Tag Archives: football

Why the World Cup always reminds me that the yellow card is a brilliant object.: Design Observer

Why the World Cup always reminds me that the yellow card is a brilliant object.: Design Observer.

As objects go, it doesn’t look like much. It’s, you know, a yellow card. But when theatrically brandished by an official, almost literally in the face of a player who has done something uncool, it has wild power. It sets off a stadium-full of whistling, and cartoonish arm-flailing from the carded player and his colleagues. A yellow card has real consequences: Possession, a free kick, and the possibility that if the carded competitor blunders again he’ll leave his team understaffed for this match, and will sit out the next.

It strikes me as more interesting than the other penalty card, the red. That one results in instant ejection, in response to some plainly egregious act. Its presentation is memorable, of course. But the yellow card is both more ambiguous and more humane. It’s a warning: There’s trouble; but it could be worse.

According an item on FIFA’s site, the penalty-card notion was invented by an official named Ken Aston, in the wake of a 1966 World Cup quarterfinal match between England and Argentina. Apparently there was some controversy about whether the referee had clearly communicated penalty warnings leveled against two English players:

It started a train of thought in Aston’s head too. He began to think about ways to avoid such problems in the future. “As I drove down Kensington High Street, the traffic light turned red. I thought, ‘Yellow, take it easy; red, stop, you’re off’.”

Yellow and red penalty cards became part of the World Cup in 1970, and are of course now a routine element of soccer and (according to Wikipedia, anyway) a number of other sports.

The cards are a such a brilliant solution to the problem of making sure a penalty has been adequately signaled — they transcend language; they’re clear not just to everyone on the field, but in the stadium, or watching on a screen — that it’s hard to imagine the game without them.

Moreover (and this is the line of thought that idle World Cup moments lead me to every four years), I semi-seriously wish we could port the card system into daily life. Imagine a yellow card as a warning to the shop employee whose insolence is getting close to inspiring a boycott; to the dinner companion whose habit of checking his phone is on the verge of becoming a friendship-ender; to the aggressive tailgater who is just about to inspire a road-rage incident.

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The World’s Ball – NYTimes.com

The World’s Ball – NYTimes.com.


Early soccer balls were hand-sewn and made of leather. They were never perfectly round, and inflating them required some skill. The laces had to be undone before an interior air bladder was filled and tied with a thread; then the laces were retied.
Team captains chose a ball before each match, and every team had a preferred design, according to Peter Pesti, a collector and expert on World Cup balls. In the first World Cup, in 1930, Uruguay and Argentina could not agree on which ball to use. The first half of the match was played with a model favored by Argentina. The second half was played with Uruguay’s preferred design, the T-Model. Argentina led, 2-1, after the first half, but Uruguay recovered in the second and won, 4-2.

The heavy leather laces of early balls made headers potentially painful, and relatively rare. A later innovation in valve design eliminated the laces. The new balls were much easier to head, and they held their shape better.

[…]

The 1970 World Cup was broadcast by satellite in both Europe and the Americas, and the Telstar Durlast was designed to be television friendly. The enduring black-and-white pattern was said to improve visibility on black-and-white sets.

The construction of the ball was innovative as well. Older balls, with horizontal and vertical stripes, resembled volleyballs. Adi Dassler, a founder of Adidas, broke away by choosing a 32-panel design that made the ball more spherical, allowing for improved ball control.

The new construction set the standard for the next three decades of World Cup balls, with leather eventually giving way to synthetics. Meanwhile, Adidas has provided the ball for every tournament since 1970.

The newest balls are heat-sealed, with fewer panels and a more aerodynamic seam pattern. Though these balls were designed to perform more uniformly, the Jabulani design was harshly criticized at the 2010 World Cup. Many players complained that the ball’s trajectory was fickle and unpredictable.

Adidas has said that this year’s ball, the Brazuca, has gone through rigorous testing in advance of the tournament.