No South Asian nation makes the league but its denizens can take pride in the fact that the Brazuca — everything is branded, so why not the ball? — is manufactured not in some football-crazy South American land but closer home, in Sialkot, a city in the Punjab province of Pakistan that prides itself as being the sports goods manufacturing hub of the world. This is where 70 per cent of the world’s footballs (both hand and machine stitched) are still made, though the Chinese, with their mega factories and superior technology, kicked a hole in that percentage.
Still, Sialkot’s Forward Sports holds its ground as the company which has the bulk of Adidas orders. It certifies that child labour is not used in its making — the International Labour Organisation (ILO) had raised a flag in 1997 that 17 per cent of Sialkot’s football manufacturing industry in 1997 comprised underage labour.
The Brazuca — the word is a colloquial way of describing the Brazilian attitude to life — is sold for $160 a piece. Forward Sports does not reveal what it costs to make, but is willing to say 34,000 are churned out per day and the industry employs 60,000 workers.
So much for the economics of the football. What about the design and shape? The exact contours are typically specified in the rulebook. Teams of engineers decide on the specifications.
But if this one is called Brazuca, what were the earlier avatars? In the beginning, in 1970, was the Telstar from Mexico — black and white. In 1974, the ‘durlast’ version of the Telstar was created for the 1974 World Cup in West Germany, which had black lettering instead of gold. When the event went back to Mexico in 1986, it was given a few embellishments that evoked the country’s Aztec murals.
In 1978 came a colourful design called Tango. It was so distinctive and so popular that it became a byword for ‘ball’ amongst children growing up through the 1980s. Nobody dared change the basic design for 24 years — only the colours and style varied.
The break from the past came with the Fevernova, created for the 2002 World Cup held in Japan and Korea. Here the design consisted of four large triangular shapes sitting across several hexagonal/pentagonal panels. Somehow, it conveyed Asian aesthetics. In 2006, Adidas came up with +Teamgeist, the only time it was not a combination of hexagonal and pentagonal panels stitched together. Instead, it had just four panels.
Much will be seen of the Brazuca in the next four weeks — both the ball and the spirit of the host country after which it has been named.