With 2014 about to kick-off, the sports world is beginning to get excited about next summer's FIFA World Cup - which will take place in sun soaked Brazil. To go along with this week's first round group draw, Adidas has taken the wraps off the official football for the tournament, the Brazuca, and T3 got a first look.
Boasting a new construction method, colourful decor and some tech filled surprises, the Brazuca ball is labelled by Adidas as the 'most tested ball ever'. But will it be the driving force behind success next summer? Or simply that excuse you use when your team gets eliminated through a bumbling goalkeeping error.
We've dissected the jargon and unearthed the cool tech to bring you the low down on the new Adidas Brazuca. From the design, to the name and even some of the inner workings on how it was created, we've got it all covered.
So, what is it?
The Brazuca – pronounced similarly to bazooka is the brand new football that will be used during the FIFA World Cup in Brazil next summer. Designed by Adidas, it is the 'most tested ball ever' from the German sports brand. The name was chosen through a poll in Brazil and supposedly describes the Brazilian way of life.
What's so special about it?
As you might expect, it's packed full of exciting ball tech, mainly through its clever new panel layout for the ball's construction. There are fewer panels than before – six to be precise. each attached by thermal bonding. Adidas claims this improves accuracy, which is obviously very important for those kicking this thing about come next summer.
You can also follow the ball on Twitter - yep, you read that correctly. Follow @brazuca and you can stay up-to-date with the movements of the ball and hear its thoughts on who's been kicking it around. What will they think of next?
How much can change in a ball?
On the inside, things are fairly familiar. The bladder and the carcass are the same as Adidas used in two previous balls – the Tango 12 from Euro 2012 and the famed, star emblazoned UEFA Champions League ball. It's the outside that has seen the innovation though, with a new, much grippier coating.
Is it a MiCoach ball?
MiCoach is the brand name for the German kit purveyor's collection of sports technology such as apps and watches, but while Adidas has recently shown off the MiCoach ball which allows teams to track shot speeds, power and the like, none of these features have been included in the Brazuca.
Director of Football Innovation for Adidas, Antonio Zea said that while they are keen to keep working on this tech, it's not something they're looking to bring to a competition ball just yet.
“The MiCoach team will continue to work with players to bring it to the market in the future,” said Zea
Here at T3 we're big fans of the MiCoach tech, and the idea that one day we could get live stats and info about even the smallest details of a match has us, well, a little excited.
Is it still round?
Surprisingly, yes. Though unlike World Cup 2010, no one is making a big deal about the shape of the ball this time around.
What's it like to play with?
With our appetite for some pitch time whetted we fished out some boots, donned some shin pads and took the new ball out for a spin. It was clear to see the ball was accurate at long range shooting. It felt grippy as well, so it should play nice with goalkeepers. It also felt well balanced and not overly light, perfect for pinging cross field balls without spraying them out of play.
Where was it designed?
It's been under wraps in the AIT (Adidas Innovation Team) area of the Adidas HQ in Herzogenaurach, about 30 minutes from Nuremburg, Germany and we were staggered by some the processes.
The ball goes through loads of different tests, from being kicked by a robotic leg over and over again, to being jammed inside a washing machine like device covered in sand paper. It is also drop tested – to check its bounce and submerged in water – to check its absorbency.
All this for a simple spherical object that's kicked around by 22 football players.
Sounds mad as hell...
Imagine Q's lab from James Bond, but jammed full of robotic legs, running tracks and even a machine that actually sweats. While it may sound odd, this climate chamber can replicate real life conditions and can add in heat, sun and wind. A mannequin with 20 sensors covering its body sweats, testing out how new clothes handle it.
The robotic leg is probably the most famous part of the room. Built of metal and toting a neon football boot, the leg shoots the ball in a specific location over and over again in consistent conditions. This helps determine the durability of the boots and ball and it looks pretty darn cool.
Working on products that are between 3-5 years out and might not see the light of day till 2022, members of the AIT aim to reduces player injuries and make them feel comfortable.
Not just football then?
Not at all. There's a 100m running track, complete with sensors that track freedom of movement and how muscles are straining during exercise.
I want one! When can I buy one of these balls?
Right away! Plus, they'll be coming in all different sizes and ranges.