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The excitement of the 2018 Football World Cup in Russia is building, but there is a lot of controversy around the equipment being used.
Here is our round up of all the new equipment and technology developments from the big brands for every bit of essential kit - from boots to VAR.
Sustainability is the big news in the Nike camp with each 2018 Nike National Team Kit being made using at least 12 recycled plastic bottles Engineered yarns on the sleeves contribute to the speed aesthetic of the kit, and the open-hole texture of the knit on the chest and back of the shirt is precisely plotted against footballers’ heat and sweat maps for optimal breathability.
Vaporknit, a highly engineered body-mapped knit fabric, supports increased airflow by producing a duct-like effect. Built-in ribs on the inside of the kit help reduce cling. And finally a new high-tech heat transfer crest is 64 percent lighter than previous crest applications, and Nike’s most-breathable ever.
For this year's new designs Adidas combined a classic - even borderline retro - look with new innovative technology. The exact nature of the designs, cut of the collars etc depends on the particular country, mostly echoing particular glories in that country's past footballing history. However various innovations across the board included Adidas’ patented climachill cooling technology (much needed for this years unexpectedly warm world cup!), two fabric collars and a reworking of kits’ silhouette for optimum performance, adding dropped shoulder cut lines.
This summer Puma revealed it’s new clean white federation kit for the countries who have chosen the company as their designer. Switzerland, Uruguay, and PUMA's newest partners, Senegal and Serbia pulled on these super cleanly designed white jerseys. Each design incorporates PUMA's evoKNIT thermoregulation technology delivering an enhanced moisture management and adaptive cooling system that helps create the perfect on-pitch body temperature. The immaculate white design highlights the shirts engineered evoKNIT cooling fins and seamless construction that push the boundaries of performance.
“Fit is the foundation of fast”. If the fit isn’t right speed will be compromised. The Mercurial Superfly and Vapor 360 wrap the entire foot in Nike Flyknit which eliminates any gaps and the need for a soleplate. The chassis is individually tuned per size via computational programming rather than being based on an average size 9, the boot is really dialled in to the individuals bone structure. Traction is provided by precisely placed studs. With a more claw like forefoot effect built for acceleration while the heel studs help the player stop instantly. The plush feel can also be attributed to Nike's All Conditions Control, embedded into the yarns rather than as a top layer.
2018 saw the return of the Adidas Predator (Accelerator) with a new laceless design - to ensure maximum surface control - and a primeknit sockfit collar with a new 'controlskin' to provide supportive fit and optimal grip. The new hybrid stud tip configuration amplifies rotation and traction and a full length ‘boost’ midsole provides energy return with each step. The anatomically shaped upper mimics the heel shape for a perfect fit. A ‘controlframe’ with high performance polyamide layers combined with a ‘forged knit’ midfoot support structure provides ultimate stability to support complex movements.
Both the ‘Future’ and ‘Puma One’ boots have updated lacing technology which allows the wearer to lace their boots any way they want for a perfect fit, no matter the foot shape or lock-down need. The ‘NetFit’ upper has been fused to the evoKNIT sock and striking zones to create one form-fitting textile base layer. The super lightweight and reactive ‘RapidAgility’ outsole of the 'Future' is retained and contains a mix of conical and bladed studs that are designed to bring the best results in traction and stability. The Puma One has it's overall weight reduced due to the application of thinner K-Leather applied only to the key striking area of the boot and an updated outsole.
Adidas continued their strategy of bringing back an iconic design but adding serious new tech. This time with the reimagining of the original Mexico FIFA World Cup 1970 match ball, the Telstar. The Telstar 18 has a brand new panel design, made with elements of re-cycled backing material and packaging, and a metallic graphic print. The innovative carcass of the Brazuca, the 2014 World Cup design, has been retained with a few modifications. For the first time ever in the Official Match Ball, Adidas incorporated a microchip in the ball which enabled fans to unlock exclusive content and interact with the ball using their smartphones. And finally, this is the first time the colour of the ball has been changed for the final phase of the tournament to a striking red design.
The VAR team consisted of 13 assistant referees with access to all 33 broadcast cameras, including several slow-motion and ultra-slow motion cameras and two dedicated offside cameras. In all, 335 incidents were checked, including all of the 122 goals scored. After the tournament, Pierluigi Collina the chairman of FIFA’s referees committee said: “Through the intervention of VAR, 14 decisions were corrected", and according to FIFA, 95 per cent of the initial decisions taken by referees would have been correct without VAR intervention. That rate increased to 99.3 per cent with the assistance of VAR. Also, the average VAR decision only took 80 seconds. The fans, of course, are still to decide whether VAR is worth the "extra time & delay" and "accuracy".
Goal-Line Technology (GLT) has been around a bit longer than VAR, passing its inaugural trial at the 2012 World Cup in Japan and having been used at all of the big tournaments since. GLT registers the goal as soon as the whole football crosses the goal-line and alerts the referee within one second of a goal being scored, via their smartwatch. What was new for 2018 was that the referees wore limited edition luxury smartwatches designed and made by Hublot especially for the World Cup and which linked directly to the VAR, enabling them to have immediate video assistance on their wrists for the first time. The ball’s location was determined by interaction of the cameras, magnetic fields and the chip inside the ball.
Smart passport sized Fan ID badges were given to each spectator with some great perks, such as Visa-Free entry into Russia, free travel within host cities, and discounts at selected restaurants and shops. However, there was controversy about what data was being handed over to Russian authorities in return. Everyone was required to obtain and wear one at all times, even VIPs and celebrity guests of Putin. Fans movements throughout Russia during the tournament could be tracked by the World Cup Officials, and handed over to Russian authorities.
Some serious questions were asked about what happened to all that personal information after the tournament ended?
Was this the World Cup for innovation, or reliving the past? Are brands getting a bit stale and reinventing the wheel? We say, yes and no to both!
The key message from Adidas was look at our heritage (with the reimagined Telstar ball and the relaunch of the predator). This was a great approach, but the new technologies used were what made these iconic designs even better. Nike appeared to be upgrading their last World Cup designs (sock liner in a boot, recycled fibres in shirts), which to be fair were very innovative at the time, so having 4 years to upgrade and refine is probably allowed.
The biggest innovations everyone was talking about this year, however, were "off-the-pitch" (well nearly). VAR was certainly the biggest talking point (as were the ID badges). VAR looks as if it is here to stay. In a recent poll by COPA90, 76% of 100,000 football fans thought Russia 2018 was the best World Cup ever, and the drama, suspense and controversy of VAR was part of this (as well as the amazing goals).
We applaud the teams behind the brands in creating such interesting technologies, but the team at Kit Radar are looking forward to the incorporation of electronics into garments at the next World Cup.
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