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‘Made-in-Sialkot’ Adidas ball puts Pakistan in the World Cup

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Argentina striker Lionel Messi promotes Adidas' Al Rihla, the official Qatar 2022 World Cup ball

Even though it is a cricket-mad nation, Pakistan is playing a big part in the
World Cup by making the balls used on the training fields in Qatar and the replicas sold to fans worldwide.

Forward Sports, a multinational sports equipment company in the northeastern city of Sialkot, has been working with Adidas for almost 20 years and is one of two manufacturers of Adidas’ Al Rihla, the official World Cup ball.

Forward Sports director Hassan Masood Khawaja said his company had made 5.5 million Al Rihla balls, including 60,000 high-quality replicas of the balls used in matches, only without the real-time technology helping referees with offside and line calls.

The balls are used by the teams as they train in Qatar and sold as a premium product to football enthusiasts across the globe, with the rest sold as lower-priced leisure and souvenir balls. The match balls are made in China, but Adidas declined to identify the manufacturer.

The contract is a source of pride for Forward Sports.

“More than business, it is a matter of prestige and honour for us to make the World Cup ball,” Khawaja said.

While football is popular among fans, Pakistan’s national side is ranked 194 out of 211 countries by Fifa – cricket reigns supreme.

Pakistan is one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of footballs, along with China and India.

Sialkot has a rich history of making footballs and other sporting equipment dating back to colonial times. Its local chamber of commerce said more than 43 million balls valued at $191 million were made there during the 2021/22 financial year, and about 8 percent of Sialkot’s population of around 1 million people work in the industry.