Introduced and compiled by MALIK MERCHANT
AL RIHLA: THE 2022 FIFA WORLD CUP SOCCER BALL
The 2022 FIFA world cup currently underway in Qatar is being watched by billions around the world. While we are all rooting for our respective countries and favourite teams, let us not overlook some extraordinary facts about the tournament and football in general. The football (soccer ball) is central to the sport, and for its origins and history please visit Ben’s website Yoursoccerhome: History of the Soccer Ball: From Origin to Modern Day.
Did you know that Sialkot, a city in northeast Pakistan near the Kashmiri border, makes more than two-thirds of the world’s soccer balls in one of the town’s 1,000 factories. That includes the Adidas Al Rihla, the official ball of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, that is now in the final stages of the group matches, with the knock-out stage of the competition set to begin on Saturday, December 3. Bloomberg has an excellent photo feature about the making of the Al Rihla football, and I think readers will be fascinated with the story. Please click on This Is Where Most of the World’s Soccer Balls Come From (Note: you are allowed to read 5 articles free). Al Rihla is the 14th official World Cup ball and, according to FIFA, the fastest and most accurate ball yet. The ball features a panel design inspired by a Dhow, a traditional Arab boat, with a blue, red, and yellow colour scheme that is meant to represent the landscape of Qatar. The Al Rihla balls are also the first World Cup ball made exclusively with water-based ink and glue, which are less harmful to the environment. The ball also includes a chip in the centre of the ball that can determine any contact by any player. What appeared to be a header flick by Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, was ruled out as his goal and given to his teammate Bruno Fernandes who crossed the ball in the game against Uruguay.
In a piece for the Voice of America (VOA), Ayaz Gul who reports for VOA from Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, notes that while Pakistan’s national teams have never qualified for the FIFA World Cup, its footballs repeatedly have. He further writes that Pakistan and China, have supplied the official match balls for the World Cup 2022, called Al Rihla, which means “the journey” in Arabic and is inspired by the culture, architecture, iconic boats and flag of Qatar.
Pakistan was also among the producers of the official match balls for the previously two World Cup championships in 2014 and 2018. The footballs are manufactured in Sialkot by German multinational Adidas through ‘Forward Sports’ whose managing director, Hassan Masood, said in a statement in the run-up to the 2022 World Cup that 3,000 footballs would be used during the tournament in Qatar and 8 million replicas are expected to be sold around the world. Sialkot is also famous for producing high quality sports goods and hosts many of the producers of FIFA certified footballs. May we remind you once again to read the Bloomberg photo feature on Al Rihla.
Another heartwarming story that has come to our attention is that for the first time in the men’s world-cup history, three women referees will be officiating the crucial final Group E encounter between Germany and Costa Rica on Thursday, December 1. As the table stands now, any 2 of the 4 teams (Spain, Costa Rica, Japan and Germany) in the group could qualify for the round-of-16. French referee Stéphanie Frappart will be the referee in charge, and she will have Neuza Back of Brazil and Mexico’s Karen Diaz Medina as her assistants on the field. USA’s Kathryn Nesbitt will also be working as the offside specialist in the video review team. Two other women, Salima Mukansanga of Rwanda and Yoshimi Yamashita of Japan, are also on the FIFA list to referee games in Qatar.
Frappart refereed men’s games in World Cup qualifying and the Champions League, and this year’s men’s French Cup final. She also took charge of the 2019 Women’s World Cup final for FIFA. When asked if she ever has comments from players, managers or fans due to being a woman, Frappart said: “Since I started, I was always supported by teams, clubs and players. I was always welcome in the stadium, so I feel like another referee inside the pitch. I was always welcome, so I think I will be welcome as before.”
Date posted: November 30, 2022.
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