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The soccer ball V2.0

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March 15, 2005

The soccer ball V2.0

The soccer ball V2.0

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March 16, 2005 UPDATED IMAGES AND TECHNICAL INFO The World Cup of soccer is fast approaching and one of the features of the world's most watched sporting tournament is the latest soccer ball from adidas – the +Teamgeist. And well might you wonder how a soccer ball can be improved, given that technology has been working on the issue for well over 100 years. The devil is in the detail as you’d expect, but suffice to say that the new 14-panel design has resulted in a ball with the most consistent performance characteristics ever, enabling the players to show their true skills. There are fewer seams, so the ball is rounder and performs more uniformly, regardless of where it is hit. The more perfect the sphere is, the more balanced it will be, offering greater accuracy due to the predictability of its flight. The new panel shape harmonizes the energy displacement and minimizes the amount of corners, while the larger panels allow for a cleaner kicking area. Perhaps the biggest difference the players will find with the new balls will be how they play in the wet. Normally, a wet and heavy ball behaves quite differently from a dry one. It flies slower through the air, has a lower bounce and is more difficult to curl. A patented Thermal Bonding technology makes the new ball virtually waterproof with identical performance characteristsics wet or dry. The FIFA Approved Standard for water absorption stipulates no more than a 10% weight increase – the +Teamgeist’s blitzes this with less than 0.1 % weight increase. Similarly, it has significantly improved on all standards for uniformity of rebound and pressure retention and shape and size retention. Clever design and technologies has enabled adidas to reduce manufacturing tolerances to a new level .

The adidas +Teamgeist combines tradition and innovation. The match ball is designed in white, black and gold, the colors of German football and the FIFA World Cup .

The very first player ever to lift the FIFA World Cup Trophy as we know it today was current Organizing Committee Chairman Franz Beckenbauer. In 1974 when the new 18 carat golden trophy was first introduced, the tournament was also played in Germany, with a black and white match ball, and Franz Beckenbauer was the German team captain.

As a tribute to host Germany’s greatest football moments and its traditional uniforms, the adidas design team returned to traditional black and white as the dominating colors for the FIFA World Cup Match Ball. The fine gold accents along the rounded propellers are inspired by the golden FIFA World Cup Trophy. The revolutionary new panel shape is designed to minimize corners and to create a more homogenous system in terms of performance and look. The radiant lines of the graphics surrounding the propeller shape symbolize movement and energy. Thanks to adidas innovation team designer Scott Tomlinson from England and German category designer Anatol Just, +Teamgeist combines everything needed to become a state-of-the-art product.

The name “Teamgeist” is based on the single most decisive characteristic every team needs to have to lift the golden trophy: team spirit! At the world’s biggest sporting event, where global football stars are born and individual strength, skill and power are celebrated on the world’s biggest stage, it still comes down to what the individual is willing to give to the team and what the team is able to do for its individual stars.

Testing & Development of the adidas +Teamgeist

adidas has been producing high-performance match balls since 1963 and is the world’s leading football producer. Still, it took adidas well over three years of extensive research and development to present the adidas +Teamgeist, its best performing ball ever. Thanks to a revolutionary 14-panel ball configuration, players can now show their true skills, as the quality and performance characteristics are exactly identical every time they kick the ball.

The adidas Innovation Team (a.i.t) has rigorously tested the new Match Ball for the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany, first under the toughest laboratory conditions possible, later also with professional players and clubs on the field of play. Scientific tests were conducted together with the Sports Technology Research Group of the University of Loughborough, one of the leading institutions of its kind worldwide. These tests confirmed that the adidas +Teamgeist is more round, precise and consistent than any top competitor match ball.

FIFA designed a quality concept to guarantee the highest standard of balls for the best players in the world. Only after a series of stringent tests is a ball awarded the “FIFA Approved” hallmark. Tests executed in the adidas football laboratory in Scheinfeld and at the Testing Centre of the University of Loughborough prove the adidas +Teamgeist does not only meet these “FIFA Approved” standards, it exceeds practically each of them.

