Al Rihla, the official ball of the Qatar 2022 World Cup: characteristics and origin of the name

On Wednesday March 30, 2022, football governing body FIFA released a statement coupled with a picture of a soccer ball. The balloon sat in the foreground and behind it, the tall sightless buildings of a Qatari town. A stretch of blue, crystal clear water separated the two. On the ball, amid an array of striking lines spreading like a firework of primary colors and the newly simplified Adidas logo, were the words: Al Rihla, official match ball of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.

FIFA and Adidas have a long-standing relationship when it comes to making the ball for football’s biggest tournament. In fact, according to the statement, the Al Rihla is the 14th consecutive match ball created by Adidas for the World Cup, the first time in 1970.

“Al Rihla means ‘the journey’ in Arabic,” FIFA said in its statement, “and is inspired by the culture, architecture, iconic boats and flag of Qatar.

In terms of aesthetics, Adidas says that “the lines on the surface are inspired by the futuristic stadiums of the five cities. The bright, vibrant colors on a pearlescent background represent the host nation of the FIFA World Cup and the ever-increasing speed of the game.”

The infamous Jabulani from the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

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The infamous Jabulani from the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.Cameron SpencerGetty Images

World Cup football in the past has been…interesting

When it comes to the technology inside and outside the ball, Athleticism conducted a test with a professional goalkeeper and concluded that the Al Rihla “looks like it has a sticky coatingbut “there are times when [the ball] catches you off guard and delays your timing just enough for you to drop or hit a ball you expected to catch. Could we have surprises in the first rounds?

The German brand claims that “the new design that allows the ball to maintain its significantly higher speedand that “a textured polyurethane skin in a new 20-piece panel shape that improves aerodynamics to improve accuracy, flight stability, and shot deflection.”

Anyone remember 2010? Does the word Jabulani ring bells? This edition of Adidas’ bid for a World Cup ball received furious criticism from goalkeepers around the world: Claudio Bravo called it a “beach ball”; David James said it was “Dreadful”; Julio Cesar said it was “like a ball you would buy at the supermarket”. The Athletic said the Al Rihla “has the potential to do some nasty, unpredictable things in the air…but aren’t as extreme as the Jabulani.”

Although things initially look positive, we’ll have to wait and see if the Al Rihla has the same misfortune as the Jabulani.

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