FIFA World Cup official match ball: What is new connected ball technology?

It will help inform offside situations as well as assist in detecting unclear touches thereby ultimately improving the quality and speed of VAR decision-making process in the tournament in Qatar.

Al Rihla – the official match ball of the FIFA World Cup 2022
Al Rihla – the official match ball of the FIFA World Cup 2022.

The official match ball of the FIFA World Cup 2022 will feature new connected ball technology, which will be used to enhance the VAR (Video Assistant Referees) system by providing an unprecedented level of data and information to match officials for making faster and more accurate decisions on the biggest stage of all.

The FIFA World Cup 2022 will be played in Qatar from November 20 to December 18 with the participation of 32 teams.

As per FIFA, this ball travels faster in flight than any other in the tournament’s history, supporting high-speed and high-quality games.

Also read: FIFA World Cup 2022 schedule, groups, and more

Al Rihla will be the first World Cup official match ball to feature this innovation, providing precise ball data, which will be made available to Video Match Officials in real time, according to global sportswear brand adidas.

What is Al Rihla?

According to FIFA, Al Rihla means “the journey” in Arabic and is inspired by the culture, architecture, iconic boats and flag of Qatar. The bold, vibrant colours set on a pearlescent background represent the FIFA World Cup host country and the ever-increasing speed of the game. Al Rihla is the first FIFA World Cup ball to be made exclusively with water-based inks and glues.

Combined with player position data and by applying artificial intelligence, the innovative connected ball technology contributes to FIFA’s semi-automated offside technology and offers VAR instantaneous information to help optimise decision-making.

Also read: FIFA urges teams to focus on football in Qatar World Cup

How the new technology works

A new adidas Suspension System in the centre of the ball hosts and stabilises a 500Hz inertial measurement unit (IMU) motion sensor, which provides unprecedented insight into every element of the movement of the ball, while making this technology unnoticeable for players and not affecting its performance whatsoever. The sensor is powered by a rechargeable battery, which can be charged by induction.

This new technology developed in close collaboration with FIFA and KINEXON, leaders in state-of-the-art sensor network and edge computing, enables the Video Match Officials to review live data for the first time by automatically providing very accurate information, 500 times per second, on when a player has touched the ball.

It will help inform offside situations as well as assist in detecting unclear touches thereby ultimately improving the quality and speed of VAR decision-making process.

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The connected ball technology has been rigorously and robustly tested with a number of professional and grassroots football clubs around the world (including blind testing), namely at the FIFA Arab Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup 2021 in Abu Dhabi, with no perceived change to performance.

‘Stunning, sustainable’

Holger Kraetschmer, Head of Consumer Foresight at adidas said, “At adidas we are committed to an active and consistent contribution to enhance the modern game for players and fans alike. From the latest boot technology to hardware, kits, and now connected ball technology to assist with quick and accurate decision making to improve the experience for all, technology and innovation are at the heart of everything we do.”

Johannes Holzmüller, Director Football Technology & Innovation at FIFA said, “This technology is the culmination of three years of dedicated research and testing by FIFA and our partner adidas to provide the best possible experience for the referees, teams, players and fans who will be heading to Qatar later this year. We look forward to seeing semi-automated offside technology including the connected ball technology in action at the FIFA World Cup 2022.”

Dr. Maximilian Schmidt, Global Sports Lead at KINEXON, said, “As FIFA Preferred Provider for Live Player and Ball Tracking our goal with adidas is to use state-of-the-art technology to improve the experience for everyone involved without changing the game of football. We are confident that with accurate live ball data the connected ball technology will enable a new age of football analytics and fan experience.”

“This is a stunning, sustainable and high-quality Official Match Ball from adidas that will be enjoyed by stars performing at the top of their game on the world’s biggest stage in Qatar, as well as grassroots players everywhere,” said Jean-François Pathy, FIFA’s Director of Marketing. “Al Rihla’s worldwide journey will represent the incredible reach of the FIFA World Cup and give fans a unique opportunity to engage with the event as excitement builds ahead of the big kick-off.”

Al Rihla – the official match ball of the FIFA World Cup 2022 – with its connected ball technology, will be used in all 64 matches of the tournament. The raw data captured during the FIFA World Cup 2022 through the connected ball technology and transmitted to Video Match officials is fully owned and managed directly by FIFA.

The official match ball with the connected ball technology will not be commercialised or available in retail, adidas said.