there was with some of their players' base layers, the dark green shirt was a pleasing look with a subliminal pattern and soft gold accent details. You may remember that this round of South Africa kits was designed by a competition winner (FREEWAYARTS DESIGN -@FreewayartsD), and though the kits that were eventually made were slightly toned down from the original competition entry they remain some of the better ones at AFCON.
2024 Angola shirt
Rounding off my list is Angola. Their new home shirt from Portuguese brand Lacatoni is a stunning piece of football shirt design. A central band aesthetic is a good starting point, but the embellishments around the black band take things to a new level. A subliminal pattern throughout the red portion of the shirt is another standout feature, and the only critique I'd have is that the black band doesn't extend round the back. It's an understandable move given stingy regulations around kits, and it doesn't take away from another look which has every chance of being one of my favourite shirts of the year, come December 2024.
As Head of Content, Phil is the creative playmaker of the team, covering every angle of football shirt news in our blogs and weekly Newsletter. Whether it's telling your fakes from your authentics, or deep dives into the newest football shirts designs, Phil will have all your football shirt content needs covered.