The Pakistan football team may not be participating in the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, but the country has made its presence felt at the mega event in another way.
The footballs that are being used at the tournament have been manufactured in Pakistan by the famous Adidas Company, which makes sports goods. The name of this variety of football is Al Rihla which means "The Journey" in Arabic. The ball is made under the Adidas name but is manufactured in Pakistan.
About 70 percent of all footballs used across the world are manufactured in Pakistan. In the city of Sialkot in the Punjab province of Pakistan, there are about one thousand ball manufacturers employing approximately 60,000 people.
There is an interesting history of how the football manufacturing industry started in Sialkot. The story goes back to the times of the British Raj. The British army soldiers and officers loved to play football but had to place their orders with British manufacturers to supply them with footballs. This would take days to arrive by ship. One day a British officer asked a Sialkot-based leather workman who used to make saddles for his horses to repair his saddle. When the man did an excellent job, the officer felt that perhaps he could make footballs too. So he placed an order for a dozen footballs. That is how the industry began and then flourished throughout the world.
According to the FIFA website, the Al Rihla football travels faster in flight than any other in the tournament’s history. Its bold and vibrant colors are inspired by Qatar’s culture, architecture, iconic boats, and flag.
Adidas is bringing its sporting expertise to the game’s premier event yet again by providing a match ball with sleek aesthetics that also delivers accuracy and flight stability. It is designed for high-speed games and, furthermore, is manufactured with strictly water-based inks and glues for long-term sustainability.
The core, or the heart of the ball, provides accuracy and consistency for fast-paced action with maximum rebound accuracy. The best footballs should rebound about 60 percent. That means if you drop the ball from a height of about one meter (100 centimeters) above the ground. It should rebound up to 60 centimeters, not more or less. These specifications are fulfilled by the Al Rihla balls. The shell of the ball has a new 20-piece panel shape that improves accuracy, flight stability, and swerve.
The balls are manufactured in Pakistan through a company named Forward Sports. Manufacturing footballs for FIFA is not a first-time experience for this company. It has done so for earlier World Cups and other major tournaments. The Brazuca ball that was used at the 2014 World Cup and the Telstar ball used at the 2018 World Cup were also manufactured by this company. The company is continuously improving the manufacturing process to keep up with games getting faster and teams demanding better balls.
The company produces 750,000 balls per month for global brands, including Adidas. It was founded in 1991 by Khawaja Masood Akhtar and started working with Adidas in 1994. Ever since then, it has produced balls for many international events. It produces footballs, handballs, beach balls, shin guards, goalkeeping gloves, and medicine balls.
It is now the largest football producer in Pakistan, employing 3,000 people, including 900 women. Its success has shut out the Chinese companies which were manufacturing footballs and supplying them worldwide earlier.
Adapted from the original article "Pakistan made Al Rihla footballs are flying high at the Qatar World Cup."