Football primarily being a game played with the use of our lower limbs inevitably dictates that some sort of equipment covers those limbs to prevent them from the physical excesses of the game. Good equipment means good results.

 

By Steve Njuguna

 

At the 1954 World cup final, West Germany was up against Hungary’s golden generation who were the best team in the world at the time with stars like Ferenc Puskas and Sandor Koscis. This team was so good they had already beaten West Germany 8-3 in the group stages. The man who supplied Germany’s boots was a guy named Adolf  Dassler, the man who founded the company we now know as Adidas. He had an ingenious trick that helped Germany pull an unlikely upset: interchangeable studs.

 

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In the first half, the German players played with long studs on their boots to help them navigate the soggy pitch. Then at halftime Dassler and his team screwed on shorter studs on the boots because the pitch had dried up. The impact was huge as the Germans were much faster on the pitch than their opponents and ended up winning 3-2.

 

Football boots became big business over time and went from being just normal sporting equipment to forming a huge part of football fan culture in the modern game. Sporting brands like Nike, Adidas, Umbro, and Puma produced iconic boots that captivated players and fans alike. Who can forget the very popular Adidas Copa Mundial, the world’s best-selling shoe in the past few decades with its rugged look and iconic white stripes, or the Nike Tiempo that was loved by football superstars from the 90’s to the 2010s and is still widely worn today. The list is endless.

A pile of football boots at Ligi Ndogo Grounds (Image: Siaji Football Boots)

Teams and players have shoe sponsorship deals that are mutually beneficial as they exchange cash and equipment for marketing value. This arrangement is popular in structured leagues where football is established well as a business and I wouldn’t t be lying if I said Kenya is not quite there yet.

 

Nevertheless, a good boot is well appreciated in our country. During preseason you won’t fail to sport one or two top-flight players scouring Gikomba market or the stalls at City Stadium for a good pair. I once met a lower league team manager hauling a huge sack of boots for his players to choose from. He smiled cheekily and told me the fact that they bought boots for their players gave them an edge during recruitment, especially in low-income areas.

 

The thing to note here is that all of these shoes I am talking about are second-hand shoes that have already arrived in the country within various states of deterioration. If you’re lucky you get a good shoe, if not then what you buy won’t last you more than a few weeks. The underlying issue behind this reliance on the second-hand market is more or less the high cost of a brand new pair of good boots.

 

Whereas a decent boot in the second-hand market can cost between Kshs 3000-7000 on average, a  decent brand new pair could cost up to three times more. It’s even worse if you go for top-of-the-range boots like the Adidas Predator edge that can set you back in excess of Kshs 40,000. Some top-flight players barely even achieve that amount as salary, let alone as disposable income for the purposes of buying boots.

 

The only new boots that may fit within a budget that is relatively cheap by Kenyan standards are the knockoff boots from China that sport funny names like Adibas (presumably to make the customer feel like they are wearing Adidas) or Niked (as opposed to Nike). These types cost more or less any price depending on your ability to bargain. They aren’t known for their durability though.  I remember buying a pair of ‘Adidonas’ (Yes, I’m not making that up) in Githurai that used to disintegrate every time I attempted to hit a ball with any sort of power. It’s no wonder my goal tally was so low.

 

On a more serious note, it’s clear that there is a gap in the market for an affordable, durable football shoe that can serve Kenyan footballers in the below-average pitches they ply their trade-in.  Is it possible for a Kenyan firm to produce a football shoe that a Kenyan player can afford and ultimately use over a season? Something that a guy playing in the FKF Division two league can afford easily and utilize for a whole season?

 

A Kenyan-made boot that the FKFPL top scorer can actually use and win the golden boot with? I don’t see why not. Athletics has already given us an example with Enda Sportswear, a Kenyan firm that produces running shoes and has employed over 50 Kenyans in their factory in Kilifi. Their shoes have picked up well and have also achieved decent sales in local and foreign markets.

 

A concerted effort to bring stability to our football will perhaps make ideas like these more plausible for possible stakeholders. Nobody wants to invest in chaos and calling our footballing scene chaos in the past 3 months would possibly be an understatement.

 

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