Tadious Manyepo, Harare Bureau
ENGLISH sportswear company Umbro have responded to pleas from the fans, to come up with a simple and plain design, by delivering an official kit for the Warriors different from the one they had initially designed.
The initial kit had red stripes, running down a gold background, on the jerseys while both the green and white kits had a number of colours added in what many fans felt was a huge break from the traditional colours of the national football teams.
This torched a social media storm with many supporters saying the home gold kit, with the red stripes, was a poor imitation of the one which was used by Spanish giants Barcelona in some of their away games.
While those kits remain, for sale to the public as replica jerseys on a limited scale, Umbro changed course and produced an official kit that has plain gold, for the home matches, green for the away matches, and white as an alternative kit.
Before the launch of the official Warriors kit yesterday, social media had also gone ablaze with criticism of the stripped kits after some claimed they were the kits which would be used by the team at the 2019 Afcon finals.
However, it later emerged that they had been sold a dummy as the the kit manufacturers had settled for a different kit dominated by the plain colours.
The kits will now be used by all the country’s national football teams.
Yesterday, at the unveiling ceremony in Harare, Warriors leftback Ronald Pfumbidzai and forward, Leeroy Mavhunga, paraded the new kits.
Mighty Warriors’ stars, Talent Mandaza and Danai Bhobho, displayed the kits which will be used by the women national football teams.
The Warriors will use the Umbro kits at the 2019 Cosafa Cup in South Africa this month and Afcon finals in Egypt, where they will open the show with a date against the hosts in Cairo on June 21.
The Young Warriors will also use the kit for their Afcon Under-23 qualifier against their South African counterparts.
Fans, from yesterday, were able to buy the replicas from Topics stores with the replica jerseys costing US$35 or $175.
Some lucky fans, who will buy the replica jerseys, will also win tickets to travel to Egypt for the 2019 Afcon finals.
Umbro will also provide training kit for the national teams, tracksuits, bags, and other equipment as part of their deal with Zifa.
There had been fears the two parties would go separate ways, after Umbro failed to deliver the kits in time for the 2019 Afcon qualifier against Congo-Brazzaville in Harare in March, and Zifa were forced to buy an alternative kit.
However, since then, the two parties have buried their differences and reached out to each other leading to yesterday’s unveiling function which also attracted scores of the team’s fans.
Umbro, who entered into a partnership with Zifa early this year, revealed through their president Brian Katzan, that they have plans for long-term marriage with Zifa.
“It’s an interesting concept that we went through in terms of design,’’ Katzan said. “We heard what the fans had to say and we had to design something unique for today’s launch.
“We have the replica kit and we will also have the match jersey replicas. We had to make sure that everybody is satisfied.
“This is the reason why we had to go for a wide range that satisfy everybody. We are certain we have now made everybody happy.
“We also have a fine T-shirt range, which is quite affordable, and it will be available in the coming days.
“We are in a long-term relationship with the Warriors, which is mutually beneficial to both parties, though I cannot divulge the details for confidentiality’s sake.
“We have to develop that partnership and we hope to see a lot coming through.”
Zifa president Felton Kamambo, who was represented by board member Farai Jere, hailed the marriage.
“As a country, and leaders of the sport in the country, we endeavour to see a lot of mutually beneficial partnerships born.
“We really appreciate what Umbro has done. We hope to improve the relationship going forward,” said Kamambo.
Zifa board member in charge of competitions, Chamu Chiwanza, also graced the function while the Warriors were represented by assistant coach Lloyd Mutasa and team manager Wellington Mpandare.
The supporters, who graced the event, also welcomed the new kits unveiled yesterday.
“As supporters, we applaud the unveiling of the official Warriors Umbro kit which is a milestone achievement for Zifa and all our national soccer teams,’’ said Chris “Romario’’ Musekiwa, the Warriors cheerleader.
“We heartily welcome this development because Umbro is a great sporting brand and it is a privilege to have them on board.
“It is a timely morale-booster as our gallant Warriors prepare for the Afcon finals and surely they will have a great adventure in Egypt.
“We encourage all our fans to buy the Warriors replica jerseys at all Topics clothing shops countrywide.’’
Umbro are the official kit sponsors of such clubs like Everton, West Ham United, AFC Bournemouth, Huddersfield, Derby County, SV Werder Bremen, PSV Eindhoven and Hull City.