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How is the relationship between sneakers and football changing?

The answers in the second episode of The SneakerPod

How is the relationship between sneakers and football changing? The answers in the second episode of The SneakerPod

That "street" culture from which the world of sneakers also derives has perhaps never been part of the DNA of football and footballers, historically closer to other canons and other aesthetics. It is therefore no coincidence that the intersection between the world of football and sneaker-game often took place in a very tiring way, through releases and collaborations that hardly managed to capture the attention of sneaker enthusiasts, much less football fans. At the same time, it is emblematic that another popular team sport, basketball, has actively contributed to creating the sneakers phenomenon, for a series of cultural and factual factors (the first sneakers are born as parquet shoes).

One of the main sectors that showed how complicated it was to combine the two worlds was that of signature sneakers and more generally of the collaborations between players, football teams and brands in the creation of specific models or colorways.

The case history to demonstrate that the marriage between footballers and sneakers does not work as it perhaps should is anything but reduced. The most obvious cases respond to the names of Neymar Jr. and Cristiano Ronaldo. Both the talent of Madeira and that of Praia Grande have come to terms with the sad reality of signature sneakers. Although it is now the spearhead of the PUMA Family, Neymar, Nike and Jordan created the Neymar x Jordan 5 Lows in 2016, the Shox R4 Neymar JR in 2019 and the Neymar Jr. x Nike Air Max 2090 last June. The swoosh exploited not only the style of the PSG striker, but also the overwhelming commercial strength of CR7. In the last 3 years from Beaverton they have arrived in order: the Nike Air Max 97 CR7 Gold, the Nike Air Force 1 CR7 “Metallic Gold”, the Nike Air Max 97 CR7 “Portugal”, the Nike EXP-X14 CR7 and the Air Max 1 “Cristiano Swoosh”. Although the sneakers chosen by Nike for both Neymar's and Ronaldo's signatures were already mainstream and well placed on the market, the experiment so far may have been declared a failure.

The reasons are many and the answers come from any direction: from a media system that does not help to go beyond the "barriers" that only in recent years are starting to creak up to the lack of interest that the majority of footballers turn to a world in great expansion. In Italy, a land that remains integralist almost by definition in football, it is more difficult than in the English and French scenarios for example, where the culture of sneakers is slightly ahead. However, something is changing: the collaborations between Palace and Juventus, and to an even greater extent that between PSG and Jordan - which produced interested sneakers such as the Jordan 4 Retro PSG - have triggered a new paradigm, which also involves players like Tiemoue Bakayoko or Hector Bellerin, and in Italy Andrea Petagna or Matteo Pessina. It was with the Atalanta player that we talked about how the relationship between players and sneakers is changing, within the second episode of The SneakerPod, the podcast of nss magazine produced in collaboration with StockX.

"The aesthetics of a football player off the pitch are still seen as something of collateral. Thanks to social networks and specialized media, this transformation process has also started here in Italy. Fashion and style are often powerful means of expressing  personality and go beyond what you see on Sunday on the pitch."

Matteo Pessina