Super Eagles captain William Troost-Ekong debuted customised Sokito boots in Nigeria’s opening match at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) against Equatorial Guinea.
The boots are made from corn waste, sugarcane, bamboo and other eco-friendly materials and feature a unique design inspired by Nigeria’s landscape and the green colour of the Super Eagles jersey.
The 30-year-old Nigerian defender who plays in the Greek Super League with PAOK becomes the first footballer to wear sustainably-made football boots in an international tournament.
Speaking to The Athletic on why he opted to wear environmentally sustainable boots, the former Watford defender said it is to increase awareness of climate change and its impact on football.
The centre-back with 67 caps for Nigeria is one of several players who have put their money into Sokito, the company that makes the “bio-based boots”, in an attempt to make a difference.
“I’m conscious of the platform that we have as footballers,” he told The Athletic.
“It’s also another, non-verbal, way of displaying what I’m standing for. There’s a lot of hype around Nigeria with everybody talking about the kit and excitement around this tournament, so I want to use that hype as well.
“This might be my last AFCON. I wanted to use it to get the message across that you can wear a sustainable boot and support a sustainable cause but still have a very nice looking football book that works exactly how it should do.”
Speaking further on his investment in the brand, Troost-Ekong said: “When your outlook aligns with the brand you’re investing in, it takes the partnership to another level. To have Sokito work out your emissions and come up with ways to offset your CO2 impact is quite different but it’s in line with what they are doing as a company.”
He was introduced to Jake Hardy, the founder of Sokito, by his former Bursaspor team-mate John Bostock, who was part of the company’s launch in 2022.
The boot has a suede lining and a tongue made from corn waste. The sole plate is castor beans and the insole is made from sugarcane and bamboo offering the best performance as a result of its environmental credentials. Troost-Ekong believes top players can be convinced to wear them.
“I’ve been very excited because the first boot I wore was comfortable,” he says. “I’m a creature of habit. I’ve played in Nike for a long time so to make that change, I wanted it to be that I wasn’t even thinking about my footwear.
“When you step on the pitch, you don’t want to be thinking about, ‘How am I going to be in it, am I going to slide, am I going to slip, is this comfortable, how’s my touch going to be?’.
“The key thing that we were pushing for was to say we can use recycled materials and want it to be 100 per cent recyclable but it has to perform the same way as other boots because otherwise it won’t impact the market. Performance stays number one.
“We’ve got some reasonable names in our investment group but we haven’t got anyone who has the stature of Erling Haaland, Victor Osimhen or Harry Kane.
“When I get to wear the boots in training and matches I want to spread the message.”