FIFA World Cup footballs through the years: all the pieces it’s good to learn about Al Rihla and his predecessors

While 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, football fans will hear the name Al Rihla a lot and no, it doesn’t belong to any player or team.

Al Rihla he is an official Ball for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The name means “journey” in Arabic, and the design was inspired by the culture, architecture, iconic boats and flag of the host country Qatar.

Made with only water-based inks and adhesives, Al Rihla is considered one of the most environmentally friendly World Cup balls.

The Al Rihla will be the latest in a long line of balls used at FIFA World Cups over the years. Branded match balls have been part of the history of the FIFA World Cup since its inception in 1930.

The first FIFA World Cup: A tale of two halves and balls

The inaugural 1930 FIFA World Cup held in Uruguay had no official match balls. Two types of handmade leather balls, Tiento and T-Model, were used during the editing, which resulted in an interesting situation in the final.

When hosts Uruguay faced neighboring Argentina in a heated match for the title at the Centenario Stadium in Montevideo, both teams wanted to play the game with the ball they had brought with them. The Argentina team had the Tiento while the hosts Uruguay insisted on a T-Model from their kit.

After a heated argument between the two teams before kick-off, FIFA officials intervened to resolve the deadlock and it was decided that Argentina’s ball would be used in the first half while the second half would be played with the Uruguayan T-Model.

The decision would have a big impact on the match itself. Argentina led 2-1 in the first half and Uruguay turned things around in the second, winning the match 4-2. According to the BBC, the match led to the birth of a famous phrase in football – “a tale of two halves”.

The evolution of FIFA World Cup balls

In Italy in 1934, the Federale 102 was used, a ball made of cotton instead of leather.

Until 1950, none of the balls used in the World Cup had an air pressure regulating valve, a common feature of modern soccer balls. As such, the balls may have slightly different air pressures, resulting in slightly different shapes, sizes or weights.

The Duplo T Superball, the ball used in the 1950 FIFA World Cup, revolutionized the game by adding air valves and the ability to regulate the air pressure on each ball used.

World Cup balls they have since introduced several technological advances. For example, the Azteca ball used in Mexico in 1986 was the first fully synthetic soccer ball. Diego Maradona’s hand of God during the tournament made the Azteca a cult classic among ball collectors.

Diego Maradona and the Azteca ball appear in one of football’s most iconic moments – The Hands of God.

Photo by Getty Images

The first ball to be called the official ball for the FIFA World Cup was the Telstar from the 1970 FIFA World Cup in Mexico.

It introduced the iconic black and white football design that became famous around the world, with Adidas emerging as the supplier. Since then, every ball, including Al Rihla, has been designed by the same company.

While FIFA World Cup balls have evolved over the years in both technology and design, some versions have drawn criticism. Most notably, the Fevernova, the official match ball for the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Japan and South Korea, gained notoriety for being too light, while the Jabulani, used in South Africa in 2010, became infamous for being too twisted.

Supposed to be used at the 1962 World Cup in Chile, the crack became so renowned for its quality and tendency to gain weight on wet surfaces that many matches from this edition were played using the Top Star, the match ball from the previous edition.

FIFA World Cup Balls: Full List

FIFA World Cup EditionUsed ball
Uruguay 1930Tiento, Model T
Italy 1934Federation 102
France 1938Allen
Brazil 1950Superball Duplo T
Switzerland 1954Swiss World Champion
Sweden 1958Star
Chile 1962Crack (Top Star)
England 1966Slazenger Challenge 4 stars
Mexico 1970telecommunications satellite
West Germany 1974Telstar Durlast
Argentina 1978Tango
Spain 1982Spanish Tango
Mexico 1986Aztec
Italy 1990Etrusco Unico
USA 1994Questra
France 1998tricolor
South Korea/Japan 2002Fewernova
Germany 2006Teamgeist, Teamgeist Berlin (final)
South Africa 2010Jabulani, Jo’bulani (Final)
Brazil 2014Brazuca, Brazuca Rio Final (Final)
Russia 2018Telstar 18, Telstar Mechta (Knockout)
Qatar 2022Al Rihla

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