World Cup balls history
“The World Cup balls are the most iconic and most well known balls in football history. No wonder why nearly every collector started his collection with obtaining World Cup balls. As for me, I decorate my living room with them, and trust me, they impress everyone whoever visits me. Every ball has a soul, every ball has a history. And owning all of them reflects the passion that lives deep inside…”
Peter Pesti – the owner of worldcupballs.info
The evolution of World Cup balls (1930-2022)
FIFA World Cup 1930 Uruguay
This ball is the famous T-model which is the most well known pre-adidas World Cup ball of all time. Uruguay played the majority of its matches with such T-model balls in the 1930 World Cup until they faced Argentina in the final match. Since Argentina also wanted to play this match with their own ball (which was a regular 12 panel ball), they played the first half of the match with the Argentinean ball and the second half with the Uruguayian ball. The role of the balls became crucial since Argentina won the first half 2-1 but Uruguay came back into the game and finally won it with their T-model 4-2 and became the first World Champions.
FIFA World Cup 1934 Italy
The Federale 102 ball was composed by 13 polygonal panels which were cut and perfectly fitted together by hand sewing. Most of the classic balls at that time were 12 panel models (like the ones used 4 years ago in the first World Cup) but the Federale 102 brought an invention of having the laces on a separate panel to inflate the balls. The bladder was enclosed by lace with 6 rows. For the very first time the leather laces of a World Cup ball were replaced by brown cotton, very similar to the ones used on shoes. This represents a small detail but an important improvement, as well. As cotton is much softer than any leather, this encouraged players to head the ball more.
FIFA World Cup 1938 France
The Allen ball was very similar to the Federale 102 (the official ball of the previous World Cup) because it also consisted of 13 panels. Black and white pictures prove that the cotton laces of the Allen balls were white, however, this was not a long lasting colour, since the rain and mud immediately changed the colour of the laces to brown. This ball was hand sewn just like its predecessors and had to be inflated by a skilled person. If the man who inflated the ball and closed the laces was not precise, the ball did not become spherical which would influence the trajectory of the ball.
FIFA World Cup 1950 Brazil
Even though the laceless construction had been invented at the beginning of the thirties, we had to wait more than a decade until it became accepted worldwide and appeared at the FIFA World Cup. The Superball consisted of 12 identical panels but the edges of these panels were more curved. The Superball was a brown, hand sewn ball and FIFA allowed the manufacturer to print logos and text on the ball. As we can see in the case of the 1954, 1958 and 1966 World Cup balls, it was an exception, since the balls in Switzerland, Sweden and England had to be free from branding, regardless that the manufacturers put branded balls on the general market for sale at the same time. It was a strange regulation from FIFA because in 1962 (between the 1958 and 1966 World Cups) they allowed print and text on the Crack ball used in the Chile World Cup. The reason for this is not known.
FIFA World Cup 1954 Switzerland
Swiss World Champion
The official match ball of the 1954 FIFA World Cup was composed of 18 panels with zigzag edges, perfectly interlocked to each other. The ball was completely hand sewn and no longer had laces – just like its predecessor, the Superball from the 1950 World Cup. The colour of the ball was not dark brown any more, rather an attractive yellowish or hell orange. This made the ball more visible during rainy matches where the pitch contained mud. The name of this newly designed ball was Swiss World Champion and it was manufactured by the company Kost Sports from Basel.
FIFA World Cup 1958 Sweden
The Top Star ball had a popular design, it was similar to the balls of the time, however, on this ball there were long and sort panels, elegantly alternated between them: two short panels in the midst of two long panels and the inflation valve was in the centre of one short panel. This ball brought technological developments as well, these leather balls were treated with a waterproofing wax, making the balls more water resistant. The balls used in the 1958 World Cup were yellow, light brown or white. In matches when it was rainy or a little wet (just like in the final between Brazil and Sweden) the white ones were used. It might sound funny today but the decision which ball to use as the official ball for the 1958 World Cup was decided on one day (on 8th February, 1958).
FIFA World Cup 1962 Chile
The Crack ball had an innovative design. It was composed of 18 irregular polygonal panels, having three different shapes: hexagonal, rectangular and hexagonal curved, all joined together by manual sewing, as if it were a kind of big puzzle. It must be admitted, that the Crack model is still the ball most difficult to describe with words, because of the complexity of its panels. With the new latex valve the air was retained longer, and the ball maintained a good spherical shape. From an aesthetic viewpoint, this ball was a very elegant ball, suitable for the most important football competition. A defect however is worth mentioning. The quality of the coloured coating was poor and did not last for very long. Another important thing to mention is that the European teams did not like this ball, therefore 100 pieces of the 1958 Top Star were delivered to Chile in case the Crack model would fail in any match.
