The ball: one is specially designed for each major footballing event. Its technical properties and appearance are weighed and considered to the nth degree. The designer of the ball currently being used in the World Cup is Dutch.
Her official title at sports goods giant Adidas is Senior Designer Football. Product designer Janneke van Oorschot has a solid reputation in the field of superior sports design. Earlier this year, Internazionale and Bayern München played the Champions League final with a ball she designed. Its most striking feature is the large stars in the design, befitting a final between Europe’s best football clubs.
However, designing a ball for the World Cup is something else entirely. At least a billion people will see this ball flash across their screen at some point in the next three weeks. The preliminary sketches were presented in 2007 and the production team travelled to South Africa on several occasions to soak up the local atmosphere. The ball’s colours have everything to do with South Africa, even the dazzling white.
"Definitely. Every single colour and design element that we used are all inspired by the African country. For example the white base colour of the ball, the yellow, that refers to the sun and the brightness of the country. But also the colour gold which is not only related to the golden trophy that every team wants to win in the World Cup but also refers to the gold mining South Africa is known for."
The number eleven was key in the design process. It refers to the eleven players in each team, but also to South Africa’s eleven official languages. And, a touch of pride, a subtle hint to the fact that this is the eleventh time Adidas has been asked to design the World Cup ball. It eventually became a festive ball, Ms Van Oorschot says.
"The ball is all about celebration. The name Jabulani (meaning celebration in the Zulu language), we thought about that in the beginning, it should be something that translates fun and celebration and that's all what the South-African country stands for, I think."
The Jabulani is the standard ball of the World Cup. Only the elite will be allowed to play with the Jo'bulani ball in the finals on 11 July. That special golden ball is a tribute to Johannesburg, which is also known as the City of Gold.
Despite the positive reactions to its appearance, some players are less than enthusiastic about its characteristics. The Jabulani is reportedly prone to drift, easily blown off course by the wind and difficult to catch for keepers.
Ms Van Oorschot blames the negative comments on tactics and nerves. She says every World Cup starts with negative comments about the ball, but after a few days everybody has forgotten all about it. And the Jabulani was subjected to extensive testing.
"We tested the ball with players and with all the professional teams. We tested it in wind tunnels. So we tested it so thoroughly that we can say at this moment it is the best ball in the market today. And in the end it's the team that has to play with the ball. It's about the game and not about the ball."
Ms Van Oorschot is pleased with the final result of her work. She is excited to finally see the pros playing the ball out on the field. Her favourite for world champion? That is a difficult question for the Dutch designer who has been living in Germany for years. She hopes the final will be between these two countries.