Worn By: Paul Gascoigne (England), John Collins (Scotland), Glenn Hoddle (England), Ronald Koeman (Netherlands), Christian Ziege (Germany), Abedi Pele (Ghana).
In the first of my write-ups about the classic football boots of years gone by, I have decided to focus on the boot that started my obsession: the Adidas Predator. I will be discussing how Adidas’ technology in this boot improved on that which was already in the boots many people were wearing up until the release of the Predator.
First, however, a little history: Despite the emerging trend, companies were not previously obsessed with weight. Pre-1994 the boots major companies were producing were generally being made for comfort and durability. Because of this, the only upper anyone really wanted was kangaroo leather. Many companies were therefore producing standardised football boots with leather uppers along with, the now classic, 6-stud pattern on the sole plate. At this point on the football boot timeline, the most iconic boot worn by many players was the Adidas Copa Mundial, which, to this day, is arguably one of the most comfortable football boots ever made.
Roll forwards to 1994 and the release of the Adidas Predator. For the first time a boot had been made which involved an advance in technology, which emphasised performance over comfort. Introducing the predator fins, positioned on the front of the boot, Adidas claimed the boots could generate more power and swerve on the ball. The famous slogan, “100% legal and 0% fair” was born as part of the advertising campaign, and remains well known throughout the world of football boots. I can still remember the first time I saw a pair of Predators in my local sports shop and looking at them in awe. At nearly 100GBP, they were well out side of my price range. The idea of a boot costing this amount of money really was something the world had never considered before, and yet despite this, people were determined to get a hold of a pair.
The first goal to be scored in the most talked about football boot of the time couldn’t have come in a bigger game. On the 30th April, it was Rangers v. Celtic and John Collins stepped up to curl a beautiful free kick into the keeper’s top right corner from the edge of the box. His celebration included clear gestures towards his Predator boots, so I think we can safely assume he credited them with a share of his success!
The Adidas Predator was released with 2 different sole plates; Cup and Liga. At the time, this was the equivalent of the soft- (Cup) and firm- ground (Liga) options. The original Predator did not include the now iconic fold over tongue, although we did see the introduction of the famous predator eyes, which appeared above the writing on the tongue. The boots even came in a box decorated with the name ‘PREDATOR’ as well as the eyes splashed across the front.
In terms of technology, the rubber fins at the forefront of the boots were the place that the ‘magic’ happened. The idea being that the fins would give superior grip on the ball, hence producing more spin and generating greater power. During their advertising campaign, Adidas’ claims were 10% more power, and 20% more swerve. The technology, produced by ex-footballer Craig Johnston, had the football world talking non-stop about the new boots. Could a piece of equipment really give a player so much more of an advantage?
At the time the Predator was released I was playing in Puma Kings. It wasn’t until 2006 that I had the opportunity to test out the 1994 advertising claims. By this time I had played in a range of Predators, including the Touch, Accelerator, Precision, Mania and Pulse. (I suppose I had been well and truly brainwashed by the Predator silo!). When I wore the original Predator for the first time, in all honesty I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed, which was a shame, as it was so exciting that I had managed to track down a pair in good condition, I couldn’t wait to try them at training. Ironically, I had been really envious of anyone who had them back in 1994. I quickly realised that the technology and comfort of boots had moved on substantially, and so trying a 12-year old pair of boots left me unable to see exactly what everyone had raved about. The first thing I noticed was the weight of them. They were so heavy! Now before I go any further, I should make it clear that I am not a speed boot fan that believes that shaving off an extra 5 grams is going to make me Usain Bolt. However, the weight of these boots was something that made them hard for me to like. In 1994, the weight was acceptable by everyone and I’m sure it wasn’t an issue at the time. 12 years later though, it was a different story. From my personal experience I would argue that the ‘extra power’ is negligible. However, in terms of producing swerve, I have always felt that the boots do produce a greater amount of curl when compared to a conventional boot. One of the tips given by Adidas was for players to invest time training in the Predator boots to become accustomed to the extra power and swerve, as these could initially cause a few wayward passes. As with all new technology, players adapted their playing styles and, after getting to grips with the changes bringing about the many advantages that Adidas claimed, the results truly were outstanding. The sole plate was solid, making them extremely rigid, which also took some getting use too after playing in more modern boots. The sole plate carried a striking design which formed another performance enhancing feature of the Predator, containing technology known as P2E or Pressure Point Elimination. This technology was meant to prevent pain coming through from the studs on the sole plate when playing on harder ground. The claim was that P2E gave you the sensation of walking barefoot. This may sound crazy in todays football world, but as someone who wore boots in the 1980’s studs coming through the sole plate and hurting your feet was a very real problem! The rubber fins on the front of the boot are something I still really love the look of. The fins did cause a great deal more spin on the ball, an outcome I’ve always likened to the face of a golf club striking a golf ball and creating spin.
As a collectors item, the Predator 1994 really is a must for anyone who wants to see where the evolution in football boot technology really began. As I previously stated, in 1994 these boots retailed at around the 100GBP mark. In today’s market they can sell for approximately 250GBP-400GBP when their condition is brand new in box (BNIB). This price reflects the fact that the boots are a great collection item; after all, they show us where the Predator line started. However, they don’t hold their value as well as some of the more sought after Predator Touch, Accelerator or Mania football boots, which I will be writing about in the very near future.
If you had a pair of Predators in 1994, the opposition were worried about every strike you went to take. Free kicks on the edge of the box were only ever going to be taken by the guy with Predators on! Adidas had created a boot that every footballer knew of and, more importantly for Adidas, people were finally buying into the concept of performance enhancing technology in boots. Most players can remember their first pair of Predator football boots. The price didn’t deter too many people, as they wanted the best available…and these really were the best! There is just something so iconic about them. In the Predator, Adidas produced a football boot that people will no doubt be speaking about for years to come.
My next write up will be about the Adidas Predator Touch, and some of the great moments that the boot will always be remembered for, so until next time have a great start to your football season wherever you are and hope you enjoyed this first write up about the Adidas Predator.