The replica of the Telstar satellite that sits outside the Telstar high/middle school library. Bethel Citizen photo by Alison Aloisio

The Telstar 18 soccer ball was used in the World Cup tournament in 2018. John Eliot photo

BETHEL — When Telstar soccer teams take the field, they play with a familiar ball that features black panels on a white background.

But they, and other local sports fans, may not realize that there’s a connection between the ball’s visual design and a satellite whose replica sits in the Telstar High School hallway.

The ball used in last year’s World Cup soccer tournament was named the Telstar 18 as a tribute to Adidas’ first official World Cup ball from 1970, according to the World Cup website.

Before the 1970 tournament, Adidas was asked to create a ball that could be seen clearly on TV, compared to the traditional solid brown balls that were used at the time. That year was also the first year the tournament would be broadcast live around the world.

The 32-panel black-and-white design accomplished the goal.

Fittingly, the ball was named after the Telstar satellite that helped broadcast TV signals around the world, beginning in 1962, and which also featured a white background with black panels.


One of the satellite stations was in Andover.

The high school in Bethel was named for it.

“Since the 1970 World Cup would be the first broadcast live around the world, naming the ball’s design after the technology used to broadcast trans-Atlantic television for the first time made perfect sense,” the World Cup site said.

The 2018 Telstar ball marked the 50th anniversary of when the new design was first tested in games, leading up to the 1970 tournament.

John Eliot, dean of students at Telstar High School, obtained two of the 2018 World Cup soccer balls this summer, and gave them to visiting students from China. Eliot helped coordinate and implement the weeklong visit by the Chinese teens, and it included opportunities to play soccer with Telstar students.

He said that generally people in this area are surprised to learn of the Telstar tie to the well-known design of soccer balls.

“When I talk to others about the history of the soccer ball and the connection to the Telstar satellite, most people have no idea,” he said. “They never heard about the history and connection, but they are always really interested and usually say something like ‘Wow! I didn’t know that. That’s interesting.'”

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