Boot that spells loot in football's style wars

One World Cup battle will be fought in the high street. Melanie Rickey reports
ONE would have expected the announcement of the decade. It began with rousing orchestral music and the type of build-up usually reserved for the arrival of a movie star, but the assembled crowd were there to witness... the unveiling of a new football boot.

Paul Ince, Paul Gascoigne, Graeme Le Saux, Marc Overmars and Jurgen Klinsmann were on hand yesterday in the unlikely setting of London's Waterloo Station to sing its praises, but before they uttered their paid-for patter a gravelly- voiced announcer gave us some apparently helpful statistics.

"Thirty-two teams, 64 matches, 704 players, 12,000 volunteers, 2.5 million fans, 500 million viewers per game, 37 billion total viewers..." Yes? "And ..." We were hardly breathless. "One brand. Adidas."

We thought it was about a game involving a ball and 11 men, but Adidas seem to think that football - and, moreover, the World Cup - is about them.

True, they are a sponsor and designed the official World Cup match ball "with its unique syntactic foam", but it's the boot, oops, sorry, the Predator Accelerator, associated three-stripe sports clothing and, more importantly, the "contracted symbols" who wear it that Adidas are pinning their hopes on to bring in the money.

Ray Stubbs, the compere of the event, was the man to put the searching questions. "So, Jurgen," he asked. "How have you found your new Adidas Predator Accelerators?"

"Well, Ray, there has been great progress since the Predators were launched a few years ago. They give me a good feeling with the ball, especially with quick movements," he replied. Thanks, Jurgen. I couldn't see the script from where I was standing.

Ince said they were much thinner than the last Predators. Gazza didn't talk about them at all. He chatted briefly about how he might have to go to McDonald's for a scratchcard to get his tickets for World Cup matches.

Afterwards all five players walked off for a photocall holding the boots in their hands and posing cheesily for the cameras. Game over.

Ultimately, of course, Adidas hope these boots will become the next schoolboy (and grown-up schoolboy) "must-have" item in the "football chic" wars against Nike, Umbro and their other would-be rivals.

The price tag of pounds 120 is unlikely to put off potential buyers. Accelerators have already been placed in some carefully chosen football stores. Nigel Conway, proprietor of Soccer Scene on Carnaby Street in London, has already sold out of his first batch. "I can't believe kids can afford to spend pounds 120 on a pair of football boots," he said. They can if David Beckham - Adidas' star "brand symbol" - wears them.

Adidas would have us believe the boots can turn an average player into a great one. As we all know, however, Beckham and company could probably score in a pair of baseball boots if they were paid enough money to wear them.