World Cup Soccer Balls: Tiento To Jabulani

The required equipment list for soccer spans exactly one line that reads “ball” in some language. Even the term “ball” is relative as disadvantaged kids around the globe are known to use wadded-up plastic bags and Pelé allegedly juggled a grapefruit.

The 1930 World Cup was played with the Tiento. (How much do you think this weighed when wet?)

For most Americans of my generation, the term “soccer ball” conjures up an image of black-and-white paneled ball that would leave hexagonal imprints on body parts if one happened to block a boombosa from close range.

Soccer balls haven’t always been the meticulously stitched spheres most in America play with today as illustrated by the Tiento (right), the ball used for the first World Cup in 1930. Actually, two Tiento balls were used, one selected by Argentina in the first half and one second ball selected by eventual winner Uruguay for play after the interval.

Recently, the online version of the Telegraph posted a photo collection of soccer balls from every World Cup that illustrates the evolution of the soccer ball from the hand-stitched leather ball of Uruguay ’30 to the thermally-bonded Adidas +Teamgeist of Germany ’06 . The collection also includes a ball called “Allen” (France ’38), the numerous Tango versions and the controversial Fevernova (South Korea ’02).

One interesting piece of trivia contained in the Telegraph piece is that the black-and-white panel design was created for television to help distinguish the ball during black-and-white telecasts. Hence, the name Telstar. (It goes without saying that this television-induced sports innovation fared much better than the Fox / NHL “glowing puck” experiment from a few years ago.)

Adidas has created the Jabulani

Starting in 1986, for the World Cup in Mexico, Adidas designed the look of the ball to reflect the host country in some way. According to, Adidas has engineered the Jabulani (left) for World Cup 2010 in South Africa . “Jabulani” means “to celebrate” in isiZulu, one of the official languages of South Africa.

The eight panel, spherically molded ball boasts technology that ensures “perfect roundness” while the eleven color design represents the eleven players per side during a match. The Juablini will be formally introduced on December 4th, the day of the World Cup draw.

7 responses to this post.

  1. Cool story. Thanks for giving me something to do!


  2. Posted by kaya on 2009/11/29 at 9:49 PM

    Ahhh. These are the kinds of stories that make the WC so exciting:)
    I didn’t quite get what they’re saying the problem with the 2002 ball was. I don’t remember any controversy about the ball… but man do I remember the hellish hours of game time. Guess I shoulda gone😉


    • Posted by Mark T on 2009/11/29 at 10:03 PM

      Here’s some info from (

      “a ridiculous kiddy’s bouncing ball ” Gianluigi Buffon Goal Keeper, Italy

      Some people claim the new official ball exhibits the same properties as plastic inflatable balls.

      Belgium’s goalkeeping coach has complained the ball is “too light.” Brazilian midfielder Rivaldo told reporters the ball soars too far when kicked. And Brazilian forward Edilson was quoted as saying the ball is “too big and too light.”

      Grant Wahl also wrote an article:


      • Posted by kaya on 2009/12/01 at 9:32 AM

        They also complained about the ball in 2006 (GK’s mostly)… I expect they’ll do the same this year if it’s significantly different, though it doesn’t appear to be.


        • Posted by matthewsf on 2009/12/06 at 1:38 AM

          Got to be honest with you….have you kicked the 2006 official World Cup ball…definitely a ton of swerve on the slightest banana kick. Something is fishy about that ball in particular due to the figure eight stitching.

          Good story Mark…I’m going to have to look into cleats.

          Ronaldo’s 2007 shoe (or ’08) I believe has graphite composite under the ball of the foot to increase velocity and striking weight (or so is said….)


  3. Posted by Matt Mathai on 2009/11/30 at 7:49 AM

    No ‘allegedly’ about Pele juggling a grapefruit. When i was in junior high, my coach showed us a video of him doing just that. I did ask him how that was supposed to help us play soccer, but had to run laps for that.


  4. […] On the heels of TSG’s look at soccer balls last week, a technical breakdown of the World Cup 2010 ball. Again, goalies don’t like […]


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