Pakistan’s national football team is 200th out of 211 teams in the FIFA world rankings, but the country’s more than 200 million people will still be feeling part of the 2022 FIFA World Cup finals to be played in Doha this winter.
Together with China, Pakistan is supplying the footballs to be used in the forthcoming mega event, which this time will be held in the winter instead of the summer due to the hot weather in the Qatari capital.
“We have once again been chosen to supply footballs for the World Cup, which is an honour for us and a testimony of the quality we have main-tained,” said Khawaja Masood Akhtar, the chairman of Forward Sports, a contracting manufacturer of global sports brand Adidas.
Nestled on the outskirts of Sialkot, workers at the company’s sprawling facility are working extra hours to ensure on-time delivery of the footballs.
The city, which borders India, has been famous for producing the finest quality sports goods and has been supplying footballs for mega-events for years.
Production of high-quality footballs is not Sialkot’s only forte. It also exports sports goods ranging from cricket bats to hockey sticks and from shining (cricket and hockey) balls to other accesso-ries like kits, shoes, and gloves.
The country earns $1 billion annually from sports goods exports, including $350 million to $500 mil-lion from footballs alone.
Declining to give the exact number of footballs the company will supply for the World Cup due to restrictions from Adidas, Akhtar said it would be “not in thousands but millions.”
Environmentally friendly match balls
Named “Al-Rihla”, Arabic for “The Journey”, the official match ball for the 2022 World Cup was unveiled in March by Adidas in Doha.
Forward Sports, which also makes footballs for the German Bundesliga, the French league, and the Champions League, was also the official football provider of the 2014 and 2018 World Cups in Brazil and Russia.
The balls to be used in the forthcoming tourna-ment are technically termed “thermo bonded”, which was first introduced in the 2014 World Cup.
Before that, Pakistan had supplied hand-stitched footballs for most of the World Cups from the 1990s to 2010.
Other types of footballs produced in Sialkot are “glued” and “hand-stitched”.
Thermo bonded balls are made by attaching the panels through heat — the latest technology adopted by Adidas and transferred to Forward Sports in 2013. There are no stitches.—AFP