FIFA World Cup 1966 England
The Slazenger Challenge was made of high quality leather and entirely hand sewn. It was composed of 25 rectangular panels, joined together in a way that was very similar to the 1958 ball and which differed only in the panel which contained the valve. In the Slazenger ball the valve was in the centre of a small panel between two other, even shorter panels. The remaining panels were the same as the 1958 ball and the inflating system was the latest type valve – latex rubber. This ball provided excellent sphericity, and its composition was adopted over the years by other brands. The balls of the 1966 World Cup were provided in three different colours: white, yellow, and orange. Although the most widely used model was the white one, in the memory of football fans the orange ball of the historic final of Wembley remains the strongest.
FIFA World Cup 1970 Mexico
adidas Telstar Durlast
Adidas is the official supplier of the footballs for the FIFA World Cup since 1970. The very first black and white ball was called “Telstar”, coming from the union of two words: television and star. It was said at that time that this combination and contrast would amplify the visibility of the balls on both colour and black and white televisions, given that the Mexican World Cup was the first World Cup to be broadcast on TV worldwide. The Telstar consisted of 32 panels (20 white regular hexagonal and 12 black regular pentagonal), and on the outer surface a special plastic coating was applied and called “Durlast”. This helped the ball to protect the leather more than previously on any surface and to keep it waterproof. The Telstar is still one of the most iconic and classic football of all time and by far the most expensive one (if ever found on sale).
FIFA World Cup 1974 Germany
adidas Telstar Durlast
The fact that Adidas did not produce a brand new ball for the 1974 FIFA World Cup is the real proof how successful the initial Telstar balls became. Adidas even kept the name, only the text on the balls were updated. The new balls were coated by a stronger Durlast layer, though, in order to prevent water coming into the ball through the seams. The older balls became heavier due to water, which made them much more difficult to control, and players had to kick them harder to reach the same distance. This in fact changed the picture of the games significantly.
FIFA World Cup 1978 Argentina
adidas Tango Durlast
For the 1978 FIFA World Cup Adidas launched a brand new model with a revolutionary design: the Tango – inspired by the classic dance of Argentina. The design consisted of 20 black and promptly curved triangles, each one printed onto the white coloured surface of each hexagonal panel. Since the pentagonal panels were white coloured too, the triangles created a series of black and elegant circles on a white surface. When the ball was rotating, a nice effect was created by the black circles, which was visually very attractive. The Tango became extremely popular and it became associated with the Adidas brand itself – and these two words were interchangeable in the 80’s. No wonder why the Tango design was applied on official Adidas match balls until the 2000 Euro Cup.
FIFA World Cup 1982 Spain
adidas Tango Espana
Due to the indisputable success of the Tango in the 1978 World Cup and the 1980 Euro Cup, adidas did not design and produce a revolutionary new ball for the Spanish World Cup. Instead they made a ball called Tango España, with only minor changes from its predecessors. This ball was the first adidas World Cup ball to be name inspired by the host country. The ball was almost identical to the previous Tango. It was once again composed of 32 hand sewn panels, with the same black and white Tango design: the curved triangles were printed on every hexagon, which formed circles around the 12 pentagonal panels, giving the ball a great visual illusion of 12 identical circles.
FIFA World Cup 1986 Mexico
The official match ball of the 1986 FIFA World Cup was called adidas Azteca and it was the first World Cup ball to be named and decorated completely in honour of the host nation. (Ever since, Adidas has kept this practice for all of the following World Cup balls.) This ball was not made of real leather but instead, it was the very first official World Cup match ball to be made of synthetic materials. This new construction made it possible for the ball to recover its original shape immediately after being kicked and could retain it for a long time, even at high altitudes, on rough surfaces or during wet conditions.
FIFA World Cup 1990 Italy
adidas Etrusco Unico
The official match ball of the Italian World Cup joined to the Tango series, and it was introduced even for the pope in Vatican before the tournament. The Tango panels were decorated with Etrusc lions, however, the ball was blamed by many people since there were only a very few goals during this World Cup. This ball was already far away from the old timer Telstar, it was made of multi layer synthetic material making the ball perfectly waterproof. Due to the high demand, the ball was produced in many countries but only the made in France version was used during the Italian World Cup.
