From the Tango to the Brazuca via the Jabulani: A brief history of the World Cup ball
With the release of the ball that will be used in Brazil next summer, we take a look through the evolution and varied responses its predecessors were met with
Thursday 05 December 2013
Adidas have fuelled the World Cup fire this week with the release of the Brazuca, the ball to be used at next summer's finals. It marks the latest chapter in Adidas' pursuit to make the roundest, most advanced and best ball ever.
But what about its predecessors? From the French Allen of the 1938 finals and the Chilean Crack in 1962 up to the infamous Jabulani at the last World Cup, the ball has always come in for praise and criticism alike and this year's incarnation is sure to spark yet more debate.
A different ball was used in each half in 1930
Way back in the first Fifa World Cup in 1930, Uruguay and Argentina fought out the final using a different ball in each half. Argentina used their pick of the balls in the first 45 minutes and went in leading 2-1 at the break. Uruguay, then armed with their choice, netted three times in the second period to win 4-2 and claim the trophy, coincidence?
From that first World Cup until Mexico 1970 a variety of different balls were used, including the 1966 Special Edition Slazenger that will be forever in the hearts of England supporters.
The Special Edition Slazenger used at the 1966 World Cup
The 1970 finals saw Adidas become the powerhouse of World Cup ball design and create the ball for every tournament since.
The Telstar came first. The ball was made up of a 32 panel design and painted black and white to make it more visible for the monochrome televisions of the time.
The next leap in design came in the form of the brilliantly named Tango in Argentina 1978. It would become the stalwart for the next 20 years and, in its day, was the most expensive ball ever made, at £50. Although the design changed very little in that 20 year period, the makeup and technology did. The 1986 Mexico World Cup saw the first fully synthetic ball used and a move away from the heavy, easily waterlogged leather balls of before.
France 1998 saw the introduction of colour into the match balls. The Tricolore was adorned with the colours of the French flag and a Cockerel motif and paved the way for much more elaborate and exciting designs.
The ball used in Korea and Japan in 2002 was to signal a new age of World Cup ball manufacturing. The Fevernova was heavily criticised for ditching the decades old Tango design, for being too light and for contributing to the high number of upsets in that competition's knockout stages. The following World Cup ball used in Germany, the Teamgeist, met similar disapproval but both had it easy in comparison to the condemnation of the Jabulani.
With players branding it supernatural, a beach ball and akin to that of a supermarket ball, South Africa's ball was the most disliked to date. It was to blame for the lack of goals at the beginning of the competition and hated by goalkeepers and coaches throughout the tournament.
The Jabulani was widely derided
This year's ball promises to be the best ever with its rigorous two and a half year testing period. It has been secretly used in matches already to see how it handles on the pitch and is made up of the fewest panels ever which is supposed to reduce drag and bring a truer flight. Meanwhile, its colourful pattern is to mirror Brazil's vibrant culture. Players, coaches and supporters alike will be hoping the troubles of the past don't rear up again and the talking points of this year's tournament will be about the football - not the ball.
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