The robotic leg

The adidas football laboratory in Scheinfeld features a high-tech robotic leg which is used for a variety of ball tests. The machine is able to repeat an identical kick in the exact same angle and with exactly the same speed and power, time and time again. Extensive tests conducted with the robotic leg show that the +Teamgeist is 30% more accurate than top competitive balls tested. A high-speed camera is set up parallel to the impact to analyze the impact on the ball. The new 14-panel configuration, featuring fewer seams, makes the ball perform significantly more uniformly, no matter where the ball is hit.

Circumference test

A consistent circumference is important to allow optimal control during dribbling or driving a football. In order to calculate the average circumference, each individual match ball is measured at 10 different points.

The FIFA Approved Standard: 68.5 cm – 69.5 cm The adidas +Teamgeist: 69.0 cm – 69.25 cm

Permanent roundness test

Only a perfectly round ball allows a player to fully capitalize on his skills. The more perfect the sphere is, the more balanced a ball will be in flight, the higher will be its accuracy and the predictability of its flight. The new panel shape harmonizes the energy displacement and minimizes the amount of corners, while the larger panels allow for a cleaner kicking area.

The diameter of the ball is measured in 16 different places, after which the average is calculated. The difference between the highest and the lowest diameter must be within very strict limits.

FIFA Approved Standard: max. 1.5% difference The adidas +Teamgeist: max. 1.0% difference

Water absorption test

A wet and heavy ball behaves quite differently from a dry one. It flies through the air more slowly, has a low bounce and is more difficult to curl. adidas’ patented Thermal Bonding technology makes a football virtually waterproof. As a result the new Match Ball shows completely homogenous performance characteristics when playing in dry or wet conditions.

For the water absorption test, the ball is pressed and rotated in a container of water 250 times, after which the ball will be weighed. The water will also be weighed before and after the water uptake test.

FIFA Approved Standard: Water absorption: no more than 10% weight increase The adidas +Teamgeist: Water absorption: no more than 0,1 % weight increase

Perfect weight test (420 – 445 grams)

Each professional game is played with a number of balls. These different balls all need to perform the same. Consistency in weight is crucial. If the ball is too light or too heavy, it might move unexpectedly in flight.

FIFA Approved Standard: Weight between 420 and 445 grams The adidas +Teamgeist: Weight between 441 and 444 grams

Shape & size retention test

During an average game the ball is kicked approximately 2,000 times. However, in the last minute of overtime, the ball needs to perform identically to the way it did in the first minute of the game.

In order to test the shape and size retention, the ball is fired against a steel plate 2,000 times at 50 km per hour for the FIFA Approved hallmark. After this test, only minimal changes in air pressure and roundness are allowed and the air valve and stitching must remain undamaged.

FIFA Approved Standard: 2,000 cycles at 50 km per hour The adidas +Teamgeist: 3,500 cycles at 50 km per hour

Drum test

The drum test was developed by adidas to guarantee high quality and durability of the printed surface, the unique design and look of the ball. The adidas +Teamgeist is the first ball ever to feature a complete underglass print technology, providing the +Teamgeist with the best and strongest surface material ever and guaranteeing the ball is more durable and will hold its unique look much longer.

Uniform rebound test

Players need to be able to anticipate how the ball will respond in order to control a pass using their chest, thigh or foot. For this test, the ball is dropped ten times onto a steel plate from a height of 2 meters. The difference between the highest and the lowest bounce must be no more than 10 cm. FIFA Approved Standard: No more than 10 cm The adidas +Teamgeist: No more than 2 cm

Loss of pressure test

If the ball loses air during the game, it will be difficult to predict and may not respond consistently, making long passes and deep crosses almost impossible.

For this test, the ball is inflated fully and three days later its air pressure is measured. It must not have lost more than a specified percentage of its air.