FIFA World Cup 1994 USA
To name the Questra as the “Quest of Stars” had to reasons. One of the reasons is that the US flag has star elements and the other one is that the World Cup was held in the same year as the 25th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission when the first man landed on the moon. The ball kept the star components on the classic Tango panels making this ball the very last black and white World Cup ball. The Questra was manufactured by five different materials and it had a flexible but durable outer layer and it was perfectly waterproof. This ball became very successful, no wonder that Adidas used the Questra for both the 1996 Euro Cup and the 1996 Olympic games, however, the balls used during the above mentioned tournaments were colorful.
FIFA World Cup 1998 France
The Tricolore was the first colored World Cup ball ever. It was named after the French Tricolore and it is the French cock that you see on the famous Tango Panels including the red Adidas logo on the top of the cock’s head. Many believe that due to it’s design this ball is the most beautiful and imaginative Adidas ball ever. The surface of the ball is covered by tiny hexagons, that refer to the air bubbles in the coating. This made the ball even more flexible while being kicked.
FIFA World Cup 2002 Korea/Japan
The Fevernova was a transition ball between the classic and the modern World Cup balls. Even though it kept its 32 panel structure but it no longer consisted of the famous Tango panels. Moreover, it was the very last hand sewn World Cup ball. It has gone through a lot of improvements related to its material, since it consisted of more layers than its predecessors, but apart from this, this ball became even more thin. This ball has both the hexagon patterns as well as the air bubbles as seen in case of the Tricolore four years earlier. The name of the ball refers to the football fever in Asia.
FIFA World Cup 2006 Germany
The German sports manufacturer constructed a brand new ball for the local World Cup called Teamgeist. This ball was the very first World Cup ball made by adidas that no longer consisted of 32 but from 14 panels. Due to the reducement of the number of the panels, the panels became significantly bigger making it less possible that the player kicks the ball at a joint. And according to Adidas this leads to much more accurate shots. The balls used in the World Cup final came out with golden finish symbolizing the World Cup trophy. This practise is still in use.
FIFA World Cup 2010 South Africa
The official match ball of the 2010 FIFA World Cup was called Jabulani, which means to celebrate and to have fun. They used 11 colors referring to not only the 11 players in a team but also the 11 languages used and 11 colonies located in South Africa. This ball consists of only 8 panels but players did not like it very much, since the ball sifted in the air at long range shots making the ball unpredictable. However, the demand and price of the Jabulani balls today is extremely high since footgolfers consider this ball to be the best for this new sport since the Jabulani can roll in the grass for the longest distance among all recent balls.
FIFA World Cup 2014 Brazil
Due to the questionable performance of the Jabulani, the German sports manufacturer decided to come up with the most tested ball ever for the Brazilian World Cup making it sure that the ball becomes as perfect as possible. In order to have the reputation of the fans back, the name of the ball was finally decided by votes from supporters. The name “brazuca” is an informal local term which means “Brazilian”, or to describe the Brazilian way of life. The colours and ribbon design of the 6 ball panels symbolise the traditional multi-coloured wish bracelets worn in the country (fita do Senhor do Bonfim da Bahia), in addition to reflecting the vibrancy and fun associated with football in Brazil.
FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia
adidas Telstar 18
The Telstar 18 World Cup ball refers to the original and classic Telstar from the 70’s. Both balls are black and white and were named as the “star of television”. The latter model is of course a high end version, not only due to its futuristic design but also because it features an NFC chip that makes it possible that owners can have an interaction with the ball using their smartphones. Sustainability has been a key factor for Adidas during recent years so it is no wonder why both the packaging and the ball itself are recycleable.
FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar
adidas Al Rihla
The name Al Rihla means “the journey” in Arabic and is inspired by the culture, architecture, iconic boats and flag of Qatar. Al Rihla is the world’s first-ever soccer ball made exclusively with water-based inks and glues and therefore it is the most environmentally friendly World Cup ball ever. One of the notable innovations in Al Rihla is the Speedshell textured polyurethane skin exterior layer with a new 20-piece panel shape and micro and macro textures. With its inclusion, Adidas aims to boost its speed of flight and rotation to sustain perfect shots and excellent aerodynamics. The ball even has a goal of advertizing football on a social level, it is printed using multiple languages by the following messages: „Football is: Collective – Responsibility – Passion – Respect -Teamwork – Fair play” It is a perfectly clear mission from the supplier to bring fans together and closer to each other!