ABA SPORT RE-ISSUE THE FAMED 1998 MEXICO HOME SHIRT
In 1998, Mexico reached what would become one of the most memorable and entertaining World Cups the game has ever seen. But while El Tri didn't go far in the tournament, they would be remembered for one very special reason… their kit.
It's a design that has cemented the shirt as one of the true greats among collectors - and one that has been faked by many and sold on to unsuspecting buyers countless times over.
Well, it’s back! Aba Sport have re-released the famous shirt, and Cult Kits spoke exclusively with Aba Sport director Jorge Lankenau about the jersey's origins and why he thinks it’s time for a return.
CK: ABA Sport is known most widely in the UK for being the brand behind one of the most famous World Cup jerseys, the 1998 Mexico national team jersey. However I believe the brand first started to make soccer jerseys back in 1990 - could you give us a brief history of the brand and how it started?
JL: Well it all started when my father, Jorge Lankenau Rocha, acquired the Mexican club Monterrey in the early 90s. His take-over of the club meant he was looking to make some changes to the club’s uniform such as the team’s badge/shield as well as other design changes. Although the kit was made my Adidas at the time, we set out to create our own design and simply have the Adidas mark added, therefore respecting the contract between club and manufacturer. Unfortunately Adidas weren’t happy with this arrangement.
Monterrey was already strongly affiliated with our company - The Abacus Group, (which included foreign exchange, insurance and motor services) discussions took place to form another arm of the company – Aba Sport.
When the contract with Adidas finally came to pass, Aba Sport set about creating the shirts for my fathers club with a mindset of commercialising the shirts, making them accessible to all fans. Previously fans had only been able to get hold of a shirt through players themselves.
By 1990 we (ABA sport) had replaced Adidas as the shirt supplier to Monterrey and although not fully commercialised, they drew the attention of directors for the club Guadalajara Chivas. Chivas had issues with their supplier which led them to reach out. We soon formed an agreement that saw Chivas become the second team to have kits supplied by Aba Sport.
By the 1993-94 we were starting to become recognised outside of Mexico. Our success meant we could start branching out to other sports such as baseball and American football.
The end of the 1994 World Cup also saw the partnership between the national team, Mexico, and the manufacturer Umbro, come to an end. By this point we were dressing several Mexican football teams, which put us in a strong position to takeover from the British brand as manufacturer. We would go on to sign a four year contact, with the first shirt designs proving somewhat controversial. The design was launched with an ‘M’ that covered the entire shirt, a popular design which was a hit with the national fans. Something some shirts before it, had failed to do. By 1996 the design was changed to another favourite – one that would take its inspiration from the Aztec calendar.
CK: The most iconic is of course, the 1998 Mexico World Cup - where did you get the inspiration for the jersey (who were the designers?) and what was the reaction to the jersey in Mexico when it was released?
JL: The 1998 design was modelled on the sunstone of the Aztec calendar. It was launched in three colour ways; shades of green, white with shades of grey and finally, red with shades of green. The designers of the shirt were led by principle designer for Aba Sport, Ignacio Villarreal Junco. The design attracted a lot of attention!
CK: Did you ever expect that the jersey would go on to become one of the most famous and sought after jerseys ever?
JL: No we couldn’t have expected this. However, Aba Sport had always designed bold, risky as well as sometimes controversial shirts. This particular shirts was very symbolic for the Mexicans, reflecting their pre-Hispanic roots, in this case the sun stone. The shirt celebrates it, in its design. So it’s not surprising it’s so popular.
CK: Why did you decide to re-issue the jersey and did you have any reservations about doing so?
JL: It’s a good time for the shirt to be re released due to the popularity of football shirts and the demand for an official version, not just with Mexican fans. We know this particular design was popular across the world so now we know there is a demand, it feels like the right time to release it.
CK: Can you explain a little bit about the process? Did you have to make any changes from the original jersey after 22 years since it was first produced?
JL: Yes, first of the all material. The fabric originally used a repeat pattern of the Aba Sport mark. However, FIFA regulations regarding brand mark usage on shirts prohibits usage and limits it to just once. The original 1998 shirt’s collar and cuffs also had to be altered. Changing from a collar which was white, with red stripes, to a white collar with a red line on both shirts and in the case of the white shirt a tricolour stripe.
Interestingly, by the time the 98 World Cup came about, thousands of shirts had already been created for sale to fans. This caused issue for the manufacturers as fans began confused between World Cup shirts without the repeat pattern of the logo and that of the fans shirts, that did have the repeat pattern. Hence, people questioning a shirt’s authenticity. But in fact the ‘fans shirt’ is a truer reflection of the original design from Aba Sport. You will see from pre World Cup promotional imagery of the shirt, that the player shirt also contained the repeat pattern – but this had to be altered due to FIFA shirt regulations.
BLANCO 11 • Mexico 1998 (H) shirt – From ABA Sports – Available here.
HERNANDEZ 15 • Mexico 1998 (H) shirt – From ABA Sports – Available here.
CK: Does ABA Sport still manufacture jerseys for any current teams in Mexico? If not, do you have any plans to produce shirts for clubs in the future?
JL: We’ve actually never stopped operating as a sportswear brand and we’re about to celebrate our 30th year! Whilst we haven’t produced shirts for big clubs recently doesn’t mean we’ve gone away. We have instead focussed on producing clothes for schools and businesses.
CK: Can we expect any other ABA Sport re-releases in the future?
JL: As long as there is demand, yea of course. Let’s see how the Mexico International shirt does and if there is demand perhaps we can produce a Chivas shirt as well.
The Mexico '98 home shirt is available to purchase from Cult Kits now, in multiple sizes, here.