16 November 2010

Where Are the Spikes?

There is a small trick that I have taught players over the years that guarantees that a completely soaked pair of football shoes will be dry as if by magic just the next morning. One just has to brush away the mud from the shoes – the acids in the soil are bad for the leather – then stuff both shoes with old newspapers.

The next day, one removes the newspapers and voila! The wetness will have transferred to the papers and if one is feeling particularly loving about one’s pair, one can apply a coat of ordinary shoe wax to keep the leather conditioned.

And then the Internet became such a hit… To the point that I have stopped buying newspapers because all the major dailies are a mouse-click away while I sip my morning coffee.

Now, anyone who lives in these parts knows that for the better part of the last month, it just rained and rained mostly in the afternoons. Sometimes, it even felt as though the rains were programmed and time-triggered to fall.

Because late afternoons are when I leave the cozy confines of my office to play on the field – as I have done for the better part of forty years, give or take a few – my beloved Adidas Questra, she of the classic black with white stripes, died a most ignominious death by tearing. Rain is the most fearsome nemesis of football shoes; and because I could no longer stuff its bowels with the soothing comfort of dry newspapers after its ordeal with gravel and mud, I knew its days were well and truly numbered.

Then, one rainy afternoon last month, the left boot suddenly started to feel not right. When I stepped on it, it felt as though the foot slid across the inner padding more than it ought to have done. I knew the left boot had torn.

I was not the only one. Several of the boys had started to complain about their boots tearing. When I remarked that the Questra, which had served me loyally, was begging for a replacement, some of the boys warned me that football shoes had been withdrawn from the shops at the nearby malls.

I was skeptical about this. Getting a pair of spikes was no more trouble these past few years than making the short trip to Robinson’s Place or SM where Adidas and Nike never ran out of stocks.

I did investigate last week. To my chagrin, the Adidas store had vanished. At the Nike shop, I was told that by the sales clerks they were still selling football shoes; they just did not know when new stocks would be arriving.

I had no recourse but to bring out an old white pair of Nike shoes that I had earlier retired because of a similar if smaller tear. The problem with playing with an air-conditioned pair of spikes – the boys’ jargon, not mine – is that it inhibits my game. Because I fear aggravating the tear, I rather tend to hold back my kicks lest I tear the leather some more.

This evening after training, I visited the Nike shop again and this time got told that the company has made a marketing decision to make football shoes available only in selected shops in Metro Manila. In fairness, the clerk was only trying to be helpful and told me he was not certain at all if this was going to be a permanent arrangement.

With the Adidas shop gone – and it had stopped selling spikes even before it closed shop – I guess we football players are back to an era when we had to go to so much trouble just to get playing gear that are readily available in any run-of-the-mill sports shop everywhere else in the world.

I passed by one such sports shop at the mall on the way to Nike’s; saw that they had football posters to sell the British brand Umbro; went in to inquire; and was told they only had Umbro running shoes. Duh!!!

There was a shop that sold Mizuno shoes, but the stocks available were considerably more expensive than the Adidas and Nike spikes I used to buy. The shoe I examined also felt quite taut roundabout the ankle, something that immediately warned me of blisters.

To think that all the sports shops at the mall had a glut of basketball shoes and sneakers to choose from. Why-oh-why does finding a pair of football shoes have to be a problem in this day and age?

There must be just a handful of countries in this world worse than the Philippines to be born and raised in if one is a football player. This is from me, somebody who has never for one moment considered living anywhere else but in this country.

I have no illusions whatsoever about this country ever embracing the game of football. Basketball will continue to be the number one sport, at least in my lifetime; and football will continue to be down the priority list.

That said, companies who make billions from selling football gear all over the world should not be thinking of their bottom lines alone when they think up their marketing strategies. There cannot be anything remiss about making stocks of the very same gear available to far-flung communities where people are desperately trying to propagate the sport the popularity of which continues to help them make their billions.





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