Friday 26 February 2010

Crooked Tongues: Nike Football+ & Mercurial Vapor Superfly II Launch - Q&A

Ever since I got my first pair of Hi-Tec football boots when I was 7 I was fascinated. I always wanted the boots my favourite players had and I always wanted the best. I was amazed when the Predator came out and had to have a pair, the same when Nike produced the Mercurial R9 and then the Mercurial Vapor (even though they ripped my heels to shreds!) I'm sure you'll all remember the competition of who had the best boots in your PE lesson's and in your team?

Nike's dedication to pushing the boundaries of technology of the football boot is endless and is proven by their latest creation the Mercurial Vapor Superfly II. They were so proud infact they held a summet at Battersea power station and invited a selection of press and players to the event. The guys over at Crooked Tongues were lucky enough to get a Q&A session with Andy Caine the man responsible for the boot.

Head on over for the full article:

"Are you a football player yourself?

Not as good as these guys!

Did you try them out?

Yeah, I did. One of the things as a designer is that you're very curious to know how it feels and fits. This new traction system is also one of the most comfortable things we've ever made. The pressure distribution system is very even across the board.

What's with the colours?

The colours really come from a bit of science. There's the purple and the glow-in-the-dark colour so when you're running you get dark to purple, and that, bounced of the grass gives you a "flicker" which engages the peripheral vision. So there's more to it than just colours. The colour thing really came from Didier Drogba. He has a real affinity for understanding the fine detail in football boots.

So this one shoe isn't built with Drogba in mind?

No, for all players, traction is a big thing.

Why is traction such a big thing?

It's important. If you look at the stats, if someone slips, when you're a defender or an attacker - if you're a defender and you slip, the attacker can get in. If you're an attacker and you slip, you lose your chance. If you think of Ronaldo and Pato, they're all extremely fast and extra dynamic, and they have a lot of game-changing moments and you don't want to lose any of them. Traction for them is super critical.

Do any players ask for individual modifications?

Very few with Mercurial. Cristiano started wearing this boot when he was 15. Theo Walcott's the same. They're used to the fit and feel of this and there aren't too many modifications that we do for players - much of it is literally out the box and on the feet.

What's the strangest modification you've made?

We don't get a lot of odd requests. They're very serious with their boots. A better boot makes you a better player. So the partnership between us and the players is actually very good. Last year I spent 65 days traveling to meet these types of players. They're very busy people so they respect us.

How many players were involved in those 65 days?

We had a lot of the big players. Ronaldo, Drogba, Pato, Eduardo, Theo, Babel - we go to all of them. Quite a lot of players, and a good level of player too.

As a designer, which of the new innovations are you most proud of?

If you understand industrial design, the idea of designing a stud that moves is beyond complex. We have spent a lot of time designing and engineering it. We're pretty stoked about it if I'm being honest. The colours are pretty cool. We're pretty pleased with how this came out. It's an improvement on the last one - it's a revolution on the last one.

Has safety been considered in the Superfly II?

Yes. This composite is multiple set layers. It's been molded from the ground up. The components are more durable than they've ever been. It's actually less layers. It's lighter weight too. Protection is the key factor.

How long does a Nike football boot take to develop?

It depends on the shoe. It can be anything from 18 months to 4 years. We started developing around 2 and a half years ago.

How many prototypes did you go through leading up to the finished article?

We went through 43 versions of the upper leading up to the finished one. We slow motion filmed every boot to see that the boots are working. The studs are the result of 5 steps and there's a lot of process in those steps. To create a boot like that is really complicated. We've been testing for the last 2 years.

How do you test them?

We do lab testing, testing how durable they are. Slow motion filming, traction testing, on pitch real-life testing - we do that around-the-globe to get better perspectives. We do that a lot.

Was there a "Eureka" moment?

If you look at the science of it, we have an amazing facility in Portland - when you're working with those guys, we have bio-mechnical specialists looking at what we're doing, and you can see for yourself what you're after, but when the specialists say, 'That's perfect" you know you've nailed it. Then you test again. Can we get more? That's probably why there was 43 - you get to like, 35 and do this that and the other to see if it makes a difference. A professional athlete like Cristiano's training for 5 hours a day in his boots 7 days a week so it has to work.

Has the notion of retractable studs something that's been on the cards since Nike Football started? Is it an ideal?

It was probably a dream. The idea isn't to create a stud that moves - it's the benefit it brings. What benefit can we bring to the players. It's not about just making something we can make.

When you start the boot design process, what's the first thing you do?

A lot of it is the vision of what we wanted to achieve. The vision was to create the fastest boot we could make. And also, take speed to the next generation of what we can do, and the concept of adaptability came out of the first vision. Strategizing what we want to do. Once we have what I call "the vision" then you can start putting the pieces into place. Sketching starts at various different levels. Some testing things - "What about this?" "What about that?" Sketching then prototypes, more sketching, more prototypes - a whole evolve and grow process."

You've got to admit it is a sexy football boot!

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