Making the World Cup go ’round

Image credit: Chris Eckert/STUDIO D
Date:1 July 2010 Tags:, , , , , , ,

Every four years, the German company Adidas unveils what they hope is the perfect soccer ball, to be used in the FIFA World Cup. For the 2010 tournament, designers used a wind tunnel to create a highly calibrated soccer ball of optimal roundness and stable flight.

Grooves
A pattern of channels lowers aerodynamic drag, increasing lateral stability in flight.

Dimples
The textured skin provides extra grip for players’ feet and goalkeepers’ hands.

Evolutionary kick
Notable World Cup ball improvements:

Mexico, 1970
The first ball to use 32 panels to preserve its spherical shape.

Mexico, 1986
Synthetics replace leather, preventing weight gain caused by water absorption.

United States, 1994
A layer of cushioning polyethylene improves ball velocity.

Korea/Japan, 2002
Layers of foam and fabric prevent the dissipation of energy. Players call the ball erratic; Adidas argues they’re kicking it too hard.

South Africa, 2010
Instead of 32 hand-stitched panels, Jabulani has eight thermally bonded sections that form a ball with a more consistently round shape and superior water resistance.

Related material
* Article: The science behind Jabulani, the official match ball of the 2010 FIFA World Cup
* Video: Jabulani – how it’s made