Managing Director Carl Davies tells Jeremy Lim that supplying the official match ball for the AFF Suzuki Cup is a further step in the company's growing involvement to developing the game at all levels in Asia.
Chatting to FourFourTwo on his visit to South-East Asia to catch the action as it unfolds, Mr Davies' pride is just as evident as his enthusiasm that the tournament is inspiring youngsters across the region to play football.
Mitre's decision to supply the Delta V12S as the tournament's official match ball was driven by its larger commitment to build the sport regionally after all. And, as with all its other markets, the world's oldest manufacturer of footballs is obsessed with cementing ties and growing alongside local communities here for the long haul.
Mr Davies explores the Mitre's core philosophies that have stood the test of time, the future of ASEAN football, constant penalty heartbreak as a long-suffering England supporter, his dream of seeing Zlatan Ibrahimovic don his beloved Crystal Palace's colours, and what Singapore football needs - apart from a refurbished national stadium - to be relevant again.
We're so close to crowning our latest AFF Suzuki Cup champion. What does it mean for Mitre to supply the official match ball? Does it help the brand that so many football fans in South-East Asia have been following the tournament really closely?
We’re really proud to supply the ball. South-East Asia is a really strong market for us. We’re building a decent following here in Singapore and have started to understand football here a lot better. When we met with the organisers of the Suzuki Cup, we immediately fell in love with it.
And we’ll be back, having signed for the next tournament too, with every hope it’ll be as good as the current one. Everybody at Mitre has touched on the passion of the support here. We’re mad for and proud of this great opportunity to show what we as a brand are about, what our ball is about. It’s great to be part of a tournament as good as this at the moment.
We’ve seen the power of social media, where plenty of comments are coming through about the quality of our product - how visible it is, how it moves through the air. so it’s definitely rewarding from a product perspective.
The revolutionary Mitre Delta V12S is used in the tournament. Can you tell me more about the technology behind what is claimed to be the most advanced match ball ever made?
It’s our flagship ball. Mitre as a company is nearly 200 years old. We’re the oldest sports company in the world, and so we like to think that the Delta V12 has been in the making for nearly 200 years. Literally every bit of Mitre innovation is built into it.
We know that if we get it right for the players, then the fans will love it as well.
Its unique design, with 12 hand-stitched panels and textured grain surface, ensures it flies fast and stable through the air.
The increased speed and aerodynamics of the ball can only make a match more exciting for the crowd. Is it part of Mitre's philosophy to increase the entertainment value of the game? Are there any other technological leaps that you have in the works?
We put the player at the heart of research and development. All development has been made with player input, and we know that if we get it right for the players, then the fans will love it as well. The latter have told us how great it plays over social media, and I think we’ve seen how fast the ball has travelled with some of the goals here at the Suzuki Cup.
Mitre is going to launch a top-end ball in 2016, build around a technology we call Hyperseam. The Delta V12S is all about being hand stitched, but Hyperseam is built around thermal bonding. The ball still moves fast, looks great, but is absolutely consistent through play, since it doesn’t pick up any water.
We see the future built around Hyperseam. It’s massively exciting. We’ve got it in testing in a number of leagues at the moment, and are getting exceptional feedback.
In the present, these balls have helped make for some excellent viewing at the Suzuki Cup. Have you managed to catch any of the action? What are your thoughts on the level of play, and the passionate supporters in the stands?
This tournament has been absolutely full of drama. I’ve come out for a couple of group games, and unfortunately picked the group [Group A] that did not provide any teams for the final. I’ve watched Vietnam and a really strong Philippines team.
I also caught the Singapore-Malaysia game on screen and would have loved to be in the stands for it. Twice Malaysia have seemed to be out, and now they’ve made the final.
I’ve been really impressed by the standard of play. especially that of Thailand. They’re a young team, fast, dynamic, transition the ball well, and they’ve gotten better as the competition has gone on. Malaysia have gotten stronger too.
It’s lovely to see the possession of the ball and it played through the midfield, even to somebody from the West. I’ve seen S.League games in the past, when the pace was a lot slower. This Suzuki Cup has seen a major boost in speed. I’d like to think the technology of our balls is the decisive difference.
But by the same token, the calibre of players that are playing, with their excellent first touches and great fitness levels, mean they and their coaches can take a lot of pride in what’s being seen.