Qatar’s 2022 World Cup official ‘al Rihla’ footballs are pictured during a Croatia team training session at their Al Erssal training camp in Doha. | Photo Credit: OZAN KOSE
The design, structural and visual, of the official World Cup ball is something that fans look forward to every four years. It has also been an ample source of controversy, beginning from the first-ever World Cup final in 1930.
Both finalists, Argentina and Uruguay, couldn’t agree on which ball to use, as the latter claimed the ball offered by the host was larger.
Check out the Al Rihla launch event 👀⚽@adidasfootball | #OfficialMatchBallpic.twitter.com/qAm8PaEhG0
Finally, it was decided that a ball provided by Argentina would be used in the first half and one provided by Uruguayans will be used in the second half. Interestingly, Argentina led the game 2-1 at half-time, before the ball changed and Uruguay outscored its neighbours 3-0, with its ball (named T-model), in the final half to win the first-ever World Cup,
The 12-panel design of the World Cup balls continued until 1954 when an innovative 18-layer ball, named the ‘Swiss World Champion’ was introduced for the Swiss World Cup.
The qualities of the balls used varied through the next World Cups, with the ones used in Chile in 1962 (named Crack) receiving the most criticism, particularly for how fast they disintegrated.
England 1966 saw Slazenger selected as the official ball manufacturer after a blind test at the Football Association headquarters in London. It designed and provided a 24-panel ball named ‘Challenge 4-star’.
Mexico 1970 marked the beginning of the Adidas era with the iconic ‘Telstar’, which has created a unique space for itself in the history of World Cup balls. Named after the Telstar satellite launched in 1962 by the USA, this was the first-ever 32-panelled ball used in the World Cup.
The Buckminster design persisted in 1974, but the ‘Telstar-Durlast’ introduced polyurethane coating that made the ball water resistant.
Argentina 1978 saw the introduction of a base design – interconnected triangles with curved edges – that continued until 1998. Named ‘Tango’, this was also the first ball to feature the Adidas trademark.
Mexico 1986 saw the genesis of the fully synthetic match balls through ‘Azteca’ that incorporated Aztec murals in its base design to give it a rooted feel. ‘Etrusca’ of Italy 1990 had the Etruscan lion in it, while the ‘Questra’ of USA 1994 had stars emblazoned on it to symbolise America’s quest for greatness.
The first-ever multicoloured World Cup ball was introduced in France 1998, with red, blue and white representing the French flag and was aptly named ‘Tricolore.’
‘Fevernova’ of the 2002 World Cup ushered in a new era with a triangular design that departed from the ‘Tango’ layout. Attackers were in awe of the accuracy provided, while goalkeepers, like Gianluigi Buffon, criticised the ball for its ‘crazy bouncing.’
Germany 2006 marked a new beginning as Adidas produced two ball designs – one specifically for the World Cup final. With 14 external panels, ‘Teamgeist’ (meaning team spirit in German) was smoother and provided better ball control. ‘Teamgeist Berlin’, used for the Final, had golden panels to highlight the occasion.
What was the name of the football at the 2010 World Cup?
‘Jabulani’ of South Africa 2010 turned out to be one of the most controversial World Cup match balls. The eight-panelled ball with internal stitching was unpredictable in flight due to its excessive smoothness and was panned by players, particularly the goalkeepers.
Adidas produced a less contentious, but a highly-innovative ball for Brazil 2014 in the form of ‘Brazuca’. The first of such to be named after public voting, Brazuca had just six layers, which were seamed together in a swirling fashion. The pattern on the ball was multicoloured ribbons, inspired by Brazilian wish bands.
Russia 2018 was a return to the roots for Adidas with ‘Telstar 18’, a reinvented version of its 1970 creation, whose structural design remained similar to the ‘Brazuca’.
The tournament’s knockout phase used a different ball, with a red theme, named ‘Telstar Mechta’ (Mechta meant dream or ambition in Russian).
Which football is used in FIFA World Cup?
For the upcoming Qatar World Cup, Adidas revealed the official match ball named ‘Al Rihla’ (the journey in Arabic) on March 2022.
The colours and patterns of ‘Al Rihla’ is an ode to Qatar’s culture, flag and architecture. Claimed to be the fastest World Cup ball ever designed, ‘Al Rihla’ has 20 layers held together by water-based glues and inks and is said to have enhanced aerodynamics, enabling better swerve and accuracy for shooters.
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