The FIFA World Cup was first played in in 1930 and hosted by Uruguay. The soccer ball used at each World Cup may not be as famous as some of the teams or players but has quietly put its stamp on each edition of the quadrennial tournament. Soccer365 takes a look at all the official World Cup soccer balls used since that first tournament in Uruguay.
From Argentina and Uruguay being unable to agree on who provided the match ball at the inaugural FIFA World Cup which resulted in 2 balls being used (one in each half); to adidas launching the famous black and white 32-panel ball ahead of the 1970 FIFA World Cup; to Brazil, host of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, creating an official twitter account for their official ball, the Brazuca, and providing an official World Cup ball to every child born in the country on December 3, 2013 – the day the ball was launched; the official FIFA World Cup match ball has a long history.
adidas Telstar 18 – 2018 World Cup Ball, Russia
The Telstar 18, the official ball of next summer’s World Cup in Russia, has a familiar look. The black and white ball is a modern interpretation of the famous 1970 Telstar. The Telstar was the first to be provided by adidas and the 3-stripes has been the official match ball provider since that tournament.
The 6-panel ball incorporated the latest ball technology and has been through extensive testing but the pixilated gives the impression of the old 32-panel original Telstar. This is the first World Cup match ball to be predominantly black and white since the Questra was used at the 1994 World Cup in the USA.
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adidas Brazuca – 2014 World Cup Ball, Brazil
The 2014 World Cup ball, the Brazuca, was the first match ball to create a buzz before it even made it to the field with its own social media following and storytelling voice. The Brazuca was 100% Brazilian which makes sense as Brazuca is a slang term for Brazilian. The 6-panel ball was the most colorful in the history of the game with flowing wish bands in green, blue and orange on the ball.
The ball became a staple and was used in professional leagues around the world like the German Bundesliga and Major League Soccer in the U.S. and Canada.
And more than anything it was a welcome change from the Jabulani from 4 years earlier.
adidas Jabulani – 2010 World Cup Ball, South Africa
The Jabulani is arguably the most hated World Cup soccer ball in the history of the tournament. Especially if you asked a goalkeeper. Spain’s goalkeeper at the time summed it up best saying, ‘(It is) like a beach ball.’
He was not alone, France’s Hugo Loris, Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon, and David James of England all used 1 word to tell the story, ‘Disaster,’ ‘Shameful,’ and ‘Dreadful,’ respectively.
Field players were not completely sold on the ball either. They loved the knuckling factor when it helped them score past a bewildered often flat-footed goalkeeper but Clint Dempsey spoke about the downside, ‘If you (pass/strike) it just a little bit wrong, you end up looking pretty silly.”
The 8-panel ball was adidas attempt at ball that was a perfect sphere with the latest technological advances to improve the flight of the ball with fewer seams. The reality was a ball that was lightweight and prone to knuckle unexpectedly.
A far cry from adidas hope to ‘celebrate,’ the meaning of Jabulani in Zulu. It had a good look, however, with 11 colors on the ball representing the 11 players on each team on the field, the diversity of the 11 official languages spoken in South Africa, and it being the 11th official World Cup ball provided by adidas.
adidas +Teamgeist – 2006 World Cup Ball, Germany
The Germans pride themselves in working as a unit rather than relying on individual performances. The name +Teamgeist, team spirit, is a clear reference to that tradition. The out-of-place ‘+’ at the start of the ball name was added for trademark reasons but gave a distinctive if not unusual stamp on the ball.
The 14-panel ball was the first to be held together with thermal bonding rather than being stitched.
The ball had other first including being the first to be available with the competing teams, venue, and date stamped on the ball. It also featured a special colorway for the World Cup final, the +Teamgeist Berlin.
adidas Fevernova – 2002 World Cup Ball, South Korea and Japan
The Fevernova 2002 World Cup match ball was the start of a new era for World Cup match balls and with that came high expectations. The Fevernova marked the end of the Tango era that started 24 years earlier at the 1978 World Cup.
The most notable feature of the ball was the foam synthetic layer under the outer coating. The material gave the ball a spongy feel which immediately made players wary despite adidas assurances that it helped improve the durability and true response from being kicked.
