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.
A pattern of channels lowers aerodynamic drag, increasing lateral stability in flight.
The textured skin provides extra grip for players’ feet and goalkeepers’ hands.
Notable World Cup ball improvements:
The first ball to use 32 panels to preserve its spherical shape.
Synthetics replace leather, preventing weight gain caused by water absorption.
United States, 1994
A layer of cushioning polyethylene improves ball velocity.
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.
* Article: The science behind Jabulani, the official match ball of the 2010 FIFA World Cup
* Video: Jabulani – how it’s made