Manufacturer: AB Sport
The name „Djibouti“ obviously lends itself for some dumb “Ya booty!” jokes. But since Frank Zappa’s 1979 masterpiece “Sheik Yerbouti”, all good “booty” puns have already been exhausted.
The country is somewhat of a “safe haven” among the politically unstable and war-torn countries of the horn of Africa. Due to its strategic location at the Bab al-Mandab Strait, pretty much every western country either has a large number of troops stationed in Djibouti or even built a military base altogether.
Formerly named “French Somaliland”, the country commenced playing under the name “Djibouti” in 1983 when they lost their first ever game 8-1 against neighboring Ethiopia.
The following years were marked by withdrawals and stagnation, as Djibouti did not participate in either the AFCON or World Cup qualifications until they finally participated in 1997 and 2000 respectively. Needless to say, the small country with even smaller footballing experiences wasn’t particularly successful in their qualifying attempts. In fact, between 1983 and 2015, Djibouti was only able to win two of their games. Since then, the Riverains de la Mer Rouge (Shoremen of the Red Sea) have been playing more frequently and consequently, were able to achieve some respectable results, like a 2-1 win against eSwatini in 2019. In the same year, young French coach Julien Mette was installed and with him a team of experienced assistants. These changes translated into a much more professional working conditions and thus into better results. In June 2021, Djibouti has the chance to qualify for the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup in Qatar for the first time.
Here it is, the most difficult national shirt to acquire!
With Djibouti playing infrequently in the past, the federation only using a small stock of template-based shirts for the national team and their staff being almost impossible to contact, getting an authentic national team shirt from Djibouti is a tedious endeavor, that took me two years of work.
While dubious manufacturer AMS did provide some nice bespoke kits for the team, these shirts have never been used. Although a couple of pictures of players wearing those AMS shirts in a training match have surfaced, it turned out that the squad on the pictures wasn’t really one of Djibouti’s national teams and that the shirts have only been used for training purposes by youth teams and therefore don’t count for my collection.
When Moroccan manufacturer AB Sport introduced their flashy new kits for the country, many collectors hoped to get their hands on one of the jerseys. However, since neither AB Sport nor the Djibouti Football Federation seem to be too interested in money, the shirts have never been for sale, therefore detective work was due…
After messaging close to a hundred players, FA staff, referees, journalists and non-involved civilians from Djibouti in the course of almost two years, to annoy them with my request, I was almost going to give up. At the end of 2020, different Djiboutians told me, that it might be possible to get a shirt from the stock of replicas the federation kept as gifts for official occasions, yet, finding someone to persuade the man in charge of the shirts, wasn’t easy. I even managed to get the German embassy in Djibouti involved, but even they couldn’t get their hands on a shirt for me. Coincidentally, I encountered a nice man associated with the football federation offered me to send me two shirts as a gift.
Getting the shirts to Europe, however, was quite complicated. Luckily, I came into contact with Teddy, a Brit who worked in Djibouti for a few months and was eager to help me out. On his last day in the country, he was able to arrange a meeting to receive the shirts and once he entered European soil, send the shirts to me.
Despite being fully sublimated, the quality of the shirts is pretty nice. The green away jersey sports a stylized Djiboutian flag on the bottom half of the shirt as well as a (probably) traditional Djiboutian pattern.
There is actually also a subtle pattern embossed in the shirt which gives the shirt a more premium feel. The sizing is pretty weird, as my shirts are XL but fit like an M – good for me as I haven’t yet reached XL size.
With Djibouti crossed off the list, the last shirts I’m missing don’t feel so unattainable anymore.
Big thanks to Youssouf and Teddy for your generosity and helpfulness! It’s not every day that you meet people that are willing to put their time and effort to help a complete stranger. Cheers!