Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman, and this is The World. In Brazil, there's a saying that all Brazilian babies are born with a ball at their feet. Well, that saying became reality when every Brazilian born on December 3rd was given a Brazuca. At least, that's a promise from Adidas, which last night officially unveiled the Brazuca - that would be the official game ball of next year's World Cup in Brazil - and it's a pretty funky one. To talk about the new ball, we called our in-house World Cup and soccer expert, The World's William Troop. What is different about the Brazuca?
William Troop: It's not your traditional soccer ball, the one you and I have in our mind, you know, black and white with 32 hexagon and pentagon panels. This one has these wild, really kind of sensual-looking panels, just six of them. The best way I can describe them, they're, they're like four-pronged boomerangs that kind of interlock all around the ball in the same way. And it just looks like it would be, I want to kick one of these things. I really want to get my foot on it.
Werman: Only William Troop would call a soccer ball sensual. Bottom line here, it's round, right?
Troop: It is round. There are rules to what a soccer ball in an official tournament can be. It has to be a certain amount of centimeters in circumference. It has to weigh only a certain amount. But there's nothing in the rules that says it has to be x number of panels. There's nothing that says it has to be hexagons.
Werman: So this is an Adidas design. Now they've got a new design. Remember, four years ago, at the South Africa World Cup. Are they just trying to sell new, funky balls every four years?
Troop: Well, yes. But there's actually a little bit more to it. In addition to selling balls, the new ball every four years does actually introduce some improvements that wouldn't otherwise happen. The controversy in years past has been that some of these balls really flew erratically. You kicked it hard, and it would fly through the air, and you'd think it was going in one direction, and then suddenly it would swerve and change, and it was really kind of a nightmare for goalkeepers. I'm one of them. But with this new ball, Adidas is trying to do the opposite. They're trying to counter all those criticisms from years past about balls that flew erratically, and they're trying to create something that will actually fly through the air with much more of a true trajectory.
Werman: One thing that you were telling me before we walked into the studio, William, which I did not know: Adidas has been doing this for a long time. And in fact, the soccer ball we all know, the black and white hexagons and pentagons, that was their design too.
Troop: That's right, that's right. Adidas has been doing this, making balls for World Cups, since 1970. And before 1970, if you look at historical pictures of World Cups past, you're talking a big, heavy leather ball with strips of leather, which, incidentally, when it got wet, got really, really heavy. In 1970, Adidas said, "We need a ball that you can see on TV easier." And they made this 32-panel black-and-white thing that just went on to become the soccer ball. Without this sort of commercial relationship with the World Cup, that wouldn't have happened. Now, that 32-panel ball kind of lasted a long time, and it's taken a while to come up with new designs, but we're there now.
Werman: How come Adidas has a monopoly on this? I mean, aren't there any other sporting goods manufacturers that want a piece of this action?
Troop: Oh, yeah. I mean, this is worth millions and millions of dollars for Adidas. Adidas has a contract with FIFA. FIFA likes to sign very long contracts. They just extended the one with Adidas for a few more World Cups, so it's going to be like this for a while.
Werman: So the World Cup games in South Africa, the ball there was called the Jabulani. This one's called the Brazuca. What does that mean?
Troop: It's actually a slang term in Brazilian Portuguese. It means, kind of, something inherently Brazilian. Sometimes it refers to Brazilians who don't live in Brazil, so the Brazilian diaspora, if you will. It also has a meaning, something that's very stylish in a Brazilian sort of way. So it can be used in many different ways, but the core of it is that it's quintessentially Brazilian. And this ball looks quintessentially fun, in a Brazilian way.
Werman: It does look fun. Time to bounce on out of here. The World's soccer expert, William Troop. Thanks so much.
Troop: You're welcome.