Pakistan, a country obsessed with cricket, is making a significant contribution to the World Cup by producing the replica balls marketed to soccer fans across the world and the balls used on the Qatari practice fields.
In the northern city of Sialkot, a multinational sports equipment company called Forward Sports has been collaborating with Adidas AG for almost 20 years. Al Rihla, the official World Cup ball made by Adidas, is one of two products made by this company.
Hassan Masood Khawaja, director of forward sports, claimed that his company had produced 5.5 million Al Rihla balls, including 60,000 excellent copies of the balls used in games, but without the real-time technology aiding referees with offside and line calls.
For the company, the contract is a source of pride.
“More than business, it is a matter of prestige and honour for us to make the World Cup ball,” Khawaja said.
“How do we do it? It’s the skill of the people … and our love for the sport,” he said.
Despite the fact that soccer is well-liked by supporters, the national team is ranked 194th out of 211 nations by FIFA.
Making soccer balls and other sports goods in Sialkot has a long history that dates back to the colonial era.
Along with China and India, Pakistan continues to be one of the top producers of soccer balls worldwide. According to the local chamber of commerce, Sialkot produced more than 43 million balls worth $191 million during the fiscal year 2021–2022.
Around 1 million people live in Sialkot, and about 8% of them are employed in the sector, however many claim to have little opportunity to observe their products in use.
When asked if she watched soccer, Amna, a quality control inspector for Forward Sports, responded, “We work all day. “We need to rest at night when we go home.”