The first ever FIFA world cup was held in the year 1930 and the official match balls were being produced and supplied by local agents of the region. The footballs used back then were entirely made out of leather, with an inflated leather bladder inside and leather coverings on the outside as well.
Over time as the game developed and progressed, the Football Association (FIFA) wanted to scrap the age old leather balls as the leather ones did not bounce properly nor was it easy to kick this ball. And of course, it hurt as well!
Adidas, the global sports brand at this time was excelling in innovating and producing better football products than any other sports brand. With all the experience under the mentorship of Adolf Dassler, Adidas started producing high-performance footballs which were simultaneously being tested since the 1960’s. When the Football Association officially asked Adidas to provide the official match balls for the 1970 FIFA world cup, little did we know that this was a milestone moment for the game of football!
We have compiled a list of the best footballs used as the official match balls in FIFA world cups since 1970.
Adidas Telstar (1970 World Cup, Mexico)
Though Adidas decided to use leather for this ball, the Adidas Telstar was the first football of its kind, giving footballs the much needed change in shape and design. The ball was black and white in colour and had bold brandings in gold colour. Of course there are other amazing facts about the Telstar as well. The Adidas Telstar was the first football to have the usual 32 black and white panels. This was clearly done to facilitate just one thing! The 1970 FIFA World Cup held in Mexico was the first ever match to be broadcasted live on television. The black and white panels made the Adidas Telstar much more visible on the black and white television sets of those times.
Adidas Telstar Durlast (1974 World Cup, West Germany)
At the 1974 FIFA World Cup held in West Germany, Telstar made reappearance but with a bolder look. The gold branding on the Telstar was redone with bigger and bolder black branding. The Durlast match ball now had names and logos as well.
The 1974 FIFA World Cup also saw a second ball being used on some occasions. This was the all-white Chile version of Telstar.
Adidas Tango (1987 World Cup, Argentina)
And Adidas did it again! The global sports brand had now acquired the rights to provide the official match balls for the FIFA matches. The Adidas designs and developments team came up with a revolutionary design for the official match ball which was to stay on for the next five FIFA tournaments as well.
Adidas Tango was made different from the earlier versions i.e. Telstar & Durlast which had 32 panels. Tango was covered with 12 panels with triads stitched together, forming an optical impression of 12 identical circles on the ball. It wasn’t just the new design pattern but Tango was also technologically advanced. Tango was designed with resistant qualities to beat the weather conditions in Argentina.
Adidas Tango Espana (1982 World Cup, Spain)
Adidas Espana, successor to the Tango edition was used as the official match ball for the FIFA World Cup held in 1982 in Spain. With slight alterations to the designs of Tango, Adidas introduced Espana with major technological advancement. Tango Espana though still made from leather featured waterproof sealed seams made of rubber. This increased Tango’s water resistant capabilities under wet weather conditions. However, the rubber seams wore off with constant hitting hence, the ball was changed quite often.
Adidas Azteca (1986 World Cup, Mexico)
Now this match ball revolutionized the football technology to be used in the future. Such were the advancements Adidas achieved in football production techniques which includes the first ever use of synthetic material in modern day footballs.
The Adidas Azteca, named after the Aztec culture, was a tribute to one of the greatest civilizations of the ancient world. For the FIFA World Cup held in Mexico in 1986, Adidas created the Aztec using synthetic polyurethane which drastically increased the ball’s durability, also reducing water absorption. The improved match ball, Azteca achieved high performance in all-weather conditions. ‘A huge leap for football it was’
Azteca was elaborately designed, inspired by the Aztec architecture and murals, giving the match ball an amazing look and feel of the host nation Mexico.
Adidas Etrusco Unico (1990 World Cup, Italy)
With the Adidas Etrusco Unico, official FIFA match ball for the 1990 World Cup held in Italy evolved the extensive use of synthetic materials to produce a football which was fully water-resistant, showcased higher performance and was faster than ever.
The first football with an internal layer of black polyurethane foam made way for many more match balls to be used further. The trademark triads formation was revamped with three Etruscan lion heads portraying respect to Italy’s greatest civilization, whose contribution to ancient history and fine arts was magnificent.
