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The Footballs during the FIFA World Cup™

2010 South Africa

Jabulani is the Official Match Ball of the FIFA World Cup Southafrica 2010

Adidas Jabulani is the official match ball of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™.

Not just the teams have to qualify for the FIFA World Cup™ also the official match ball had to undergo all tests of the FIFA Quality Concept for Footballs. After careful examination the Adidas Jabulani was awarded the FIFA APPROVED seal.

Now we are looking forward to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, where adidas Jabulani will play the leading role and can provide many exciting moments in its proven quality.

2006 Germany

More than three years of extensive research and development were needed to present the adidas +Teamgeist™, the company’s best performing ball ever. Thanks to a revolutionary 14-panel ball configuration, players were able to show their true skills, as the quality and performance characteristics were identical every time they kicked the ball.
The adidas Innovation Team (a.i.t) rigorously tested the new ball for the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™, first under the toughest laboratory conditions possible, later also with professional players and clubs on the field of play. Scientific tests were conducted together with the Sports Technology Research Group of the University of Loughborough, one of the leading institutions of its kind worldwide. These tests confirmed that the adidas +Teamgeist™ was more round, precise and consistent than any top competitor’s match ball.
Italy won their fourth world crown in Germany, beating France on penalties in Berlin. If Zinedine Zidane's red card was the final's defining image, Italy's triumph will be remembered as a team effort, with ten different Azzurri players finding the net during the course of the tournament.

2002 Korea/Japan

The ball for the FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™ was known as the “Fevernova”. It was the result of three years of improvement on the “Tricolore” at the adidas research centre in Scheinfeld in southern Germany. The material consisted of six layers or coatings starting with a natural latex bladder inside, then a three-ply Raschel knitted fabric, syntactic foam, a polyurethane layer, a protected iriodine print and finally transparent polyurethane abrasion-resistant coating. The adidas triad design had now become two single, enlarged triads with the points turning into clockwise arrows in the colours of grey, red and gold. The background was no longer a traditional pure white but more of a champagne colour. Over 2,500 balls were supplied for the finals and an estimated six million of the high-quality match balls and replica-quality balls were sold worldwide.
The final was between the two most successful FIFA World Cup™ nations of all time – Brazil and Germany. Ronaldo’s two second-half goals gave Brazil their fifth FIFA World Cup™ title and firmly put the ghosts of the France ’98 final to rest. It was a hard-fought and equal match befitting a clash of two of world football’s titans, but Ronaldo had the touch of greatness that separated the two teams in Yokohama, Japan.

1998 France

The “Tricolore” used in 1998 was the first coloured ball to be designed for the FIFA World Cup™. Its triads incorporated the symbols of the host nation, France, i.e. a cockerel, a high-speed train and a turbine. The ball itself was based on an entirely new synthetic material featuring “syntactic foam”, claiming to give better compression and more explosive rebound characteristics than its predecessor. The foam was made up of gas-filled micro-bubbles that distributed energy equally when the ball was kicked.
This was the final that everyone had hoped for. The world champions against the home nation, but it was a strangely subdued Brazil who took the field, the crowd rife with rumours that there was a fitness problem with Brazil’s star player Ronaldo.
France were determined to win on home territory, and they did so easily with two headed goals from their future World Player of the Year, Zinedine Zidane.
Emmanuel Petit added a third to make it 3-0. So, at last France, the home of Jules Rimet, the creator of the FIFA World Cup™ and the team that had been an unlucky semi-finalist in both 1982 and 1986, had got their just deserts and the country partied the night away.

1994 USA

The ball was called the “Questra” to indicate the USA’s quest for the stars, so the shapes were incorporated into the triads. The ball itself was developed in France and then thoroughly tested by teams and players in both Europe and the USA. The ball was manufactured from five different materials with a final durable but flexible outer layer made from polyurethane.
Brazil met Italy in the final – a repeat of 1970. Brazil were unable to break down the Italian defence even though there were some near misses. Roberto Baggio had been Italy’s star striker in the earlier rounds, but he was suffering with a hamstring injury and was not at his best. At the end of 120 minutes, the score was 0-0.
So for the first time, a World Cup final was decided on penalties. Brazil’s Marcio Santos missed, as did Baresi and Massaro for Italy. Up stepped Baggio to try and level the scores but he fired the ball straight over the top of Taffarel’s goal and Brazil had won their fourth FIFA World Cup™.

1990 Italy

The “Etrusco” triads featured an Etruscan lion within their design. The ball was again manufactured entirely from fully synthetic fibre layers, including one of latex to create stability and resistance to tearing, a layer of neoprene to make the ball water-tight and an outer skin of polyurethane for abrasion resistance and good rebound qualities.
Argentina met Germany FR – for the second World Cup running – in the final.
The only goal in a very poor game came from an 85th-minute penalty after Völler had been brought down in the area. Brehme’s spot kick won the match for the Germans.
Two Argentinians were sent off – Monzon for a tackle on Klinsmann and, in the 87th minute, Dezotti was shown the red card when he tried to wrestle the ball off Kohler, whom he considered was trying to waste time. Franz Beckenbauer became only the second man to win a World Cup both as a player and a manager.

1986 Mexico

The “Azteca” was a completely new model made of synthetic material in layers, each with different properties to give strength to the ball, help it retain its shape and be fully waterproof. This was also the first ball to feature a unique FIFA World Cup™ design – the triads were based on an Aztec mural.
The final was between a workmanlike Germany FR, coached by former captain Franz Beckenbauer, and an inspired Argentina.
Argentina were 2-0 up in the second half and appeared to be coasting to victory, but German determination shone through – not for the first time in a World Cup final – and by the 82nd minute they had levelled the score.
Willed on by the crowd, Argentina surged forward and captain Maradona sent a perfectly weighted pass into space for Burruchaga, who confidently slotted the ball past Schumacher to make it 3-2. Maradona did not score in the final itself but there was no doubt about who had now inherited the title of the world’s best player.

