• 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.

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

    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