Matthias Mecking

No doubt: This ball’s flying straight – there is proof!

No doubt: This ball’s flying straight – there is proof!

Today, adidas presented the Official Ball for the UEFA EURO 2012: the “Tango 12”. It took us approximately two years from first technical concepts through to design development and extensive testing to production start.

Every time we prepare ourselves for a big tournament we go back to our labs and our test centres to come up with the best ball possible based on our strong track record in research and development. The ball for the UEFA EURO 2012 is no exception.

And every time we bring out a new ball there is also some controversy – is the ball flying straight, is it too light, too small? – just to mention some of the questions we are always getting.

Testing is key for enhancement

And I can tell you one thing for sure: No, it is neither too light, nor too small because it always passes a rigorous testing and it exceeds all FIFA Approved Standards (which have been developed by EMPA, an independent research institute).

However, we also set our own standards which are even stricter than FIFA’s are. We test all different aspects such as the roundness of the ball, its weight and whether it absorbs water and therewith changes its playing characteristics throughout a game (by the way: no, it doesn’t). Another test we do is about accuracy.

adidas' robotic leg

Test, test, test! adidas' robotic leg

There is a robotic leg in our test centre in Herzogenaurach which hits the ball again and again on a goal distance of 22 metres. With this robotic leg you can reproduce any shot as often as you want. Its execution will always be exactly the same – leg and foot angles will not vary by any degree. With the robotic leg and high-speed cameras we are able to analyse the ball’s exact flight characteristics. In our tests, the Tango 12 always hit its target with a maximal deviation of 20 cm. This is very accurate, considering a ball’s own circumference of approx. 20 cm.

You will find all ball characteristics we are testing and the respective results in the infographic below (click on the image to enlarge).

Infographic: testing of the adidas Tango 12

Infographic: Testing of the adidas Tango 12

Here is a video which explains the lab testing in more detail.

Finding the balance by listening

David Villa with the adidas Tango 12

David Villa and the Tango 12

Quantitative lab testing and meeting the FIFA Approved Standards is important. But meeting our own objective of providing athletes with the best possible equipment and thus enabling them to achieve their peak performance demands even more. This goal requires that we listen to the experiences and preferences of all the athletes out there and evaluate this data adequately. What is a player’s first impression, playing the ball? Does the athlete like its bounce? What can we change in order to keep up with the increase in the overall pace of the game? These and other questions bring us closer to our goal to perfectly balance the key characteristics of a ball – according to the athlete’s valuable input.

Therefore we always do qualitative player testing with athletes of all skill levels, too. These tests are conducted by a mix of outfield players and goalkeepers, federations and clubs from both elite and grass roots football.

The players’ feedback was always extremely positive.

All in all, the Tango 12 is the most and best tested ball in the history of adidas.

I am very proud of the results we achieved and the way we enhanced the ball’s balance. Now I am looking forward to seeing it officially on the field, kicked by athletes such as Lionel Messi and Bastian Schweinsteiger as well as by Sunday league players around the globe. It will further boost my team’s motivation to give everything we’ve got in order to find ways to further enhance one of the products we are currently working on: the Official Ball for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil.

Now it’s on you: Get out there and test it yourself.


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  1. Hi there Matthias, amazing data… sorry for my ignorance Matthias but why the name “Tango”? and when it´s going to be on the market?
    Have a good week…

  2. Hi Matthias, great post! The datas and figures sound really interesting, I am really curious to hit the ball the first time by myself. It’s also great to see how the testing works – sounds a little bit like “rocket science!” ;-) and thanks for sharing the nice infographic.

    And now we wanna see here a picture with a german star, not the spanish guy… sorry!

    Thanks and greetz,

    P.S. Yes, you didn’t mention why the ball is called “tango” – any tango dancers in Poland and the Ukraine?

  3. Frank Thomas (Moderator)
    December 5, 2011 3:14 pm

    Hi Mike, Hi Nils,

    Thank you very much for your comments. As Matthias is currently not available I will answer your question.
    The name “Tango 12” honours adidas’ rich history as both a football developer and a partner of the UEFA. We have produced already three “Tangos” for UEFA EURO tournaments before the Tango 12 (Tango River Plate – 1980, Tango Mundial – 1984 and Tango Europa – 1988). The Tango 12 is a modern interpretation of the original timeless Tango design – obviously brought to today’s world of style and football.
    The Tango 12 is available for purchase in adidas retail outlets and associated stockists since Saturday, December 3rd.


  4. Hi Frank, thanks a lot for the comments, I was little researching about the development of the Tango taking as reference the years you mentioned, amazing!!! how the official balls have improved with the years and the game.

    I found as well the first Tango version was used in the World Cup Argentina in 1978 with the name Durlast and I thought maybe the name came from there due Tango is from Argentina and Uruguay, but I am not sure, I´m just guessing. After this, Tango started to be used for the Euro tournaments as you mention Frank and two World Cups in the 80´s. Now I see why in the video mentions “inspired by tradition, made for today´s game” amazing guys, good one.

    Last thing Frank, usually how much adidas spends to develop this kind of balls, like the Jabulani, Tango 12 and now the official ball for the FIFA World Cup Brazil? I know as the article says that takes years of search and now the official balls require more technology, I just asked this to have a reference, an idea.

    Thanks so much Frank and congrats for this Blog idea. Have a good day.

  5. Frank Thomas (Moderator)
    December 6, 2011 6:55 pm

    Hi Mike,

    thanks for your comment and the passion you put into it!
    You are right that the Tango series made its debut in 1978. However, it was just called “Tango”. “Durlast” was a new polyurethane coating which increased the water resistance of the leather ball. As far as I know it appeared for the first time in 1972 with the “Telstar Mexico” and again two years later with the “Telstar Durlast”.
    However, I am not an expert when it comes to this topic. I will try to find a colleague who is more into this and who is willed to write a post about the history of ball development and innovation. Let me see what I can do for you. Could take some time though.

  6. Hello Frank and Matthias !

    It’s a good feeling to see my 8 historical adidas match balls from my own collection in the spring of the ball video. There are two great pictures of them on the news-stram page too – inclusive my both “telstar” balls from 1972 and 1976 ! Best regards ! René Sopp

  7. Hi, I am Brian from Argentina, tango was the name of the ball in Argentina 1978. Regards..