The Fédération Internationale de Football Association, better known simply as FIFA, is the largest governing body of soccer around the world. Founded in 1904, FIFA is headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland with 209 national associations comprising the organization. The World Cup has been held every four years since, with the exception of the years during WWII, and has been held 19 times in 15 different countries. As the world prepares for the 20th staging, the history of World Cup tournaments reveals some shocking national team kits.
The 1990’s was by the far the worst decade for World Cup kits. The three FIFA tournaments held during this time seemed to provide the majority of the worst kits with nearly half of the list hailing from the 1994 World Cup alone. From England’s white-on-white rhombus design to Croatia’s traditional red and white checkerboard pattern, fashion clearly had no business in the soccer world at the time.
Fortunately, looking good doesn’t equate to a strong performance but none of these teams won a World Cup while sporting their unfortunate kits. The 1994 World Cup may arguably be the last time an ugly national kit won the tournament when Brazil defeated Italy in their club-emblazoned golden jerseys. Regardless, some kits can’t be explained like Scotland in 1986 while other kits can’t be prevented like France in 1978. For whatever reason, these are 10 of the ugliest team kits in World Cup history.
10. Cameroon, 2002
The 2002 World Cup was the first to be held in Asia as South Korea and Japan hosted the tournament together. But, the Cameroon squad seemed to face problems before they even left Africa. Their unique sleeveless jerseys had been revealed but FIFA quickly enforced a rule stating all national kits must have sleeves. They then sewed black sleeves onto the same jerseys and made their way to Asia. Cameroon was seeded in Group E along with Germany, Ireland and Saudi Arabia, but didn’t qualify for the round of 16 after losing 2-0 to Germany.
9. Spain, 1994
The 1994 World Cup was the first World Cup to be decided on penalties after Brazil beat the Italy 3-2 after extra time. The tournament was held in multiple different cities across the United States with Spain’s Group C playing their games in Chicago, Foxborough and Dallas. After defeating Switzerland 3-0 during the round of 16, Spain’s 1994 World Cup ended in the quarter-finals when they lost 2-1 to Italy. Since Spain achieved some success in the tournament, fans were “lucky” enough to witness more and more of this weird, symmetrical jersey.
8. South Africa, 1998
The 1998 World Cup was the first tournament attendance for South Africa after FIFA banned the team for the nation’s apartheid system. During the group stages, South Africa was seeded with France, Denmark and Germany in Group C. Unfortunately for the Bafana Bafana national squad, they failed to even win one game and did not make it past the group stages. Luckily for the fans, South Africa’s early departure meant we would never see their disastrous Kappa-designed kit again. The overlapping stripes and shapes of color on the jerseys were a sore sight to be seen in France.
7. Jamaica, 1998
The 1998 World Cup was Jamaica’s first appearance and their best World Cup result. Despite all of this, Jamaica failed to advance past the group stages as they only managed one victory over Japan. Unfortunately, Jamaica decided to sport a strange Kappa-designed kit for what has since been their only World Cup appearance. The unusual tribal pattern up the side of that didn’t seem to have any symmetry or uniformity and only made their already bright country colors even louder.
6. Germany, 1994
After dominating the group stages, Germany went on to defeat Belgium before being knocked out of the tournament by Bulgaria in the quarter-finals. Despite being one of the most successful clubs in the history of the tournament, Germany’s history of World Cup kits is questionable. The 1994 World Cup seemed to produce a lot of ugly kits but the kaleidescope-like pattern around the collar of the jersey and bottom of the shorts is more than bizarre. In hindsight, the atrocious jersey is rather appropriate given the poor performance Germany displayed at the 1994 World Cup.
5. Mexico, 1998
The idea behind Mexico’s 1998 World Cup kit design is still a mystery. While it is obvious that the jersey is paying homage to the Aztec Empire dating back to the 13th century, the aesthetic appeal apparently got lost here. Unfortunately, Mexico was knocked out early in the round of 16, and luckily never repeated the gaudy Aztec pattern again.
4. USA, 1994
The Denim Kit. Just because you could argue there’s nothing more American than a pair of old acid washed jeans doesn’t mean the United States men’s national team needed to wear these jerseys. This was the first and only time the United States hosted the World Cup, but they were also knocked out early in the round of 16 to the eventual tournament winners, Brazil.
3. Nigeria, 1994
Nigeria’s first appearance in a FIFA World Cup tournament was fashionably unfortunate. Like Mexico in the 1998 World Cup, the concept was traditional and good but very poorly executed. The Nigerian men’s national team looked like they were playing World Cup soccer in their matching pyjamas. Surprisingly, Nigeria finished first in their group despite being seeded against Greece, Argentina and Bulgaria. Their impressive performance didn’t last long as they lost to Italy in the next round and packed up their PJ’s for the ride home.
2. Mexico, 1994
Although Mexico’s goalkeeper, Jorge Campos, is most notably remembered for his wild uniform, the entire team’s kit was a little bit off. Both the home and away kit were hard on the eyes and for the most part completely random. One set paired white shorts with red accents and a green top with a maze-like pattern all over, red stitching and red socks. The second set featured the same shorts with inverse colors, white socks, and an inexplicable white jersey with red and green patterns around the shoulders. Luckily, Mexico was knocked out early and fans around the world only had to bear witness to this monstrosity for four games.
1. Bolivia, 1930
The 1930 FIFA World Cup was the inaugural championship for men’s international football clubs. The committee had voted for Uruguay to host the tournament entirely in the capital city of Montevideo as Uruguay celebrated its centenary. There were only 13 countries participating in the entire tournament and Bolivia decided to pay homage to the host country by sporting jerseys with Viva Uruguay collectively displayed across the front. Unfortunately, Bolivia’s tribute did not pay off as they didn’t qualify for the semi-finals.