one of the best places to showcase new technology around the
continually evolving field of sportswear is a stage of the
global kind. And what better a platform to showcase things than the Fifa
Football World Cup slated to begin next week. With 32 teams
across the globe set to battle it out for the supreme prize, kit suppliers for
the teams have been working in overdrive, to outdo each other in
ensuring that the players have kits that are optimised to improve their
(Also see: How to Watch Fifa World Cup 2014 Online)
While all this sounds good, what exactly goes into the
making of these jerseys and how does it help improve on-field
performance? For a sport where a slight lapse in concentration can be
the difference between winning and losing, both the teams as well as the
kit suppliers have to take their designing very seriously.
The current World Cup has three primary kit sponsors that cover a majority of the teams - Nike with 10 teams, Adidas with nine teams and
Puma with eight teams. The other companies include the likes of Uhlsport
and Marathon. While most people focus on the patriotic colours, there's
also a lot of technology that goes into the kits worn by the players on
Take the case of Puma, which supplies kits to the teams such as Italy, Ghana, Cameroon, and Algeria, amongst others. The kits
supplied to the teams include the latest innovation from Puma - PWR
ACTV, which combines athletic taping and compression fit fabric, within
Rajiv Mehta, MD Puma India, says, "The concept behind the
new jerseys is simple - enabling the players to play in the heat in
Brazil, whilst not letting it affect their performance. The ACTV tape is
placed strategically in the garment. It provides micro-massage to the
player to specific muscle areas, which helps promote energy supply to
ACTV technology is a compression technology
that helps to reduce the muscle vibration in athletes. Think of it as
stretching rubber bands tightly along the players' bodies, holding the
muscles tightly to prevent vibration while running. This gradual
compression promotes stamina recovery, which in a 90-minute game could
make the difference between winning and losing.
Mehta says that the new
innovations were tested in the team kits for clubs VfB Stuttgart in Germany
and Botafogo FR in Brazil. "It ensured that the product was tested in
varied weather conditions. More importantly all the eight teams were
closely involved in the designing of the product so we also knew what
they exactly wanted," he adds.
Adidas meanwhile, has also
introduced a technology called Adizero. The Adizero technology, which
was earlier used by Adidas in their F50 line of football shoes, is now a
part of the players' kits. The Adizero technology was used to reduce
the weight of the shoe. This is done with a super-thin membrane like
design that ensures a more perfect fit around the player's foot thereby
improving traction and control. This has the additional benefit of
reducing weight, and therefore strain, on players.
technology has been combined with the Climacool technology to create the
new lightweight jerseys. Climacool is an older technology, which uses a
highly breathable fabric to provide improved ventilation. It was first
introduced in 2012 by Adidas. In addition to moisture and sweat
management it resists pilling (bunching and breaking of fibres) and is
anti-microbial. That is but a part of the whole set-up. Adidas in fact
claims that the new jerseys are also around 40 percent lighter than the
ones used in 2012's Euro Cup - the weight of the new jersey is 100 grams,
down from 166 grams. That might not sound like much, but when the footballers
are pushing themselves to the limit for 90 minutes, it can make a big
Explaining the concept, Chirag Tanna, Head of
Operations, Pune Football Club (PFC), says, "PFC has been outfitted with
Adidas kits similar to the ones that are being used in the World Cup.
One of the most important criteria that we needed was a lightweight
jersey that helped the players stay fit whilst playing in hot and humid
conditions. The Climacool technology used in the team jerseys has helped
the players stay fresh, both during the training hours as well as
during match days. The sweat wicking feature on the jersey ensures that
the players remain dry."
"The fabric which is highly breathable removes
the moisture from the skin and pushes it to the surface for quick
evaporation," Tanna adds. "This is combined with mesh linings in critical heat zones
to aid the comfort of the player on field. One of the main causes of
fatigue is sweat, which reduces the breathability of the players major
muscle groups. That has been addressed, which has significantly helped
improve the performance of the players."
While weight and
breathability are major issues that have been targeted by the
developers, there have been different types of fabrics that have been
tested and tried out.
Take the kits being supplied by Nike for instance.
Sponsoring ten of the 32 teams in the World Cup, including the host
nation Brazil, it launched all the kits simultaneously on April 28 this
year. Nike states that the jerseys incorporate the Dri-FIT technology
for improved breathability.
Dri-FIT, according to Nike, is a high
performance microfiber which moves sweat away from the body to keep the
players comfortable. This, along with the laser cut holes that form a
mesh layer, works towards creating a body-mapped fabric which is designed
keeping natural body contours in mind. Combined with ventilation zones
this allows for more air to travel through the fabric.
The latest feature however is the departure from the old
NikeFIT designs that were almost exclusively made of polyester. The new
jerseys make use of a combination of cotton and recycled polymer. The
shorts feature 100 percent recycled polymer, while the shirts 96 percent
and the stockings 78 percent. According to Nike, recycled plastic
bottles are used to make the polymer - on average, 18 such bottles are
used to make one kit.
On the other hand incorporating players'
opinions also helps design the kits better. Martin Lotti, Global
Creative Director for Nike Soccer, says, "When we asked players to talk
about the kind of protection they need during a match, they showed us
scars and abrasions on their upper-back hip area from sliding. Several
players showed us these same injuries so we set out to add more
protection, while balancing the need for lightweight fabrics and
Similarly Puma in their latest World Cup kits has the
ACTV tape placed in strategic positions on the shirt. According to
Mehta, the tape on the front of the shirt is designed to relax the
midriff for deeper breathing and stimulate the abdominal muscles for
stability and balance. "The tape on the back of the shirt is located on
the shoulder blades and lower back, helping assist posture and increase
stability," he adds.
But for all the innovation that the kit
providers supply in the jerseys, how effective are they actually on the
Footballer Arata Izumi, who plays for both the PFC and the Indian
National Football team, says, "The kit perhaps, is as important as the
football shoes. Playing in India, which has a tropical climate the
jerseys and the shorts play a crucial role in our performance,
especially over long matches (which go into extra time). The current kit
by Adidas is light weight and it also helps us stay dry and
The Japanese-born Izumi who has become a naturalised Indian citizen adds, "During the 90
minutes of a game, if the kit is comfortable, for players it acts as a
psychological booster. The cumulative effect is positive. The energy
levels are good, there is better stress and fatigue management and that
leads to more physical comfort. All these things eventually help the
player a lot on the field."