Long back in the year of 1930 when the first FIFA world cup took place in Uruguay, FIFA didn’t have any specifications for the ball to be used. As a result, the two finalists Argentina & Uruguay had a heated argument over which country’s ball was to be used. They reached an agreement that the Argentinian ball will be used for the first half & the Uruguayan ball for the second half. Argentina led 2-1 after the first half. Things changed once the ball was changed. Uruguay finished with a 4-2 win over their South American counterpart.
After that, since 1970 Adidas has been the official ball manufacturer for the FIFA World Cup. As we all know, the ball used for the 2010 FIFA World Cup is named ‘Jabulani’ which means ‘to celebrate’ in Zulu. The ball has 11 colours on it, as a tribute to the 11 tribes in South Africa & the 11 players in a team.
This time China has been given the privilege of manufacturing the Jabulanis. The ball does have an Indian connection, the latex bladders are shipped from India which are made from Kerala latex.
The 2006 world cup in Germany saw a revolutionary ball with just 14 panels instead of the previous 32 panel design. Jabulani goes one step ahead & has only 8 panels. This makes the ball more spherical giving it more accuracy in flight. Jabulani is also heavier than its predecessors. Adidas claims that this is the most stable & accurate football ever made. The surface of the ball is textured with grooves, a technology developed by Adidas called Grip & Groove. The ball’s design was developed in partnership with Loughborough University, UK.
Here is a glimpse at Jabulani’s predecessors:
Telstar — 1970 (Mexico)
The first ball with 32 black & white panels (12 black pentagons & 20 white hexagons), for better visibility. It became the standard model for generic designs. The ball was named Telstar, as it was the first world cup to be broadcast live on TV.
Telstar Durlast – 1974 (West Germany)
The design was similar to Telstar.
Tango Durlast — 1978 (Argentina)
This ball was again similar to the previous ones but the only difference being that 20 panels had triads, which together gave the impression that the ball had 12 identical circles on its surface. This design was used for all the later world cups.
Tango Espana — 1982 (Spain)
This was the last genuine leather ball. The first ball to have water resistant qualities courtesy its polyurethane coating.
Azteca — 1986 (Mexico)
The first synthetic leather ball. It was suitable for all weather conditions.
Etrusco Unico — 1990 (Italy)
Had multiple polyurethane layers for abrasion & water resistance & better rebound.
Questra -1994 (U.S.A.)
Polystyrene foam provided the ball better acceleration. This ball was praised for superior control & speed.
Tricolore — 1998 (France)
The first World cup ball to be in the non black & white colour scheme. Made with synthetic foam which had gas-filled micro-bubbles that ensured better rebound.
Fevernova – 2002 (Japan, South Korea)
It deviated from the previous design scheme of circles & had images of red flames within Japanese Shurikens (weapon used by ninjas) to honour the hosts.
Teamgeist — 2006 (Germany)
This started a design revolution. It had only 14 panels which made it more spherical & also contributed to increased accuracy.
A closer look at the pictures of these balls will also give an idea about the change of their logo by Adidas. Although they still retain the Originals (trefoil logo) brand as a heritage line.
The last three balls from Adidas (viz. Jabulani, Teamgeist & Fevernova) have been hit by criticism. The English goalkeeper (David James) & the English coach (Fabio Capello) severely criticized the Jabulani. Adidas responded by saying that the reason might be that the English players are not used to this ball. The EPL uses Nike balls as it has contract with the company for 9 years. This same ball has been used in the previous MLS season. Now, this might be the reason for USA’s success.
While the English goalkeeper David James called the ball ‘dreadful’, his teammate Jamie Carragher said “When you are creating a ball for the World Cup the idea is to create more goals. But every cross I have seen has been over-hit. It goes over the back post. I haven’t seen anyone get a free-kick over the wall yet. It just seems to sail straight over the bar.”
The ball’s design was the receiving end primarily due to it unpredictable trajectory, which makes it very difficult for the goalkeepers to predict the path of the ball.
FIFA has acknowledged that there might be some problem with the ball & also said that it’ll look into the problem but not until the end of the tournament.
The Jabulani has also managed to get a lot of praises from a few players for its unpredictable trajectory. I wonder if Maicon had practiced scoring goals from ridiculous angles with this ball like the way he did against DPR Korea.
Adidas also made a special ball for the 2006 world cup finals & called it the Teamgeist Berlin. It had golden shades. Its successor the Jo’bulani named after the city Jo’burg (Johannesburg), which will host the finals, again with golden shade will be seen at the 2010 world cup finals.
The Jabulani balls are available at Adidas retail outlets & are priced at Rs 5000.