A subtle way to look at the evolution of professional football is to look at he history of the FIFA World Cups. This 'evolution’ is clearly visible in the development of the World Cup ball, which is has undergone a dramatic transformation since the first tournament held in Uruguay in 1930. While the first ones were sewn and inflated by hand, the recent balls bear high tech technology, are 100% factory made and are marketed around the world. As the 2018 World Cup slowly creeps towards us, here's all you need to know about the balls used in the recent World Cups.
FIFA World Cup 2002 - Fevernova
The Adidas Fevernova was the official ball of the 2002 World Cup held in Japan and South Korea. The ball was revolutionary in the sense that it departed front the traditional Tango design introduced by Adidas in 1978. The red flames enclosed by a shuriken like shape symbolised the efforts put in by Japan and South Korea in order to make the World Cup a successful event. The ball however was highly controversial as a number of people complained that the ball exhibited properties of an inflated plastic ball. While David Beckham, who was sponsored by Adidas claimed the ball to be ‘exceptional’, many keepers including Gianluigi Buffon complained that the ball was too light and bounced too much.
FIFA World Cup 2006 - Teamgeist
The Adidas Teamgeist was the official ball of the 2006 World Cup held in Germany. The name is a German word meaning 'spirit’ which symbolised German tradition of collective strength. The ball had just 14 curved panels instead of the standard 32 which was intended to make the ball rounder and perform more uniformly regardless of where it hit. However, many players complained about a ‘Knuckleball’ effect, claiming that the flight of the ball was too unpredictable. Players like Brazil's Roberto Carlos and England's Paul Robinson also criticized the ball and declared that the ball was too light along with performing differently when wet.
FIFA World Cup 2010 - Jabulani
The Adidas Jabulani was the official ball of the 2010 World Cup held in South Africa. The word ‘Jabulani’ means 'be happy’ or 'rejoice’ in the language in isiZulu. The ball consisted of four triangular shapes over a white background. The number ‘11’ was prevalent in the manufacturing of the ball as the ball used 11 different colours symbolising the 11 players in a team and 11 official languages of South Africa. The number of panels in Jabulani were cut down to just 8 from the 14 in 2006 to further improve the aerodynamics. While the players sponsored by Adidas were found to be praising the ball again, others claimed that the ball moved too much in the air and was highly unpredictable.
FIFA World Cup 2014 - Brazuca
The Adidas Brazuca was the official ball of the 2014 World Cup held in Brazil. The word 'brazuca’ is a slang for the word 'brazilian’. The ball consisted of multi-colour ribbons that are similar to popular Brazilian 'wish bands’. The number of panels in the ball was reduced to six in this edition. Adidas claimed that Brazuca was the most-tested ball ever as it was sent around the world for extensive testing and feedback before the tournament. While the previous balls used in the World Cups were criticized heavily, Brazuca grabbed much less controversies and was even adopted by a number of leagues including Bundesliga and MLS.
FIFA World Cup 2018 - Telstar 18
The Adidas Telstar 18 is the official ball of the 2018 World Cup to be held in Russia and was released in November 2017. The Telstar 18 pays tribute to Adidas’s first World Cup ball Telstar which was used in the 1970 World Cup. The original Telstar was named after Telstar communication satellite and the word itself is a combination of the words 'telsvision’ and 'star’. While the 1970 Telstar consisted of 32 panels, it's modern remake consists of only 6 panels. The ball also consists of an embedded NFC chips that can be connected to the user's smartphone.