for National Geographic News
A revolutionary and controversial new soccer ball grabs the spotlight today as the 2006 World Cup kicks off in Germany.
Named +Teamgeist, German for "team spirit," the soccer ball features a radical new design that sports just 14 panelsthe first departure from the iconic 32-panel ball that's been used in the World Cup for the past 36 years.
Adidas, the new ball's designer, touts it as the most technologically advancedand roundestsoccer ball ever made.
Tournament officials say the ball will lead to more goals, providing extra excitement for the World Cup's billions of spectators (read famous fans' musing on soccer in National Geographic magazine).
Some star players have endorsed the new design, including England's captain, David Beckham, known for his trademark swerving shots when shooting a goal.
"It goes where you want it to go, and that's important," the Adidas-sponsored player said in a press release.
But some players and sports scientists aren't so sure about how the new ball is going to perform.
Critics say the ball is too light and aerodynamic, and it may behave unpredictably and create problems for goalkeepers.
The most common soccer ball designoriginated by an Adidas model called Telstarwas introduced at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. It is made up of 20 white hexagons and 12 black pentagons stitched together into a sphere.
As well as using fewer panels, Adidas dispensed with any stitching for +Teamgeist, instead using a heating and gluing process to create a watertight seal.
The manufacturer says this new feature gives the ball the same feel whatever the playing conditions, rain or shine.
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