Soccer History: The Ball Evolution

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There was a time when soccer balls were made of inflated pig bladders wrapped in leather for better shape retention. Other variations were also spheres stuffed with feathers. Later, in the medieval era, players used leather-covered wine bottles filled with cork shavings, so that they could be easily retrieved in case they fell into the river. In this article, you will know about the evolution of the great protagonist of soccer, the ball.

When Charles Goodyear patented vulcanized rubber in 1844, the soccer ball started to take the shape in which we know it today. Eleven years after, in 1855, Goodyear created the first rubber soccer ball, which from then onwards constantly evolved until our days.

In 1862 H.J. Lindon developed an inflatable rubber bladder that was easier to be kicked and maintain its pseudo-spherical shape. 

In 1951, the companies could whitewash the leather, and white football balls became the standard. A decade after, in the 1960s, manufacturers started to use synthetic materials to achieve uniform thickness and preventing the balls from becoming misshapen. And for the winter matches, they also manufactured official orange ones for better visibility.

Why Pentagons and Hexagons?

In the 1960s the ball with black and white pentagons and hexagons gained popularity. The soccer ball, to be functional, must be as close to a sphere as possible. But it has to be also sturdy enough to withstand a kick. Therefore, it was decided to make a regular polyhedron that resembles a sphere. 

Leather soccer balls consisted of 18 sections stitched together, with six panels of three strips apiece. The design stitched together 20 hexagons with 12 pentagons for a total of 32 panels. 


World Cup Ball Evolution

In 1970 in Mexico, the ball made its World Cup debut as Adidas’ Telstar. The ball with white hexagons and black pentagons made it easily visible on television. And for the players, the black pentagons helped them learn to curve the ball better as they could track its movement more easily.

Until 2002, Adidas kept the black-and-white color scheme in the ball. But for the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, the firm launched its new generation of soccer balls with the Teamgeist of 14 panels, and Jabulani with 8 panels designs, respectively.

In 2014 came the Brazuca design with six panels. Finally, in 2018, Adidas opted to return to the legendary Telstar, but with 6 panels instead of the original 32. The firm incorporated technological improvements never seen before: a chip to detect if the ball crosses the goal line.

From the pig’s bladder, leather, and feathers to polyurethane and technological chips. A whole evolutionary change in the ball. We will wait for the next World Cup in 2022 to see what innovations will bring us the ball this time.

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