Mexico 1998 Kit: The Shirt Forever Linked With One Man's Signature Move

Chris Deeley
Bunny bunny Blanco at the 1998 World Cup
Bunny bunny Blanco at the 1998 World Cup / PATRICK HERTZOG/Getty Images

When it comes to kits, aesthetics are important. There's your knowledge bomb for the day. You see a kit like Nigeria's 2018 World Cup kit, you look at all the promo shots, and you go 'woof. Yeah. That's brilliant, that looks fantastic, and I'm going to con myself into thinking I could pull it off.'

Aesthetics are important. Promo shoots are handy. Record sales are great for the manufacturer. None of those things make a kit truly iconic. A shirt isn't enshrined in football history until it has a moment, until someone does something, while wearing it, that will live in highlight reels and memories for decades.

Mexico's 1998 World Cup shirt owes everything to the Cuauhtemiña.

This was before the country lived in fear of the quinto partido curse. Coming off a shock penalty shootout defeat to Hristo Stoichkov's Bulgaria in 1994, with a squad in its prime – Jorge Campos at 31 in goal, Germán Villa just 25, Ramón Ramírez, Alberto García Aspe and Luis Garcia all in their late 20s – this was a Mexican side with its sights set high.

To cut a not-as-long-as-they'd-have-liked story even shorter: it didn't go well. They bowed out after four games for the second tournament in a row, having only picked up one win in the group stage.

Hell, the iconic shirt – the Aztec calendar-inspired, lurid green shirt – was only worn in one of their three group matches. Yeah, one of the most iconic World Cup kits of all time...only saw action in the tournament for 180 minutes.

This wasn't a tournament where Mexico donned the most iconic shirt in their history like some kind of superhero's cape, pulling off memorable and unlikely victories to cement its place in history. They beat a bad South Korea team, and that was about it.

Well. Almost. Because of Cuauhtémoc Blanco, and the Cuauhtemiña.

Do you remember the Cuauhtemiña? Named after its creator, it' know that thing you might have instinctively done on the playground when you were a kid, where you trap the ball between your feet and bunny-hop out of a tight spot? It's that. It's literally that. It's the single daftest piece of skill ever – and not just because if you get it wrong at lunchtime when you're nine years old you'll be picking stones out of your hands all afternoon. Look at it.

It looks like the creation of a child who's Quantum Leapt his way into the body of a man at football's biggest event, like some bizarre waking dream. It's the skill-move version of the shirt.

Yeah, it's...we do need to actually talk about this shirt at some point here. The main design on the front harkens back to the design of an Aztec calendar (although it does specifically look strikingly similar to the Piedra del Sol) and was made by ABA Sport. Who? Well. Yeah.

ABA were a Mexican kit manufacturer created in the early 1990s when Jorge Lankenau – best known for spending eight years in prison on fraud and tax evasion charges between 1997 and 2005 – bought Monterrey and decided that the best way to get some natty new threads would be to start this whole new manufacturer from scratch. If you want something done right, etc.

They're more or less defunct now, last spotted outfitting a team in Mexico's Serie B, but got their moment in the spotlight when they won the contract to make the national team's kit from 1995. The first shirt looked more like a slightly patterned polo shirt, before it was replaced by a literally more wavey design.

And then...'98. You've seen it. It's at the top of this piece. You should know what it looks like anyway. It's so garish, so impossible for a child to draw (pro tip: all national football shirts or flags should be simple enough that a child with some crayons can make a passible facsimile of them), yet exactly what a child would want.

The Mexico 1998 shirt is the Cuauhtemiña. The Cuauhtemiña is the Mexico 1998 shirt. The thing you'd never attempt if you were old enough to know better. The thing we're really glad they did anyway.