1982 Spain

The “Tango España” designed for Spain 1982 was the first to be made of a mix of real leather and synthetic material. It had a polyurethane coating to provide a more efficient water repellent.
No one could accuse Italy of using their traditional defensive tactics in the final against Germany FR. Although they had one of the world’s finest-ever goalkeepers, 40-year-old Dino Zoff, their constant attack left the Germans outclassed.
In the 59th minute, Paolo Rossi, who had already scored five goals in the previous two games, put Italy in the lead, diving to head home from a Gentile cross. Italy won 3-1 and missed a penalty to boot!

1978 Argentina

By this time, adidas were well into the pattern of choosing names appropriate for the host nation, so “Tango” was the name chosen for the ball used in Argentina in 1978. It was the first to feature the adidas trademark, which was a printed design of interconnected curved-edge triangles known as “triads”.
The home team arrived five minutes late on the pitch for the final in Buenos Aires. This incensed the Dutch, who abandoned their “total football” for a more aggressive game, which was matched by Argentina.
It was the ball control of Kempes that made the difference. His second goal was the best, and it came in extra time when he skipped past two defenders and the goalkeeper, beat two more defenders on the line and slotted the ball into the net. Luque scored the final goal to make it 3-1.
The Netherlands had the world’s sympathy after losing their second consecutive final, but it was Argentina who lifted the cup in a storm of blue-and-white ticker tape.

1974 Germany

The World Cup in Germany FR in 1974 saw a similar design called “Telstar Durlast”.
In the final, the hosts were up against the world’s most talented team, the Netherlands. The great Johan Cruyff began the game sensationally with a run from one end of the pitch to the other without a German touching the ball until he was tripped by Hoeness.
After scoring from the ensuing penalty, the Dutch, perhaps now overconfident, began to play the ball around the bemused Germans. But suddenly a penalty was awarded against them when Jansen tripped Breitner – 1-1. Each team then bombarded the other’s goal until just before half time when Bonhof raced down the wing and crossed for Müller to seal the match with his 68th goal for his country ... and to allow that other great German player, Franz Beckenbauer, to lift the FIFA World Cup Trophy at the third attempt.

1970 Mexico

Mexico saw the dawn of a new era when adidas began its long-standing partnership with FIFA to supply footballs for all FIFA tournaments. It was also the first time a ball had been given a unique FIFA World Cup™ name appropriate to the time. “Telstar” was a small spherical communications satellite launched from Florida in 1962, but it probably became the most famous satellite of all time partly because of the pop instrumental of the same name, which was a worldwide hit for The Tornados. The 32-panel leather ball with white hexagons and black pentagons bore a strong resemblance to the satellite, which had a light background covered in dark panels. Many designs have superseded the “Telstar” but it still remains the definitive design used by artists, graphic designers and cartoonists when they want to illustrate a football. adidas delivered a mere 20 balls for use in the finals and sold an estimated 600,000 match balls and replica balls following the tournament.
Brazil v. Italy matched attack against defence in the final. Brazil took the lead when Pelé rose high above the defence to score with a spectacular header. A careless back-heel from Clodoaldo let Italy back into the match but soon Gerson hit a low shot to make it 2-1. Jairzinho, the only player to score in every round, ran the ball into the net for a third and captain Carlos Alberto thundered in the fourth with a magnificent, powerful drive.
Having won their third final, Brazil rightly claimed the Jules Rimet Trophy as their own.

1966 England

The FIFA World Cup™ was held in England in 1966 and The Football Association invited the top manufacturers to supply an unmarked ball each, from which the final choice would be made.
Slazenger, a sports manufacturer based in Dewsbury in Yorkshire, was one of the chosen few. It was decided that Malcolm Wainwright, then 32, who had been making balls since he was 15 and was regarded as the firm’s best stitcher, would produce the sample ball. “I made about 20 balls all told,” he said. “They were 24-panel balls, which meant that there were six panels made up of three long strips of leather but the centre panels of these three strips had a further seam at right angles just to give more strength. I was asked to take extra care over them.”
“They checked them for weight but then the manager would also check them over visually. Simply by using his eyes and his experience, he could tell see whether or not the shape was completely round and the seams were perfect. Anyway, he took the best one and sent it down to London.”
The balls were laid out on a table in at FA headquarters in London. None were branded, but merely numbered, and were then examined by experts for circumference, loss of pressure, weight, bounce and so on. Happily for Slazenger, their ball was chosen.
Wainwright and seven others were tasked with stitching the 300 balls needed for the 1966 FIFA World Cup™. Each would have written his name inside the ball. This was normal practice for the stitchers because, before sewing the final seam, each ball went to a specialist for the bladder to be inserted and was then returned to the same man for the final seam to be sewn. An important point given that the stitchers were paid on piece work!
The actual ball used in England’s 4-2 win over Germany FR in the 1966 final disappeared for many years. It should have gone to Geoff Hurst, the only man ever to score a hat-trick in a FIFA World Cup™ final, but it ended up being taken by the West German player Helmut Haller, whose son apparently kicked it about in his back garden for many years. It is now in the National Football Museum in Preston in England and the only way to find out who made the actual ball would be to unpick a seam and take a look at the name inside – a tempting thought!

1962 Chile

The balls used in Chile 1962 did not correspond at all with European standards. During wet weather, there were complaints that the balls were “drinking” water and were losing their colour in the sun. Indeed, before kick-off in the very first match between Chile and Switzerland, the referee, Ken Aston of England, asked to see the five balls that were to be used for the game. He was so horrified by their parlous, peeling state that he sent for a new ball, which only arrived ten minutes into the second half. Therefore, a number of European balls were quickly used as substitutes for the local brands for many of the remaining matches.
In the final, champions Brazil met surprise finalists Czechoslovakia in Santiago. The Czechs scored first. They were supposed to be strong defensively but in this match it was their goalkeeper Schroif who was at fault for all the Brazilian goals. First he allowed Amarildo to put the ball between himself and the goalpost from a seemingly impossible angle, then he was out of position for the second – a header by Zito, and finally, he fumbled and dropped a hopeful cross from Djalma Santos and Vava happily pumped the ball into the net for the 3-1 win.

