Al-Rihla World Cup match balls will have cutting-edge AI sensor technology, Adidas and FIFA announced months ago. This will guarantee the accuracy of refereeing decisions. This was a novel development in football technology, but curiously, we didn’t hear much about it throughout the competition until it was shown that Bruno Fernandes, and not Cristiano Ronaldo, had scored Portugal’s opening goal against Uruguay.
According to FIFA, when a ball is taken out of play during a game and replaced by another, the system automatically activates the sensor of the new ball without the need for a player to do anything. Assuming, of course, that they are all fully charged.
Although the necessity for power to enable the technology to operate is not surprising, we never anticipated to see a football plugged in to charge like a mobile phone at the side of the field. In terms of the materials used and the methods of manufacture, balls have advanced significantly throughout time, but we would not have predicted that the next logical step in their evolution would be to be powered up before a game.
The sensor-fitted ball will not only deliver scientifically proven refereeing decisions, but it will also play a significant role in the use of stats and data in football. It appears to be an early forerunner of the “internet of things” or perhaps it is already a component of it. It makes new metrics available, which expands the analysis of football and influences how teams practise and, ultimately, perform.