The adidas Predator Mania. For many, the greatest football boot of all time. Each generation has an affectionate attachment to a certain football boot influenced by a number of ranging factors. For one generation specifically, and we’re going to cast a net over those roughly born between 1985 and 1992, it was the adidas Predator Mania.
The boot: Where do we start? Nothing quite hits you right in the nostalgia like the Mania. That simplistic trio of black, white and red – made strong by previous Predator silos and established by that elasticated fold-over tongue. Launched in 2002 for the Japan/South Korea World Cup, the Mania became the boot of a generation through a collection of differing reasons.
Let’s stick with our age range. If the Mania defines footballing perfection for you, then the chances are you’re between the ages of 24 and 32. Back in 2002 you would have been somewhere between 10-18, a time when your love of football is at its purest. Before adult life began to grind you down with insurance direct debits, work deadlines, and the confusing world of flat-pack furniture.
Life was simple. Football was the only focus, believe or not you were happy. You look back on those time with fond memories of football and that’s why only now the Predator Mania becomes iconic to you, long after it disappeared. 2002 was probably the first World Cup you really remember getting in to, watching every game. 2002 coincided with the rise of the internet, you were more receptive to advertising and adidas orchestrated the Mania perfectly. For many, it’s the boot that made us aware of the market, it made us anticipate next launch. It started the obsession.
The Predator Mania was the boot for this generation that kicked off a football version of sneaker culture. You put as much thought into your footwear on pitch as you did on the streets. Nike Air Force One, adidas L.A, Forest Hills – all street essentials at the time. The Mania was the on pitch statement, the fashion of football.
The Mania was a beautiful football boot, clearly that’s an important ingredient to success. But, adidas had a stable of lead players to elevate the boot to iconic status. David Beckham and Zinedine Zidane to name just a couple. Two players who defined their careers in big moments. David Beckham’s free kicks were hold-your-breath moments, every spectator stopped and waited in anticipation. The Mania was marketed on its shooting technology and David Beckham’s right foot made it work. ‘Proof’ to a confiding youngster that this boot genuinely improved your game. No other boot did that, not with such obvious results anyway.
David Beckham was everything every young player wanted to be at that time. The haircuts, the boots, the style, the ability, the status. Adidas helped make him the most marketable footballer of all time. Everyone wanted to ‘Bend it like Beckham’ and all of a sudden, we could.
The fact the Predator Mania featured clear technology on the upper of the boot, even to the fact that the rubber elements were placed in a swerved pattern, made this boot a psychological weapon, as much as a physical one.
Zidane scores that volley wearing the Mania in the 2002 UCL Final.
Instantly recognisable in a market with far less choice than it has today. Boot releases were restricted to two or three a year, not a month. The life of the Mania was extended because of this, it gave players more time to grow attached to it. 2002 was still a time when the majority of football boots were black, but the Mania was one of the first boots to be released in numerous colour options, giving players the gift of choice. Gun Metal, Champagne, Red, Blue, it was a statement not just a solution. Combine that with the fact you could add personalisation with names and numbers and alter how you wore the tongue, and the Mania can be held responsible for influencing how players began to style themselves on pitch. Image became as important as performance. If not as important, it was something that complemented one another.
Any self respecting Mania player knew the only way to wear the tongue was to pull it down as far as possible. Back in 2002 the Predator Mania was the top-end football boot in a simple market. There were no hi-top versions, no limited editions, no anti-clog options, no elite level disruptive launches. If you had a pair of Manias, you had the best boot on the market for at least six months.
A brand new pair had to be worn in the house, had to be held when watching TV, had to be taken to bed. The first time they were worn, they had to be taken to the game in the box, your teammates all had to hold them before you wore them. You were on free-kicks, and they all knew it.
It’s only since adidas discontinued the Predator series that the Mania has become more desirable. Just how sneakers are re-sold, the prices of original Manias on eBay have shot up, even if those who owned a pair and never wore them need to give their heads a good wobble. The fact that the Predator was scrapped added to the iconic status for this generation, it made players rebel. You could say that the Copa Mundial is the boot of a generation, and it is, but it’s still easy to cop. If adidas have planned all along to re-release the Predator then it was genius move retiring it and shaking up the market.
When adidas launched the 2017 remake earlier this week, ask yourself, is there really any other football boot that could have created such a stir as the adidas Predator Mania?
The Mania had everything you needed in a football boot at the time. An iconic symbol of youth, of happiness, of football. And we’ll tell you something, we’ve snapped our ACL and our Mania tongue strap, and there’s no prizes for guessing which hurt more.