Named, “JABULANI” which means “to celebrate” in isiZulu, the new adidas ball will be the only ball used during the month-long tournament that starts in June.
According to business sources here, over 85 percent of the total production of soccer balls in the world comes from Sialkot Pakistan, while all international brands are sourcing their supply of footballs from this export-oriented city and nucleus of cottage industry in the country.
Over 40 million balls worth US $ 210 million are produced annually by some 60,000 highly skilled male and female workforce of Sialkot, a city which enjoys a unique position in global trade with reference to sports goods.
Its main forte is hand stitched inflatable balls, which have been produced for almost a century now, and are being exported to world markets by 1000 plus entrepreneurs. An added impetus has been provided as the local industry has been purged of the stigma of child labour.
The stitching of soccer balls started in Sialkot during the 20th century with supplies sent to the British forces, but after independence the industry grew at an impressive pace, making the world recognise the formidable position of this city vis-a-vis its favourite sport.
Today almost all international buyers rush to Sialkot to secure their supply chains, building strong and long term business relations with the local exporters.
In the 1980s, Sialkot gained ‘international celebrity’ status when it produced the ‘Tango’ ball used in FIFA World Cup in 1982, which led to further growth of the soccer ball industry. The success story of Sialkot based industries is based on the unmatched skill and craftsmanship of local workers.
Business globe trotters of the world have recognised the potential of Sialkot as a matchless export-oriented city of Pakistan. With a century old industrial base, the city has developed an incredible export culture over the decades, and is contributing up to $ 800 million to the national exchequer annually.
The exporters meanwhile continue efforts to double the export volume despite the increasingly tough competition in world markets today, to fetch valuable foreign exchange for the country. The development of cottage industries in Sialkot has assumed a model status for the developing world.
The city is sprinkled with thousands of small and medium enterprises engaged in honouring their global export commitments for value-added quality goods including sports items, surgical instruments, leather products, gloves, musical instruments etc.
At the moment however, the city is gripped mainly by football fever, with business activity at its peak in and around the city. A rush of cargo agents is witnessed at the Sialkot Dry Port for clearance and dispatch of soccer ball consignments well before the commencement of the World Cup, while the Collectorate of Customs Sambrial has also extended the working hours of the export section and PRAL to facilitate exporters.