1958 Sweden

Just Fontaine of France set a tournament record of 13 goals in these finals, which still stands but nevertheless, it was Brazil and host nation Sweden who met in the final in Stockholm.
Sweden surprisingly scored first but Garrincha swerved miraculously past two defenders and cut the ball back for Vava to score. Twenty minutes later, Vava scored again. Pelé, only 17, scored the third, trapping the ball on his thigh, hooking it over his head, swivelling and volleying past Svensson. For his second, he rose high above the defence to power in a majestic header. Brazil won 5-2 and were on their way towards becoming the world’s best football team with the man who would eventually be named as the world’s best-ever footballer.
The 18-panel ball was designed with zig-zag interlocking seams so that there was less stress on the stitching.

1954 Switzerland

Hungary were two goals up within eight minutes in the final in Berne, but remarkably Germany FR had equalised within another eight. Pouring rain drenched the players and the crowd during the game but German goalkeeper Turek was in fine form, making save after save on the slippery pitch.
Five minutes from the end, Schaefer crossed the ball into a crowded goalmouth and it eventually reached Rahn, who controlled it, advanced, seemed to pause and then drove it past Hungarian goalkeeper Grosics with his left foot.
Perhaps if Puskas, their great left-footed striker, had been fully fit Hungary might have won. The Magnificent Magyars lost only one match between 1950 and 1956, and that was the most important match of all. The 18-panel ball similar to the one illustrated left made its first appearance here and was used, in various forms, until 1966.

1950 Brazil

The first post-war finals in Brazil in 1950 still saw the use of the traditional 12-panel ball, but with curved edges to create less stress on the seams. Again, the balls used in the finals would have been made by a local manufacturer.
This particular ball is from the legendary match in Belo Horizonte when the heavyweights of England played the United States. In those days, football or “soccer” was very much a minority sport in the USA and when the unfancied Americans beat the English 1-0, the entire football world was astounded.
Such was the magnitude of the occasion that the ball was kept as a souvenir and it can now been see in the Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta, New York State, USA. For the record, in the final itself, the hosts Brazil were devastated to be beaten 2-1 by rivals Uruguay.

1938 France

Cup-holders Italy this time faced the majestic Hungarians in the final in Paris.
The Italians were dynamic, employing modern tactics that left the Hungarians looking static although they did manage to score two goals. Some fine midfield and wing play had put Italy 3-2 up when, ten minutes from the end, following some skilful interpassing, Biavati back-heeled a pass to centre-forward Piola, who smashed it into the goal to make it 4-2.
France was at war a year later and there would be no more FIFA World Cups™ for 12 years. As in the two previous finals, the 12-panel ball would have come from local suppliers and would have been of brown leather.

Italy 1934

The second FIFA World Cup™ found hosts Italy up against Czechoslovakia in the final. Eight minutes from the end, the Czechs were 1-0 up when Italy’s Orsi, receiving the ball from Guaita, ran through the Czech defence, feinted with his left foot but shot with his right. The ball swerved wildly for some reason and curled past the outstretched goalkeeper and into the net. Italy scored again in extra time to take the trophy.
The following day, Orsi tried 20 times to repeat his ball-bending trick for the benefit of photographers and failed, even with an empty net!
The ball would have been similar to the one illustrated here and it is possible that it may have become slightly distorted by the end of the match, which may have caused the swerve rather than being it entirely due to Orsi’s skill!

Uruguay 1930

The 1930 ball would have been a 12-piece construction similar to the illustration on the left, but in fact two balls were used in the final itself! This saw hosts Uruguay pitted against Argentina. There was a heated argument about which ball was to be used – the Uruguayan ball or the Argentinian ball. The ball from the hosts, Uruguay, was allegedly somewhat larger than that of Argentina, although, given that the required circumference of the ball has always been between 68 and 70cm, the difference should hardly have been noticeable. In the end, the only way to resolve the disagreement was for the teams to agree to use the Argentinian ball in the first half and the Uruguayan ball in the second half. Suffice to say that Argentina led 2-1 at half time and Uruguay won the game 4-2!

The Footballs during the FIFA World Cup™

2010 South Africa

Jabulani is the Official Match Ball of the FIFA World Cup Southafrica 2010

Adidas Jabulani is the official match ball of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™.

Not just the teams have to qualify for the FIFA World Cup™ also the official match ball had to undergo all tests of the FIFA Quality Concept for Footballs. After careful examination the Adidas Jabulani was awarded the FIFA APPROVED seal.

Now we are looking forward to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, where adidas Jabulani will play the leading role and can provide many exciting moments in its proven quality.

2006 Germany

More than three years of extensive research and development were needed to present the adidas +Teamgeist™, the company’s best performing ball ever. Thanks to a revolutionary 14-panel ball configuration, players were able to show their true skills, as the quality and performance characteristics were identical every time they kicked the ball.
The adidas Innovation Team (a.i.t) rigorously tested the new ball for the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™, first under the toughest laboratory conditions possible, later also with professional players and clubs on the field of play. Scientific tests were conducted together with the Sports Technology Research Group of the University of Loughborough, one of the leading institutions of its kind worldwide. These tests confirmed that the adidas +Teamgeist™ was more round, precise and consistent than any top competitor’s match ball.
Italy won their fourth world crown in Germany, beating France on penalties in Berlin. If Zinedine Zidane's red card was the final's defining image, Italy's triumph will be remembered as a team effort, with ten different Azzurri players finding the net during the course of the tournament.

