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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Nigeria’s World Cup kits are 🔥

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In an interview with Fader Magazine, Nike FC’s Design Director Pete Hoppins says the Nigeria kit was actually the easiest one to design:

Nigeria was actually the easiest! That’s everyone having fun. We worked closer with the players and the Nigerian federation to make that happen. The hardest were Brazil and England, just like always. It’s got to be a yellow kit and a white kit, respectively. You have to deliver that. Otherwise, you’ll be shot. [laughs] How do you move those forward every two, four years? Especially when you’re trying to innovate the performance. We’re not just going to add things to the kits for the sake of it.

What Nigeria is hopefully going to allow us to do in the future is show that some of the more traditional teams that if you are willing to be creative in the partnership, you can ultimately have something more culturally relevant that connects with the youth.

Read How Nike turned Nigeria’s World Cup kit into a fashion phenomenon

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.

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’s only so few athletes per competition. Basketball is a world sport but the US players still dominate.

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: 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, as an art and as a inevitable stimulus for patriotism. There’s only one world, one game, and it’s football.

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.

World Cup Sharing

I’ve been toggling 50/50 between consumption and sharing on Facebook and Twitter this World Cup.

Because Twitter is a discovery network, I’ll find interesting articles or funny GIFs and post them into Facebook. I supply the newest, hard to find content and generate instant discussion amongst my friends and colleagues.

Because of the way Facebook’s algorithm works in bundling related content, my World Cup posts get shared and commented on even more.

It’s not that Facebook isn’t a discovery network. I would say the shared content has gotten better since Facebook improved search and made itself more public. But I still believe most of the content first finds its home in Twitter.

Still, you can’t just use one platform and feel completely informed. The feedback loop on Facebook generates extra talk and insight from friends that know something you don’t. The rule of thumb for following along with live events though falls into Twitter’s court.

Sunday Social Roundup

  1. Instagram pulled a VSCO and introduced more editing tools this week, most notably the ability to reduce the strength of filters. I still think VSCO’s filters are superior and more natural looking.

  2. Beats introduced a star packed World Cup commercial. No wonder they sold to Apple. Otherwise, who was going to pay the bill for this commercial?

  3. I worked for a company called TopSpin (now owned by Beats and hence, Apple) who built websites for artists so they could build their own communities and sell directly to fans. A similar development looks to be on the horizon for retailers. Why give your data to Facebook and Pinterest when you can replicate that experience on your site? I will admit though that the direct to fan model usually attracts hard-core fans. Side note: These proprietary internal networks may also be more beneficial for b2b operations.

  4. Social media is getting ready for the World Cup. Here’s a bunch of dog breeds and their matching national teams. I suspect that this #WorldCup2014 will not only be another massive moment for Twitter but will be huge for Instagram too. Naturally, I tweeted this too. Instagram is also sending me World Cup masks made by @artedemirar.

  5. It feels kind of old school to add social share buttons to your site but people actually use them. Not only that, some sites like Buzzfeed are seeing more shares via WhatsApp than Twitter. In other words, people prefer to communicate in private, or what’s known as Dark social.

7 articles to read this weekend (World Cup Edition)

The World Cup starts next week. Below are some recent articles talking about the beautiful game.

1. Soccer’s Etymology

Despite its British origins, Americans get a bad rap for using the word ‘soccer’

“These people have conveniently forgotten, or they don’t realize, that the word soccer originated in England,” and is thought to be associated with upper middle class students at elite universities, Szymanski said. “(The term soccer) was only later adopted by Americans to distinguish it from gridiron.”

My foreign friends squirm at the word soccer but is it more because of their anti-Americanness? The flip side is also true. You can’t call soccer football or Americans always think helmets by default. Regardless, ‘soccer’ is a British word, not an American one.

2. Comes Down to Penalty Kicks

Where History is a Penalty

We watch the World Cup for the beauty, for the nationalism, for the experience of a global carnival, but also just to see chance in action. This tournament tends to make fools of forecasters, from Goldman Sachs to Pele.

The best/worst thing about soccer: the team that plays like shit can win. All they need is one chance or to go into penalty kicks.

3. Intrinsic Football

Fandom – it’s bigger than football

Being a fan also connects you to your own past. In life, everything changes: you grow up, and people divorce, move away and die. Only your football team is for ever.

Arsenal and the US national team will live beyond me.

4. Performance Based Pay

How Jurgen Klinsmann Plans to Make U.S. Soccer Better (and Less American)

He gets it because of what he has done before. It makes no sense. Why do you pay for what has already happened?”

US soccer coach Jurgen Klinsmann plays to win now. He consequently cut Landon Donovan. He also also thinks you should get paid based on your present form, which is why he ridicules Kobe’s 2-year $50 million agreement. You’re only as good as your last game.

5. Access to Pele in his Prime

Making friends with Pelé

I found Pelé and asked if he would serve as my guarantor. He laughed, saying that no one would believe the signature Edson Arantes do Nascimento (his legal name).

I was trying to demonstrate empirically the paradox of sport: it bonds people while dividing them by the loyalties they hold most dear.

American Janet Lever got exclusive access to Pele in the 60s, as a woman, as an American. Her story is just as interesting as Pele’s.

6. American Hero and Swindler

The Rise And Fall Of Chuck Blazer, The Man Who Built — And Bilked — American Soccer

Compared to baseball, basketball, and football, soccer was a starving runt. Multiple professional leagues had flopped. TV networks couldn’t even figure out how to fit commercials into the 90-minute, time-out-free games, and they rarely bothered to broadcast the sport. The United States national team hadn’t qualified for a World Cup in nearly 40 years.

Soccer has come along way in the States, a big part of it due to Chuck Blazer. But it looks he did it more for the money than for any passion in growing the sport in the States.

7. Notorious

By no means do we have the social environment where a professional player, he loses a game, and the next day he gets bothered by the fans when he goes to the butcher, the baker, the supermarket. We don’t have that kind of accountability. And this is what we would love to have one day. But it will still take a few years.”

Klinsmann wants soccer to grow to the point where the players fear for themselves when they play poorly. Some countries of course take this to the extreme. But point taken, Americans fans need to care just as much as the players.