Kit review: Klabu, rebuilding lives through football kits

Football is priceless. When you connect sweetly with a volley, touch a ball down dead from 50m in the air, or lash a free kick into the top corner from 20 yards, nothing can compare. You see, football isn’t a game, it’s a lifestyle. It’s going to the park from dawn till dusk, sliding knee celebrations after a rain shower. It’s collecting Match Attax, imitating the best goals with your mates from the weekend.

It’s doing rock-paper-scissors over who has to jump over the fence to retrieve the ball, or bending over for stingers after heads and volleys. Football- and in a wider context, sport- is an essential learning curve for the character of the human being. It teaches you how to lose, how to win, how to make friends and, most importantly, how to have fun.

Unfortunately though, football is an exclusive party. Through various different reasons, many children, men and women across the world will never get the chance to kick a football- something so pure that it should almost be a human right. And Klabu is determined to make this a reality.

Founded in 2017, Klabu- translating simply to ‘club’ in Swahili – is an Amsterdam-based charity that aims to help rebuild lives by setting up sports schools in refugee camps. There are 25 million refugees worldwide, half of which are under 18, wasting their potential talent for the endeavours of surviving. Klabu’s goal is to set up 10 camps in 5 years, powering sports for 100,000 refugees across the globe. To fund this, the charity came up with something rather ingenious : football shirts.

The Klabu tee is special not just for the moral significance behind the shirt, but for the design itself. With a geometric turquoise-orange colour scheme, the 19/20 home shirt will lure in the eye of any customer. £60 isn’t cheap, yet for the cause, the quality of the fabric, and the authenticity of the design, it was worth every penny. The crest reads ‘Kalobeyei spirit’, depicting two giraffes locking necks. The Kalobeyei settlement in Kenya holds a unique place in the heart of the charity- it is the location of Klabu’s first ever camp. Measuring 15 square kilometres, the settlement primarily holds South Sudanese refugees after war broke out in South Sudan in 2013. Lilian- donning the purple and pink away shirt- is a spokeswoman for the settlement. “We are like you, we have dreams, we have goals we want to achieve in life. We are all human. Klabu is a chance for our voices to be heard.”

The shirt may be the coolest on the continent, and a welcome addition to any shirt collection on the planet, but that’s not what matters. It’s about children like Lilian. Children who’s voices are too often drowned out by gunshots and war cries, but through the positive power of sport and the Kalobeyei spirit can finally make themselves heard. “I want to be Messi, I want to be Ronaldo” enthuses a girl from Kalobeyei. Far-fetched ? Possibly. But, if given the chance, why not ?

Ratings

Aesthetics: 8.8

Comfort: 9.1

Authenticity: 9.4

Rarity: 8.2

Retro ? : No.

Overall rating: 8.9

Kit Review : Loyle Carner FC, the next big thing on the music-football scene

Music and football, believe it or not, are intertwined across many fronts. You wouldn’t have thought it, would you ? Football is far too vulgar and classless for the art that is music, surely ? Cast your mind back to October 12th, 2018. It was Croatia vs England, a group-stage match at the Stadion HNK Rijeka in the inaugural Nations League- with a twist. Sanctioned by UEFA for drawing a swastika on the pitch during a Euro 2016 qualifier against Italy, Croatia were forced to play the match behind closed doors. What once was a fiery encounter with scores to be settled from the World Cup semi-final earlier that year was now a dull, lifeless affair. The game ended, predictably, 0-0. You’d rather have watched paint dry. In fact, no. You’d rather have watched dry paint dry.

 

It was a seminal match though. For arguably the first time ever, we had concrete evidence on the reliance of fans to football. What it also vindicated was the notion that songs, and for that matter music, still had their part to play in modern football. Cheering every now and again at a goal or a bone-crunching tackle can spur a team or player on, but what really creates the atmosphere at football grounds are the songs. The Stone Roses’ Waterfall covers, the Seven Nation Army renditions and a little more close to home, Nottingham Forest’s famous Mull of Kintyre cover. Songs like Mull of Kintyre, say, or Liverpool’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone” are part of football folklore. Sung by tens of thousands of fans in tandem, it never fails to make the hairs on the back of you neck stand up.


Yet while Loyle Carner’s slow hip-hop tunes may never make it to the terraces, he certainly plays his part on the music-football scene, in many ways taking the baton from the Gallagher brothers and the 90’s Manchester bands. To commemorate the release of his new album “Not waving, but drowning”, Croydon-born Carner teamed up with Umbro to release his own football shirt- Loyle Carner FC. With only a handful made, to get my hands on one was a blessing. The shirt is a spin-off of the iconic England 2000 kit, arguably the greatest England top of all team, and one of the finest kits Umbro (a budget sportswear company by definition) has ever produced.

If Carner’s not in the studio, he is either watching football- he dedicated a whole song in his new album to England’s world cup heroics- or hunting down retro kits, with the outspoken Liverpool fan known for offering tickets to his gigs in return for a retro shirt he does not already possess. It’s worth it, his music is special.

