Posted: 9/4/2006
Title: THREE STRIPES AND YOU WIN

Blog:                                                                                                                         

      The two men met before breakfast on the terrace of the Hotel Belvedere overlooking Lake Thun in Switzerland, and the sky was overcast and it was starting to rain.
It was July 4th, 1954 the day of the 5th World Cup Final"Adi, screw them in", ordered Sepp Herberger, coach of the West German football team to his friend Adolf 'Adi' Dassler boss of  Gebruder Dassler Sportschufabrik.
That afternoon in the Wankdorf Stadium in Bern, the Swiss capital, his young democratic nation would play 'The Magic Magyar's, the maroon jerseyed Hungarian team that had been unbeaten in 4 years, captained by 'the galloping major', Ferenc Puskas.
     In the first round, which was a curious affair since in the groups of 4, teams only played two of the opponents, Hungary had demolished West Germany 8-3. Sepp Herberger had succeeded  Otto Nerz as coach of Germany after Adolf Hitler, in his only reported outing to a football match had left disgusted after Germany had been beaten by Norway in Berlin at the 1936 Olympic Games.
      The war soon came and afterwards West Germany, as it was now called was a sporting pariah. They hadn't been invited to Brazil in 1950 but Sepp had attempted to gather a World Cup squad together for 1954 even though the country did not yet have a professional league. He found Fritz Walter and 4 other players in Kaiserslautern and Helmut Rahn in Essen. 
        Adi Dassler had befriended the coach and they agreed that all the players should play in his revolutionary screw-in lightweight soccer shoes. Ferenc Puskas opened the score early on, and it was soon 2-0 for Hungary. However, by half time the Germans had fought back in the muddy conditions to 2-2. In the 84th minute Helmut Rahn scored the winner from a rebound, and West Germany were World Champions. Adi and Sepp were on the bench in large raincoats and hugged each other.
  " das Wunder von Bern", " Adi Dassler, Shoemaker to the World", were some of the German newspaper headlines.  " What a Dassler",  was a headline in the British press.
Adolph Dassler was born in 1900, the 3rd son of a shoemaker in the small Franconian village of Herzogenaurach. They made felt Schlappen shoes. Adi, as he was known, had to do a 3 year apprenticeship as a baker, since shoe sales were not so good. In 1914 saw him and his other two brothers in the mud of Flanders, but they all survived the war and returned home.
In 1926 they formed the  Gebruder Dassler SF and wanted to specialize in sports shoes, with gymnastics, fencing, track and field and football. He invented a leather striping machine made from an upturned bicycle and had friends provide the  peddle power. 
     He joined FC Herzogenaurach and started pushing his shoes there and around Bavaria. Brother Rudolph 'Rudi' specialized in marketing, and Adi in invention and technical aspects. Prior to the Berlin Olympics in 1936 Adi travelled by train to Hamburg to meet the SS Manhattan, carrying the USA team, and pushed a free pair of his spiked running shoes into the eager hands of Jesse Owens on the dockside.  Owens won four gold medals at the Games, wearing Adi's shoes.
With their parents and their own wives and young children living in the large house near their factory, the two brothers and their wives started to argue and disagree. 
     During the 2nd World war they were  to make a lot of money providing for the German armed forces, so much so that after the war the Americans who ran that sector of Germany, took almost a year to decide if they were not too friendly to the Third Reich, as both had joined the National Socialist Party. Eventually cleared, Adi received a big supply of old baseball gloves, from the Americans, took them apart, and used them in the production of his shoes.
      At the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Karhu was the big local brand. and they were putting 3 stripes on their shoes. Adi had put 2, 3 , 4 strips of leather on the side of the shoes for support and had settled on three. Eventually, for a very small sum of money and 2 bottles of schnapps, the Finns agreed not to use 3 stripes any more.
    The two brothers broke up and never spoke again and had factories on either side of the narrow River Aurach in their home town. Adi wanted to call his brand ADDAS, but another company had that name already, so he chose ADIDAS, after his names.  Rudi tried RUDA but it didn't seem right and he settled on PUMA  with the 'Puma Formstripe".
      Just before the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Adi, who didn't care much for travel sent his son Horst to Australia. Horst persuaded their local distributor to give away shoes to the athletes, saying it would be worth it in the long run.  Al Oerter the USA discuss gold medalist and sprinter Bobby Morrow , 'the San Benito Bullet', the sprint champion were grateful for the free shoes and Adidas clad athletes won 70 medals.
      He also made a lifelong friend in Kevin Gosper who won silver for Australia in the 4 X 400 relay, and who would later become I.O.C. Vice-President with Horst Dassler's assistance.
Meanwhile the great Stanley Matthews had returned from the 1950 World Cup in Brazil with a lightweight pair of football shoes and had a shoemaker in Heckmondwike, Yorkshire make him a similar pair out of kangaroo leather. They were great on his feet, although wore out quickly, and he had to get a new pair every 2 or 3 matches. He took the idea to the CO-OP, a big consumer owned national chain, who made cheaper styles and promptly sold 500,000 with Matthews pocketing a 6 pence royalty for each pair.  Roy Gratrix of Blackpool and Jimmy Gabriel of Dundee United started to wear Adidas, but it took time for British players to change their habits.
      I even bought a pair myself-I think they cost about $1.50 at the time, and proudly showed them off at school, being able to bend the supple shoes in two, unlike the heavy ones I previously wore with hard toes and studs you nailed into the sole, which inevitably pierced your skin.
At the time British football shoes were heavy with hard toes, made by Manfield in Stockport, Mitre in Huddersfield and Gola in Northampton.
       Adi called his shoes the 'Shoes of the World Champions' although brother Rudi and his son Armin challenged that when Brazil won the World Cup in 1958, some of their players wearing Puma shoes.
In 1961 Adidas, who did not make clothing at the time, agreed for Umbro of Wilmslow, Cheshire to be their UK distributors. Founded by the hUMphrey BROthers in 1924 they made shirts for Manchester United down the road, styled by Matt Busby, the manager. It is a little known fact that the first Manchester United store in the South Stand, was owned by Busby and later by his son Duncan Busby.
       For 6 weeks prior to the 1966 World Cup in England, Charles Humphrey travelled the world and persuaded 15 of the 16 finalists to wear Umbro clothing. At that time clubs and even the England team had to deal with a sports retailer, and believe it or not, England only got a 20% discount from manufacturer BUKTA.   Humphrey, Adi Dassler and London stockist Ron Goodman devised a plan and headquartered at the Coburg Hotel in Bayswater, London.They approached Alf Ramsey the manager and Dennis Follows the F.A. secretary with a fantastic offer. Not only would they provide shoes and clothing to England, but it would all be free.

