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

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