FOX Sports Asia revisits Nike’s secret 2002 football tournament and tracks down the whereabouts of the 24 footballing stars.
If you are old enough to remember the last time that the World Cup was in Asia, then you will have some memory of Nike’s Scorpion KO ad.
Back in 2002, the premise seemed simple enough – 24 elite international footballers, playing in teams of three(s), hold a secret tournament in which whoever scores first wins.
Throw in dramatic sets, mood lighting inspired by the 80s’ action flick Bloodsport and a very sinister-looking Eric Cantona, and you get an idea of the footballing drama that unfolded.
Sixteen years on, it is still the best footballing tournament (that never actually took place) if you ask us.
Besides bringing us on an emotional roller coaster, the ad was considered a success for Nike as it got one to two million children competing in Scorpion KO-styled matches worldwide.
But, what about the star players? Did their participation in the secret tournament pay off in their careers? We find out…
Scorpion KO Teams
Thierry Henry (France)
After establishing himself at Arsenal, Thierry Henry went on to play for Barcelona and New York Red Bulls before retiring in 2014.
The former French international striker is currently the assistant manager for the Belgian national squad and moonlights as a Sky Sports pundit.
But some things never change, Henry still addresses his former manager Arsene Wenger as ‘boss’.
Francesco Totti (Italy)
Back in 2002, Francesco Totti was an attacking midfielder with AS Roma.
Fast forward to 2018, the Italian midfielder/striker is still with his boyhood club. Albeit in a different capacity.
Totti hung up his boots last season, but took up a club director role with the Rome-based club. The one-club player is also interested in getting his coaching licences.
Hidetoshi Nakata (Japan)
Despite being one of the most recognisable Asian footballers, Hidetoshi Nakata chose to retire in 2006 at the tender age of 29.
The dynamic attacking midfielder moved on from Parma to turn out for Bologna, Fiorentina and Bolton Wanderers.
Nakata now has his own line of sake (rice wine) and is an editor-at-large with the Monocle magazine.
Patrick Vieira (France)
A member of the Arsenal’s Invincibles, ex-Gunners captain Patrick Vieira did not stick around for long before moving on to Italy with Juventus and Inter.
The French midfield enforcer moved back to England with Manchester City and hung up his boots in 2011. He was initially a Football Development Executive before being promoted to their youth team manager.
Veira left City in 2016 to take up the head coach position with New York City FC.
Ruud van Nistelrooy (Netherlands)
Spearheading Manchester United’s attack, Ruud van Nistelrooy remained a Red Devil till 2006 before moving to Real Madrid, Hamburger SV and Malaga. The EPL and La Liga winner retired in 2012.
The former Dutch striker was an intern coach for PSV U-17 side before leaving to be part of the Netherlands national team setup in 2014.
Van Nistelrooy returned to PSV in 2016 and is now the manager of their youth sides.
Paul Scholes (England)
The only other one-club player on the list; Paul Scholes remained a Red Devil for the rest of his playing career despite retiring TWICE (once in 2011 and finally in 2013).
Despite that, the ginger attacking midfielder still found reasons to hang around in United by helping out with U-19 team and as interim manager Ryan Giggs’ backroom staff in 2014.
Scholes finally found a life outside the Manchester club as a BT Sport pundit and columnist for The Independent.
Freddie Ljungberg (Sweden)
Freddie Ljungberg made a name of himself as a free-scoring winger with Arsenal, but failed to capture the same heights at his later clubs.
The ex-Swedish international’s subsequent stints at West Ham, Seattle Sounders, Chicago Fire, Celtic, Shimizu S-Pulse and Mumbai City FC were plagued by injuries and poor form.
Ljungberg retired in 2013 and was Arsenal U-15 coach before joining Wolfsburg as an assistant manager in 2016. The former Calvin Klein underwear model was sacked six months later.
Javier Saviola (Argentina)
Despite holding so much promise, Javier Saviola never quite lived up to his touted potential.
After leaving Barcelona, the Argentine striker tried to rediscovering his prolific scoring touch at Real Madrid, Benfica, Malaga, Olympiacos, Verona and finally River Plate.
The 2004 Olympics gold medallist failed to score in his second River Plate stint and retired to join Andorran side FC Ordino as assistant manager.
Luis Enrique (Spain)
At the time of the Nike ad, Luis Enrique was already a veteran with Barcelona. So it was no surprise that he was the first to hang up his boots in 2004.
The former Spanish forward/midfielder started his managerial career with Barca B-team in 2008, taking over from a certain Pep Guardiola.
After managing Roma and Celta Vigo, Enrique returned to Barca in 2014! He won the Treble in his first season and left in July 2017.
Edgar Davids (Netherlands)
Nicknamed “The Pitbull”, it is hard to miss Edgar Davids with his signature dreadlocked hair and protective googles.
The Juventus defensive midfielder also played for Barcelona, Inter, Tottenham Hotspur, Ajax and Crystal Palace before becoming a player-manager with Barnet in 2012.
However, the three-time Serie A winner left Barnet in 2014.
Lillian Thuram (France)
Despite being relatively settled in Turin, Lillian Thuram was forced to move to Barcelona in the wake of the 2006 Italian football scandal that saw Juventus relegated.
The physical imposing defender played for the Catalan club until 2008 before retiring.
Thuram is now an active political activist who is intent on stamping out racism in his homeland France.
Sylvain Wiltord (France)
Following league success with the Gunners, Sylvain Wiltord opted to return to France.
The French winger who played for Lyon, Rennes, Marseille, Metz and Nantes retired in 2012.
In 2015, Wiltord appeared on the reality survival show Dropped. He narrowly avoided a mid-air helicopter collision that killed ten people (three contestants) the day after he was eliminated.
Curious to find out what happened to the remaining twelve Scorpion KO tournament players?
Stay tuned tomorrow for part two and we will throw in a little surprise, just for you…