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2022 World Cup ball to be ‘fastest’ ever

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Work on what she called the “fastest” and “most accurate ball” ever seen in a World Cup began with France winning the 2018 edition, said Franziska Loeffellman, Adidas football design director. She was speaking about Al Rihla, the ball for the 2022 World Cup that was launched in Doha on Wednesday. It is the 14th World Cup ball by the sports goods makers, the journey having started in 1970.

Al Rihla, which means travel or journey in Arabic, has 20 unequal panels, 12 big and eight small, and has been tested by 350 professional and amateur players including Bayern Munich and Manchester United. The company was looking to create a product more precise “but keeping the environment in mind”, said Loeffellman. As the game gets faster, “accuracy and flight stability” assume greater importance, she said. The new design allows the ball to maintain higher speed as it travels through the air, she said.

The focus was also to reduce wastage while incorporating all that was good in Telstar 18, the match ball for the 2018 World Cup, said Oliver Hundacker, the company’s senior director product development. While Brazuca and Telstar 18 didn’t get a lot of critical reviews, Jabulani, the ball for the 2010 finals, did. Then Italy goalie Gianluigi Buffon had said Jabulani’s trajectory was “unpredictable.”

Included in the Al Rihla core, which was worked on first and which is designed to improve accuracy and consistency, are “zero waste” leather and polyester fabric which gives the ball “strength and shape.”

The ball will travel to nine cities from Doha and 1% of its cost will go to charity Common Goal that uses football to improve lives, promote diversity and peace-building efforts. On the company website, the ball is priced at $165.

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