Adidas Questra (1994 World Cup, USA)
When the 1994 World Cup was scheduled to be staged in USA, Adidas came up with official match balls engineered with white polyethylene foam coating which enabled Adidas Questra with better water-resistance and greater acceleration when advancing. Softer to touch, Questra offered improved controlling capabilities and pace to the player.
Since USA was excelling in space technology and rocket science at this point of time, a similar theme was designed to be showcased on Adidas Qestra.
Adidas Tricolore (1998 World Cup, France)
Adidas introduces Tricolore as the official match ball for the 1998 World Cup held in France. What changed from all the previous Adidas match ball editions was the multi-colour design on the Tricolore. The state colour and the French national flag inspired the colours of the new match ball to be used. Adidas Tricolore sported a red-white-blue colour combination.
The Tricolore also featured the syntactic foam technology, improving the match balls handling and response.
Adidas Fevernova (2002 World Cup, Korea/Japan)
The traditional triads formation was dropped and Adidas created a colourful new match ball which took its inspirations from the Asian culture. Adidas Fevernova used advanced syntactic foam technique which allowed the ball to obtain a more precise and predictable path while in flight.
Adidas Teamgeist (2006 World Cup, Berlin)
Adidas released the official FIFA match ball to be used for the 2006 World Cup and called it Teamgeist, based on the first and foremost characteristic a team needs to have i.e. team spirit! The usual 20 panel stitching was dropped for a new 14 panel configuration which gave the new ball a perfect round shape hence, improved accuracy and control. The propeller technology used had notable improvements, allowing the ball to travel faster and curve its way from corners into the goal post.
Teamgeist was designed in way that it complimented the structure of the ball. Painted in traditional German colours i.e. white and black, Adidas Teamgeist’s golden impressions projected the glory of the world cup trophy and the need to bag it.
Each world cup match used an individual ball which had the date of the match, the stadium and the playing teams printed on it. A special Final ball was specially designed for the grand finale between France and Italy.
Adidas Jabulani (2010 World Cup, South Africa)
South Africa was all set to host the 19th FIFA World Cup and so was Adidas. Ready with its 2010 official match ball called ‘The Jabulani’. Inspired vastly by the South African culture, Adidas Jabulani was painted using 11 different colours representing the 11 players playing in a football team and 11 South African communities and 11 different official dialects of South Africa.
Claimed by Adidas and FIFA to be the best football ever produced, the Jabulani was made using the latest of the technologies at Adidas facility. The panel configuration used in previous match balls was brought down (from 14 panels) to 8, thermally bonded 3D panels which gave Jabulani a perfect and a rounder shape than ever before.
Using a recently developed feature called the ‘grip and groove’ technology, Adidas textured the ball surface with grooves which was to provide stable flight and increased grip on the ball for players. The thermally bonded panels of Jabulani offered improved aerodynamics and accuracy. However, Jabulani was mass criticised by coaches and some players alike.
A special final edition match ball called Jo’bulani (named after South African nickname for the capital city of Johannesburg), painted in golden colours was used for the grand finale between the Dutch and the Spaniards.
Adidas Brazuca (2014 World Cup, Brazil)
The greatest tournament of all time was finally heading to its home, Brazil! Adidas had to impress a nation and moreover millions of people this time and they did. Adidas revealed Brazuca, the official match ball to be used for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Brazuca (‘our fellow’ in local tongue), symbolised Brazil’s relationship, emotions, pride and respect for the game of football. The match ball was not simply named Brazuca but Brazil officially chose the name. Over a million Brazilian football fans voted for the ball to named Brazuca. Painted in multi-colour ensemble, Brazuca represented Brazil all around.
Being the successor to Adidas’s Tango 12 series, Brazuca’s configuration panel had 6 thermally bonded polyurethane panels hence, making Brazuca more accurate, consistent and aerodynamic than Jabulani ever was.
Amazed eh? So was I! Watch out this page for more of such footblogs!