The turn of the 21st Century marked a mini golden age for Cameroonian football. Having won the Africa Cup of Nations in 2000, the Indomitable Lions claimed Olympic gold in that year’s summer games, and went on to win another ACN two years later.
Despite becoming the second team in history to defend an ACN title, the 2002 side is more often remembered for massively flustering FIFA by turning up to the World Cup in sleeveless shirts.
Cameroon, Puma, 2002
During that year’s ACN, the Confederation of African Football had seen nothing wrong with the shirt design. Patrick “Magic” M’Boma’s bare shoulders were on display as he tore through stadia across Mali, teaching a young Sam Eto’o a thing or two on the way to becoming tournament top scorer.
In South Korea and Japan, however, kit sponsor Puma’s exotic experiment did not go down well. Appalled that its logo was not on display on the arms of the Cameroonians, FIFA demanded new kits on pain of disqualification.
Black sleeves were sewn on to the shirts like tiny shrouds of mourning, and Cameroon crashed out at the group stage.
Incredibly, the best was yet to come. As if to goad FIFA, Puma had the Lions turn up to the 2004 ACN wearing…shirt-short one-pieces. Sleeves were present, yet shirts continued unbroken into shorts. Puma’s design was also unreasonably tight; nipples and six packs protruded more so than in the Burton/Schumacher Batsuit.
Cameroon, Puma, 2004
Needless to say, it didn’t take long for FIFA to take note of the fact that the Cameroonians were trotting around pitches in Tunisia wearing green and red Victorian swimsuits. The governing body warned Cameroon that the team would be fined and deducted six points from its World Cup 2006 qualifying campaign if the kit was worn again.
In an act of defiance that would make Rosa Parks sweat, the team kicked off against Nigeria in the ACN quarterfinals with kits unchanged. Proud and absurdly dressed, the rebels lost the match and suffered the points deduction.
Furious, Puma paid the fine on behalf of Cameroon’s football federation and entered into a drawn out legal battle with FIFA that to some represented the brand’s commitment to cutting-edge fashion, and to others a brazen publicity plug in its efforts to compete with FIFA bedfellow Adidas.
The dispute was eventually settled out of court, Cameroon’s points were reinstated, and the controversial kit was laid to rest next to its sleeveless cousin.
Angus McNeice @astokesaym