Ratings

  • Aesthetics: 9.6

  • Comfort: 7.4

  •  Authenticity: 9.0

  • Rarity: 9.5

  • Retro factor: 9.1

  • Overall rating: 9.2/10

 

Kit Review: Nottingham Forest anniversary shirt

The timeless tale of Nottingham Forest’s 1979/80 miracle men will not just forever provide the backbone of Forest folklore, but was an achievement that will never be forgotten by anybody around Europe alive to witness it. The idiosyncratic Brian Clough and his trusted adviser Peter Taylor guided outsiders Nottingham Forest to the peak of european football twice in a row- a feat only achieved by one other English club (Liverpool). Having never even seen Forest in the Premier League, the story never ceases to amaze me, something which can be said for many of the younger generation. Even after 40 years -an era of gradual decline and visceral disappointment- it’s proved the lifeline keeping the city ground afloat on the banks of the Trent. “How many European Cups have you won then ?” The ultimate silencer. Clinging on to the past ? Maybe. But why not ? It is a proud, illustrious history, and one that no doubt deserves to be celebrated.

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the first European Cup win, Forest teamed up with Macron to produce 1979 limited-edition celebratory shirts (as we won it in 1979), each one worth £70. A hefty price tag, but, in all honesty, worth every penny. There was something almost prestigious about it, as though you were buying the European cup itself.

Arriving in an authentic red box, sleekly adorned with miracle men logos, the Forest badge and a fading, legendary photo of John Mcgovern et al crowding round round the trophy, it was the fanciest wrapping you’ll ever get for a football shirt. Ever. Inside, it got even better. A quaint little booklet containing some of the memorable photos of the cup run was perched on one side- another lovely touch- but it was the main event that really caught your eye. Concealed behind a transparent sheet of plastic was the shirt itself, the different shades of red a beautiful combination.

Though, it was not until you looked closer that the real magic of the shirt hit you. Inscribed on one of the half the shirt like Latin on some Roman colosseum were the names of everybody lucky enough to have been part of that European cup winning team. Names like John Mcgovern, Gary Birtles, Franck Clark and John Robertson particularly leaped out to me, – perpetually popping up when the older Forest fans reminisce over ‘the good old times’. Even the inside of the neck, repeatedly stamped with European Cup Winners 1979, was designed to a tee, while the back of the neck was embellished with a tiny, but somehow powerful European Cup. Macron- a company who can often over-sponsor themselves on shirts – made sure to keep it simple, and it spoke volumes of the importance of honouring the shirt and achievement. After all, only a handful of clubs get to produce European Cup-winning celebratory tops.

Comfort: 9.5

Aesthetics: 10

Uniqueness: 9.8

Rarity: 10

Retro Factor: 9.1

Overall rating: 9.8

Kit review : Liverpool 89/90

There was, believe it or not, a time in England when playing football was seen not as a pro – but a con. It was viewed by many as the game of the working-class, a vulgar, masculine mud bath- far from the stylistic virtues we now associate with the beautiful game. After all, it was the late 80’s- a decade of football marred by three tragedies. The Bradford City stadium fire on 11 May 1985, 18 days later the Heysel wall collapse and the Hillsborough disaster, 15 April 1989. English football had hit rock bottom.

Liverpool, though, were thriving- despite their involvement in two of those aforementioned disasters. Under the guidance of Paisley and Dalglish, the scousers lifted 10 league titles, 2 FA cups, 4 league cups and 4 European cups in 14 years (1976-1990)- cementing their place as the most formidable team in the land. This iconic shirt was worn in the victorious 89/90 First Division season. It would be their last league title. Dalglish at the helm, Liverpool won the league by 9 points with club legends such as Ian Rush, John Barnes and Peter Beardsley sporting the jagged, blood-red design. Football shirt culture hadn’t really begun then- it all started during the marketing revolution of the Premier League. Most sides just stuck with their simple colours, a badge, sponsor and maybe a couple of stripes. This Liverpool shirt was one of the first patterned shirts, and was considered one of the trendiest, most stylistic shirts at the time.

The retro Adidas logo holds a special place in the heart of kit collectors like myself. It’s made a comeback in sportswear as a whole over the past 5 or 10 years, so football tops where the logo was new during the shirt’s use bring this unadulterated, old-school aura. While the previous shirt we looked at (Buriram United 18) was perhaps over-sponsored, the Candy advertisement here is neat, smooth, and the font fits in with the playful nature of the shirt. A legendary tee, it must be said, and an emblem of scouse dominance- something which Liverpool will need to rekindle in Madrid on Saturday.

Comfort : 4.5

Aesthetics : 9.5

Uniqueness: 9

Rarity: 9

Retro factor: 9.5

Overall rating: 9.5

Kit review: Buriram United, Thailand’s finest

Buriram United. Thailand’s most decorated football team, winning 7 of the 22 championships since the Thai League 1 began in 1996. They currently preside in 2nd place after 10 games, with a game in hand on the leaders, Port F.C. Managed by the Montenegrin, Božidar Bandović (former Olympiacos manager), Buriram share a vicious rivalry with Muangthong, their closest competitors for the title in recent years. The Thai League runs from February to October and Buriram sported this gem of a kit in their resounding 2018 title win, when The Thunder Castles won the league by a whopping 16 points. In terms of aesthetics, it’s not bad at all to say it was only £15 from a grubby corner shop in Phuket. Although maybe slightly over-sponsored, the Thai tag brings some much-needed eccentricity to the shirt, history lives on in the star studded sleeves while the old reliable collar adds a bit off class. Not the sort you’d casually wear – but a nice one to add to the collection.

Comfort: 6.5

Aesthetics: 8

Uniqueness: 7

Rarity: 8

Retro factor: 1

Overall rating: 8