- Almost 70% of the world’s soccer balls are made in the city of Sialkot, Pakistan.
- Sialkot is home to at least 1,000 soccer ball factories which employ nearly 60,000 people.
- Demand for soccer balls has dropped dramatically during the pandemic, but one factory we visited is targeting the 2022 World Cup.
- See more Business Insider Today episodes on Facebook.
Most of the world’s soccer balls – nearly 70% – are made in a small town in northern Pakistan.
Soccer ball production is a major source of income in the town of Sialkot, with at least 1,000 soccer ball factories employing nearly 60,000 people there.
But during the coronavirus pandemic, many have closed.
“The demand for soccer balls has dropped significantly due to the coronavirus because the playgrounds are closed, there are no games, people don’t have the space to play them. Buyers have therefore reduced the 70% demand, “said Waseem Shahbaz Lodhi, Managing Partner. of Bola Gema Pakistan, a factory that produces 160,000 bales per month.
In the Bola Gema Pakistan factory, workers are responsible for all aspects of creating a soccer ball, from cutting and molding hot rubber sheets to patching the 20 hexagons and 12 pentagons that make up the outside of a balloon.
“The industry has been around for almost a century, and that’s why the perfection of our skills is incredible,” Lodhi said.
FIFA-approved balls, like those made by Bola Gema, can sell for over $ 100 in the United States, more than the monthly salary of some of the workers who make them.
Before the last World Cup in 2018, Pakistan exported more than 37 million soccer balls around the world. And Bola Gema has already started making balloons ahead of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
As business is down due to a lockdown in team sports during the pandemic, Lodhi has been watching over his workers.
“We’ve been home for two or three months, but the owners of Bola Gema paid us anyway. That’s why we weren’t worried,” said Saeeda Bibi, a worker at the Bola Gema factory. .
The company has also set up a store where workers can buy household products at reduced prices.
The store is made possible by a 10% bonus on soccer balls sold to overseas buyers through the Fair Trade Association, Lodhi said. This 10% is recovered to offer lower prices in store to employees of Bola Gema.
As the pandemic continues, Lodhi hopes the soccer ball industry will rebound.
“We are receiving new inquiries and we hope that despite the corona pandemic we will start to receive orders,” he said. “And the production which fell by 70% will gradually start to improve, and we will not be forced to close the plant.”