Balls to the World Cup – A history of adidas footballs

In the 1950s the adidas football didn’t have any fancy names, it was simply just a football with no idea of the journey of development it was about to go on over the next 60 years.

Old 1950s football

The 1950s ball was made out of tough brown leather with iconic lacing through one of the panels. At that time this standard ball had a dimension of around 64cm and weighed 315 grams.  This was much lighter than our modern footballs but due to the way energy was absorbed into the ball this would have felt much heavier.

1966 World Cup Football

The 1966 World Cup ball witnessed the end of the laced side and we began to see more white leather balls being produced.  The 1966 world cup ball was slightly heavier than the laced 50s version and weighed around 400 grams.

This particular ball was taken from the adidas archive and was signed by the German National team that were beaten by England that year in the final at Wembley.

Telstar – Mexico 1970 & West Germany 1974

1970 Mexico telstar durlast

The adidas Telstar durlast was featured in both Mexican World Cup in 1970 and the 1974 World Cup in West Germany. The use of hexagon, pentagon and triangle panels to form a perfect sphere was designed by Richard Buckminster Fuller.

The ball had 12 black panels which helped the player to judge their strike better by being able to judge its swerve much more effectively.  The black and white mix of panels also helped television viewers that were beginning to watch in colour for the first time see the ball more clearly.  According to adidas the ball becoming the star of television was the reason it got its name – Telstar.  Durlast was the coating put on all footballs at that time to reduced the water absorption.

Tango Durlast  – Argentina 1978 & Spain 1982

In 1978 adidas released the adidas Tango Durlast for the World Cup in Argentina and was also used 4 years later at the Spanish World Cup.  Instead of colouring individual panels black adidas created a new design that would enhance the players view of the whole ball while it was moving.  This enabled the player to achieve a more precise strike and increase the ability to add spin.

Durlast coating was still used to improve the water resistance of the synthetic leather.

Azteca Mexico 1986

Mexico WOrld Cup Azteca Football

The Azteca Mexico ball was used when the World Cup returned to Mexico in 1986.  The structure of the ball didn’t change too much from the 2 previous World Cups however what did change was the design on the outside.  adidas cleverly used Mexico’s Azteca heritage and applied the Azteca design to the football to give birth to this iconic 80s football.

Check out this promotional video from 1986.  You will see in the early stages of manufacture where polyurethane was used to make the ball water resistant.

Etrusco Italy 1990

The Italian 1990 World Cup ball was named Etrusco Unico in respect of Italy’s history.  Following on from the decoration style of the Azteca the Etrusco took its design from the Italian Etruscans with 3 lion heads decorated on each of the hexagonal panels.

In addition to the polyurethane coating a black polyurethane foam was added to the inside to enhance the balls performance in the wet.

Questra USA 1994

The Questra was used during the 1994 World Cup in the USA.  Questra means “quest for the stars” and was given its name in respect of the anniversary of Apollo 11.  The name was also very apt as the new design improved acceleration of the ball and at the same time felt softer and easier to control.

Tricolore France 1998

The Tricolore gave us a couple of firsts.  It was the first World Cup ball to move away from the traditional black and white when adidas opted to design the ball in the hosts 2 colours.  Secondly it was the first ball to use underglaze technology in its production.  The Tricolore took football innovation to the next level with the use of a synthetic foam layer.  This layer contained microbeads that were filled with gas and created a matrix.  Despite the complexities, its function was quite simple, the matrix allowed the ball to take its shape back after it had been kicked.  This made the ball faster and more accurate.

Fevernova Japan/South Korea 2002


The Fevernova continued with the gas filled microbeads but contained thick inner layers to further help the ball retain its shape.  The fevernova was the first World Cup ball that moved away from the Tango style pattern but still kept its tradition of adding a design around the host country.

+Teamgeist Germany 2006


The +Teamgeist was the first World Cup ball since 1970 that through innovation and technology was able to move away from the hexagonal panels. The +Teamegist has just 14 curved panels which were bonded rather than stitched.  The use of curved panels gave the ball a more consistent spherical shape for greater performance.

Jabulani South Africa 2010

The Jabulani took the bonded panels of the +Teamgeist a step further by using only 8 thermally bonded panels.  Once again the the focus was to create a perfectly round ball that would fly with more consistent accuracy than ever before.  adidas also included a textured surface called Grip ‘n’ Groove that was meant to improve aerodynamics however the ball received a lot of criticism due to its unpredictability.

Brazuca Brazil 2014


The Brazcua uses just 6 panels which is a long way from the footballs of the 1970s.  Due to the criticism of the Jabulani improvements were made to the aerodynamics of the ball and as a result it received praise throughout the tournament.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.