Where is the controversy over the official match ball in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup? The players in the men’s version line up to bellyache about it.
Adidas introduced the Oceaunz match ball for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. It’s the ninth football Adidas has produced for them. It celebrates with colors inspired by Australia’s landscape.
There are blues and greens, with visuals suggesting the mountains of New Zealand. There are also cultural markings and initials of the two host nations.
Of course, all the balls are tested extensively before delivering them for match use in the FIFA World Cup, both Men’s and Women’s. But when the men prepare for their matches, the chirping about deficiencies soon grows into squawking before the media.
The noise reached a fever pitch over the Adidas Telstar 18 after it hit the Men’s World Cup pitch. Goalkeepers questioned the ball’s flight and handling due to its incredibly smooth surface. Adidas even introduced a second version of the ball for the knockout stage, the Mechta, meaning dream or ambition.
Then the squawking got really bizarre.
In a ceremony in Finland, Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin presented then-U.S. Pres. Donald Trump with a Mechta ball. It turned out, Adidas was experimenting with a Near-Field Communication (NFC) data chip in the ball. This is the type of chip in a bank card or pay terminal.
The NFC chip in the World Cup ball only interacted with a smartphone app, generating Adidas information.
As the ball started its trip to Washington, D.C., U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham started Tweeting that the chip should be screened as an intelligence device. Political bloggers piled on. Then political commentators, some of whom didn’t appear to know a soccer ball from a badminton birdie, piled on.
The Adidas ball had already been subjected to dissection, literally, to the NFC chip on YouTube. The chip generated nothing more than a display on a smartphone app. And unfortunately for Adidas, the least interesting thing about the ball appeared to be the function of the chip.
The Oceaunz advances the connected ball technology that was a mere experiment in the chip in Telstar/Mechta balls. This picks up from the Qatar games experience with a suspension system in the center of the ball hosting a 500Hz inertial measurement unit motion sensor, fed by a rechargeable battery.
Video Assistant Referees can opt to use the ball’s movement record provided by this technology.
For the players, the ball features a new core to improve accuracy and consistency in shape and air retention. And the polyurethane skin boasts micro- and macro-textures in a 20-piece panel shape for enhanced aerodynamics.
So this ball has plenty of new and advanced features. The only things missing are the complaints.
That’s because the players in this 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup are too busy competing to win games. They have no time left to second-guess the ball.