The 2016 European football championships, popularly known as Euro 2016, kick off this weekend in France. The official match ball for the tournament, made by Adidas, is called the Beau Jeu—which Google Translate suggests means “Nice Game”.
To understanding the roots of the Beau Jeu, we need to look back at the ‘Brazuca’ matchball which was used in the Fifa world Cup 2014. The Beau Jeu has the same panel design. A lot of the construction elements have been retained, including the six-panel assembly—six polyurethane panels which were thermally bonded together. Adidas had claimed in 2014 as well that this allows for perfect roundedness and improves the flight of the ball. What the Beau Jeu changes is the texture on the outside, which is designed to allow better grip and to prevent movement that is known as knuckling—volatile swoops. There is a fiberglass print, which reduces the chances of abrasion on the printed layers of the ball and would have otherwise had a knock-on effect on the movement characteristics. The outer shell is more water resistant compared with the predecessors. This will also be useful in wet conditions, the idea being to make it easier to retain ball control as well as dribble.
Brazuca was the first-ever six panel ball used in a FIFA tournament, and was based on a combination of technology used in the Tango 12 ball and the balls used in the UEFA Champions League every year, with the same bladder and carcass.
The six polyurethane panel ball design came into existence after Adidas faced a lot of criticism for the ball used in the 2010 Fifa World Cup. Known as ‘Jabulani’, that ball was made of eight spherically moulded ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) and thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPU) panels and the surface of the ball was textured with grooves. The final result was unpredictable flight, which was criticised by players and coaches.
The European football tournament has seen some iconic footballs being used over the years, including the Questra Europa used in the 1996 edition and the Roteiro in 2004, which was famous for the silver colour.