The gold (champagne) ball featured a shuriken, ninja throwing star, design with red flames representing the achievements of the first Asian hosts of the World Cup.
adidas Tricolore – 1998 World Cup Ball, France
The adidas Tricolore was a fitting closing for the Tango era. The Tango’s triangle patter was shown in the colors of the French flag, red, blue, and white. It was the first multi-color ball used at the World Cup finals. In addition to the color of the ball, It had a circle pattern on the ball that gave it a more modern look than previous Tango editions. The new colors was only the tip of the iceberg for new looks to come from adidas.
adidas Questra – 1994 World Cup Ball, USA
The theme for the 1994 was space travel and the U.S.’ ‘quest for the stars,’ thus the Questra was born. The black and white ball featured a galactic scene on the triads. The overall space theme was a tribute to the 25th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon.
The Questra was a popular edition of the ball with color versions used at the UEFA Euro 1996 ‘Questra Europa,’ and the 1996 Olympics, ‘Questra Olympia.’ It closed out its service with the ‘Questra Apollo’ ball being used in La Liga and for the Spanish national team in 1996/97.
The ball was lighter and more responsive than earlier versions of the ball and well liked by the players. The hope was that a more lively ball would increase scoring, which fell to a record low 4-years earlier in Italy. It succeeded in being the highest scoring tournament seince 1982 but ironically 1 of the 3 games that ended 0-0 was in the final.
adidas Etrusco Unico – 1990 World Cup Ball, Italy
The Etrusco Unico was the ball for the 1990 World Cup and celebrated the civilization and art of the Etruscans who thrived on the Italian peninsula between 768 BC and 264 BC. Each triad featured an Etruscan lion as well as stylized Etruscan border. Very classical in its approach.
It was the first ball to have an internal layer of polyurethane foam.
adidas Azteca – 1986 World Cup Ball, Mexico
The Azteca was the first synthetic ball to be used at a World Cup. The ball provided a truer spherical shape throughout matches, tested better for performance, and were water resistant.
adidas took the triad pattern to the next level with the Azteca turning to Aztec architecture and mural designs for inspiration for the pattern. This design element was continued for the next 3 World Cups.
adidas España – 1982 World Cup Ball, Spain
After a creating such a successful ball for ’78, adidas did not change much for the ’82 World Cup ball.
The Tango España was the first ball to be made out of leather and synthetic material. A new polyurethane layer replaced the Duralast coating and the panel seems were welded then sewn together.
This ball was the final nail in the coffin of the leather ball and all the uncertainties it had provided over the first 52 years of the tournament.
The Tango España was the first ball to include the adidas Trefoil logo.
adidas Tango – 1978 World Cup Ball, Argentina
adidas began the tradition of giving the World Cup ball a unique identity in 1978 when they developed a ball to celebrate the culture of the host nation. The 1978 Word Cup ball was named after Argentina’s famous dance, the Tango.
The Tango featured the same number of panels as the Telstar but scrapped the black panels. Instead, the ball had an all white base with black triads forming a circular pattern. As the ball rolled, the effect of the pattern made it seem like the ball was performing a dance, making its name quite befitting.
While the Tango Ball became one of the most popular of all-time, the top brass back in Germany was not so confident heading into the World Cup. They made sure to have some Telstar 1978 balls on hand in Argentina if the new ball was not well received.
adidas Telstar Durlast – 1974 World Cup Ball, Germany
adidas sealed a deal as an Official Partner of the World Cup by the 1974 World Cup. The deal made them the official ball provider for the tournament and allowed them to keep their name front and center on the ball.
After the success of the Telstar 4-years earlier only minor tweaks were required for the ball to get back out on the field. A thicker coat of ‘durlast’ was applied to the new ball. This helped it hold up better in wet weather as well as provided the shiny coat.
adidas Telstar – 1970 World Cup Ball, Mexico
adidas put their first stamp on the official World Cup ball at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. The German-based company designed high quality and well-liked balls for the 1968 European Cup and 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City and with the Mexican Football Federation advocating for them, FIFA decided to have adidas produce the ball.
The final product was the iconic adidas Telstar. The black and white ball was constructed of 32-panels (12 black pentagons and 20 white hexagons). The design was adopted to be easier to see on black and white televisions as the 1970 World Cup was the first with a global TV audience.
The name for the ball came from the Telstar communications satellite which has a similar appearance.
And the official World Cup logo emulated the design of the new ball.
20 Telstars were provided for the tournament matches while over 600,000 replica balls were sold.
The impact of the adidas Telstar changed the way fans embraced the official match ball while watching matches as well as playing on local soccer fields around the globe.
Slazenger Challenge 4-Star – 1966 World Cup Ball, England
For the second time in World Cup history, FIFA held a blind test to select the ball for the 1966 tournament. And for the 2nd time a local company was the last ball standing.
