Mon 25 April 2022 | 9:10

The Evolution Of The World Cup Ball

After the intriguing 2022 FIFA World Cup draw, the official match ball for the tournament was unveiled, with Lionel Messi spearheading the unveiling ceremony.

Courtesy of Adidas, the Al Rihla is the fourteenth consecutive tournament ball provided for a football World Cup. However, the much-famed Adidas ball era did not start until creating the iconic Telstar ball in the 1970 Mexico World Cup.

With each World Cup, the enigmatic design of the ball has elicited different reactions from different players.


How will Al Rihla's concept impact matches? How will the odds in games compare to previous World Cup editions?

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1. Tiento and T-Model, 1930 Uruguay World Cup

Interestingly, there wasn't an official ball designed for the inaugural World Cup in Uruguay, with different concepts used throughout the tournament.

However, in the final between Argentina and Uruguay, a quarrel ensued on which country will produce the match ball.

Eventually, a compromise was that Argentina's ball, the Tiento, be used for the first half while Uruguay's T-Model brought in the second half.


2. Federale 102, 1934 Italy World Cup

A notable shift from the archaic leather laces to cotton ones, the Federale was an exciting concept courtesy of the Italian sports federation. Binding between the panels and employing softer laces to stitch the ball together made heading the Federal seamless.


3. Allen Coupe Du Monde Officiel, 1938 France World Cup

The Allen Coupe bore an uncanny resemblance to the Federale 102 with its cotton laces, brown cowhide outer facing and 13-panel construction.

A minor difference is that the Du Monde had rounded edges for individual panels, hand-stitched and hand-inflated by proficient personnel.


4. Superball Duplo T, 1950 Brazil World Cup

The pause in hosting the World Cup due to World War II heralded advancement in developing the official match ball.

Enter Duplo T, with its moulded rubber valve, allowing the internal tube to fill up quickly..


5. Kost Sport Swiss World Champion, 1954 Switzerland World Cup

Eager for a new artistic form, the Swiss World Champion was born, featuring unique 18 panels interlocking to form a 'W' pattern and a vibrant yellow colour for a modern-day outlook.


6. Top Star, 1958 Sweden World Cup

The 1914 Swedish company Sydlader AB was selected as the official ball provider of the 1958 event after Top Star impressed a FIFA panel.

Plus, teams at the competition had 30 balls during games and training. The 13 goals scored by France forward Just Fontaine in Sweden's six matches are a nod to the ball's grand design.


7. Custodio Zamora Mr Crack, 1962 Chile World Cup

Inspired by a volleyball, the 18-panel Custodio was a gold-coloured ball having a smoother and far better rounder surface.

However, incidents such as waterlogging didn't auger well with players, leading to sourcing alternatives.


8. Slazenger Challenge 4 Star, 1966 England World Cup

Following The Crack's unimpressive bout at the '62 World Cup, FIFA decided to contract multinational sporting companies in producing the official competition's balls.

The result was the 4 Star, a 25-panel ball with an orange, white and yellow scheme featuring a latex valve.


9. Adidas Telstar, 1970 Mexico World Cup

Adidas marked its entry into the World Cup with the Telstar—an enticing 32-panel design that would shape the distinctive match ball for years to come.Plus, Adidas supplied 20 balls for the tournament with brown and white colour variations used in some games.


10. Adidas Telstar Durlast, 1974 West Germany World Cup

Akin to the '70 Telstar, the Durlast incorporated a slightly thinner polyurethane coating over the leather panels, making it resistant to abrasion and waterlogging.

The event was a home success for West Germany and Adidas as the former emerged as winners over the Netherlands.


11. Adidas Tango, 1978 Argentina World Cup

Since its inception in 1978, The Tango span over many years with minor changes to its layout. The 20 hexagonal hand stitched panels and a Duralast membrane combo improved its waterlogging resistance.

As part of the design, the triangular markings created circular patterns throughout the surface, enabling players to trace the ball's movement while in the air.


12. Adidas Tango Espana, 1982 Spain World Cup

Thanks to the popularity of the Tango, the Espana only needed minor tweaks to its design. The seams were rubberised to prevent water entry, and the Espana marked the end of an era for the leather ball before the synthetic age.


13. Adidas Azteca, 1986 Mexico World Cup

Adidas produced a 100% synthetic ball featuring triangular designs containing detailed patterns of the famed Aztec culture.

It also holds a unique place in history books as it is the ball Maradona punched over the hapless Peter Shilton through the infamous 'Hand of God'.


14. Adidas Etrusco Unico, 1990 Italy World Cup

In line with drawing inspiration from the host nation's culture, the Etrusco features triangular triads with lions' heads reminiscent of Etruscan art.

It was also the first ball containing an internal foam layer, preventing waterlogging and improving durability.


15. Adidas Questra, 1994 United States World Cup

The Questra bears many similarities to the three previous versions though its artwork is reminiscent of the wonders of space exploration.

Albeit lighter, forward players praised its ability to curl, but goalkeepers and defenders lamented its unpredictability.


16. Adidas Tricolore, 1998 France World Cup

After 60 years, France hosted the World Cup once again, and this time Adidas came up with an improved match ball that was the first multicoloured of its kind.

The '98 championship was also significant since the Tricolore was the last ball bearing the Tango outlook while Adidas experimented with upcoming manufacturing techniques.


17. Adidas Fevernova, 2002 Japan/South Korea World Cup

Finally breaking away from the revered Tango design, Adidas broke new ground with an exciting graphic concept, drawing inspiration from the Japanese tomoe symbol.

The ball featured eleven layers, each with unique properties, but was criticised for its lightness.


18. Adidas Teamgeist and Teamgeist Berlin, 2006 Germany World Cup

The typical Teamgeist combined white colour and black-oval shaped banding creating a captivating piece. Adidas introduced thermally bonded synthetic panels, improving ball features, and producing a more precise item resistance to water.

A fun fact is that the '06 tournament was the first to have an alternative official ball design used in the later stages of the tournament.


19. Adidas Jabulani and Jo’bulani, 2010 South Africa World Cup

One of the most troublesome balls in World Cup history, the


received a lot of criticism from players. Despite the Jabulani having a lively name—Zulu term for 'be happy'—its erratic nature to swerve or dip didn't help matters.

Yes, the thin grooves and ridges on the surface aimed to improve aerodynamics, but eventually, a gold version of the Jabulani was developed for the finale.


20. Adidas Brazuca and Brazuca Rio, 2014 Brazil World Cup

Six bonded polyurethane panels decked out in brilliant graphics paying homage to Brazilian Bahia bands created the Brazuca masterpiece. The changes applied to the Brazuca immensely enhanced its aerodynamic properties, which were absent in the Jabulani.


21. Adidas Telstar 18 and Telstar 18 Mechta, 2018 Russia World Cup

Borrowing from the 1970s design, Adidas improved the iconic Telstar by using six thermally bonded panels, creating a consistent and smoother surface. Unfortunately, the tournament got off to a ridiculous start when two balls during a group stage game.


22. Adidas Al Rihla, 2022 Qatar World Cup


Al Rihla

, which translates to 'journey', is a 20-panel ball drawing inspiration from the art and culture of Qatar. In countering both heat and air resistance, the ball comes with thermally-bonded panels reminiscent of the sails of dhow boats.

source: SportMob

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