A short history of FiFa World Cup balls


    In News 

    • Fifa claims that Al Rihla, the official match ball for the Qatar World Cup, travels faster than any other in the tournament’s history. 

    About Al Rihla

    • Name and design: In Arabic, Al Rihla means ‘the journey
      • The name is believed to be a reference to a travelogue written by Ibn Battuta, the 14th-century explorer who traveled around Asia, Europe, and Africa.
      • Al Rihla is the first World Cup ball to be made exclusively with water-based inks and glues, as sustainability was a key priority for the makers. 
      • Its bold and vibrant colour is inspired by Qatar’s culture, architecture, iconic boats, and flag.
      • The main design features of the ball  are a CRT core and a speed shell. 
    • Al Rihla provides a vital element for the detection of tight offside incidents as an inertial measurement unit (IMU) sensor is placed in the center of the ball. 
      • This sensor sends ball data to the video operation room 500 times per second, allowing a very precise detection of the kick point.

    Early years of Fifa World Cup balls

    • The first World Cup in 1930 had no official ball. Before the final, hosts Uruguay and Argentina sparred over the choice of the match ball and reached a compromise that the first half would be played with Argentina’s choice Tiento, followed by the T-model, preferred by Uruguay in the second half. 
      • Curiously, Uruguay overturned a 1-2 deficit to win 4-2 with their preferred ball and became champions.

    • In 1950, the World Cup returned after a 12-year break, owing to World War II, with Duplo T, which did not have laces. It had valves through which the ball could be inflated with a pump and a needle.

    • Adidas entered the scene in 1970:  In Mexico in 1970, Adidas came into the picture for the first time, introducing a 32-panel black-and-white design for its iconic Telstar. The visibility of the ball on television improved considerably as a result.
    • At West Germany 1974, Adidas became an official partner of Fifa as the company’s name featured on the ball for the first time.
    • As the World Cup returned to Mexico in 1986, Adidas introduced Azteca, the first fully synthetic ball to be used in the history of the World Cup. 
      • The ball retained its shape after being kicked and fared much better than leather balls in water resistance and durability.

    •  France 1998 saw multicolored balls in use for the first time. Tricolore had the colors of the French flag — red, white, and blue — adorning the triads.


    •  At South Africa in 2010, Adidas produced the most controversial World Cup ball of all time — Jabulani. 
      • The manufacturer reduced the number of panels to eight to make the ball more round .

    • After the troubles with Jabulani, when Brazil 2014 came around, Adidas sent out samples of the Brazuca to teams and players well in advance for the feedback.
      • The ball, made of six polyurethane panels, fared much better than Jabulani.
    • In the last World Cup in Russia, Adidas reinvented the classic Telstar model of 1970 with a brand-new panel design.