Raining Black Stars

African players model new Puma kit (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images for Puma)

Puma unveiled the Black Stars’ new kit a little more than a week ago. Asamoah ‘Baby Jet’ Gyan was among the stars from the continent who rocked their respective countries’ new gear;  Yaya Toure was there to represent Cote d’ Ivoire, Samuel Eto’o, Cameroon and Steven Pienaar, South Africa, to name a few.

Puma’s Creative Africa Network were responsible for the designs with local artists representing the countries taking part. Inviting local artists to participate in the design process was a novel approach to conceiving the national kits of the countries Puma sponsors. The results stuck closely to the most recent Puma templates for jerseys while including the artist’s personal touch.

Ghana's Godfried Donkor (5th Right to Left) chose the theme, 'Raining Black Stars' for his design (Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images for Puma)

Ghana’s was designed by Godfried Donkor, a ‘fine artist’ by profession and a passionate supporter of the Black Stars. I spoke to ‘the man, the myth, the soon to be legend’ two days ago about his inspiration for the design, his sudden fame and the final product.

As a kid in Africa, the dream is to become the next Abedi Pele, Roger Milla, Rabah Madjer … Michael Essien, Samuel Eto’o, Didier Drogba and the list goes on.  In a few years, young artists may look to Puma’s initiative and want to become the next Godfried Donkor. So, did Donkor ever dream something like this could happen to him when he was a kid?

“No, even last year up until I got the call I would never have imagined it,” he says. “When we launched it last week that’s when it really dawned on me how big the project was and it’s been an amazing response.”

A native of Kumasi, Donkor left Ghana when he was eight but visits regularly – in some years as often as twice. The London resident says the congratulatory calls have not stopped: from relatives to people he’s lost touch with over the years.

He is merely reaping the rewards of the hard work he’s put in together with the Puma design team over a year and a half to come up with the Home kit. A few weeks before the 2010 World Cup he was approached by Puma representatives to work on the new design. Two weeks after he was asked, he settled on the theme ‘raining Black Stars,’ and submitted designs to reflect that idea. After much back and forth, we have a jersey.  “In the end I was happy with the final design,” he says, satisfied.

Ghana's new jersey (R in the trio of tops) has more stars than before and includes red, gold and green stars

Donkor adds, “I went back to all the memories I had of watching the great Ghana teams from the Abedi Pele era, more recently from the U-20 team and then this team which did so well in the World Cup,” to draw inspiration for the design. He also researched the jerseys the team has won since the ’50s in order to come up with something that would fit in the ever evolving look and feel of a Black Stars jersey. “The way they [2010 Black Stars] played without fear was one of the inspirations as well.”

If he had to do it all again, he would without hesitating. And if he had the power, he would make the stars on the jersey even darker. For that to happen though, FIFA’s rules would have to be broken. Given the fine levied against Puma and the Cameroon Football Federation in the past for a fashion faux-pas, that ain’t happening anytime soon.

For more on Donkor’s design, watch the video below.


No group of death but some countries will be composing dirges early!

The 2012 Cup of Nations draw went ahead over a week ago – ages now with our short attention spans – and now all the 16 participating teams know which lane they’ve been assigned. The allocations are below.

Group A: Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Senegal, Zambia (Bata)

Group B: Ivory Coast, Sudan, Burkina Faso and Angola (Malabo)

Group C: Gabon, Niger, Morocco and Tunisia (Libreville)

Group D: Ghana, Botswana, Mali and Guinea (Franceville)

Before a draw of this kind, a favorite pastime for many is to prepare to name the dreaded ‘Group of Death’ and of course to endlessly speculate on the favorites. After the draw, the debate intensifies with mucho airtime and ink devoted to deciding once and for all who will win and who has the toughest group.

It is as though we NEED a group of death so badly that even when there is none we force it. That is how I felt when I looked at my twitter feed and some websites that often exclusively reveal stuff (even as the whole world knows it already).

Ladies and gentleman, THERE IS NO GROUP OF DEATH.

The word that was dominant in my mind when I looked at the draw was ‘balance.’ I thought this draw was as balanced as I’ve ever seen. Every team will look at their groups and say to themselves, ‘with the right amount of dedication, organization and good fortune we could go to the second round and possibly beyond.’ Well, almost everyone. The co-hosts, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea must be kicking themselves thinking we are spending all this money for this?!!! Then again, good hosts rarely have fun at their events anyways, saddled with the constant fretting and troubleshooting. Don’t believe me? Try hosting a dinner party.

Still, the advantage of playing at home should not be discounted. Equatorial Guinea and Gabon will have some good opportunities to qualify but if I were betting I’d bet against them getting out of the first round.

Few would wager against the Black Stars and Cote d’ Ivoire’s Elephants coming out of their groups. In fact, Ghana and Cote d’ Ivoire constantly pop up as potential winners – Ghana by virtue of a stellar 2010, Cote d’ Ivoire because of their collective of stars, Drogba, Yaya Toure and Gervinho to name a few. I’d add Senegal to that group. A deadly strike force and the emergence of young players should make their opponents’ nervous.

When I think of Senegal’s strikers I break into a cold sweat and want to bang my head against a wall lamenting why we can’t even get two more strikers equal or better than Asamoah Gyan and why Emmanuel Adebayor who seemingly spends more of his downtime in Ghana than anywhere else wasn’t convinced to play for Ghana. Aaaarrrrgggghhhhh. Can you imagine the possibilities? Multiple Azontos every match I tell you. Sigh. Having said aaalllllllll of that, Senegal still have to prove it in a tournament setting.

Add the North Africans – Morocco, Tunisia-  who are typically formidable come tournament time and the tournament might be the most open we will have for a while.

The tournament awaits us all.