Football has evolved drastically in post war Europe. The increase in general globalisation and the advancement in technology has impacted on all walks of life, not least the football industry.
As players discovered the ability to move abroad and develop their personal skills, and clubs and individuals harnessed the immense financial potential in the game, evolution took place in football that changed the face of the sport forever. Quick wingers became the focal point of play during the fifties and sixties, short simple pass and move dominated the game in the seventies and eighties and introduction of strikers with lethal pace all but nullified the impact of the traditional Number 9 in the nineties and naughties.
Football as we know it today evolved at a drastic rate. But what about the tools of these new born superstars, their football boots? One would assume as the game changed, so did the rate at which boot brands invested in the advancement of their products. One would be wrong!
The classic Adidas World Cup edition was created in the sixties for the top German pros. The success of the boot quickly spread across Europe and the first and greatest football boot legend was born. Players worshipped the quality of leather and glove like fit of the boot, not to mention its inferior weight.
As sales increased, as did competition and Puma were to release their own incarnation of the Adidas World Cup, the Puma King. Created especially for Pele and the Brazil team of the late sixties and seventies, the Puma King at the 1970 World Cup was the first boot that dared to embrace colour with a bold yellow stripe. The boot proved as successful as the World Cup and its success continued in the seventies and eighties being donned by legends no less than Maradona and Cruyff.' The lightweight genuine leather upper and the sheer quality and durability of the boot, detracted from Adidas’ sales and the Puma King went on to achieve cult status within the game among players and fans alike. That cult status remains today.
Despite the success of the Puma King and Adidas World Cup, as well as the relatively foetal Nike Tiempo, no boot had taken technology and aesthetic innovation to the next level. The challenge was there; who would dare to extend the boundaries and change the face of boots forever?
As fluid counter attacking football became the focal point of many teams success in the nineties and naughties, players demanded boots that improved pace and accuracy. The birth of the Adidas Predator range satisfied the desire for accuracy and swerve, alongside well constructed marketing strategies that used the world’s best players as the face of their campaign. No boot had ever sold as many units as quickly as the Predator and Nike and Puma needed to act.
Puma launched the first mass selling coloured boot, the infamous red Puma King, and Nike created the R9. Ronaldo, unanimously accepted as the world’s best player and face of modern football, was chosen to market the product. The success transformed Nike and their reputation. Going from a reliable, solid brand, Nike dared to create the Mercurial Vapor and used the world’s fastest players to sell the product. The boots finally matched the era.
Technology and evolution took place in the boot market like never before during the nineties. As the sport became ever more powerful and wealthy, and global superstars were born in their masses, the power to market an innovative product was created like never before. Coloured boots became the norm as players demanded innovation alongside individuality.
The trend of advancement in boots is still felt today. The success of the Mercurial Vapor, AdiPure as well as the Puma v1.08 merely mirrors the current state of the game. The impending release of the Nike Superfly only heightens the assumption that boot brands are working harder than ever to steal a march on their rivals and increase the speed of the game yet further. You never know, maybe one day in Serie A, we’ll see a counter attack!
All that is left is to salute Adidas and their historical desire to change boots forever. As the World Cup did in the sixties, the Predator changed modern boots as we now know them and their ability to innovate and improve is something I commend.
By Omar Saleem