From using sewn pig bladders and steel toe boots with studs as shoes, equipment and gear has come a long way. Brands have leaped light years ahead in making sure the kit and gear brings the best out of the players while ensuring aesthetic appeal and minimal interference with the individual’s game.
This World Cup will be the most technologically advanced one yet as it will feature Goal Line technology, invisible sprays to mark free kick walls, jerseys with built in sport compression tape and a range of other hi-tech paraphernalia.
Sports equipment manufacturers have left no stone unturned in providing players with the most advanced gear. Nike, Adidas and Puma who sponsor the kits for most of the 32 nations had their tasks cut out as the competition is set to start at the beginning of the hot and humid Brazilian summer.
Players will be expending more energy and losing more body fluids, muscle fatigue and injuries especially for players of European nations who are not used to playing under such conditions.
JERSEYS & KITS
All the jerseys and kits are made of advanced synthetic microfibers that ensure maximum breathability, skin like feel and some innovative modifications.
These allow better performance by ensuring muscle sets are not overstretched and offer least resistance to skin abrasions and air. Moisture and sweat control are also important features of these fabrics as they force out the sweat and in turn give the athlete a cool feeling when it evaporates from the surface.
Nike’s Pro Combat and Hypercool, Adidas’ Climalite, Climacool and AdiZero and Puma’s PWR ACTV and PWR RCVR are few of the trademark technologies.
Nike, have been at the forefront of incorporating modern biomechanical research into their sports equipment. Lightweight ergonomic shoes, jerseys, other protective and playing gear have made the best players patrons of the brand.
Nike’s Pro Combat range consisting of performance sleeves and suits externally holds muscles in shape and ensures that compression and expansion caused in the course of play is controlled.
For this World Cup Nike has incorporated laser cut holes along the sides of the shirt and done away with the “t-bars” at the shoulders as the shirts will be more of a second skin to the players. The new jerseys are made from a combination of cotton and recycled polyester.
Germany’s Adidas, sponsors of players like Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Mesut Ozil and many others has been busy making subtle changes to its range of Climalite, Climacool and AdiZero sportswear to give players their most efficient gear yet.
The new Adidas jerseys have all the detailing including player names, numbers and the emblems ironed on to make the shorts and shirts as light as possible.
The socks have special linings and cushions at the heels and ankles to reduce and absorb shock. They have reduced the amount of stitching and seams to give the kits a more body hugging shape.
Adidas has also come up with pre-cooling vests and sleeves which will be worn by players during practice sessions before the match.
These sleeves and vests will be kept refrigerated before use reportedly help in reducing body temperatures and delaying heat induced fatigue. Designed to work in temperatures above 24°C the vests and sleeves have hyper absorbent granule zones located around the lower arms and upper back.
Defending champions Spain, Germany Argentina and Colombia along with 5 other Adidas federation teams will be using adipower at this World Cup.
Puma, who are kit sponsors for 8 teams at the World Cup have always been known to make the most colourful and visually appealing jerseys. Remember how they gave Cameroon all in one body suits and then sleeveless jerseys once.
This time around they have upped the ante and taken major cues from sports science and research. Puma are the first to use strategically placed athletic tape incorporated into the garment.
The tape falls over the the most used and fatigue sensitive muscle sets and provides small micro-massages to the skin enabling faster energy supply to the muscles. The strips in the front reportedly assist in better deep breathing and the tapes on the back and on the shoulder blades of the shirt aid in better posture and balance.
With the temperatures in Brazil set to soar over the next few weeks, cramp and fatigue will be an issue which the players and physiotherapists will have to deal with, having shirts which provide micro-massages that too while playing will certainly help the Azzuri, Les Elephants and the likes of Uruguay, Ghana and the rest.
BOOTS & OTHER GEAR
A footballer’s most important tool other than his skill are his boots. The football boot has evolved a lot over the years and has become lighter and more ergonomic in design. Equipment manufacturers have used the most advanced scientific research to help in shaping and designing their boots.
Nike have gone on to design Magista, made with Nike’s Flyknit technology. Boots with a knitted fabric top and ultra flexible polymer sole and studs, allowing the boot to wrap around the player’s foot and take a shape closest to his/her foot.The fabric finish also allows breathability and greatly increases flexibility.
This is almost equivalent to playing bare feet, only with studs on your soles and protection for your toes and ankles. This unique design will help for better stability and also offer support to the ankle joint, which incidentally is the most worked and injury prone.
Adidas got their noses ahead in the race when they put out pictures of a complete sock like football boot “Primeknit fs” on Twitter just hours before Nike’s Magista was unveiled at Barcelona.
Adidas also has released a range of knitted top football boots which will be one of the lightest boots ever made.
Puma which was not known for being the best boot manufacturer in the business have jumped into the fray with their trademark touch of color and vibrancy. Spain’s Cesc Fabregas, Italy’s Mario Balotelli and Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o will be among the lot to sport Puma’s odd-coloured evoSpeed and evoPower boots, one pink and one blue.
These top brands have also carried forward the use of lighter more durable materials in making shin guards and goalkeeper gloves that will feature the best of shock absorption while offering protection to the players.
GOAL LINE TECHNOLOGY
German company Goal Control has been handed the contract by FIFA to provide goal line technology at the World Cup in Brazil.
There will be 14 cameras, seven for each goal mouth mounted at or near the roof of the stadium capturing images at 500 frames per second installed at all 12 World Cup venues.
They will ensure that no controversial goals are allowed or legitimate ones disallowed. The referee will have a special watch which will vibrate with a flash message reading “GOAL” once the ball crosses the line.
The company’s boss Dirk Broichhausen also revealed that the system cannot be hacked as it is an “Off-line” system and did not rely on the internet. Assuring that the technology is foolproof.
Nearly 2400 tests were carried out to assure that the system was accurate even when cameras were blocked by players and has minimal margin of error, a plus-minus margin of just 1.5 centimeters.
Developed by Brazilian Pablo Silva the spray was tested in the Club World Cup in Marrakesh.
It is a white shaving foam like spray which can be used to mark the spot where the ball has to be placed for a free kick and also to mark the limits for the defense wall.
The spray is named 9.15 symbolizing the 10 yard distance in meters.
These measures taken by FIFA have given fans and players hope that the tournament will be the most competitive one yet along with being fair and just.