Balls Remembers: The Greatest Football Advert Ever Made

Balls Remembers: The Greatest Football Advert Ever Made

Picture it now: a football tournament held inside a shipping container, featuring 24 of the biggest names in the sport. The stuff of dreams, but also the basis for the greatest football advert of all-time.

'The Cage' was the basis of Nike's $100million advertising campaign in the buildup to the 2002 World Cup, and we would argue it was money well spent.

The concept was simple: eight teams (which we ranked here) face off in a first-to-score tournament. This played out in the form of an advert, one that would become iconic.

Looking back now, assembling this cast for one ad was outrageous. With Eric Cantona as MC and guest referee, the likes of Ronaldo, Luis Figo, Ronaldinho, and Thierry Henry were only some of the names involved.

Here's the full list of players who took part:

Eric Cantona, Thierry Henry, Francesco Totti, Hidetoshi Nakata, Patrick Vieira, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Paul Scholes, Freddie Ljungberg, Javier Saviola, Luis Enrique, Edgar Davids, Lillian Thuram, Sylvain Wiltord, Luis Figo, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo, Denilson, Ronaldinho, Seol Ki-hyeon, Fabio Cannavaro, Rio Ferdinand, Claudio López, Gaizka Mendieta, Hernan Crespo.

Not a bad cast.


While we fully realise this was all completely scripted, you can't deny that the three minute video was probably when football peaked. Be it outrageous pieces of skill, crunching tackles, late drama, or stunning goals, this had the lot.

It didn't hurt that it featured an iconic soundtrack. A remix of Elvis Presley's "A Little Less Conversation" by JXL would be catapulted to the top of the charts in 20 countries as a result of appearing in this campaign.

For those of you who need a reminder, you can watch it in full below. Sit back and enjoy.

We're still not sure how a team consisting of Luis Figo, Ronaldo, and Roberto Carlos didn't come away as winners.


The thing about looking back on this one is that this seems even more significant now than it did at the time. In 2020, there is no hope you could assemble 24 of the biggest names in the game create such a masterpiece.

It is difficult to overstate just how big this was back in 2002. At a time without social media, when you only saw players on the pitch and in post-match interviews, this was a completely different way of seeing your favourite player.

With no YouTube around back in the day, people used to actually sit down and watch TV with the sole hope of catching a glimpse of this ad. Could you imagine a more alien concept these days?

Considering all of this, including the cultural impact it would make with things like FIFA Street being released in the direct aftermath of its release, no football ad will ever top this one.

With the 20th anniversary of this ad set to fall in the buildup to the 2022 World Cup, surely it's time for a reboot...

SEE ALSO: 8 Players That Turned Down The Chance To Play For Ireland

Gary Connaughton
Article written by
Beleaguered Westmeath man, constantly trying to recreate the buzz of the 2004 Leinster final replay.

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