2002 Korea/Japan

The ball for the FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™ was known as the “Fevernova”. It was the result of three years of improvement on the “Tricolore” at the adidas research centre in Scheinfeld in southern Germany. The material consisted of six layers or coatings starting with a natural latex bladder inside, then a three-ply Raschel knitted fabric, syntactic foam, a polyurethane layer, a protected iriodine print and finally transparent polyurethane abrasion-resistant coating. The adidas triad design had now become two single, enlarged triads with the points turning into clockwise arrows in the colours of grey, red and gold. The background was no longer a traditional pure white but more of a champagne colour. Over 2,500 balls were supplied for the finals and an estimated six million of the high-quality match balls and replica-quality balls were sold worldwide.
The final was between the two most successful FIFA World Cup™ nations of all time – Brazil and Germany. Ronaldo’s two second-half goals gave Brazil their fifth FIFA World Cup™ title and firmly put the ghosts of the France ’98 final to rest. It was a hard-fought and equal match befitting a clash of two of world football’s titans, but Ronaldo had the touch of greatness that separated the two teams in Yokohama, Japan.

1998 France

The “Tricolore” used in 1998 was the first coloured ball to be designed for the FIFA World Cup™. Its triads incorporated the symbols of the host nation, France, i.e. a cockerel, a high-speed train and a turbine. The ball itself was based on an entirely new synthetic material featuring “syntactic foam”, claiming to give better compression and more explosive rebound characteristics than its predecessor. The foam was made up of gas-filled micro-bubbles that distributed energy equally when the ball was kicked.
This was the final that everyone had hoped for. The world champions against the home nation, but it was a strangely subdued Brazil who took the field, the crowd rife with rumours that there was a fitness problem with Brazil’s star player Ronaldo.
France were determined to win on home territory, and they did so easily with two headed goals from their future World Player of the Year, Zinedine Zidane.
Emmanuel Petit added a third to make it 3-0. So, at last France, the home of Jules Rimet, the creator of the FIFA World Cup™ and the team that had been an unlucky semi-finalist in both 1982 and 1986, had got their just deserts and the country partied the night away.

1994 USA

The ball was called the “Questra” to indicate the USA’s quest for the stars, so the shapes were incorporated into the triads. The ball itself was developed in France and then thoroughly tested by teams and players in both Europe and the USA. The ball was manufactured from five different materials with a final durable but flexible outer layer made from polyurethane.
Brazil met Italy in the final – a repeat of 1970. Brazil were unable to break down the Italian defence even though there were some near misses. Roberto Baggio had been Italy’s star striker in the earlier rounds, but he was suffering with a hamstring injury and was not at his best. At the end of 120 minutes, the score was 0-0.
So for the first time, a World Cup final was decided on penalties. Brazil’s Marcio Santos missed, as did Baresi and Massaro for Italy. Up stepped Baggio to try and level the scores but he fired the ball straight over the top of Taffarel’s goal and Brazil had won their fourth FIFA World Cup™.

1990 Italy

The “Etrusco” triads featured an Etruscan lion within their design. The ball was again manufactured entirely from fully synthetic fibre layers, including one of latex to create stability and resistance to tearing, a layer of neoprene to make the ball water-tight and an outer skin of polyurethane for abrasion resistance and good rebound qualities.
Argentina met Germany FR – for the second World Cup running – in the final.
The only goal in a very poor game came from an 85th-minute penalty after Völler had been brought down in the area. Brehme’s spot kick won the match for the Germans.
Two Argentinians were sent off – Monzon for a tackle on Klinsmann and, in the 87th minute, Dezotti was shown the red card when he tried to wrestle the ball off Kohler, whom he considered was trying to waste time. Franz Beckenbauer became only the second man to win a World Cup both as a player and a manager.

1986 Mexico

The “Azteca” was a completely new model made of synthetic material in layers, each with different properties to give strength to the ball, help it retain its shape and be fully waterproof. This was also the first ball to feature a unique FIFA World Cup™ design – the triads were based on an Aztec mural.
The final was between a workmanlike Germany FR, coached by former captain Franz Beckenbauer, and an inspired Argentina.
Argentina were 2-0 up in the second half and appeared to be coasting to victory, but German determination shone through – not for the first time in a World Cup final – and by the 82nd minute they had levelled the score.
Willed on by the crowd, Argentina surged forward and captain Maradona sent a perfectly weighted pass into space for Burruchaga, who confidently slotted the ball past Schumacher to make it 3-2. Maradona did not score in the final itself but there was no doubt about who had now inherited the title of the world’s best player.

1982 Spain

The “Tango España” designed for Spain 1982 was the first to be made of a mix of real leather and synthetic material. It had a polyurethane coating to provide a more efficient water repellent.
No one could accuse Italy of using their traditional defensive tactics in the final against Germany FR. Although they had one of the world’s finest-ever goalkeepers, 40-year-old Dino Zoff, their constant attack left the Germans outclassed.
In the 59th minute, Paolo Rossi, who had already scored five goals in the previous two games, put Italy in the lead, diving to head home from a Gentile cross. Italy won 3-1 and missed a penalty to boot!

1978 Argentina

By this time, adidas were well into the pattern of choosing names appropriate for the host nation, so “Tango” was the name chosen for the ball used in Argentina in 1978. It was the first to feature the adidas trademark, which was a printed design of interconnected curved-edge triangles known as “triads”.
The home team arrived five minutes late on the pitch for the final in Buenos Aires. This incensed the Dutch, who abandoned their “total football” for a more aggressive game, which was matched by Argentina.
It was the ball control of Kempes that made the difference. His second goal was the best, and it came in extra time when he skipped past two defenders and the goalkeeper, beat two more defenders on the line and slotted the ball into the net. Luque scored the final goal to make it 3-1.
The Netherlands had the world’s sympathy after losing their second consecutive final, but it was Argentina who lifted the cup in a storm of blue-and-white ticker tape.

1974 Germany

The World Cup in Germany FR in 1974 saw a similar design called “Telstar Durlast”.
In the final, the hosts were up against the world’s most talented team, the Netherlands. The great Johan Cruyff began the game sensationally with a run from one end of the pitch to the other without a German touching the ball until he was tripped by Hoeness.
After scoring from the ensuing penalty, the Dutch, perhaps now overconfident, began to play the ball around the bemused Germans. But suddenly a penalty was awarded against them when Jansen tripped Breitner – 1-1. Each team then bombarded the other’s goal until just before half time when Bonhof raced down the wing and crossed for Müller to seal the match with his 68th goal for his country ... and to allow that other great German player, Franz Beckenbauer, to lift the FIFA World Cup Trophy at the third attempt.

