Stepping onto the platform everything looked straight-forward enough. A series of lights ahead showed the path to dribble through and I was confident there was more than enough room for error. It was at this moment I heard the words ‘Can we switch the water fountains on please’ and I realised all may not be as it seemed.
Welcome to the ‘Dribble’ challenge from the Adidas #Unleash event to mark the launch of the new Predator football boots. Watching me get wet as I fumbled round the fountains was just one of five challenges, each designed to test a specifically identified ‘Lethal Zone’ on the boots.
The theory behind these zones is devastatingly simple. Designer and developer Aubrey Dolan explained some of the world’s best players had been asked the same question in the same way. Presented with a plain white boot and a marker pen, they simply had to draw on the areas where their game needed most help from their boots. From Xavi to various youth-teams and amateur players, from a young Argentinean lad in Barcelona whose name escapes me to members of the Adidas in-house team who play regularly, each of the well over 300 boots marked up and explained by a footballer was considered with equal importance.
The result is five key areas the new boot has been designed to enhance – dribble, pass, drive, first touch and the elusive and high risk sweet spot.
So, five lethal zones, five challenges, one ‘me’ to take them on and warm them up for Edin Dzeko, Nani and Tom Cleverley’s arrival in the afternoon.
The first challenge was ‘Passing’ and consisted of five targets of varying lengths and sizes to hit in sequence. I managed a respectable zero and by respectable, I mean there were several near misses aided by the boots but hindered by my skillset. In the afternoon Nani and Dzeko managed two of the five before Tom Cleverley showed us all how it was done with three.
Next we moved on to ‘First Touch’ and had to control balls fired at us from an air cannon or thrown from a platform. Happily I managed to take all five down and fire them into the goal ahead, needless to say I was rather chuffed with myself and now believed there was something in this lethal zone business. We quickly moved to ‘Drive’ and listen, I don’t want to make a huge deal of this but I did record the fastest drive of the day. Seriously I want no fuss, not for recording the fastest drive of the day, no plaudits or well-dones, not ‘surely that was the boots and not you’ for the fastest drive of the day. That would just be shallow.
Fastest drive of the day.
Now buzzing it was time for ‘Sweet Spot’ and the chance to take out five polystyrene players which was both satisfying and an incredible buzz thanks to the lights and smoke that accompanied a direct hit. Four of five challenges completed, it was time for those fountains…
So ‘Dribble’ it was and happily, I can report it was incredible fun. Weaving in and out of the water jets was an incentive to go at speed and thanks to dribble zone on the outside of the boot keeping control of the ball, I recorded a respectable time and walked off to get changed a little damper but a lot richer for the experience.
The event was excellent and enjoyed by all, the boots are fantastic and genuinely help the areas of your game they’re designed too. I can also happily report on the day we played with the new Adidas Tango 12, the ball you’ll see throughout the European Championships this summer, and it is *fantastic* - seriously, seriously good. It’s a cliché but if you hit it, it stays hit, running truer than any ball this pilgrim has ever played with. After all the negative and somewhat unfair press aimed at the Jubliani at the World Cup, this ball should see Adidas lauded in my opinion and if you get the chance to play with one, take it with both hands. Or feet. You know what I mean.
Did I mention I got the fastest drive of the day?