As the world waits for the World Cup, labourers in Pakistan’s Sialkot are jubilant because the Adidas Telstar 18 they are making is this year’s official ball. Anup Kumar Sinha takes a look at the revolutionary changes in design and material the tournament ball has gone through...
Mexico | Telstar
The start of the Adidas era, the Telstar was noted for its black-and-white panels, installed with an aim to improve visibility on TV. The 32-panel iconic ball made its presence felt globally, as this was the first World Cup broadcast worldwide on TV.
Germany | Telstar Durlast
Adidas made minor changes to Telstar and renamed it. The ball had a new coating to protect the leather. The company established itself as official partner of FIFA and was permitted to have its brand on the ball.
Argentina | Tango
One of the most popular balls, named after the famous dance of Argentina. It had a completely new look with an all-white base and black triangles arranged in a circular pattern. Composed of 32 panels, it is best remembered for creating an effect when the ball was in motion.
Spain | Tango Espana
Keeping much of the previous design, Adidas added a polyurethane coating making it less likely to absorb water. It shed the Durlast coating as seams were welded and sewed together. This was the last WC using genuine leather balls.
Mexico | Azteca
With symbology inspired by Aztec architecture, this was meant to reflect the culture of Mexico. From this edition, Adidas started the tradition of designing balls specific to the host country.
Italy | Etrusco Unico
Named after the Etruscans, a civilization of ancient Italy, it had Etruscan lions on it. This was a progression of the Azteca balls and Adidas continued to work on fully synthetic ones.
USA | Questra
For the first World Cup in US, Adidas celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission with stars and planetary objects printed on the ball. With a layer of polystyrene foam, it was easier to control even at high speed.
France | Tricolore
The first multi-coloured ball with the host country’s national flag colours was also the first manufactured outside Europe ( Morocco and Indonesia) since the Telstar. Its foam material with better compression made the ball softer and faster.
Japan & Korea | Fevernova
The Fevernova had a refined syntactic foam layer and a three-layer knitted chassis. It was relatively light and sported a triangle-like shape on four hexagons. Dark gold trigon resembled a Shintoism symbol and red streaks represented calligraphy brush strokes.
Germany | Teamgeist
Best remembered for having names of the stadium, teams, date and kick-off time on the ball, Teamgeist was the first completely waterproof official ball. It had 14 panels instead of the standard 32 since 1970, with seams heat-sealed and not sewed.
South Africa | Jabulani
With 11 colours, it represented 11 players and the host country’s 11 official languages. It had four triangle-shaped design elements on a white background, eight panels and a patterned surface. However, the ball faced flak from players.
Brazil | Brazuca
A successor to the Adidas Tango 12 series had the same bladder and carcass but a different surface structure. Composed of six polyurethane panels thermally bonded, it was made to improve consistency. However, for the Germany-Argentina final, a different variation called Adidas Brazuca Final Rio was used.
Russia | Telstar 18
Remake of the 1970 Telstar, with an embedded near-field communication chip, it allows players to interact with the ball using smartphones. But this technology is of no value as it provides no information on speed, height or curl. Manufactured in China and Pakistan, it features six machine-stitched panels and retains much of the Brazuca with a new carcass.
Uruguay | Tiento & T-Model
The first World Cup had no official ball. Prior to the Argentina-Uruguay final, an argument over who supplies it led to a decision that the teams would change the ball at half-time. Tiento — Argentina’s ball — saw its team to a 2-1 lead. T-Model — the larger and heavier ball used by Uruguay — helped the country fire three unanswered goals in the second half. Both balls were inflated by hand and would get heavier in the rain.
Italy | Federdale 102
Held under the rule of Benito Mussolini, this edition saw the government produce the Federale 102. Federdale 102 replaced leather laces with cotton and were much softer.
France | Allen
Paris-based Allen became the first company to brand its WC balls. It was similar to the previous one, with cotton laces. However, edges of the panels became comparatively rounded.
Brazil | Duplo T
The break due to WWII saw advancements in technology. Superval, used in Argentina, was a completely closed leather sphere. These could be inflated with a pump and needle through a tiny valve. It changed its name to Superball and the model used in this edition was Duplo T.
Switzerland | Swiss World Champion
Manufactured by Kost Sport, this was an 18-panel structure. With interlocking panels in zig-zag pattern and a bright yellow colour, this is similar to models seen in the 80s and 90s. FIFA brought back the rule of prohibiting branding on the ball.
Sweden | Top Star
First steps into opening up competition to supply the tournament ball. FIFA invited manufacturers to send unbranded balls. Officials examined 102 entries. Top Star, made by a company from Angelholm, was selected as the winner.
Chile | Crack
Composed of 18 irregular polygonal shapes, it had a complicated look. Made by Chilean company Custodio Zamora, it was not universally well received. However, it introduced a latex inflation valve that would later be adopted by other models.
The 1958 model was followed. Of 111 entries, 48 did not meet specifications. Made by Slazenger, Challenge 4-Star was chosen. It was similar to Top Star, with the difference being 25 panels.