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Nigeria's team captain advances to Africa Cup of Nations final in bio-based soccer boots

This Sunday, Nigeria will face Ivory Coast in the culminating match of the Africa Cup of Nations. Captain William Troost-Ekong isn't just leading his team to its first Afcon final since 2013, he's doing so clad in the 'world's most eco-friendly' soccer cleats.

Making its debut on Ekong's feet is the Scudetta by British footwear brand Sokito. The vegan cleat is crafted almost entirely from bio-based materials, including corn waste, sugarcane, bamboo, castor beans and wood fibers. At 182 grams, it's one of the lightest pro boots on the market. Designed in green and white — Nigeria's national colors — the Scudetta will drop for players of all levels in summer 2024.

Besides serving as a brand ambassador, Ekong invested in Sokito as part of a commitment to make soccer more sustainable. He explains: "I quickly realized football was way behind when I started to make some changes in my personal life. I was trying to make eco-friendly choices for myself, but being in and around the training ground, stadium and football in general, made me think about how we could change the industry as a whole."

On stepping away from major apparel brands, the player adds: "Like most footballers, I was so used to playing on one boot brand, which can be hard to change because we're quite particular (and superstitious) about what we play in. But because the feeling and performance were the same, it felt like the obvious choice to wear a football boot that actually makes a difference in the world."

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Soccer might the world's most popular sport, but it's hardly immune to the climate crisis. And the challenges cut both ways: matches and tournaments contribute signifcant emissions through carbon-intensive activities like flying teams in private jets, building stadiums and producing spectator waste. Meanwhile, climate change strikes back with extreme and unpredictable weather — from heavy rains and heatwaves to wildfire smoke — that both threatens the health of athletes and derails events.

Within those challenges lie opportunities: since soccer players and other pro athletes wield unparalleled influence across borders and demographics, they can play a critical role in promoting sustainability. By partnering with environmentally responsible brands like Sokito and raising awareness about climate change among their vast audiences, players could help the sports industry pivot from being a part of the problem to championing its solutions.

Related: Dutch soccer federation enlists FC88 to upcycle surplus uniforms into unique gear for fans

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