From Jabulani to 2022's Al Rihla: Last five World Cup footballs
“This is a stunning, sustainable and high-quality Official Match Ball from adidas that will be enjoyed by stars performing at the top of their game on the world’s biggest stage in Qatar, as well as grassroots players everywhere,” said Jean-François Pathy, FIFA’s Director of Marketing.
“Al Rihla’s worldwide journey will represent the incredible reach of the FIFA World Cup and give fans a unique opportunity to engage with the event as excitement builds ahead of the big kick-off.”
Ahead of the 2022 tournament, we have had a look back at some previous efforts.
The Telstar 18 was the ball for the 2018 World Cup
The Telstar 18 was based on the name and design of the first Adidas World Cup ball from the 1970 tournament.
A red iteration of the design was released for the knockout stages, as France eventually ran out winners.
Manchester United goalkeeper complained about the ball, saying: “It could have been made a lot better.”
His Barcelona counterpart Marc-Andre Ter Stegen added: “The ball could be better; it moves a lot. We’re just going to try to get to grips with it as quickly as possible. We’ve got no other option.”
Two Telstar 18 balls popped during a group stage match between France and Australia, prompting further criticism.
The Brazuca was the ball for the 2014 World Cup
There did not seem to be as many problems with the Brazuca for the 2014 tournament in Brazil.
A special ball with green, black and gold, was used for the final, which saw Germany defeat Argentina in extra-time thanks to Mario Gotze’s goal.
It was apparently designed to feel more like the Champions League ball at the time, rather than the effort for the 2010 World Cup.
The Jabulani was the ball for the 2010 World Cup
The Jabulani was probably the most criticised World Cup ball of all time, and a far cry from the legendary days of the Adidas Tango.
Where do we start? The basic premise is that the ball wobbled too much and did not behave like a normal ball would do.
Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon said: “The new model is absolutely inadequate and I think it’s shameful letting play such an important competition, where a lot of champions take part, with a ball like this.”
His Brazil counterpart Julio Cesar chimed in: “It’s terrible, horrible. It’s like one of those balls you buy in the supermarket.”
Of course, it was also the ball used when Frank Lampard’s ‘goal’ against Germany was not allowed, although the Jabulani can hardly have influenced the referee’s decision there.
The Teamgeist was the ball for the 2006 World Cup
You would think that the Adidas ball for a World Cup in Germany would be bang-on and avoid any criticism.
It did not get hammered as badly as the Jabulani, but England goalkeeper Paul Robinson was not a fan of the ball used at a tournament where England went out in the quarter-finals at the hands of Portugal on penalties.
He said: “It’s a difficult ball for goalkeepers, full stop. There’s no stitching whatsoever. It’s two sections glued together and it’s a lot lighter than the Premiership ball. This one moves everywhere.
“There’s a plastic coating around it and when it’s wet it’s even worse. It’s not at all goalkeeper-friendly. Luckily, I had the foresight that it wasn’t going to be like a normal Premiership ball, so with four or five weeks to go at the end of the season I asked my agent to get me half a dozen of them. I integrated them with my training balls at Spurs for about six weeks.”
It is to be hoped that the effort for the 2022 tournament avoids the complaints and controversy, and the best way to do that would be to follow the blueprint which seems to be used for the major leagues and Champions League.
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