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Designing the official World Cup ball

Every four years Adidas redesigns the official ball for the World Cup. This year’s ball is called The Telstar 18, a perfect sphere that designed to reduce wobbling.

The Telstar 18, the design for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, is as close to a perfect sphere as you can get. It has subtle pimples and six thermally bonded panels designed to avoid knuckling, which is the characteristic bobbing and weaving movement when a ball is kicked without spin. All 32 teams have been able to play with it since November in preparation for the tournament, which runs from June 14 to July 15. But despite its similarities to the old ball, players have grumbled about the Telstar 18. Compared to the last few World Cup balls, the Telstar 18 is very similar to the ball used for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. It won’t fly quite as far down the pitch, and will wobble in the air a little differently, but aerodynamic testing suggests it will be more stable in the air overall.

Adidas tested the balls using wind tunnels, trying to mimic the unpredictable nature of a Ronaldo or Messi kick. Some say past designs weren’t so sturdy and may have given some teams an advantage. The 2010 South Africa World Cup ball, known as the Jabulani, fit the short-passing style of the World Cup winners Spain.

Despite the ball’s aerodynamic optimization, one thing is certain: the goalies always hate it.

I kind of feel sympathy for the players and especially the goalkeepers that have to get used to a new ball,” Goff says. So far the Telstar 18 has received criticism from a few goalkeepers that played with it starting in November, unhappy with how it moves in the air and the way the surface feels. Goalkeepers, unlike every other player on the pitch, have to predict where the ball will go in order to block it, while also not having the freedom to run around the field to adjust as the ball flies. That means goalies often have the most complaints about a new design. “Every time there’s a World Cup and a new ball the goalkeepers complain, because they’ve been given a new ball,” says Goff.

Read How the new World Cup ball was designed to not influence the games

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Mexico’s WWII anti-Nazi propaganda poster

1 nil

(h/t @rabihalameddine)

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What you want

…is probably not the same as what you’ll get. You may get better, or worse, but the most important thing is that you’ll get some chances.

Opportunities always arise. They can be surprisingly easy, tap-ins as they say in football (soccer), which if unprepared or unfocused become incredibly easy to blunder.

Chances are seldom. David can beat Goliath by taking advantage of them. But they don’t happen often because people succumb to underdog status. The expectation should always be that you can win even if the odds aren’t in your favor.

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Football (soccer): More than a game

The American media (aka ESPN) finally realizes that they can’t ignore the world’s most popular game. Football (soccer) and especially the World Cup makes all other sports look trifling.

In what other sport can you truly gather the world’s best talent and pit them head to head? The Olympics is global but there are only so few athletes per competition. Basketball is a world sport but the US players still retain hegemony.

Football flattens the world. Everyone participates, all because the cost of goods (a ball) is cheap and people can play anywhere. But the game is also inherently beautiful.

The passing, moving, one touches, and finishes are glorious to watch. Football is a philosophy. Its lessons provide tools for life: never stop moving, think ahead, show extreme passion, and compete individually but do it as a team.

Football is more visceral than other games. It’s tied to nations and therefore politics and identity. Today’s France/Germany game is an unavoidable reminder of the World Wars even though it really has nothing to do with it.

The thing about football – the important thing about football – is that it is not just about football.

Terry Pratchett

Football is bigger than the game on the field. It is a mirror of art, life, and politics all mixed into one. As essayist Aleksandar Hemon once wrote, “An average life seldom contains more than twenty World Cups.” Life is a series of World Cups.

There’s only one world, one game, and it’s football.

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Signal and the Noise

I’m wearing my US soccer jersey today on the train and am generating loads of side conversation about the US-Germany game.

I typically don’t like to signal what I’m wearing like a fashionista but it’s important to remind people that you care about the game and the country. Passion makes it easy to ignore being the stimulus for World Cup banter.

I’ve yet to step out into the streets of New York but I guarantee I’m not the only person walking around in the red, white, and blue. One nation, one team. So let’s do this.

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I’ve been in Los Angeles this week watching the World Cup with my two brothers. We typically go to the World Cup (went to Germany in 2006 and South Africa in 2010) so if we can’t make it to Brazil at least we’ll still be watching games together.