Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Adidas-Puma feud to play out at World Cup

FRANKFURT, June 5 - Argentina versus Ivory Coast will not be a must-see World Cup game for most Germans but in the small town of Herzogenaurach a decades-old feud will be played out on the pitch when they meet on Saturday in Hamburg.

Argentina are sponsored by Adidas while Ivory Coast are backed by Puma and the town is home to both global sportswear makers -- bitter rivals founded by two brothers who fell out almost 60 years ago and never made up. 25ahon9.jpg

Located deep in the Bavarian province and without a train station or motorway exit, Herzogenaurach, population 24,000, is know as the 'town of downward glances', where the shoes you wear are a statement of which side you belong to.

For decades, life in the town has been defined by the two sportswear brands, making some places no go areas for people with the "wrong" shoes.

"There were always the ones who supported Adidas and others favouring Puma," said Hans Lang, mayor of the town.

An Adidas employee put it more brutally: "You would be fired immediately if you showed up in Puma shoes".

So strict is the line that locals claim even marriages between Adidas and Puma families were rare until the 1970s.

Until the 1980s, children usually chose to join the firm where their father already worked, separating the city into Adidas and Puma families who visited their own pubs or played for their clubs.

Lothar Matthaeus, Germany's 1990 World Cup-winning captain, started his career at the town's "Puma" club, FC Herzogenaurach, because his father was a janitor at Puma's headquarters.

He even remained loyal to the company when he got his first professional contract at Borussia Moenchengladbach, one of Puma's advertising partners.

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