1970 Mexico

Mexico saw the dawn of a new era when adidas began its long-standing partnership with FIFA to supply footballs for all FIFA tournaments. It was also the first time a ball had been given a unique FIFA World Cup™ name appropriate to the time. “Telstar” was a small spherical communications satellite launched from Florida in 1962, but it probably became the most famous satellite of all time partly because of the pop instrumental of the same name, which was a worldwide hit for The Tornados. The 32-panel leather ball with white hexagons and black pentagons bore a strong resemblance to the satellite, which had a light background covered in dark panels. Many designs have superseded the “Telstar” but it still remains the definitive design used by artists, graphic designers and cartoonists when they want to illustrate a football. adidas delivered a mere 20 balls for use in the finals and sold an estimated 600,000 match balls and replica balls following the tournament.
Brazil v. Italy matched attack against defence in the final. Brazil took the lead when Pelé rose high above the defence to score with a spectacular header. A careless back-heel from Clodoaldo let Italy back into the match but soon Gerson hit a low shot to make it 2-1. Jairzinho, the only player to score in every round, ran the ball into the net for a third and captain Carlos Alberto thundered in the fourth with a magnificent, powerful drive.
Having won their third final, Brazil rightly claimed the Jules Rimet Trophy as their own.

1966 England

The FIFA World Cup™ was held in England in 1966 and The Football Association invited the top manufacturers to supply an unmarked ball each, from which the final choice would be made.
Slazenger, a sports manufacturer based in Dewsbury in Yorkshire, was one of the chosen few. It was decided that Malcolm Wainwright, then 32, who had been making balls since he was 15 and was regarded as the firm’s best stitcher, would produce the sample ball. “I made about 20 balls all told,” he said. “They were 24-panel balls, which meant that there were six panels made up of three long strips of leather but the centre panels of these three strips had a further seam at right angles just to give more strength. I was asked to take extra care over them.”
“They checked them for weight but then the manager would also check them over visually. Simply by using his eyes and his experience, he could tell see whether or not the shape was completely round and the seams were perfect. Anyway, he took the best one and sent it down to London.”
The balls were laid out on a table in at FA headquarters in London. None were branded, but merely numbered, and were then examined by experts for circumference, loss of pressure, weight, bounce and so on. Happily for Slazenger, their ball was chosen.
Wainwright and seven others were tasked with stitching the 300 balls needed for the 1966 FIFA World Cup™. Each would have written his name inside the ball. This was normal practice for the stitchers because, before sewing the final seam, each ball went to a specialist for the bladder to be inserted and was then returned to the same man for the final seam to be sewn. An important point given that the stitchers were paid on piece work!
The actual ball used in England’s 4-2 win over Germany FR in the 1966 final disappeared for many years. It should have gone to Geoff Hurst, the only man ever to score a hat-trick in a FIFA World Cup™ final, but it ended up being taken by the West German player Helmut Haller, whose son apparently kicked it about in his back garden for many years. It is now in the National Football Museum in Preston in England and the only way to find out who made the actual ball would be to unpick a seam and take a look at the name inside – a tempting thought!

1962 Chile

The balls used in Chile 1962 did not correspond at all with European standards. During wet weather, there were complaints that the balls were “drinking” water and were losing their colour in the sun. Indeed, before kick-off in the very first match between Chile and Switzerland, the referee, Ken Aston of England, asked to see the five balls that were to be used for the game. He was so horrified by their parlous, peeling state that he sent for a new ball, which only arrived ten minutes into the second half. Therefore, a number of European balls were quickly used as substitutes for the local brands for many of the remaining matches.
In the final, champions Brazil met surprise finalists Czechoslovakia in Santiago. The Czechs scored first. They were supposed to be strong defensively but in this match it was their goalkeeper Schroif who was at fault for all the Brazilian goals. First he allowed Amarildo to put the ball between himself and the goalpost from a seemingly impossible angle, then he was out of position for the second – a header by Zito, and finally, he fumbled and dropped a hopeful cross from Djalma Santos and Vava happily pumped the ball into the net for the 3-1 win.

1958 Sweden

Just Fontaine of France set a tournament record of 13 goals in these finals, which still stands but nevertheless, it was Brazil and host nation Sweden who met in the final in Stockholm.
Sweden surprisingly scored first but Garrincha swerved miraculously past two defenders and cut the ball back for Vava to score. Twenty minutes later, Vava scored again. Pelé, only 17, scored the third, trapping the ball on his thigh, hooking it over his head, swivelling and volleying past Svensson. For his second, he rose high above the defence to power in a majestic header. Brazil won 5-2 and were on their way towards becoming the world’s best football team with the man who would eventually be named as the world’s best-ever footballer.
The 18-panel ball was designed with zig-zag interlocking seams so that there was less stress on the stitching.

1954 Switzerland

Hungary were two goals up within eight minutes in the final in Berne, but remarkably Germany FR had equalised within another eight. Pouring rain drenched the players and the crowd during the game but German goalkeeper Turek was in fine form, making save after save on the slippery pitch.
Five minutes from the end, Schaefer crossed the ball into a crowded goalmouth and it eventually reached Rahn, who controlled it, advanced, seemed to pause and then drove it past Hungarian goalkeeper Grosics with his left foot.
Perhaps if Puskas, their great left-footed striker, had been fully fit Hungary might have won. The Magnificent Magyars lost only one match between 1950 and 1956, and that was the most important match of all. The 18-panel ball similar to the one illustrated left made its first appearance here and was used, in various forms, until 1966.

