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.
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.)
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 Footballshirtculture.com, 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.