The young ‘un has been on a growth spurt…this can mean only one thing: his first pair of football boots don’t fit him anymore.
They’re a spangly looking pair of goal machine, million keepy-ups, Bobby Dazzler boots. Maroon, blue, and yellow, they flash the Lionel Messi branded Adidas logo.
They were a birthday pressie a couple of years ago, and with a pair of thick football socks, and the extra tight pull on the laces of a grown up, they played through Fridays after school, and one half term coaching course. But now they don’t fit, and as he’s stopped playing on a Friday after school, it’ll be a while until the next pair.
He still uses the box for some of his football stuff, so the recycling of these magical boots will continue for a good while yet. Yet, it was the look on his face as he tried them on for the first time that sticks in the mind; that desperation for the wow-est boots your mam and dad, and the lad in the shop, can find.
And as these looked like the boots to match Joseph and his Technicolor Dukla Prague Away Strip, the young un’ was limbering up on cloud nine for weeks.
Inevitably, he asked me about my football boots. I haven’t got any anymore, and haven’t since we moved into our current house, fifteen years ago; they were a casualty of the clear out, something else I just didn’t use. I hadn’t worn them for the nine years before that, either.
“Dad, what colour were your boots?”
“Well, son. They were black. All football boots were black, then, with the logo on them. Usually in white. Or yellow. Or green.” Robert Lee’s boots popped into my mind. “Or red. Or orange…”
My mind did a Scooby-Doo wobble back to my first ever football boots, at the same age as my inquisitive son. They were Dunlop, with an orange logo, and moulded studs. They were the only ones in the shop that would fit me, and after we bought them, they were ‘sent away to Santa to bring on Christmas Day.’
Whoa, there… you’re sending them away, to a man who is already totally over-worked? My boots were a kids’ size 11, or some other very wee size… perfect for an elf who needs some new football boots instead of twirly-pointy boots with a bell! But Santa knew what he we was doing, and by the end of Boxing Day, they were covered in mud. Just right.
But a year and two shoe sizes later, the boots I thought were the coolest, most amazing things on the face of the planet, were Adidas World Cup. Even as a slightly more grown up adult, I still look at them as the football boot equivalent of Bodie’s Ford Capri in The Professionals. And the first time I ever saw those football boots was on a poster of Alan Shoulder in the 1979 Bukta home kit. They were stylish perfection.
Little did I know that Adi Dassler (apparently he preferred ‘Adi’ following the Second World War, as the full version of his name rapidly went out of fashion) and his brother, Rudi, would design the iconic boots of my generation.
Rudi created the Puma brand, and back in the day, footballers seemed to choose between Adidas World Cup, or Puma King. The brothers fell out after Pele was persuaded to wear Puma boots. Heaven knows what they would have thought about the multi-coloured, sock extension, featherweight beasts of today.
This stuff matters to kids. They’re interested in the Adidas and Puma story. They’re interested in the design, functionality, and wow-ness of them (even if an old boot like me prefers black boots with a white logo, and a possible smattering of red as an accent).
I think they’re interested because football is about hope, and dreams; it’s about trying to make the difference between a hero in black and white on a poster, and the vicarious magic of wearing their brand of boots, as small as possible.
If the next hero in black and white to inspire a generation could step forward for the poster, please, that would be great. There are some decent candidates. Your spangly boot brand awaits.
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