FIFA Approved Standard: Loss of pressure max. 20% The adidas +Teamgeist: Loss of pressure max. 11%

The role of Bayer MaterialScience

The outer skin of the adidas +Teamgeist, the Official Ball of the World Cup 2006, is no longer made up of 32 pentagons and hexagons but rather 14 large panels with shapes resembling propellers and turbines. Special measures have been taken to protect the novel surface, which is partly responsible for the superior play properties of the +Teamgeist: An aliphatic polyurethane (PU) topcoat formulated with raw materials from Bayer MaterialScience AG essentially places it and the printed design “under glass,” making the cover extremely resistant to abrasion. Polyurethane products from Bayer MaterialScience are also responsible for several other outstanding properties of the +Teamgeist.

“Our mission was to find a coating that can be applied evenly to the new, disparately shaped panels. The coating could not be sticky, and it had to ensure that the ball would retain its unique appearance for a long time,” said Thomas Michaelis, an expert for textile coatings at the Coatings, Adhesives, Sealants Business Unit of Bayer MaterialScience. The coating technology developed by his team and used here satisfies all of these requirements. Whereas the topcoat of Impranil ELH-A is primarily responsible for the abrasion resistance, the aliphatic intermediate coat with Impranil® HS 85 LN makes the ball very durable and extraordinarily elastic.

The total length of the panel lines of the +Teamgeist is more than 15 percent shorter than with the previous model. This revolutionary construction is one of the reasons why the outer skin of the World Cup ball is very smooth and perfectly round. Measurements of the diameter at 16 different locations per ball show that the deviation between the largest and smallest diameters is not more than one percent. Another important factor for the exact curvature is that the thickness of the layer with the syntactic polyurethane foam of Impranil has been increased from 0.9 to 1.1 millimeters compared to the Roteiro, the ball used at the 2004 European Championships. This foam is comprised of evenly-sized, gas-filled and resilient microcells and makes the +Teamgeist especially dimensionally stable. It is also responsible for the ball’s high restoring forces, which guarantee a precise trajectory.

“The rounder the ball, the more balanced it is in flight and thus the more accurately it can be kicked. The +Teamgeist is extremely consistent regardless of where it is struck,” said André Pechtold, Project Leader of Technical Development at adidas. This was demonstrated in part by tests in the adidas testing lab, in which the ball was “kicked” repeatedly at a target by a high-tech robotic leg with precisely adjustable force and at a precisely adjustable angle. “With the new ball, the range in variation of the trajectory is one-third smaller than with the previous model,” said Pechtold.

Soccer is played in just about any weather, and only a few of the stadiums for World Cup 2006 have roofs that can be closed at the push of a button. The +Teamgeist therefore has to retain its excellent properties even if it rains or the grass is wet. It is, in fact, practically impermeable to water. When placed in a tank filled with water and rotated 250 times, its weight increases by a maximum of 0.1 percent. This easily exceeds the strict standards for the “FIFA Approved” quality seal, which allows for a weight gain of up to 10 percent in this test.

The materials experts at Bayer, who have been supporting adidas in the development of World Cup soccer balls since 1984, played a major role in the weather-resistance of the +Teamgeist. “One factor for the low water absorption are the properties of the Impranil raw materials in the coating. Furthermore, the “Thermo-Bonding Technology” used makes the +Teamgeist essentially seamless,” said Michaelis. This bonding technology was developed and patented by adidas. A raw material from Bayer MaterialScience is used here as well: The thermoactivated adhesive is based on a waterborne polyurethane dispersion from the Dispercoll U product line.

The development of the soccer ball

adidas started developing high-performance match balls in 1963, when most balls were heavy, brown and painful to kick. When FIFA first commissioned adidas to provide the Official Match Ball for the 1970 FIFA World Cup in Mexico, the company had already become the world’s leading football brand.

adidas Telstar - 1970 FIFA World Cup Mexico

Like all other balls in its time, the adidas Telstar was completely made of leather; however, unlike any other ball it featured 32 hand-stitched panels (12 black pentagons and 20 white hexagons), creating the roundest sphere of its time.

