The black-and-white ball became a symbol of a fever dream of a sport the whole world is obsessed with.
How the now-classic football design paid tribute to the Telstar, a satellite that shaped the modern world
First introduced for the 1968 European Football Championship, Adidas Telstar was used as the official match ball of the 1970 FIFA World Cup in Mexico.
The name of the ball came from the world’s first active communication satellite launched in 1962 — Telstar 1 communications satellite.
This rather small satellite which shaped the modern world 60 years ago, was roughly spherical and dotted with solar panels, hence the clear connection to football.
Developed by Bell Telephone Laboratories (now Nokia Bell Labs), Telstar was the first to send live television signals, telephone calls, and fax images through space, which inaugurated an age of instant worldwide communications via satellite.
NASA stated at the time that 12 July 1962 was “the day information went global“.
This was the first time television transmissions of live events and phone conversations could be relayed between the US and Europe in real-time. While we take this for granted now, Telstar guided global communications as we know them today. Although the satellite is no longer operational, it remains in Earth’s orbit.
Apart from bringing the revolutionary ball design of Telstar to the world, Mexico 1970 was also the first live-televised FIFA World Cup. From 1930 until then, this huge event was not broadcast globally.
Telstar, and the communication satellites that came after it, brought football matches to fans all around the world.
While the first soccer balls were originally made of brown leather, a new design of the “star of the television” made balls stand out on the predominantly black and white TV screens at the time.