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8 weird, wonderful, and not always real, football grounds

In this week’s video I went to cover some NYC playoffs on the rooftop of Upper 90 in Astoria - a brilliant unique football environment in NYC. It got me thinking of some other unique footy locations. So without further ado, and in no particular order, here are some great alternative places you might find football being played.

1. Indoor Mode In Striker

OK, granted, my first example isn’t even in the real world, but it was too much fun not to mention. Striker is a Super Nintendo soccer video game from the early 90s that me and my friends would play endlessly. The game had a unique mode that allowed you to play indoor. It was certainly unique at the time, and was particularly fun because the ball could bounce off the walls, making the gameplay lightning fast.

2. The Pontiac Silverdome

Speaking of indoor football, the Pontiac Silverdome hosted the first ‘indoor’ game in World Cup history when the USA played Switzerland in the 1994 World Cup. Having a roof over a stadium is now much more common, but in 1994 it felt very unique. In its heyday, the Silverdome hosted all manner of high profile sporting events, but sadly now has been left to crumble. 

3. The Colosseum in the Good v Evil Nike ad

In writing this article, I have just realized hat unique football locations in the world of make believe are more fun. And there are few better companies at coming up with makey uppy football theatres than Nike. In the Good v Evil ad from the last 90s - Eric Cantona, Paolo Maldini and a raft of other superstars take on Satan’s footballers in a far away colosseum where the pitch lines are marked by flames. It’s a classic. 

4. Airport 98 

The next great football location in the Nike cannon is Rio airport which was used for a television ad pre-World Cup 1998 in France. The ad which was directed by legendary action director John Woo features a bored Brazilian national team deciding to have a kick about around the airport. The spot has been described by FourFourTwo as the greatest ad ever. The music really makes it for me. 

5. The Secret Tournament ships hull

The last of the 3 Nike ads that spring to mind was made in advance of the 2002 World Cup. The location - a cage inside a cargo ship’s hull. The commercial was directed by Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame and featured a kicking remix of the Elvis track ‘A Little More Conversation.” The track went on to reach No.1 in 20 countries on the back of the ad’s success. It was all a bit convoluted if you ask me, but it stuck in the head.

6. AS Monaco's training field

I was actually going to reference AS Monaco's football stadium, Stade Louis II, which has always stood out to me watching TV as having a unique look and feel to it. But, upon just a couple of minutes research it appears to me that Monaco's training field may be an even greater footy location. Have a look.

7. Estadio Hernando Siles – La Paz, Bolivia

This one on the list is more of a good trivia piece than having any particular resonance with me. Estadiou Hernando Siles in La Paz is always referenced as being one of the highest stadiums in the world at 3,601 metres (11,932 feet) above sea level.  The stadium is so high that Lional Messi got sick on it during a game, and Neymar described the conditions as inhuman while wearing an oxygen mask at the arena.

"Inhuman to play in such conditions. Pitch, altitude, ball... everything bad," he wrote on Instagram.

Did we mention, it’s apparently home to paranormal activity as well?

8. Estadio Nacional, Lisbon

A nostalgic final choice for me. Estadio Nacional in Lisbon in where Glasgow Celtic won the European Cup (Champions League) in 1967. I recently took a pilgrimage to the stadium and had a walk about inside. You can see the video of that adventure above. What is interesting about this Estadio Nacionals characteristics is that it hasn’t really changed much since its look and feel in 1967. The stadium is surrounded beautifully by greenery and is close to the beach. It has a great retro feel to it in an era of soulless modern stadium development.

Estadio Nacional still hosts the Portoguese Cup Final if you are curious. 

That's all folks. 

A colorful evolution of the football boot

Back in my day everyone wore black boots. When watching football on TV at the beginning of the 90s you barely ever saw a player with boots other than the color black. When you did, that player stood out like a sore thumb. White boots running around a field just looked so unnatural. They screamed… look at me! It took a certain type of arrogance to make the decision to wear them.

To show how uncommon the trend was - look at this photo from the 1995 Champions League Final. In the AC Milan team photo you can see Marco Simone wearing white boots. A couple of the other players have flashes of red, and green which I think would even have came across a tad garish back then.

