You may remember Nike’s Joga Bonito advertising campaign in the build-up to the 2006 World Cup; a series of adverts featuring an all-star line-up of footballers, promoting a fluid, ‘beautiful’ type of football.
The most memorable part of these adverts – in this writer’s opinion, anyway – was Eric Cantona’s Scorpion football tournament, where the best footballers of the time competed against each other, performing almost like gladiators in cages. The atmosphere was cramped and metallic, industrial and without colour.
Strike Night, Nike’s launch event for their new Hypervenom 3 boots, elicits a similar vibe over a decade later. From the premise – seven top footballers competing for the title of deadliest finisher – to the venue – a secret underground location that had been converted into a tight, steel coliseum where crowds can observe from the sides – the atmosphere was such that this writer was compelled to remember those old adverts. The reasons for this stylistic choice did not go over our heads; just like the boot the event was promoting, the Strike Night edition, the arena was dark with a few streaks of light.
The continental stars of the show were Borussia Dortmund striker - and Nike’s face for the boots - Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Inter Milan captain Mauro Icardi, and Porto goalscorer André Silva, while the UK-based contingent contained Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford, Crystal Palace’s Christian Benteke, and Arsenal duo Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alex Iwobi – the latter brought in to initially replace a delayed Rashford. Needless to say, all participants showed off Nike’s Hypervenom 3 boots, designed specifically to improve finishing technique.
The stardust didn’t stop there, either - the judging panel featured legends of the game Ian Wright and Didier Drogba, along with grime artists AJ Tracey and Santan Dave, while Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and Tottenham’s Harry Kane watched from the crowd.
The rules were fairly simple: each player faced off against another in a knockout tournament, controlling balls launched by two cannons and taking five shots against a goalkeeper from the Nike Academy in an electronic goal. Strikers earned more points by scoring as far into the corners or sides as possible - think of the penalty drills in FIFA 17 - with further points awarded by the judges for skill or audacity, and by viewers on the event’s Facebook Live stream.
Round 1 saw Aubameyang defeat Benteke in a battle of acrobatic strikes, Icardi prove to be more clinical than Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Silva sneak by Iwobi in a low-scoring contest. As the highest-scoring first-round loser, Oxlade-Chamberlain qualified to Round 2 as a wildcard...only for Marcus Rashford to make a late entrance and take Oxlade-Chamberlain’s place after beating him. A much more impressive Silva then cruised into the final at Icardi’s expense, while Aubameyang paid the price for some very high strikes and crashed out against Rashford in Round 2.
The final pit two of the game’s hottest young properties against each other as Marcus Rashford and André Silva fought for the silver winner’s belt held aloft by Didier Drogba. While the Nike Academy goalkeepers proved to be quite formidable on the night, Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois made a cameo appearance to get between the sticks for the final.
Sadly, the IBWM team were unable to test the Hypervenom 3s for ourselves, but their performance in the latter stages of the tournament did much to show off their effects. Rashford scored a particularly memorable goal as he fooled the goalkeeper to slide neatly past, while Aubameyang shook the bar with a notably powerful effort.
However, it was Silva’s flying volley in the final that took the prizes, proving to be the evening’s best finish, as well as helping Silva take the belt. If the Hypervenom 3 boots are designed to be “the ultimate finisher’s boot”, they certainly made a good case here.
Designed to harden when hitting the ball at high velocity while providing a soft touch at low velocity, the Hypervenom 3s lived up to their billing, offering some sweet strikes but some loose touches as the players appeared affected by the pressure of the event. All in all, though, Nike’s push for beautiful football, started so long ago with the Joga Bonito, continues with the Hypervenom 3s, while André Silva will have done no harm to his prospects after being the last man standing in the arena. A good night - to paraphrase the old Gladiator quote, we were most definitely entertained.
The Nike Hypervenom 3s are available on Nike.com.