Worthy Notes from the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar: Sialkot in Pakistan is the Soccer Ball Manufacturing Capital of the World; Women to Referee Crucial Group E Match

Introduced and compiled by MALIK MERCHANT

Sialkot, Worlds football manufacturing capital. Simerg
Location of Sialkot in Pakistan. Punjab Province; nicknames of city: City of Iqbal and World’s Football manufacturing capital; population: 655,852, 13th largest city in Pakistan. Credit: Wikipedia.


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.


Before departing this website, please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought-provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos. The editor may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, skied for Iran in the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria

As the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing come to a close, Zahir Dharsee and Malik Merchant reminisce about Mawlana Hazar Imam His Highness the Aga Khan’s passion for skiing and sports in general. The piece appears on Simerg’s sister website, Barakah, which is dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, members of his family and the Ismaili Imamat. The piece also includes an excerpt from an excellent narrative on Mawlana Hazar Imam’s visit to Iringa that mentions a skiing accident that had taken place earlier. Mawlana Hazar Imam arrived in Iringa with a cast on his foot. Please click MEMORIES or on photo below.

Aga Khan playing ice hockey in Switzerland, Simerg and Barakah
Mawlana Hazar Imam playing ice hockey. Please click on photo for article.

Date posted: February 19, 2021.


Editor’s Choice: Alphonso Davies – Canada’s Humble, Joyful Soccer Phenom by the Christian Science Monitor

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Alphonso Davies in action for Canada during a match against Dominica at BMO field in Toronto in October 2018. Photo: Wikipedia, CC BY 2.0. Click on photo for Christian Science Monitor article.

What a marvellous afternoon to be watching the finals of UEFA Champions between Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain, and seeing, YES, 19 year old Canadian Alphonso Davies lift one of the most prestigious trophies in the sporting world! One moment I will never forget from the game was when Alphonso calmly headed back a cross to his own keeper in the second half. His soft precise touch was simply that of a self-assured and confident person. A stronger header, slightly off the goalkeeper’s mark, could have resulted in an own-goal and 1-1 scoreline, taking the game to extra-time if the game remained tied after 90 minutes. It was an amazing touch, and a great footballer commenting the game noted that he would not have dared to do that himself!

Click on photo for article

I never expected one of my favourite newspapers The Christian Science Monitor to be carrying a piece about him, as the Monitor doesn’t carry a sports section. So it was marvellous to read Sara Miller Llana’s wonderful column Alphonso Davies: Canada’s humble, joyful soccer phenom piece! All Canadians and football lovers around the world should read it too!

Date posted: August 27, 2020.

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few.


Sports Illustrated: The Story Behind the Raptors’ First NBA Title Will Be Remembered Forever


Please click on the following links for articles on Sports Illustrated and The Washington Post

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED: “These are the spoils that come with winning a championship. It’s not just money, it’s not just fame. It’s immortality. This Raptors group, from top to bottom, will be remembered forever, both for helping to topple a dynasty and for bringing an entire country its first Larry O’Brien trophy.” ….MORE

WASHINGTON POST: “The Toronto Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors, 114-110, in Game 6 on Thursday, sealing the first title in franchise history and claiming Canada’s first championship in a major American sports league since the Toronto Blue Jays won the 1993 World Series”…..MORE

Please click on image to read article on Sports Illustrated.

Date posted: June 14, 2019.