Moscow – The global polyurethane industry’s eyes will be on the ball when Russia kicks off against Saudi Arabia in the first match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia.
And so they should.
The match ball is made possible by polyurethane supplied by Covestro, engineering from Adidas and testing at EMPA in Switzerland.
Adidas Telstar 18 employs the latest developments in polyurethane coated textiles which lends it optimal handling, great flight characteristics and water resistance, according to Thomas Michelis, head of Covestro Textile Coatings EMLA.
The company has supplied materials to Adidas for its footballs for more than 30 years.
The outer layer is made with Impranil water-based polyurethane synthetic leather, and held together with Covestro’s Dispercoll adhesives.
‘Modern materials ensure players get predictable ball performance under all weather conditions,’ Michelis added.
The ball’s innermost layer is an adhesion coating which is covered by a 1mm layer of polyurethane microspheres. The outer skin is made of two layers of polyurethane with different thicknesses. These make the ball elastic and abrasion resistant, Covestro claimed.
The balls underwent rigorous testing at Switzerland’s EMPP, which took a neutral attitude to complaints from Spain’s goalkeepers David Gea and Pepe Reina and Germany’s Mark-Andre ter Stegen that the ball ‘flutters’ in flight.
‘Impressions are subjective,’ said EMPA’s Martin Camenzind, of the group’s laboratory for biometric membranes and textiles. ‘We rely on objective parameters to characterise the Telstar 18.’
EMPA has been testing World Cup footballs for FIFA for 22 years.
The Swiss test house said that a ball is match fit when it is capable of being crushed in water 250 times without leaking or absorbing water.
It must be able to retain air pressure and have a consistent bounce after a 2m drop. The balls have to be in good physical shape, and are measured 4000 times to ensure that they are spherical.
Finally, the ball has to retain its shape after hitting a steel wall at 50km/h a total of 2000 times.
EMPA said that polyurethane has replaced leather for championship soccer balls because it passes these tests without changing shape or absorbing water. Additionally, the surface can be textured to make it easier to guide, especially in wet conditions.