Object of Interest: Get to know the official ball of the 2018 World Cup

The official match ball for the 2018 soccer World Cup in Russia is displayed during the unveiling ceremony in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017. (Oleg Shalmer/AP)

Flags will fly, anthems will be sung, and dreams will be made at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

And while 32 nations comprising 736 of the best soccer players in the world will convene on Russia this summer, there will be only one ball used during the festivities. Well, one brand of ball that’s been re-produced thousands of times.

The Adidas Telstar 18 – the result of millions of dollars and many years of research – is the official match ball of the 2018 World Cup.

Let’s get to know it better.

From whence it came

The original Telstar – named after its resemblance to a communications satellite from the 1960s – made its debut at the 1970 World Cup, and brought with it the familiar black-and-white design of pentagons and hexagons stitched together most any soccer fan is familiar with. The goal was to create a ball that would stand out on colourless TVs, which were the style at the time.

This year’s edition pays homage to its predecessor with a black and white design, though advances in production technology have allowed for a more intricate, pixelated pattern – a supposed allusion to what the original would look like in motion.

The ball is made of just six glued panels, as opposed to the 32 that were stitched together to make the original Telstar, giving it a more predictable feel.

The FIFA World Cup in Russia runs from June 14 to July 15, and Sportsnet.ca will have in-depth daily coverage.

Chip off the old block

While the Telstar 18 embodies the look of the original World Cup ball, the insides have been given a modern boost. The ball comes with a chip embedded, which doesn’t seem to do much else other than unlock “challenges” for users who connect the ball to their devices (the details of which are murky and have yet to be fully announced, but think “how hard can you kick?” and stuff like that.)

The chip is also there to help users “enjoy an exclusive Adidas experience,” whatever that means.

Eco-friendly

The Telstar 18 was designed to leave as small a mark on our environment as possible, using recycled materials for the ball itself, as well as its packaging.

Just how much of the ball is made with reusable matter is still a mystery, though the Adidas website lists the ball’s composition as being 83 per cent thermoplastic polyurethane and 17 per cent polyester.

Nevertheless, it’s clear that this is a modern product inside and out.

How does she fly?

Much was made over the unpredictability over the Jabulani, the official ball of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. (Just check out its “criticism” section on Wikipedia.)

But it seems as though the Telstar 18 has made a positive impression so far.

Leonel Messi (an Adidas-sponsored player speaking at Adidas’s own unveiling of the ball) seemed to like it for one.

The Telstar 18 was also tested by various national teams and top-flight clubs in the lead-up to its unveiling, in the hopes of delivering a match ball that is reliable and will be free from controversy this summer. Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Manchester United, Juventus, Real Madrid and Ajax were among the testers.

The online reviews from more casual players seem to be overwhelmingly positive as well, though if someone could hook up “happyman100” with a spare that would be cool.

But not everyone is impressed with the play of the Telstar 18, with goalkeeper Matt Pyzdrowski telling The Athletic: “Adidas has designed a ball that I expect to be received much in the same way the Jabulani was in 2010 amongst goalkeepers.”

Pyzdrowski tested the ball in a variety of situations and came away with the belief that “the ball will cause more than its fair share of controversy.”

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