The Sports Archives – Slazenger Panther – Featherweight Champion of the World

Slazenger began life in the days when wooden racquets ruled the tennis world. Today they are legendary among professionals and amateur sportsmen alike, and not only in the game of tennis.

Past glories in the company’s history include Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe with their host of grand slam championships, and cricketing greats W.G. Grace, Don Bradman, Len Hutton and Gary Sobers, whose names have all been synonymous with the famous brand.

But how many people know or remember that Slazenger provided the World cup football in 1966, an honor more usually associated with Adidas and Nike?

The company produced several footballs for the tournament in yellow, white and amber but it was the orange Challenge 25 that was selected for the final between England and West Germany.

The 25 model has now become one of the most iconic balls in the history of the sport. In fact, in 2010, Slazenger Heritage released a limited edition replica of the original ball, with just 1,966 available for the lucky price of £19.66.

Football boots too were part of the company’s past, with the Panther being heralded as the ‘Featherweight Champion of the World’ as far back as 1968.

Lightweight cleats in the Panther led to it being called the forerunner of the Nike Mercurial Vapor Superfly, which was designed to allow players to be quicker on their feet.

A promotional poster from the time shows a plain black, low-cut football boot hovering above a feather, advertising the ‘Supremely Lightweight, Supremely Hard-Wearing Panther, proudly presented by Slazenger.’

The name is still found today on a variety of their products, including cricket bats and hockey sticks.

Another ad campaign from 1970 features the Challenge 5-Star and 4-Star boot, and the Zapata, ‘which all score full marks for lightweight power and strength.’

Slazenger have a history going back over 100 years, and are still one of the leading global sports companies in the world, specializing not only in tennis and cricket, but golf and hockey too, catering for everyone from grass-roots beginners to championship-winning pros.

Their initial success began with the manufacture of tennis balls, and as official suppliers to Wimbledon they continue the longest unbroken sporting sponsorship in history, thanks to their deal with the All England Club set to run to at least 2015.

Slazenger products currently on the market include tennis racquets and cricket balls, cricket and hockey leg guards, golf bags, hockey sticks and helmets.

Gear-Zone is one of the UK’s leading online retailers of outdoor clothing and sports equipment, ranging from rucksacks to football boots.

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