The Slazenger Challenger 4-Star was selected over 110 other entries. The 25-panel ball was the most advanced and most tested up to that time. FIFA required Slazenger to send 400 in 3 different colors to be considered for the finals. They also required each qualified country to receive balls 6 months prior to the tournament to get accustom to it.
Crack – 1962 World Cup Ball, Chile
The Crack was the Jabulani of its generation. The ball produced by Chilean company Custodio Zamora had 18-panels but of varying shapes from hexagons to rectangles to oval shapes. European teams in particularly disliked the ball and had taken a liking to the Top Star used 4 years earlier. 100 of the Top Star were shipped to Chile and used in matches to close out the tournament.
The Crack did make a contribution to soccer ball innovation, however. It included the first latex inflation valve that became common in the coming years.
Top Star – 1958 World Cup Ball, Sweden
The ball and the process for selecting it took a big change ahead of the 1958 World Cup. FIFA opened the bidding process and allowed any manufacturer to send in an unbranded ball for consideration. The Top Star, submission #55, was selected from over 100 entries and surprisingly was from a local manufacturer based in Ängelholm.
The Top Star was the first 24-panel ball used at the World Cup and included a waterproof waxed surface to improve its performance in wet conditions.
And to help teams prepare for the new ball, each team that qualified was sent 30 balls (Brazil opted to purchase more).
The Top Star was the first ball to be used at more than 1 FIFA World Cup.
Swiss World Champion – 1954 World Cup Ball, Switzerland
The organizers of the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland turned to Kost Sport to design the World Cup ball. The Basel-based company turned out an iconic ball whose design was copied for decades. The 18-panel ball had an interlocking zig-zag pattern and bright yellow color.
Sadly for Kost, FIFA implemented a rule that prohibited branding on the official ball.
(Superball) Duplo T – 1950 World Cup Ball, Brazil
The first official World Cup match ball was the (Superball) Duplo T. What made this ball the first official ball? It was the first to be used in all the matches at the tournament.
This was possible due to the innovation of the air valve (similar to ones on today’s balls) that allowed balls to be inflated with a pump and so did not require a skilled inflation experts. This made the ball look different as well since it did not include laces.
Surprisingly, the air valve addition was not a new technology. The Argentinean company that developed the ball had used a similar ball, the Superval, in domestic league in the early 1930’s but did not have the technology approved by FIFA. The ball took the Superball name when the company started distributing it in Brazil.
Allen – 1938 World Cup Ball, France
Allen made the official ball of the 1938 World Cup and made sure that everyone knew it. The Paris based company were the first company to include their name on the ball ‘Allen Officiel’ under the ‘Coupe de Monde’ lettering.
The brand showcase may have been ahead of its time but the ball was not. It was largely the same ball as the Federale 102 with 13-panels and cotton lacing. It included more rounded side to each panel, a look that became common post World War II.
It was still not the exclusive ball used during the tournament with sightings of more common 12-panel balls as well as 18-panel balls in photos of matches played during the tournament.
Federale 102 – 1934 World Cup Ball, Italy
Italian dictator Benito Mussolini opted for his government to make the ‘official’ ball for the 1930 World Cup. The 13-panel lace up ball featured a new innovation cotton lacing rather than the traditional leather. This was a huge improvement especially when it came to heading the ball.
The balls were still very rudimentary with a skilled inflator required to get the best spherical shape and air pressure but balls still varied greatly so many times the captains agreed on the game ball prior to kick off.
Much to the dismay of Mussolini, the captains for Italy and Czechoslovakia opted to use an English made ball rather than the ‘official’ Federale 102 in the final. It did not matter in the final with the home side winning their first World Cup title with their 2-1 win.
T-Model & Tiento – 1930 World Cup Ball, Uruguay
The dream of Jules Rimet came to life when 13 teams from around the world gathered in Uruguay to compete in the inaugural FIFA World Cup. One oversight in the build up (which would never happen today) was that there was no official match ball.
Soccer ball technology at the time was very rudimentary with balls, even from the same brand, varying greatly.
The final epitomized this variance with balls as the captains from Argentina and Uruguay could not agree on a ball for the final match. FIFA decided that Argentina would provide the ball for the first half, the Tiento, and Uruguay would provide the second half ball, the T-Model.
The T-Model was larger and heavier and took its name from the T-shaped panels used in its construction.
The ball played its part in the final with Argentina leading 2-1 at halftime only to be foiled by the Uruguayan ball in the second half and losing 4-2.
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