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THE CURSE OF adidas; Even Zidane has joined the flops.

ZINEDINE Zidane's sensational sending off for France last night confirmed that the Curse of Nike is dead...long live the curse of adidas.

Brilliant Zidane is one of the highest-profile stars in the adidas stable, and before last night's madness had become the jewel in their World Cup crown.

But having made us roll around the aisles with laughter for years as their highly-paid stars have flopped on the biggest stages of all, it seems that Nike's disease has finally been cured.

The same virus that turned some of the most bankable winners in sporting history into embarrassed losers appears to be airborne.

For the first part of this decade, most of the big-name stars sponsored by the American sportswear giants tended to self-destruct when it really mattered.

But that dubious honour now belongs to their main rivals, adidas. They are now finding out what it is like to back the three-legged nags in the big races.

Hardly a night goes by when we don't see Zidane, David Beckham, Allessandro del Piero and Patrick Kluivert do their stuff on television adverts.

Posters around the country have Mr Victoria Adams staring out at us as the German boot company reminds our historians to take a note of the date.

These are the men who were going to rule the world this summer, right? Sorry, wrong so far.

Italian star Del Piero had a magnificent season with Juventus, but injury and the form of playmaker Roberto Baggio has meant he has struggled to get his place back.

Poor old Beckham has also fallen victim to the curse. He played in every qualifier and warm-up game, but still managed to get himself dropped for the opener against Tunisia.

And what about young Dutch star Kluivert - the ultimate jinx?

He was with Nike in 1996, with a poster proclaiming: "Venables - Quit Now". History shows that the Dutch were blown away by England before exiting the tournament without a fight.

We must not forget Paul Gascoigne, either. He was surely going to travel to France as England's most creative player.

Wrong again - the only creating Gazza is doing now is making sandcastles in Florida after being dumped by Glenn Hoddle.

It has certainly not been a good start to the World Cup for adidas, but Nike spokesperson Debbie Cox reckons the only thing to do is laugh about it.

"In 1996 it didn't quite happen for Nike's big stars, and fairly soon it became a very talked about thing," she said.

"So then we decided to make fun of it.

"We had an advert before the semi-final against Germany which said "Good luck to the Germans...right, that ought to do it". We admitted that things hadn't gone well for us and gained great publicity out of it."

The legendary Curse of Nike first struck at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, where Ukrainian pole-vault star Sergei Bubka was the only athlete considered unbeatable.

The Nike posters trumpeted: "Spanish Air Traffic Control - Be Warned".

He didn't even get a medal after the worst series of jumps in his career.

And Nike's other "certainty", 400 metre specialist Michael Johnson, couldn't win in Barcelona either.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:McGUINNESS, Mark
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 19, 1998
Words:526
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