27 May 2010

Vendors Leave No Shirt Unturned Seeking North Korean Soccer Duds

"Richard Smith wants to start selling the official soccer jersey of the world's most secretive totalitarian regime before the World Cup tournament begins June 11.

He isn't optimistic.

Hawking the soccer jerseys of all 32 World Cup teams competing in South Africa this year is a point of pride for Mr. Smith, the managing director of Subside SportsLtd., an apparel seller in Exeter, England.

To do that, he and his fellow sports merchandisers must find North Korea's soccer shirt. They've initiated the equivalent of a world-wide Easter egg hunt, talking to apparel makers from Mexico to China."

"After spending months on the puzzle, Mr. Smith finally solved part of it earlier this month. A contact in Asia informed him that the North Koreans had struck a deal with Legea SRL, an Italian company. But Mr. Smith still isn't sure his firm can order the jerseys before the Cup begins.

Lorenzo Grimaldi, Legea's marketing manager, confirmed that it has the North Korean contract. He said it struck the deal in Pompei, Italy, in early February, which predates the negotiations between Pirma and the North Koreans.

Legea wants the exposure of having jerseys with its logo shown on TV all over the world. So it is paying for the costs of producing the jerseys and other official attire worn by the North Korean team.

Getting the jersey to the market in time for the tournament has proved tough. The North Koreans wanted a "personalized" design for their jersey, including fabrics that were "off the catalog," Mr. Grimaldi recalls. "

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