Pros, products and personal prospects:

Bayer and the Soccer World Cup

Leverkusen, May, 2014 – Which national teams will be on the field of the stadium in Rio de Janeiro for the final match of the Soccer Championship on July 13th remains to be seen, but throughout the game there is clearly one star – “Brazuca”, the new official match ball that will roll across the field at the Soccer Championship games. The colorful product from athletic equipment manufacturer Adidas is based on specialty plastics from Bayer MaterialScience.

Over 600 professional players, including Lionel Messi, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Zinedine Zidane have tested the ball, with very good results: Ball control and touch have been improved, and the Brazuca is even more stable and rounder than its predecessors, thanks in part to the surface, which is now comprised of only six panels.

The ball’s cover is made of five layers, which ensure that the ball returns to its original shape after a shot. They also make the surface particularly durable and elastic.

Thomas Michaelis of Bayer MaterialScience has accompanied the development of high-tech soccer balls for many years. Together with Adidas, he and his team in Research and Development are committed to the challenge of presenting even rounder balls with even better grip – in short better balls – for every European Championship and the Soccer Championship.

“When I used to play soccer with my friends in the street, we played with heavy leather balls. Saturated with water every time it rained, the balls used to get so heavy that there was a real danger of injuring your toes,” Michaelis recalls. And this brings us to the subject of weight. The ball approved by the official organizer of the Soccer Championship must weigh between 420 and 445 grams, no more, no less. Natural leather products no longer were able to meet these requirements. The punched pieces of equal size that were sewn together to produce the final ball never weighed the same when they were made of leather. They had to be painstakingly sorted and selected to ensure that the overall weight was right in the end.

Evolution of the soccer ball

This changed with the arrival of synthetic material. The panels punched from it were all exactly the same weight, almost down to the gram. There was no more need for pre-sorting; they were simply bonded together and the ball was finished. “It was an enormous step towards more efficient production. Thanks to the synthetic material, water absorption was also reduced – a ‘toe-friendly’ side-effect, if you will,” says Michaelis, summarizing the evolution of the soccer ball.

The ball finds its way into the goal thanks in part to lightweight and durable soccer shoes. Materials from Bayer MaterialScience are used in this area as well. One legendary example is the Samba Copa Mundial from Adidas: It has now been in production for over 30 years and, with over ten million pairs sold to date, it is the most successful shoe in soccer history. These shoes have been worn by such soccer greats as Franz Beckenbauer, Michel Platini and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. Bayer researchers developed the plastic material specifically for this shoe.

Products help both pros and fans

Other parts of the professional players’ bodies will also be clothed in Bayer advanced materials many players wear a special kind of underwear with compression function that feels like a second skin on the body. The shirts and shorts fit snugly against body, but an athlete hardly feels them at all.

The trick is elastic bands incorporated in the garments that have a special coating from Bayer. They give an athlete improved posture and prevent premature fatigue. When the bands stretch, the material temporarily stores the energy, giving it back to an athlete as he or she continues to move, which enhances strength and stamina. At the same time, the compression helps to avoid unwanted muscle vibration that can adversely influence performance.

But it’s not just the athletes who gain advantages from Bayer innovations. Even the spectators at the Soccer Championship will benefit from them. Examples include the durable, transparent roofing made of Makrolon® plastic over the stadium in Brasilia, and the tactile flooring with raised markings that reliably guide visually impaired spectators into and through the stadiums.

Soccer opens up new prospects

Bayer and soccer is a relationship that goes even beyond the national soccer league and marketable products, particularly in Brazil.

Sugar Loaf Mountain, the statue of Christ, beautiful sandy beaches, Samba school parades: These are the images that come to mind when we think of Rio de Janeiro on Brazil’s east coast. Less well-known is Belford Roxo, some 30 kilometers from downtown Rio. With half-a-million residents, this city is Bayer’s largest production location in Latin America, but another side of its urban landscape are the favelas, or slums.

The company has already done much to support its neighboring communities, for instance through education initiatives on health matters and aid programs for better nutrition. One special initiative is a campaign to get kids out of the slums and give them personal prospects for the future: the Bayer Soccer Academy. Bayer has been using soccer to attract young people since 1993. The rules are strict: Students are only allowed to stay in the program if they regularly attend general school classes.

The chief aim of the Bayer academy is to prepare young people for their future lives. One of the young men participating in the program is Guilherme Pinheiro Santos, a 17 year-old Brazilian from Belford Roxo. During a visit to Germany, he had an opportunity to meet the pros on the Bayer 04 team, soccer icon Rudi Völler and even Dr. Marijn Dekkers, CEO of the Bayer Group. They all share a love for soccer. The young man and the CEO showed their enthusiasm in a friendly game of juggling, passing, doing tricks and headers in the foyer of Group headquarters in Leverkusen.

The reason for this unusual encounter was the Brazuca. In Leverkusen and Dormagen, Guilherme learned first hand exactly what the company contributed to the development of this modern soccer ball. It was a journey of discovery that included research labs, technical facilities, production plants and also the encounter at Group headquarters.

About Bayer MaterialScience:
With 2013 sales of EUR 11.2 billion, Bayer MaterialScience is among the world’s largest polymer companies. Business activities are focused on the manufacture of high-tech polymer materials and the development of innovative solutions for products used in many areas of daily life. The main segments served are the automotive, electrical and electronics, construction and the sports and leisure industries. At the end of 2013, Bayer MaterialScience had 30 production sites and employed approximately 14,300 people around the globe. Bayer MaterialScience is a Bayer Group company.

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