Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Let's take a quick stroll through the advert. 

First to appear is Didier Drogba, weaving past Italian defenders before dinking the ball over a goalkeeper called Palermo (presumably the other unnamed defenders have names like Padova, Lecce and Chievo on the backs of their shirts). Drogba, of course, then broke an elbow in a warm-up game with the Ivory Coast meaning he could only make the bench for the Elephants' opening game against Portugal. A draw, a defeat and victory over North Korea later and Drogba and co were on their way home.

Next to appear, clearing Drogba's shot off the line (and sparking a future full of talk shows and dancing girls), is Fabio Cannavaro. The Azzurri's World Cup-winning captain was arguably culpable for Paraguay's goal in Italy's first game and caught napping for Slovakia's third in the final group fixture. Italy, below New Zealand and bottom of the group, were out.

Next up is Wayne Rooney, chesting the ball down and running at France defenders (called things like Rennes and Metz if Nike's Italian naming system runs true). It's pretty-much universally agreed that Rooney had a nightmare tournament, and England exited in miserable fashion at the weekend. Still, Rooney certainly had a better tournament than Theo Walcott (the intended target of Rooney's pass in the ad), who did not get picked in Fabio Capello's 23.

The pass is picked off by Franck Ribéry (while Walcott is marked by Patrice Evra) and little needs to be added to the tales of woe from the France camp this tournament: one goal, one point, out. Not to mention the feuds that erupted in South Africa, at which Evra was at the centre (of at least one, anyway).

Landon Donovan and Tim Howard are next up, looking smug as they flick through the papers bringing news of Rooney's misery. And though that means a slight upturn in fortunes – the USA at least made the knockout stages with Donovan scoring a couple – there's nothing to look too smug about. They too are out.

After Rooney tracks back and prevents Ribéry romping through on goal (remember, this isn't reality) Cesc Fábregas, flanked by Andrés Iniesta and Gerard Pique, grumpily toss the tabloids over their shoulders. It's pushing it a bit at this stage but Pique suffered a bloody nose in the group stage, Iniesta hasn't reached his admittedly vertiginous heights, while Fábregas has played a grand total of 59 minutes in Spain's four games. Still, Spain are in the quarter-finals where they face Paraguay.

Next, after everyone calls their baby Wayne and Rooney beats Roger Federer at table tennis (why would Roger Federer be good at table tennis? It's like expecting him to be good at badminton. Though, thinking about it, he probably is quite good at badminton), we see Ronaldinho producing stepover after stepover. All the stepovers in the world, though, couldn't get him into the Brazil squad. If la Seleção win the thing, he'll have played no part.

And for the grand finale we see Ronaldo romping past Dutch defenders. He didn't romp past many Spanish defenders last night, though, and Portugal are heading home, leaving Nike's Spanish contingent the sole survivors of the Nike Curse. Roque Santa Cruz and co must fancy their chances.

Nike's ill-starred campaign is not the only one to have carried something of a curse. Marks & Spencer's advertising during the tournament featured Steven Gerrard, Matthew Upson, Emile Heskey and also the hapless Walcott, while the 'Curse of the Gillette Three' was a talking point last December. 

Within the space of a few days Thierry Henry transformed himself from likeable, if slightly smug, va-va-voomer to Biggest Cheat In The World Ever following his handball against Ireland, Tiger Woods' life unravelled following his 2am car crash, and, slightly further down the scale admittedly, Roger Federer crashed out of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in the, er, semi-finals.

And, away from Association Football, there's also the much-feared Madden Curse.