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I can’t emphasize how much white boots stood out when watching football back then. When just one player out of 11, or 22 decides to go with a white boot, you notice.

Jumping forward to last years Champions League Final - in this photo of Liverpool lifting the cup, it’s hard to spot one player wearing black boots.

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Funnily enough when watching football now, I personally notice the colors much less now everyone is wearing different colors. They don’t pop like that one player who went rogue wearing a pair of white boots.

What’s the point? Times change. Trends change. Individuality is in. Perceived individuality certainly. In a time when you can pick your color iphone, or Nintendo Switch, I suppose it makes sense that you can pick your color boots.

In saying that, if its a team game, where it is good to represent yourself as a team, is there something to be said for uniform? Lets talk about uniforms.

When I went to school in Dublin, we had to wear a uniform. Grey trousers, grey socks, grey shirt, grey jumper, black shoes, blue tie. Exciting right? I hated it, but in hindsight at least it gave you one less thing to think about in the morning. Also and pretty crucially kids couldn’t actually compete with each-other over who had the best grey shirt. Nobody cared. We all got our grey shirt from the same place.

Individuality in my school years was when a kid decided to go for the bleach blonde look. That was The Beatles mop top of my era. The individual trend didn’t last long, as pretty soon every kid started bleaching their hair blonde. I always found that a bit odd and slightly ironic that the way you end up being an individual is to not go along with a trend.

Attempting to mitigate peer pressure in school is surely a good thing? It puts huge pressure on parents when kids come home complaining that the others have the latest video game or the like.

What is clear is that the changing face of football boot color is less to do with us craving to express ourselves as we may like to think, but rather a clever way for manufacturers to market to kids. Where once upon a time a standard pair of black boots would have been adequate, I suppose a kid these days will want the exact boots worn by their hero. And if that hero changes his boot color every year/ every month, then it only follows that said kid will want the new boots too.

But why don’t people gravitate towards the classic black anymore? Outside of the fact that we are not being marketed black boots...it it because people no longer like black as a boot color? In what other situations might you choose illuminous orange over black? Would you wear an neon green suit over a classic black suit or dress?

Most people wouldn’t wear a striped pink outfit if they wanted to be taken seriously. Can you imagine James Bond in anything other than a classic dark suit?

It’s a matter of taste I suppose. Have we become tasteless?

Let’s look again at the classic black boot...

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What does this say about me? Am I destined to become a crusty conservative - watching on as the kids go out of control with their freckled hair styles, sparkly iPhones and neon orange Pumas.

The legendary football manager Alex Ferguson was known for being a strict disciplinarian. He didn’t want individuality getting out of control. But towards the end of the 90s superstardom of certain players began to go into over drive. There was the mercurial talent of Eric Cantona. His flamboyant style trend was to play with his shirt collar up. It seems harmless enough, but it stood out at the time.

But Cantona's collar was nothing compared to the constantly changing hair styles of David Beckham. I kid you not when I say a new David Beckham's barnet became front page fodder in the UK.

Ferguson eventually had enough with Beckham’s celebrity. Ferguson wanted players main focus to be on the game. And so in one of the last great examples of true managerial power Ferguson offloaded Becks - but not before ironically kicking boot at him as he made his way to the exit door.

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We now live in an age of unparalleled player power. Using Manchester United as an example of where this has lead, see the example of Paul Pogba. A talented player who seems to have something different going on with his hair style every time you see him. Pogba, despite his 100 million price tag has been accused of not caring as he should. His characterful persona is perfect for a marketing man to latch onto. Pogba appears to be a better player in FIFA video game than in reality.

Here is an interesting video showcasing Pogba’s changing boots over the years.

You may notice in this video that in the early days Pogba went often with a classic black look. But as the years passed and his fame grew that the colors became more outlandish. I suppose it only makes sense from a marketing perspective that if you want to sell some boots, you need to stick the players in boots that stick out. But perhaps more it speaks of the time we are in. Perceived individuality is in. But is it any wonder with all this individuality that Manchester United have not been able to get it together?

This is becoming an Esquire article. Hope you enjoy this weeks video.