Adidas have just unveiled ‘Al Rihla’, the Official Match Ball for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.
Adidas’ 14th consecutive World Cup ball is the quickest-ever ball that will feature in the competition, with the ball set to travel faster in flight than any other World Cup ball in history.
The Story of Al Rihla
The Adidas 2022 World Cup ball is called “Al Rihla” (Adidas 2022 World Cup Al Rihla Official Match Ball). Al Rihla means The Journey in Arabic but it might also refer to the travelogue describing that journey. It’s a cool little name for a ball that will itself be part of many teams journeys throughout the tournament.
Designers have taken inspiration for the panel shape by looking at Qatar’s flag with all the little triangles but actually they’ve also looked to sails on Dhows, which is a type of boats as a reference to Qatar’s seafaring history.
Now of course they’ve dialed up on the colors because colors evoke emotion and they reference all the different nations taking part in the world cup.
Tech behind Al Rihla
Adidas have researched a lot in order to update and upgrade the tech compared to the Telstar 18. That means a new bladder and carcass on the inside of the ball for better rebound and consistency.
But also a new panel design called Speed Shell. Speedshell is aimed to increase the speed of flight and rotation of the ball to achieve excellent aerodynamics and a perfect shot. It’s basically 20 diamond shaped panels 12 big and eight small ones that not only take inspiration from the story of Dhows. But apparently also means that the new shape meaning the longer edges here gives you a better flight stability on the bowl itself that’s cool though but actually the big work has been done on the texture on the upper itself.
Back in 2006 and 2010 the Team Guys and Jabulani had really smooth surfaces. When a football moves through the air there’s not much on the ball that the air can grip onto and attach itself to so it’ll just bend around the ball and then continue in a straight line behind the back on both sides and that will create a sort of vacuum behind the ball that sucks or drags a bit on the ball thus slowing it down.
Now the thing is that when you have Al Rihla with a really dimpled and uneven surface the air will then attach itself grip onto the ball get closer to the ball and get dragged around it much further down the back. Meaning that the vacuum is a lot smaller and that reduces the drag and the pulling meaning that you lose less speed. It’s a super simplified version of what happens. It’s the same concept as what goes on with a golf ball, and they worked a lot on that.
So in other words the upper and the texture on the upper means a whole lot when it comes to how the ball moves. After some serious rigorous testing Adidas found that they got the best consistency when they went with this almost golf ball like micro texturing with all these little dimples in the shape of little diamonds.
They also have little arrow-shaped d-boss zones scattered around the ball and apparently out of 50 or so shots the Al Rihla had a much smaller spread compared to the Telstar 18. Basically saying that the balls hit more or less the same spot more often than the predecessor did. Comparing the Al Rihla is also a lot more sustainable than the Telstar 18.
There’s a lot less material waste and it uses water-based ink, water-based glue, water-based polyurethane amongst other things.
Performance of Al Rihla
If you play with one of the newer Adidas 2022 World Cup football it will feel somewhat similar and still have this unique sensation to it because already does feel soft and quite spongy. Really responsive when you strike it and it’s a bit more easy and elegant to the feel compared to for instance a Nike flight.
Now the biggest difference & the most unique thing is the grip because it is grippy and sticky but not in the same way as the Telestar 18 or the Champions League balls. That have really gritty and grainy micro texture.
Whereas this is a bit more smooth but since the coating has this matte stickiness to it, still got a very well balanced grip. It gives you confidence that the ball isn’t just gonna slip away at the lightest touch.
Adidas ‘Al Rihla’ 2022 World Cup ball feels more stable and more controllable. It’s still a really fast ball and can definitely move if you hit it with enough power and the right technique.
But it just feels like it takes a little bit more to activate craziness and extra reliability and reassurance that the ball does what you ask it to with a little bit of speed and flare on top is a really cool thing.
Especially when you consider the softness. When you put some power behind the already it just takes off so Adidas have hit a sweet spot where it’s reliable but in an entertaining way.
The Adidas 2022 World Cup ball went on sale on Adidas.com on March 30, 2022. It will be available everywhere, including independent retailers, from April 13, 2022.