So which side do you belong to?

By | July 5, 2006

For decades, life in the small town of Herzogenaurach in Hamburg has been defined by two sportswear brand – Adidas and Puma – where the shoes you wear are a statement of which side you belong to. Some places were thus a no-go for people with the “wrong” shoes. The line is drawn so clearly that locals claim even marriages between Adidas and Puma families were rare until the 1970s.

What you may not know is that the two global sportswear makers are bitter rivals established by two brothers, Adolf and Rudolf Dassler, who fell out almost 60 years ago and never made up.

The origins of the split between Adolf and Rudolf were unknown, but a recent publication, “Three Stripes Versus Puma” by Barbara Smit, suggests that tensions between the brothers were exacerbated by World War II. According to the book, Adolf and his wife climbed into a bomb shelter that Rudolf and his family were already in during an Allied bomb attack in 1943. “The dirty bastards are back again,” Adolf was believed to have said, in reference to the Allied warplanes. Rudolf, however, was convinced that his brother meant him and his family. The damage was done.

In 1948, the brothers split their business. Adolf set up Adidas and Rudolf founded Ruda before changing it to Puma.

For the current World Cup, Adidas sponsors six team while Puma has 12 teams under contract. As of today, one of the teams sponsored by Puma has a definite shot of winning the FIFA World Cup Trophy, with Italy going through to the final at the expense of the host nation (incidentally, sponsored by Adidas). Adidas will have a chance to work on the sibling rivalry again if France beats Portugal in the semi-final.

Which sportswear maker do you think will have the bragging rights when the dust settles?

Argentina, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, Trinidad and Tobago

Angola, Czech Republic, Ghana, Iran, Italy, Ivory Coast, Paraguay, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Togo, Tunisia

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