Enhance: Nike's 1996 'Good vs. Evil' soccer ad

This week in ENHANCE, we defeat the devil via the international sport of football. And SEND HIM STRAIGHT TO HELLLLLLLL.

Today, let's use the powers of ENHANCE to more fully examine an overlooked advertising treasure. In 1996, Nike assembled a team of European (along with one Brazilian and one Mexican) all-star soccer players and filmed this commercial:

If you'd like, you can see the American version by clicking here. It's higher quality and the narration is in English, but it's a full 29 seconds shorter and makes some curious edits. We'll cover those as we go along.

:10: The devil stamps his mighty hoof and summons a soccer pitch outlined in HELLFIRE! Sadly, Kane's music does not play.

:13: With a sneer, the dark lord Beelzebub fills the stadium with flag-waving Les Miserables extras, who appear to be human. Are they merely the worst of the soccer fans who exist on Earth? Are they the soccer fans who have gone to hell and are now forced to root for the devil's team? I'm not fully conversant with soccer team flags, so I couldn't tell you whether any actual club colors are represented. If they aren't, do you know what this means? It means that someone in Nike's production design team had to invent a flag representing the devil. SATAN HAS A FLAG.

:17: One of these unruly fans throws something. It's unclear what that "something" might be, exactly. It makes a slight "clinking" sound, but also might be organic?


That screencap sort of makes it look like a chest-burster. No idea what this might be.


It's supposed to be poop, isn't it?

:18: But we pan up from this ... debris to reveal our heroes!


Little Pete! Slappy Joe! Stinky Gus! And the rest!

So from left to right, we've got: Tomas Brolin, Jorge Campos, Paolo Maldini, Manuel Rui Costa, Eric Cantona, Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Patrick Kluivert, Edgar Davids and Ian Wright. Even in 1996, this was kind of an odd mix of soccer stars, as you had legitimate best-in-the-world types like Ronaldo, but then also-rans like Brolin, who has since successfully transitioned into a career as a professional poker player. Lookin' good, Tomas!

:21: So we've got a coliseum full of a fire-pitch and unruly fans. Check. Who might our all-stars be going up against?



Kinda looks like that's the outline of a massive, massive dong in the front there, doesn't it? Probably just a trick of the light. Probably.

:23: The devil summons his legion of nefarious footballers, who are basically Guy Ritchie extras with quasi-offensive Maori-style facepaint and mouthgates. Seems to me that if you're making a fearsome hellteam, you'd want to include the dangerous possibility of them being able to bite you. Either way, this should be the next trend in #swag. Mouthgates on a million billion.

:27: Maldini, ever the optimist, says, "Maybe they're friendly." Cantona, never one to suffer fools lightly (if at all), expresses his disgust:


:29: The game begins!

:32: Luis Figo (famous for being the villain in Ghostbusters 2) is shoved to the ground unceremoniously. Right onto his beautiful face.


:34: A demon-man attempts to stomp on Figo's face with his knife-shoe. This part is cut out of the American version, because we don't want Florida to learn about knife-shoes.

:37: One of Satan's minions manages to trip Rui Costa is such a manner that he flies through the air and directly into a full-arm-swing elbow strike from -- presumably -- the same guy who tripped him. This portion is also cut out of the American version, because we don't want Detroit to know you can hit people with elbows, too.

:42: Wright receives a yellow card for being kicked in the chest. The referee who administers the yellow card appears to be a cross between the guard from Cool Hand Luke and Max Headroom. While Wright protests, he is further accosted by one of these nefarious rugby oafs from Hades.

This is the most drastic difference between the two versions of the commercial, because while the American version features Wright being piefaced to the ground, the international version gives us THIS:


:46: The crowd LOVES it.

:47: Think you've seen terror? You don't even know what terror is, man. But Jorge Campos does.



:56: There's a long kick to a long header to a huge bicycle kick. The ball is still nowhere near the opponent's goal.

1:01: Ol' Scratch realizes that his team's net is open. I guess the circle of hell that includes soccer players who have committed mortal sins only had 10 dudes in it. In a series of confusing-ass shots and editing that took me like four viewings to understand, Mephistopheles flies into the net to be the keeper for his team.

I suppose this is as good a place as any to mention that this commercial was directed by Tarsem, who directed the video for "Losing My Religion."

It is ironic, because in a moment, religion will literally be losing a soccer match.

1:09: There is the most fearsome yet not-at-all-fearsome 1996 thing on the sidelines, as a guy with a ponytail and what appear to be argyle leggings terminating in calf-high boots holds back a ravenous Doberman. But there's just one Doberman, and Ronaldo doesn't seem all that concerned. The soccer sidelines are quite expansive, Satan. Staff more than one dog, maybe? Is there only one dog on either side of the pitch? These players could probably just, like, step around the dog and its weirdo handler.

1:12: The author of all sin spreads his wings, because he's a no-good cheat. But at least 50% of the net isn't covered by said wings, so it turns out that the accuser is also bad at cheating.

1:16: Cantona don't give but half a fig about a partially-blocked net, though. He's just gonna flip his collar up, deliver a cool "au revoir" and KICK THE BALL SO HARD THAT IT BURSTS INTO FLAME.


Cantona -- the man who is best remembered today for straight-up FLYING NINJA KICKING A SPECTATOR IN THE FACE DURING A MATCH -- kicks the ball straight through the prince of darkness, who makes the Scooby-Doo "ARROOOO?" face in response to getting a hole punched through him.


1:20: The sadly non-Dave Grohl Satan explodes and the stadium just turns back into an abandoned Coliseum in the middle of nowhere. The European soccer all-stars are probably going to need a lift home.

So the devil went down to soccer, but ended up being defeated and ... killed, I guess? Which means that Mammon -- who summoned professional soccer players to play a rigged soccer game against otherwordly murderous superhumans in a booby-trapped stadium in front of a hostile crowd -- was not fully prepared to deal with Eric friggin' Cantona.

Art imitates life.

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