To most of us, the actual design of the ball in the sport is of little importance. To the select few who will play at the World Cup, the design of the ball is of high importance. Changes in its design effect how the ball looks and feels, but more importantly for the professionals is how the ball accelerates and moves when kicked.
World Cup Footballs | T-Shape 1930
There were footballs (i.e. soccer balls) before the first world cup in 1930 and also others made throughout the years, but in this post, only balls used for the World Cup are taken into account. The ball used in 1930 had twelve panels and is known as T-Shape due to its panels having that shape.
World Cup Footballs | 1934 – 1950
In the first three championships in the 1930s, the balls still had laces like a modern day rugby ball or American football. In the next one, held in 1950, the ball had no laces, but was otherwise nearly unchanged from the 1938 ball.
World Cup Footballs | 1954 – 1966
The 1954 ball used cut panels for a more cylindrical shape while the 1958 ball went back in the direction of previous balls. Then, in 1962 we see that the ball looks “modern.” It looks like the ball most of us would recognize as a football. It was designed by Adidas, who also designed the balls from 1970 onwards. The 1966 ball, however, again looked like it was more old fashioned.
World Cup Footballs | 1970 – 1974
In 1970, Adidas introduced the Telstar design, which was also used in 1974. It was designed for black and white TVs, so that is why it was designed with black pentagonal and white hexagonal panels; it was easier to see on TV. I would consider the design a classical icon in terms of footballs.
World Cup Footballs | 1978 – 1998
The next design was known as the Tango. It was used from 1978 to 1998. The panels were the same as on the Telstar, but the Tango had a visual design on the hexagonal panels that gave the appearance of there being 12 circles on the ball. The 1986 ball was the first one to be made out of synthetics. Until that time, the balls were all made out of leather.
World Cup Footballs | 2002
The first major changes in outside appearance in panels since the 1970 Telstar was the Fevernova of 2002. There were also other innovations such as refined synthetics and inner construction that made the ball more consistent and predictable when kicked.
World Cup Footballs | 2006
Then, in the previous World Cup, the +Teamgeist ball was introduced. It had major innovations regarding panels, but one could make a connection to the look of old balls that also had fewer panels. A marked difference though, is that this ball is not stitched, but bonded together. The inside of the +Teamgeist saw some innovations as well making it even more water resistant and predictable when kicked.
World Cup Footballs | 2010
World Cup 2010 sees the latest ball, the Jabulani. It has the fewest number of panels to date with just eight. Like the +Teamgeist, the Jabulani is bonded together. The Jabulani is also even more round and controllable when kicked. With every innovation to the ball’s design, keepers get more and more nervous due to increasing stability and speed.
Is there something that could still be greatly improved with the balls used for the World Cup? Are the balls designed to appease forwards (strikers)? Are they designed to make keepers ever more fearful? Or, is it to have teams score more goals to the fascination and enjoyment of the fans?
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