1950 Brazil

The first post-war finals in Brazil in 1950 still saw the use of the traditional 12-panel ball, but with curved edges to create less stress on the seams. Again, the balls used in the finals would have been made by a local manufacturer.
This particular ball is from the legendary match in Belo Horizonte when the heavyweights of England played the United States. In those days, football or “soccer” was very much a minority sport in the USA and when the unfancied Americans beat the English 1-0, the entire football world was astounded.
Such was the magnitude of the occasion that the ball was kept as a souvenir and it can now been see in the Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta, New York State, USA. For the record, in the final itself, the hosts Brazil were devastated to be beaten 2-1 by rivals Uruguay.

1938 France

Cup-holders Italy this time faced the majestic Hungarians in the final in Paris.
The Italians were dynamic, employing modern tactics that left the Hungarians looking static although they did manage to score two goals. Some fine midfield and wing play had put Italy 3-2 up when, ten minutes from the end, following some skilful interpassing, Biavati back-heeled a pass to centre-forward Piola, who smashed it into the goal to make it 4-2.
France was at war a year later and there would be no more FIFA World Cups™ for 12 years. As in the two previous finals, the 12-panel ball would have come from local suppliers and would have been of brown leather.

Italy 1934

The second FIFA World Cup™ found hosts Italy up against Czechoslovakia in the final. Eight minutes from the end, the Czechs were 1-0 up when Italy’s Orsi, receiving the ball from Guaita, ran through the Czech defence, feinted with his left foot but shot with his right. The ball swerved wildly for some reason and curled past the outstretched goalkeeper and into the net. Italy scored again in extra time to take the trophy.
The following day, Orsi tried 20 times to repeat his ball-bending trick for the benefit of photographers and failed, even with an empty net!
The ball would have been similar to the one illustrated here and it is possible that it may have become slightly distorted by the end of the match, which may have caused the swerve rather than being it entirely due to Orsi’s skill!

Uruguay 1930

The 1930 ball would have been a 12-piece construction similar to the illustration on the left, but in fact two balls were used in the final itself! This saw hosts Uruguay pitted against Argentina. There was a heated argument about which ball was to be used – the Uruguayan ball or the Argentinian ball. The ball from the hosts, Uruguay, was allegedly somewhat larger than that of Argentina, although, given that the required circumference of the ball has always been between 68 and 70cm, the difference should hardly have been noticeable. In the end, the only way to resolve the disagreement was for the teams to agree to use the Argentinian ball in the first half and the Uruguayan ball in the second half. Suffice to say that Argentina led 2-1 at half time and Uruguay won the game 4-2!

“SPEEDCELL” –
the ideal ball for the perfect match 

Speedcell

The new official match ball for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2011™, the adidas SPEEDCELL, was unveiled a few months ago, in good time for this summer’s big kick-off.

The SPEEDCELL captivates first and foremost with its refreshing colour scheme. The unique, eye-catching design incorporates significant symbolic elements, reflecting many of the key characteristics of the women’s game such as speed, strength and technical finesse.

One of the stand-out features of the ball’s design is an 11-line graphic representing the 11 players in a team and emphasising the need for togetherness and team spirit.

Players impressed by pace and flight of ball

In addition to its visually striking design, the new ball also impresses with a host of technical innovations.

Just like the previous FIFA Women’s World Cup™ balls, which were also awarded the FIFA quality mark, the SPEEDCELL wins over players with its smooth flight and outstanding contact between boot and ball, resulting in extraordinary precision and acceleration.

Seamless surface using state-of-the-art technologies

The ball has an outstanding roundness and a seamless surface, thus ensuring that it easily meets the criteria of constant roundness required to attain the FIFA quality mark. The ball also has all of the other properties required by the FIFA Quality Concept for Footballs. It allows excellent ball control despite the ever-increasing speed of the game.

Quality mark criteria guarantee high performance

Proof of the SPEEDCELL’s outstanding performance is given by the fact that it has attained the highest FIFA quality mark. The SPEEDCELL is, of course, also used at national and international men’s tournaments. No distinction is made between men’s and women’s footballs in the FIFA quality tests. The sole criterion is the performance of the ball. After all, the success of any match depends not only on the players’ ability but also the quality of the ball.

In short: The attractiveness and technical standard of modern football is continually increasing – and the same goes for the latest World Cup ball!

Ball Evolution

3000 Years Ago

Who knows when the game began? Kicking is a fairly instinctive activity so no doubt Stone Age man gave a rock or bone the occasional thump with his foot and then perhaps one day someone kicked it back and it all began there.

However, the first indications of an early formal form of football date back 3,000 years to Ancient China. A game played with a ball of animal skins stuffed with hair or feathers was kicked between poles some 10 metres high and was most likely used for military training. By 50AD, the game was named tsu chu and early records compare the round ball and square goal to Yin and Yang, the ancient symbols of harmony.

The Greeks and Romans were the greatest exponents of games and built arenas all over their empire and staged everything from chariot racing to gladiatorial combats where serious injury or death were taken as a matter of course and all part of an enjoyable entertainment. Kicking a ball seems tame in comparison, nevertheless there are indications that they did play a type of football, too. In the case of the Greeks it was called episkyres and the Romans harpustum - but both were mainly ball-carrying games.
Harpastum is taken from the Greek word Harpazein to seize. The ball was small, about the size of a grapefruit, and hard, not least because it was stuffed with sand. Play would take place on a marked-out pitch with each player taking a position on the field as today and teams probably consisted of 12 players. The game itself was more like rugby with more throwing than kicking and required considerable agility. The rules, it appears, involved a sort of inverted form of football with the objective being to keep the ball behind one’s own half of the centre line and not allow the opponents to get it. Goals were scored if the ball hit the ground.
The Vikings are reported to have kicked the heads of their enemies about which was not very pleasant behaviour but the somewhat more civilised societies such as the Japanese, Persians, Egyptians, Assyrians and North American Indians all played forms of ball games. The Aztecs in Mexico developed their own kicking game which played with a stone covered in a thick coating of gum. The game known as tlatchi was played between two seven-man teams and was a very important cultural activity. Games were even played in purpose-built stadia and huge sums of money gambled on the results.
The whole essence of football is its most simple implement - the ball. And it has to be a particular type of ball, too, with the ability to fly through the air as directed by the player and - most importantly - to bounce predictably. It was really only the development of the bouncing ball and the sheer fun of kicking it in a wide variety of ways which has made football the world’s most popular and successful game

