To fans upset over Nike uniform, I say, ‘Just stop it’

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To fans upset over Nike uniform, I say, ‘Just stop it’

At the 2002 World Cup, everyone went berserk over the national soccer team’s unexpectedly good performance. But nobody said a peep about the uniform, except that instead of the red, many wanted the national team to keep wearing the white one that it had on when defeating Italy. People, including myself, considered it a good-luck talisman.
Not a single soul raised the issue of why their uniform bore the Nike swoosh on the upper right part of the shirt.
Recently, Nike came up with a new design for the national soccer team. Suddenly, soccer Web sites are being swamped with visitors who are all too eager to bash the new design ― the same one worn by eight countries, including the Netherlands and Brazil.
Bombarded by soccer fans, who find the big circle that’s been drawn around the player number particularly distasteful, the Korea Football Organization asked Nike to consider coming up with an alternative design.
The maker replied that the uniform should be worn for at least one game before such a decision is made. The national team donned the uniform in a March qualifying match for the Athens Olympics, and it looks like it’s here to stay.
Nike has been the team sponsor since 1997. That’s a pretty long time, so perhaps we’ve become a bit too complacent in our relationship with the sporting-goods giant.
Maybe we should’ve given other sporting firms a signal that we were willing to jump ship if they could offer a better deal. After all, competition always benefits the consumer. But this is soccer, and our country is by no means a soccer powerhouse on the world stage. Some might even call us lucky to have what sponsorship we’ve got, because out of the 200 or so nations ranked by FIFA, there are plenty of countries that don’t have such a benefactor and that can barely outfit their team.
Was there ever a time when the uniform of a national soccer team became such a hot issue? I can’t remember one. So what’s led to all this ballyhoo?
You may remember the Italians’ tight-fitting uniforms provided by Gucci, or England’s uniforms, which supposedly sported the fine touch of Giorgio Armani. Could it be that by gazing at others’ fashionable threads, our eyes have finally awakened after all these years of ignorance? I don’t think that’s what’s going on here.
There are fans who feel the uniform should bear a greater resemblance to our national colors. In Korea’s case, that would be the blue and red on our national flag.
Well, the present uniform’s colors aren’t a mirror image of the taegukgi, but they’re close enough for me. Besides, since the 2002 World Cup, the team colors have already been modified slightly and nobody said a word then.
Soccer players are not prancing down a catwalk. If a uniform hides their naked skin, that should be enough. And if some company wants to pay for them, why not let them; there isn’t a single firm in the world, foreign or domestic, that wouldn’t want to see its logo on a uniform.
Someone hinted that Nike ignored “national factors” in designing Korea’s outfit. That’s a bit far-fetched. Sure, soccer is a national sport, but we shouldn’t get too patriotic about it. While the KBO isn’t high on my list in terms of doing the right thing, nobody should blame them for bowing to a foreign company. It’s all much ado about nothing.

by Brian Lee
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