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The Aussie student who makes soccer jerseys for the world's toughest market

Kampala, Uganda: When Robert Wurube, a South Sudanese soccer player, represents millions of people from his war-torn country sporting his national jersey, there’s some Australian labour of love that’s gone into his uniform’s design.

The green shirt donned by the midfielder boasts a bright, complex diagonal sash with cultural symbols traditionally worn by local chiefs to symbolise their power. It was created by the AMS Clothing company, founded by Melbourne university student Luke Westcott.

AMS supplies high quality jerseys for a handful of other African teams lacking resources, including most South Sudanese clubs. The alternative is either the generic uniforms traditionally supplied by sportswear giants such as Adidas and Puma, or a wide array of counterfeit products unearthed in the region.

“The teams look nice when they’re putting on those uniforms,” said Wurube, 26, who left South Sudan in 2017 to play in Uganda’s more competitive league.

He has “many” family members who’d been in refugee camps in the neighbouring country.

“The jerseys have quality.”


AMS, founded in 2014, is also a sponsor of the national teams of Zanzibar, Eritrea, the disputed state of Western Sahara, Barawa in Somalia, and Darfur United, the de-facto national team for Sudan’s troubled Darfur region.

In Africa, even if teams are sponsored by a major brand, they aren’t given the opportunity to make good sales to the local market due to the inability of the major brands to reduce their prices to meet domestic market demands, says 24-year-old managing director Westcott, a business studies student at RMIT.

“It is near impossible to find an authentic national football team jersey on sale in each respective local market. This means that the national football associations are unable to benefit from the commercialisation of their brand.”

The South Sudan national team jersey, designed with detail, counterfeit prevention and longevity in mind, was created in 2015 by AMS after long consultations with senior players, ahead of their first FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign.

AMS aims to enter markets not “captured” by major brands, and Westcott says even though South Sudan is ranked as one of the globe’s most difficult places to do business, they are using the world’s youngest nation to test their business model and expand into larger African markets.

“There are many challenges that include corruption, political instability, security risks and countless other issues,” he says.

“However, it is also a market that has huge business opportunities and a relative lack of competition in many sectors.”

AMS aspires to become South Sudan’s biggest sportswear brand and have its products available in every major town centre in the country.

“In addition, we aim to have a strong impact on a social level in South Sudan as football is a unique opportunity for everyone to be united and it can certainly be a vital tool for building peace,” said Westcott.

Both Wurube, who aspires to be a national coach, and Bernard Agele, a Ugandan-South Sudanese who also plays for South Sudan’s national team, are Uganda-based. They travel to South Sudan for the country’s matches.

Wurube said there were many fans outside the capital Juba who want to attend the matches, but “have to use road transport because of the distance”. And there was always the “possibility of meeting killers on the way”.

Agele, who has some South Sudan-born family in Uganda’s refugee camps, said “playing for a nation’s team comes once in a lifetime”.

“People forget about all the ethnic and political differences and come in large numbers to support the national team,” he says.

Agele said “authentic jerseys last longer” than the fakes.

“You can feel the difference because we sportsmen we run and sweat, and we need material that can allow us to breathe … sometimes hold onto our skin,” he said.

“We are even more happy that Luke does consult us about issues on design, shape, and stuff like that.”