      In addition, the 16 teams of schoolboys who marched around Wembley Stadium at the Opening Ceremony, representing the competing teams, who obviously were scattered around England,and couldn't be there, wore Umbro uniforms and adidas shoes with 3 stripes-which they got to keep. I was at Wembley that day, and for the boring opening match that followed the parade - England 0 vs Uruguay 0
     The Football Association had offered the 22 man England squad a bonus of 22,000 between them. only if they won the World Cup for the first time, on top of their L 30 match fee.  Adi Dassler went to the Hendon Hall Hotel and offered each player 1,000 to wear the 3 stripes in the final. Of course West Germany wore Adidas anyway, without pay. I was at the hotel the same day, leaving a big poster to be signed by the team after breakfast.
       At the time pro players were lucky if they earned 50 a week, so Allan Ball was excited when he took 2,000 back to his bedroom to share with room mate Nobby Stiles, a catholic, who had been at Mass.
  Two years earlier, at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, a threat was developing. Phil Knight and Bill Bannerman, who was the coach of the University of Oregon track team and also the USA coach had been handling the locally made ONITSUKA TIGER brand shoes, which were light weight and cheaper than the European made ones.
           I met Bannerman at the training track inside the Olympic village and he gave me his business card. I even signed on at the Puma store as Great Britain's third string triple jumper, since my mates on the team assured me they had only brought 2 competitors in that event, and got some free shoes. My college room mate held the world record for the indoor 1,500 meters. I had arrived from Britain, hitch hiking through Scandinavia and catching the Trans-Siberian Express across the Soviet Union and then a 3 day boat trip via the Sea of Japan to Yokahama.
      Later the 2 men would form a company called Blue Ribbon sports, selling Asian produced shoes out of the back of their cars at track meets on the West Coast, and later chose the name NIKE. The rest,   The 1972 Olympics were in Munich, West Germany and Adidas and Puma were handing out shoes, but logos on clothing was not allowed. Horst Dassler had started production at Adidas France in Alsace, just across the River Rhine. He offered free green and white warm ups to the ladies and blue and white to the men, and introduced the Swedish inspired TREFOIL logo for the first time.
         Mark Spitz, who won 7 gold medals in the pool, appeared at one ceremony clutching a pair of Adidas Gazelle shoes. The I.O.C. objected to this 'professionalism' but Spitz promptly retired at the height of his fame and as he was Jewish, was hussled out of town anyway when the Arab terrorists attacked the Israeli team. Adidas later made swim wear and lots, and lots of sports and leisure clothing. 
         In 1974 West Germany won the World Cup in Munich's Olympic Stadium under a new coach Helmut Schoen, again wearing Adidas.  Holland, their opponents wore Adidas also, except for Johan Cruyff, who refused, due to his Puma contract, and wore 2 stripes on his jersey and shorts.
In 1978 Horst Dassler went to Argentina and got the rights to 'Guachito' the mascot for the World Cup run by the generals and did the same in 1982 in Spain, forming what would become I.S.L. In 1982 a company called 'ROFA'  was formed with Franz Beckenbauer and his manager Robert Scwann to give their prize football player some extra income. Of course to this day Beckenbauer earns millions from the company and Germany still wears Adidas.
      Horst Dassler decided to play the role of 'King Maker'. At the Moscow Olympics of 1980 he supported the Spaniard Jan Antonio Samarach for I.O.C. President as he had with Brazilian Joao Havelange at the 1974 FIFA congress, when it seemed that the incumbent, Sir Stanley Rous of England would be defeated, as he was in the 2nd ballot, with myself not 3 feet away from Rous at the Frankfurt Conference Centre he waited the decision.
         Later he and his company would help raise millions from world wide sponsors for FIFA, the IOC and many other national federations and international confederations, plus of course 20% commission for his company.
       He gave the San Diego Rockets of the NBA free Adidas shoes, and later the Boston Celtics, signing up Lou Alcindor as a spokesman. Converse would lose most of the teams and players until  NIKE came along. Stan Smith in tennis helped get Adidas into that sport and all seemed well, with four US distributers, in Dallas, TX, the West Coast, the Mid West and the North-East making much out of the dominant Adidas.
     Eventually due to greed, bad timing and many, many other reasons, Adidas plummeted, were sold a few times until the Dassler family lost all shares and control, and ISL collapsed and Horst Dassler died young. They are steadily making a comback and spend millions on the top athletes and teams, and still have the ear of FIFA.
 

Back