The Middle Ages

It wasn’t until the early Middle Ages, when the first bouncing balls were constructed, that the game became a little more like the football we know today.
J.J. Jusserand, an authority on both French and English mediaeval history, maintains that mass football came to England with the Norman Conquest in 1066, since the Normans played many games for relaxation and entertainment.
Certainly, the French, and in Brittany in particular, were playing a form of mass football in the early middle ages. It was known as ?La Soule’ or ?Choule’ but the origins of the name are not clear. It could come from ?sol’ meaning sun, or ?solea’ meaning sole of the boot, or even ?choler’ to kick.
The ball itself was generally solid, made of leather or wood and often filled with hair or moss and the aim was to score a goal - which could be a stream or a tree or a wall - by hitting it with the ball.

Hundreds of men often took part, there were no real rules and it usually turned into a mass combat with no holds barred. Such was the frenzy that a trail of battered and bleeding bodies was often left in the wake of the scrum. It is claimed that, on one occasion, men drowned as they frantically chased the ball into the sea during a game and, on another, 40 men were said to have drowned in a pond at Pont l’Abbe. Such was damage to individuals that more than one French king banned the game.

Mass football probably came to England with the Normans. This steel engraving on 1835 shows ?La Soule’ which was a violent form of football played in Normady and Brittany in Mediaeval times. Illustration courtesy of the National Football Museum, Preston, UK

 
Mass football probably came to England with the Normans. Mobs of apprentices played a crude form of fooball through the streets of Mediaeval London - a boisterous activity highly unpopular with the rest in the city’s inhabitants! Vestiges of this mob game are still around today and can be found, for example, in th Calcio played in Florence.
 

In Medieval times, footballs were made from anything that could be kicked. This early leather wine carrier served the purpose very well.
The Ashbourne ball, used in the town’s annual Shrovetide game, is made especially each year and highly-decorated. But after a day of being kicked from one end of the mile-long ?pitch’ to the other it is usually very battered

In England, mediaeval apprentices played a crude form of football through the streets of towns and cities usually using home-made balls such as leather wine bottles filled with something like cork shavings. These gangs of youths tearing through city streets kicked, punched, carried and generally forced the ball towards a goal. In England, too, the monarchy often tried to stop such activities and in 1365, King Edward III decided to ban football for military reasons - since the troops preferred it to fighting or even practising their archery.

At some unknown point someone discovered that inflated pigs’ bladders were very kickable and bounced extremely well and these were incorporated into many games. It is not clear how the bladder was inflated but there is evidence at the time of simple pumps being used to force air into the ?ball’. If the bounce was entirely unpredictable because of the shape of the bladder, then that all added to the fun. The trouble was the ferocity and violence of these mob games often caused such a ball to burst. So the balls began to be encased in leather to give them strength.
The game continued to flourish. On Shrove Tuesday and other religious festival days in many English and Scottish towns, football became a tradition and mobs of up to 500 rampaged through the streets leaving trail of damage to property and numerous broken limbs and black eyes. It wasn’t so much a game of football more of an excuse for a mass fight. There were even a few deaths! In fact, today’s so-called “football hooliganism’ bears considerable resemblance to yesterday’s game of football!

Vestiges of this mob game are still around today and can be found, for example, in the Calcio played in Florence in Italy Italy and the Shrovetide Football in Ashbourne in Derbyshire in England. The Ashbourne ball is much bigger than a normal football. It is filled with cork and is beautifully painted at the start of the match but, sadly, this is artistry is much kicked and scuffed off the surface by the end of the day.

The Oldest Ball

The oldest leather football in existence is probably over 450 years old and was found hidden in the rafters above Mary Queen of Scots’ bedroom in Stirling Castle in Scotland as recently as 1999. The ball itself was constructed of a pig’s bladder with a grey leather casing sewn around it. The Queen is understood to have thrown the ball from her balcony at the start of matches between the staff of the royal household and soldiers. The matches were generally free-for-alls between dozens of men and probably bear more relation to modern rugby than to association football.

No one is sure how the ball came to be jammed in the rafters but there is a strong possibility that it stuck there having been kicked through the open window. A poem written in the Scots dialect in 2001 by James Robertson tells the tale as he imagines it happened:
 

The ball from Stirling Castle which Mary Queen of Scots allegedly threw from her boudoir into the courtyard below to start a game of football between the troops garrisoned there.

Association Football

The game of football spread from schools to universities and then to ?Old Boys’ teams (former school pupils) and then clubs. Until this time pupils from the same school had only been able to play each other because all the rules were different for each establishment. But, at this point, teams began to get together to try and form some kind of universal rules so that the different teams could actually play each other, too.
In 1848, many of those public schoolboys who had been to Eton, Harrow, Westminster, Charterhouse, Shrewsbury and the like got together to set out a common form of rules so that they could ?associate” or play together. They were known as the Cambridge Rules and consisted of 14 points, many of which were different from today’ Laws of the Game. For instance, a player could not catch a ball but he could stop it with his hands and was offside if he was in front of the ball.
In 1857, Sheffield Wednesday, the first football club that was not allied to a school or university, was formed and it, too, developed its own set of rules which included the strange fact that players had to wear coloured caps to identify the two teams. This must have made heading the ball a somewhat unreliable tactic!
However, such was the increasing popularity of the game that, on 26th October 1863, 11 teams got together to form the Football Association and develop a set of uniform rules. They included some famous names still in existence today in the English Football League - Notts County, Sheffield Wednesday and Preston North End to name but three. This is probably the most significant date in the history of the game and is why the FA has the honour of being the only football association in the world which does not have its country’s name in its title.
At this time, there were no specifications about the ball itself. In fact, the first time that a standard-sized ball seems to have been specified was for a representative game between the London Football Association and Sheffield Association in 1866, when it was stated that a ?Lilywhite’s Number 5’ must be used. Later, it was proposed that a fixed size of ball should be used for the FA’s Challenge Cup Competition. Again, the general agreement was that the Lillywhite’s Number 5 should be used.
 
