The social media community and the court of public opinion were caught in abrupt confusion and debates after pictures of Leone Stars AFCON kits were flaunted on Facebook. Discouragements and dissatisfaction were prescribed by fans and supporters over the poor and shabby standard of the kits. It became more intense especially when it was clear that enough funds were poured into the national team, thus, the outlook of the kits was undeserving and unbelievable.
Before now, we had seen different versions of the team kits and supporters jerseys which were pretty attractive and decent as compared to the substandard one yesterday. These versions are originally done by local or Sierra Leonean designers, which is why they may have the fervor to improve on the textiles or design. Let’s say, it is their way of contributing to national development.
Furthermore, our inferiority complex for things foreign leads us to total negligence of our own. Winni Adom unveiled magnificent beautiful jersey designs for the Black Stars of Ghana in preparation for their AFCON campaign. Nevertheless, Ghana went ahead to partner with Puma to be the official sponsor and designer of their jerseys. Well, it is a matter of opinion, but the local designer’s kit is equally adorable to Puma’s.
Diverting a little bit from Sierra Leone, Africa has a problem of patronizing foreign multinational investments to their local brands. This norm has contributed to the slow and steady decline of local industries and a slam on local content.
I initially mentioned instances where local designers companies had produced supporters’ jerseys for the national team. One outstanding local brand capable of doing the job, is United Africa Wears. A company headed by a Sierra Leonean known as Afize Mohamed, their products made headlines after their supporters kit was praised for its spectacular design and originality. It was attractable and sought after in the market. However, he was snubbed from being awarded the duty to facilitate the designing and production of the team jersey for Umbro. Umbro is an English sports equipment manufacturing company based in England. It has manufactured jerseys for a lot of teams within different sporting disciplines. It is already established and well-off. How on earth are we giving them contracts, neglecting striving local companies for them? How do they know what we want?
I proceed to give different reasons why the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) should consider local brands like United Africa Wears to produce our National Team Kit:
1) Creation of Employment – We are literally making Umbro busy. I mean, without Sierra Leone, they are still operable and functional. Why not award these contracts to local brands? Local Brands like the United Africa Wears could recruit more manpower to help in the production of these jerseys, eventually creating employment. Those employed will be Sierra Leoneans of course– consequently creating broad-based skills training. Besides, it is not Sierra Leoneans that are recruited to work in Umbro companies.
2) No potential faults – With trust and patronage instilled in a local manufacturing company, I don’t think any form of contractual disappointment is inevitable. For instance, the SLFA is awarding jersey contracts to United Africa Wears. I don’t see a possibility where the company would want to falter in its delivery or creativity. They would see it as an opportunity to maximize production and sell out the identity of the company. Creativity will be top-notch. Who doesn’t like praises?
3) Unearths Creativity – It is only a Sierra Leonean inspired product that can resonate with the actual practicality and intricacies of the public. We saw the lion’s impression on the supporter’s jersey by the United Africa Wears. The lion, we all know, inspired the formation of the country’s name. Therefore, many people saw it reasonably mouthwatering to be drawn by its design. Award a local company the honor of manufacturing the team kits and you will be surprised to see how fashionable these companies are.
4) Support Local Content – This is probably a militant call to galvanize support for our local companies. We always emphasize the need to support local content. A policy was even enacted. If so, why not start from the basics? I don’t see a foreign company manufacturing our team kit as a way of supporting local content. We even tend to forget how beneficial this could be for us. A local company championing the production of our team kit is less capital intensive. You need not pay as optimum as those foreign ones. It saves cost, builds trust, and endorses the policy. Makes sense!
Empowerment should start in-house. Build trust within your base. Just because it’s foreign, doesn’t make it faultless. There is a need to embrace our local companies.