This article was originally published in French.
Forward Sports, a company based in Sialkot in the province of Punjab, in eastern Pakistan, was awarded the contract to make the official football by Adidas, the world’s second largest sporting goods manufacturer. The Brazuca (as the ball is called) was initially set to be produced entirely in China. But social dumping prevailed and the German company opted to give part of the deal to a subcontractor in a neighbouring country. One of the reasons: lower production costs, with employees earning a monthly wage equal to €74 a month (US$100 US dollars) for an eight-hour day and a six-day week – just below the per capita income. Around 1800 Pakistani men and women are currently hard at work on the Brazuca assembly line. This did not, however, stop Brazil’s former international player Cafu from boasting of a “100 per cent Brazilian” football at the official presentation on 3 December 2013. “It is a beautiful ball and really has all the characteristics and colours of Brazil,” he said.
Guaranteed profits for Adidas
Engineers tested the 12th official World Cup ball, designed by Adidas, for two and a half years in ten countries. Over 600 players took part in the tests, including Karim Benzema and Lionel Messi. The cost of designing and developing this “little marvel” has not been divulged. So, is it better than its predecessor, Jabulani, the ball designed for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa? Even NASA engineers have contributed their expertise. In an article by the BBC, Dr Rabi Mehta, an aerodynamics expert at the US space agency, advises players “not to kick the ball as hard” as in 2010.
Adidas is hoping to make Brazuca one of its best sellers this year. Thirteen million Jabulani balls were sold on the global market. According to Bloomberg, the company hopes to exceed this with the Brazuca ball. Khawaja Hassan Masood, head of new products development at Forward Sports told reporters that “his company will supply more than two million Brazuca balls of various grades.” Adidas has refused to give a breakdown of geographical sourcing or details of commercial agreements. But hundreds of balls are already flooding the global market. A decent quality replica costs around €30 and the official ball sells at €140 (US$190), nearly double the monthly wage earned by the Pakistani workers who make them. Adidas is set to make a handsome profit.
Meanwhile, as part of its Detox campaign, Greenpeace has been investigating over 33 sports items sold as 2014 World Cup merchandise by Nike, Adidas and Puma. These items are mainly produced in Asia (China, Indonesia, Vietnam), but also in eastern Europe and Argentina. Greenpeace found that: “The production of these items pollutes lakes and rivers and poses a threat to the health of humans and animals.” Most of the boots and the gloves worn by goalkeepers were shown to contain, very high concentrations in some cases of, substances such as perfluorinated chemicals (PFC), including nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPE) or PFOA, which has been listed as a “substance of very high concern” under the REACH Regulation of the European Union, given its toxicity and persistence.
The Brazuca ball also contains nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPE). “NPE degrade to nonylphenols (NP), which are toxic, act as hormone disruptors, and are persistent and bioaccumulative,” explains Greenpeace. The findings have led the environmental NGO to conclude that, despite the commitments made since the launch of the Detox campaign, big brands like Nike and Adidas have not, in fact, taken serious measures to end the use of toxic products.
Morgane Thimel and Equal Times
Translation : Equal Times