From the Slazenger Challenge 4-Star ball that saw England win in 1966, to the controversial gold Jabulani ball at South Africa (fans and players claimed it had unpredictable aerodynamics), every World Cup has it’s own ball with its own unique characteristics.
As the Qatar World Cup gets under way all eyes will be on the most recent itineration, which will be used on pitches and playgrounds around the globe in the coming months.
Here’s everything we know about the Al Rihla ball.
What does the ball’s name mean?
Al Rihla simply means 'the journey' in Arabic, and the ball design draws inspiration from Qatar's unique architecture, iconic boats and national flag.
The phrase comes from a travelogue written by Ibn Battuta, an Arab-Berber Maghrebi scholar who explored Africa, Europe and Asia in the 1300s, travelling an estimated 70,000 miles.
The book was called The Rihla, but had a more formal title of ‘A Masterpiece of Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Traveling’ – which wouldn’t be as good a name for a ball.
Who made the Al Rihla ball?
The Al Rihla ball has been created by Adidas and is the 14th FIFA World Cup ball created by the company.
Adidas have made every World Cup football since Mexico 1970.
What is special about the ball?
Adidas say they have designed Al Rihla to travel faster in flight than any ball in World Cup history, with the panels of the ball and the surface textures created for optimal accuracy and reliability.
Jean-François Pathy, FIFA’s Director of Marketing, said: “This is a stunning, sustainable and high-quality Official Match Ball from Adidas that will be enjoyed by stars performing at the top of their game on the world’s biggest stage in Qatar, as well as grassroots players everywhere. Al Rihla’s worldwide journey will represent the incredible reach of the FIFA World Cup and give fans a unique opportunity to engage with the event as excitement builds ahead of the big kick-off.”
Adidas say it was “designed from the inside out using data and rigorous testing at adidas labs, in wind tunnels and on the pitch by football players themselves”.
Adidas Design Director Franziska Löffelmann added: “The game is getting faster and, as it speeds up, accuracy and flight stability become critically important. The new design allows the ball to maintain a significantly higher speed as it journeys through the air. For the biggest global stage in all of sport, we set out to make the impossible possible with radical innovation by creating the fastest and most accurate FIFA World Cup ball to date.”
Is the ball environmentally friendly?
The Al Rihla ball isdesigned with sustainability as a priority and is the first FIFA World Cup ball to be made exclusively with water-based inks and glues.
It is also the first World Cup ball to directly contribute to a charity – with one per cent of global proceeds going to Common Goal to positively impact lives around the world.