T-model to Telstar 18: the evolution of the World Cup ball

T-model to Telstar 18: the evolution of the World Cup ball
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    It took until 1855 for someone to make a decent football.
    Charles Goodyear developed a suitably
    round ball using his patented vulcanised rubber.
    Yes, the first modern soccer ball was created
    by an American!
    However the modest design somehow managed to cause great controversy at the first World
    Cup in 1930, when finalists Argentina and Uruguay couldn't agree on which model of
    ball to use.
    A compromise was reached, with one ball being
    used each half.
    From this point on, FIFA decreed that a uniform
    ball be used for each tournament, but it wasn't until Mexico 1970 that the revolution truly began.
    Being the first World Cup broadcast globally, live on television,
    the official match ball had to be designed with this task in mind.
    It introduced the now-iconic 32-panel 'Buckminster Ball' design, conceived by architect Richard
    Buckminster – another American!
    The black and white design improved visibility
    on TV and the name Telstar, is shared with the Russian satellites, that not only resemble
    the ball's appearance, but also helped broadcast the action to a worldwide audience.
    The Tango for Argentina 1978 introduced two Adidas hallmarks:
    the 'triad' patterns on the hexagonal panels;
    and naming the ball after a characteristic
    of the host nation.
    The Tango España for Spain 1982
    was the last ball to be made of real leather.
    It had a polyurethane coating to make it water
    resistant, but unfortunately this affected the ball's durability,
    meaning replacements had to be called upon in several matches.
    The Azteca at Mexico 1986
    was the first entirely synthetic World Cup ball and the first to incorporate bespoke
    decorations, inspired by the host nation.
    Like the Azteca, the Etrusco pays homage to
    the Etruscan Civilization of ancient Italy.
    The major structural change to the ball was
    the inner layer of black polyurethane foam, to help the ball maintain its form and resist tearing.
    "Quest for the Stars" was the theme at
    USA 94 with star clusters and constellations adorning the ball.
    Given the proud history of American innovation in ball design, there wasn't anything radically
    different about this one, only another layer of polyurewhatsit.
    The Tricolore at France 1998 was the first multicoloured official match
    ball, and the last to bear the Adidas triads.
    But The Fevernova of Japan/Korea 2002,
    ended the era of the Tango design.
    From here on in Adidas aimed to revolutionise their match-balls
    After some criticism of the previous ball's unpredictable behaviour,
    the Teamgeist for Germany 2006 was a radical creation.
    Gone were the 32 pentagons and hexagons,
    replaced by a design of 14 thermally-bonded panels,
    creating a smoother surface with fewer irregularities.
    A unique, golden model was used in the Final, a tradition that has been followed since.
    So how did Adidas follow up the near-unanimous
    success of the Teamgeist? 14 panels were reduced to 8, with the outer
    surface covered in pocked "airgrooves" for better aerodynamics.
    Initial player reaction was extremely positive,
    but other players complained about the erratic and unpredictable movement.
    A team of NASA scientists identified that
    the design of the ball inadvertently led to an effect known as 'knuckling',
    where asymmetric air flow over the seams caused unintended movement.
    When it needs NASA to work out what went wrong, you know it's time to go back to the drawing board.
    The Brazuca's number one priority for Brazil 2014 was not be the Jabulani.
    It achieved this with its rough, bumpy texture and deeper seams between its 6 panels.
    The Telstar 18 for Russia 18 pays tribute to the original Adidas World
    Cup ball but is also keen to show off just how modern it is.
    Retaining the 6-panel structure of the Brazuca
    and incorporating an innovative and entirely-necessary near-field communication chip.
    How useful this will be remains to be seen.
    So far all involved seem pleased with the ball's performance.
    And if you don't believe me,
    just ask any of these fine Adidas-sponsored athletes.
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