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Day: June 5, 2010

World Cup Tales: Did Il Duce Fix It? Italy, 1934

When Joao Havelange claimed, in 2008, that the 1966 and 1974 World Cups were fixed, his claims were largely laughed out of court. Depending on who you listened to, he was either deliberately misconstruing events or demonstrating little more than the first signs of senility. What was, however, curious about his comments was what he missed out. No mention was made of the 1978 tournament, which many have pointed to as being a tournament of less than sturdy moral fibre (and was, coincidentally, the first held under Havelange’s tutelage) and, even more curiously, none was made of the second World Cup of all, which was held in the Italy of Benito Mussolini in 1934. We probably shouldn’t be surprised that FIFA decided to hold the second World Cup (and the first to be held in Europe) in a fascist, totalitarian state. After all, they held the 1978 World Cup in one and the decision to hold the 1982 tournament in Spain was made while General Franco was still very much alive. Questionable decisions over the hosting of World Cup tournaments are part and parcel of the history of the game. However, when reading back over the history of the 1934 competition, it occasionally starts to feel as if FIFA at the time were in thrall to Mussolini, allowing him to take near personal control of the competition, which is...

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World Cup Tales: The Creation Of A Design Classic, 1970

It is one of the curious anomalies of our game that when we close our eyes and think of a football we tend to think of a specific type of football and, moreover, that the type of football that we are likely to think of is a specific type of ball which hasn’t been widely used in major tournaments for over thirty years. To geometrists, it would be known as spherical polyhedron, but we would be more likely to know it as a 32-panel football, a Buckminster ball or a “bucky ball”, it made its international debut at the 1970 World Cup finals in Mexico, and it is a perfect example of the application of science to commercial design. One of the more noticeable traits of the football itself is how difficult it is to design correctly. It needs to be neither too heavy nor too light and, more importantly, as near to perfectly round as possible. Until the late 1960s, the tradition football shape was the eighteen panel ball, which was made up of six blocks of three oblong strips of material. However, in the late 1960s, having signed a sponsorship deal with FIFA that still exists to this day, Adidas changed the design of the football itself and created something of a design classic – the Adidas Telstar. The key name in this development is Richard Buckminster...

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