Football is the mass sport. It’s just as easy to play in the modern temples of the game like Arsenal’s Emirates London, where the legendary Champions League Round of 16 began this week, as it is on the tough streets of Marseille, France, where legends like Zinedine Zidane learned to kick for the first time. a ball. In America, kids who play youth soccer are less likely to get involved in gangs or use drugs. In poverty-stricken countries like Somalia and Haiti, it can provide life-saving guidance.
All you need is a ball.
Surprisingly, it’s not always as simple as it seems. A typical soccer ball is really just stitched leather filled with air, and it’s not really durable. The slightest puncture makes the whole thing useless; a defect all the more problematic since the primary use of the thing (to be hit as hard as possible) occurs on the jagged landscapes of the Third World.
The ball is so durable that it was thrown into the lion’s den and came out structurally perfect…
According to a UNICEF study of 80 schools in Uganda that received donated footballs, none of the traditional footballs survived longer than four months. Despite the millions of balloons donated to some of the world’s poorest regions, it’s often only a matter of days before children start to get by again with tied rags or even rubbish.
That’s why an organization called One World Futbol set out to create an indestructible ball – something that’s much easier said than done. It turns out that making something that never needs to be inflated while maintaining the performance characteristics of an air-filled balloon is a high-tech feat. And just a few years ago, maybe that was impossible.
“If I had pursued the idea in 2006, when I first had a vision of an ultra-durable ball, chances are it wouldn’t have happened,” said Tim Jahnigen, co- founder of One World Futbol, at Digital Trends. “Even when we finally started in 2008, we were told it was highly unlikely that we would have a viable ball in terms of roundness and quality.”
Years earlier, Jahnigen had met the founders of Crocs, the go-viral shoe known for its vibrant colors, extreme comfort and lighter-than-air quality. He had even tested an early prototype of the shoe. Crocs, which have recently exploded in popularity with the general public much to the chagrin of fashionistas everywhere, are made from a proprietary foam resin known for its durability.
But just because they had a potential compound doesn’t mean One World Futbol had a ball. Jahnigen explains that initially none of the companies then experimenting with the all-new material could provide the technical skills necessary to realize their vision – to create something that was not just round but could mimic the characteristics of a soccer ball. real soccer.
One World Futbol secured financial backing from musician Sting, and Jahnigen began experimenting with a company called PopFoam to create a soccer ball from a similar material – an ethyl vinyl acetate (EVA) blend made of microcellular agents.
Turning the “super cool, NASA-worthy” compound they had developed into a perfectly round ball that mimicked a “classic” ball required CAD engineering, tweaking the compound’s chemistry and developing all sorts of proprietary processes that One World Futbol now holds as trade secrets. Over three and a half years of prototyping and field testing in places like Haiti and Iraq, they’ve produced five iterations of the ball and Jahnigen believes he and his team have finally achieved what they set out to achieve. TO DO.
“The result is a rubbery substance that is lighter, stronger, more flexible, tear and abrasion resistant and completely inert, non-toxic to work with. Yet, unlike rubber, it is impervious to sunlight, water and chemical resistant,” says Jahnigen. “The feel and performance of the One World Futbol and a standard inflatable street ball are virtually the same.”
The only difference? You can drive a car on One World Futbol – an act Jahnigen is known to eagerly demonstrate – and he’ll return to his original form, instantly ready for another round of kickabout. The ball is so durable that it was tossed into a lion’s den and came out structurally perfect except for a few teeth marks. Jahnigen thinks One World Futbol should last at least 30 years, if not forever.
In our own field tests, the indestructible blue ball performed admirably. It has a hard plastic feel but is still soft enough to comfortably move around barefoot. Considering its materials and the lack of air, the ball does not bounce quite like a normal ball, but considering the variety of terrains the ball is meant to be played on, an even bounce is not important . It won’t be mistaken for real leather, but it won’t prove distracting in the flow of a match.
The concept is not perfect; at $17 each, the balls are expensive. Unicef bought 5,200 to distribute to schools in Africa last year, but told The New York Times that compared to the $2.50 they spend on traditional balls, One World Futbol is prohibitively expensive. And shipping a balloon that won’t deflate proved frustrating. “We’re not talking about retail packaging here,” says Jahnigen. “We take into account what it takes for these virtually indestructible bullets to arrive intact after weeks in steel containers on the water and perhaps months on a dock somewhere with internal temperatures reaching 180 degrees.”
Such burdens have limited the project’s potential scope so far, but the program received a big boost last May when Chevrolet agreed to purchase 1.5 million bales over three years. An order of this magnitude has the potential to drive down the cost of manufacturing, which may ultimately alleviate the price concerns of organizations like Unicef. After all, the proprietary compounds and manufacturing processes are impressive, but One World Futbol won’t have accomplished anything until its ball is where it belongs: at the feet of poor children around the world.