The revolutionary design of Telstar wrote football history: it was the first white football ever to be decorated with black pentagons. Mexico 1970 was the first live televised FIFA World Cup and the revolutionary design of Telstar - the name derives from “Star of Television” – made the ball far more visible on black and white television. Until this day, the adidas Telstar remains the archetype of all generic footballs.

adidas Telstar and adidas Chile - 1974 FIFA World Cup Germany

Two adidas match balls were used for Germany ‘74. Telstar made a repeat appearance with new black branding replacing the previously gold branding. And, building on the success of the adidas Telstar, adidas introduced a new all-white version named adidas Chile (after an all-white ball used at Chile 62). The materials and techniques used in the Telstar and Chile were identical to those used four years earlier.

adidas Tango - 1978 FIFA World Cup Argentina

In 1978 football design experienced another revolution with the introduction of the adidas Tango. Once again adidas had created what would become a ‘football design classic’. Twenty panels with ‘triads’ created an optical impression of 12 identical circles. For the following five FIFA World Cup tournaments the Match Ball design was to be based on this design. Tango featured improved weather resistance qualities, and took its inspiration from the deep passion, emotion and elegance of Argentina.

adidas Tango España -1982 FIFA World Cup Spain

The initial Tango design from 1978 was only altered slightly in 1982. However, the Tango España did feature a major technological innovation. The Tango España, still made of leather, featured revolutionary waterproof sealed seams. This dramatically reduced the ball’s water absorption, thus minimizing weight increase during a game under wet conditions.

adidas Azteca - 1986 FIFA World Cup Mexico

The Match Ball for the 1986 FIFA World Cup revolutionized footballs and football production techniques.

The adidas Azteca was the first ever synthetic FIFA World Cup Match Ball. The use of synthetic material increased its durability and further minimized water absorption. With its never-before-achieved performance on hard ground, at high altitude, and in wet conditions, Azteca represented a massive leap forward for the game.

Its elegantly and elaborately decorated design was inspired by the hosting nation’s native Aztec architecture and murals.

adidas Etrusco Unico - 1990 FIFA World Cup Italy

The adidas Etrusco Unico evolved the use of synthetic materials further, creating the first ever Match Ball containing an internal layer of black polyurethane foam, making Etrusco Unico fully water-resistant, more lively and faster than ever. The name and intricate design took their inspiration from Italy’s magnificent, ancient history and the contributions and fine art of the Etruscans. Three Etruscan lion heads decorate each of the 20 Tango triads.

adidas Questra - 1994 FIFA World Cup USA

In 1994 adidas introduced the first Match Ball featuring a high-tech, ultra-high-energy-return layer of white polyethylene foam. This PE layer made Questra softer to the touch (more controllable) and much faster off the foot for more speed. Inspired by space technology, high velocity rockets and America’s “quest for the stars”, Questra set new performance standards. adidas Tricolore - 1998 FIFA World Cup France

adidas Tricolore was the first ever multi-colored Match Ball. France’s flag and national colors (the Tricolore) and the “cockerel” the traditional symbol of the French nation and Football Federation, inspired the ball’s name and design.

Moreover, the adidas Tricolore featured an advanced “syntactic foam” layer - a tight regular matrix, composed of gas-filled, individually closed and highly durable micro balloons. The syntactic foam further improved the ball’s durability, energy return and made it more responsive.

adidas Fevernova - 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea / Japan

The adidas Fevernova was the first World Cup Match Ball since 1978 to break with the traditional Tango design introduced in 1978. The colorful and revolutionary look and color usage was entirely based on Asian culture. The Fevernova featured a refined syntactic foam layer to give the ball superior performance characteristics and a three-layer, knitted chassis, allowing for a more precise and predictable flight path every time.

adidas Match Ball - 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany

The 10th adidas FIFA World Cup Match Ball will present another revolutionary innovation in terms of design and performance for the world’s biggest sporting event.

The new adidas Match Ball will be available around the world tomorrow.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon After Editing or Managing over 50 print publications primarily in the role of a Magazine Doctor, Mike embraced the internet full-time in 1995 and became a "start-up all-rounder" – quite a few start-ups later, he founded Gizmag in 2002. Now he can write again.   All articles by Mike Hanlon
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