The Evolution Of The World Cup Ball Through The Years
The FIFA World Cup is a salient event in the world of sports. The first-ever World Cup was held in 1930, almost 90 years ago. In all these years, the World Cup has seen several changes - including new versions of the match ball design. With time more and more technology was introduced into the design of the match ball to improve features like weather resistance, performance and other aspects of the ball.
In the past several companies like Duplo T, Slazenger, Crack, etc. were involved in designing the official ball for the game but in the year 1970, Adidas was chosen as the official match ball partner and has been the partner ever since.
Heres a look at how the match ball has evolved over the last 50 years:
Telstar, Mexico (1970)
Adidas came in with the objective of bringing about some significant changes. The first ever Adidas ball was named "Telstar" and had the classic black and white pentagon design, dubbed the "Buckminster". The designs 32 panels made it the roundest ball of time. The Telstar’s colour scheme was also influenced by the fact that it was more visible on a black and white television screen.
Telstar Durlast, West Germany (1974)
The 1974 edition was the first one that allowed match balls to have logos and names. This World Cup had two official balls: an updated Adidas Telstar that had black branding instead of the gold and an all-white version of the Telstar that was called the "Adidas Chile".
Tango Durlast, Argentina (1978)
The name Tango was taken from the famous dance form of the host country. The design for this ball has been one of the most elegant ones to date. It had 12 panels with triads that created an optical impression of 12 circles. The Tango was immensely popular and went on to inspire the match ball design for the following five tournaments.
Tango Espana, Spain (1982)
For this World Cup, Adidas introduced the first water resistant ball. The ball had rubber inlaid over the seams that prevented the water from seeping through. The water-resistant properties also meant that the weight of the ball didn’t increase due to wet conditions. The drawback, however, was that the rubber experienced heavy damage during the game and the ball sometimes had to be changed mid game. This was the last traditional leather World Cup ball.
Azteca, Mexico (1986)
Azteca took innovation to the next level. It was the first-ever synthetic ball and was coated with polyurethane. The polyurethane made the ball water-resistant and made it easier to maneuver on both hard and wet surfaces.
Azteca was also the first-ever match ball that allowed the host nations to include a design of their choosing on the ball was decorated with Mexico’s Aztec architecture and murals.
Etrusco, Italy (1990)
Etrusco's name and design was inspired by Italy’s rich history and the art of Etruscans. The Etrusco redefined the architecture of the match ball by including an internal layer of black polyurethane foam, this made the ball completely water-resistant.
Questra, USA (1994)
The Questra also had its share of firsts. This was the first match ball that was enveloped in a layer of polystyrene foam. It made the ball softer, helped maintain a water-resistant nature and also allowed the ball to achieve higher velocity when kicked. The design on the ball exhibits America’s love for space and their “Quest For The Stars”. This was a few years after Ronald Reagan had announced the Strategic Defense Initiative, more commonly known as 'Star Wars', which was to build an arsenal of weapons in space.
Tricolore, France (1998)
For FIFA World Cup 1998 the traditional black and white colourway of the match ball was ditched for the French Red-White-Blue tri-colour. The ball featured advance syntactic foam that helped improve the ball’s durability and responsiveness. The ball was given its colours using an under glass print technology, this also helped increase the visibility of the ball.
Fevernova, Korea-Japan (2002)
The Fevernova broke the Tango design streak. Adidas was aiming to increase the in-air accuracy of the ball and achieved this by using thicker inner layers. The refined synthetic foam of Fevernova allowed a precise and predictable flight path. The colourful ball was also the first Adidas World Cup ball to stray away from the traditional white and black monotony of world cup balls.
Teamgeist, Germany (2006)
The Teamgeist made major changes in the primary design of the match balls. The ones before had multiple panels with seam and ridges at the points where these panels came together. This restricted the area where the player could kick the ball. Teamgeist reduced the total number of panel touch points which resulted in a smoother and perfectly round exterior. The ball’s colourway was inspired by the traditional German colours and was given a golden touch. This was one of the most popular WC footballs ever to be released.
Jabulani, South Africa (2010)
Jabulani’s grip and groove technology provided the player with a ball that had the perfect grip and an exceptionally stable flight. The Jabulani was rounder and more accurate than any of the previous balls due to its eight thermally bonded 3-D panels. These panels were further spherically moulded together. The Jabulani however, was in the news for all the wrong reasons as the players complained that the ball was swerving a lot more artificially and was harder to control.
Brazuca, Brazil (2014)
More than one million people voted to decide the name for the 2014 match ball. The ball was made up of 6 panels - two less than the Jabulani -and glued together at a particular temperature and pressure. Adidas tried to make the Brazuca more like the traditional hand stitched footballs with seams that were very prominent on the ball.
Telstar 18, Russian (2018)
The Telstar 18 is a redesigned version of the first-ever Adidas match ball, the Telstar. The design and build of the ball was such that it is perfect for playing in the field as well as the streets. Taking the use of technology to the next level, the ball has an NFC chip for a more interactive experience for fans without having any impact on actual gameplay.
The design for the match balls seems to have come full circle with the latest contribution from the 2018 World Cup ball. However with rapid technological advancements and their subsequent incorporation into the designs one can only wait and see what else the future holds.