Eventually, the rule for the FA Challenge Cup became that the ball should have average circumference of not less than 27 inches (68.5 cm) and not more than 28 inches (71 cm). This rule then became the norm for all games in 1883. A standard weight of from 12 to 15 ounces (340 to 425 grammes) in 1889. This was changed again 1937 to become 14 to 16 ounces (397 to 453 grammes).

The Popular Game

Life for working men up to the 19th century didn’t leave much time for sport. People worked six days a week and were expected to go to church on Sunday and certainly not indulge in any boisterous activity on such a holy day.

But the industrial revolution in England led to a change in the way ordinary people lived their lives. New machinery was being used on the land, so farming was becoming less labour-intensive but, at the same time, machines were being developed for manufacturing and thousands of people flocked from rural lives into the cities to work in the factories.
 

Factory work was hard, dull and repetitive but generally work finished on Saturday lunchtime. The men needed a release from the drudgery of their weekday work and so football became the ideal outlet. And as the game spread fast in the latter part of the 19th century, leagues were formed and the need for equipment, the ball in particular, became ever greater.
By the 1870s professionalism had begun to creep into the game, albeit illegally, when a Scotsman called J.J. Laing admitted he was being paid by Sheffield Wednesday. By 1885 the FA decided that it had to do something about the increasing practice of under-cover payments so they made it official but with such restrictions on transfers between clubs and on where a player might live that players were left with little bargaining power. But nevertheless the beginnings of the professional game had been born.

Ball evolution

The Dark Ages

Who can say when the game began? Kicking is a fairly instinctive activity, so no doubt Stone Age man gave a rock or bone the occasional thump with his foot and then perhaps one day someone kicked it back and it all began there.

Football probably began in China 3,000 years ago. This 19th century watercolour shows Kemari, a Japanese ceremonial version of the game. Illustration courtesy of the National Football Museum, Preston, UK.

 

However, the first indications of an early formal form of football date back 3,000 years to Ancient China. A game played with a ball of animal skins stuffed with hair or feathers was kicked between poles some 10 metres high and was most likely used for military training. By 50AD, the game was named “tsu chu” (or “cuju”) and early records compare the round ball and square goal to Yin and Yang, the ancient symbols of harmony.

The Greeks and Romans were the greatest exponents of games. They built arenas all over their empires and staged everything from chariot racing to gladiatorial combats where serious injury or death were taken as a matter of course and all part of enjoyable entertainment. Kicking a ball seems tame in comparison, nevertheless there are indications that they did play a type of football, too. In the case of the Greeks, it was called “episkyros” and the Romans had a game called “harpastum” – but both were mainly ball-carrying games.

“Harpastum” is taken from the Greek word “Harpazein”, which means “to seize”. The ball was small, about the size of a grapefruit, and hard, not least because it was stuffed with sand. Play would take place on a marked-out pitch, with each player taking a position on the field, just as they do today. Teams probably consisted of 12 players. The game itself was more like rugby with more throwing than kicking and it required considerable agility. The rules, it appears, involved a sort of inverted form of football, with the objective being to keep the ball behind one’s own half of the centre line and not allow the opponents to get it. Goals were scored if the ball hit the ground.

The Vikings are reported to have kicked the heads of their enemies about, which was not very pleasant behaviour, but the somewhat more civilised societies such as the Japanese, Persians, Egyptians, Assyrians and North American Indians all played forms of ball games. The Aztecs in Mexico developed their own kicking game with a stone covered in a thick coating of gum. The game known as “tlatchi” was played between two seven-man teams and it was a very important cultural activity. Games were even played in purpose-built stadiums and huge sums of money were staked on the results.

The whole essence of football is its most simple implement – the ball. And it has to be a particular type of ball, too, with the ability to fly through the air as directed by the player and – most importantly – to bounce predictably. It was really only the development of the bouncing ball and the sheer fun of kicking it in a wide variety of ways that made football the world’s most popular and successful game.

Ball evolution

The Middle Ages

It was not until the early Middle Ages, when the first bouncing balls were invented, that the game became a little more like the football we know today.
J.J. Jusserand, an authority on both French and English medieval history, maintains that mass football came to England with the Norman Conquest in 1066 as the Normans played many games for relaxation and entertainment.

Mass football probably came to England with the Normans. This steel engraving from 1835 shows “La Soule”, which was a violent form of football played in Normandy and Brittany in medieval times. Illustration courtesy of the National Football Museum, Preston, UK.
In medieval times, footballs were made from anything that could be kicked. This early leather wine carrier served the purpose very well.
The Ashbourne ball, used in the town’s annual Shrovetide game, is made especially each year and is highly decorated. But after a day of being kicked from one end of the mile-long ”pitch” to the other, it is usually battered. 
Illustrations courtesy of the National Football Museum, Preston, UK.

 Certainly, the French, and in Brittany in particular, were playing a form of mass football in the early middle ages. It was known as “La Soule” or “Choule” but the origins of the name are not clear. It could come from “sol” meaning sun, or “solea” meaning sole of the boot, or even “choler”, meaning to kick. 

The ball itself was generally solid, made of leather or wood and often filled with hair or moss. The aim was to score a goal, which could be a stream or a tree or a wall, by hitting it with the ball.
Hundreds of men often took part, there were no real rules and it usually turned into mass combat with no holds barred. Such was the frenzy that a trail of battered and bleeding bodies was often left in the wake of the scrum. It is claimed that, on one occasion, men drowned as they frantically chased the ball into the sea during a game and, on another, 40 men were said to have drowned in a pond at Pont-l’Abbé. Such was the damage to individuals that more than one French king banned the game.

In England, medieval apprentices played a crude form of football through the streets of towns and cities, usually using home made balls such as leather wine bottles filled with something like cork shavings. These gangs of youths tearing through city streets kicked, punched, carried and generally forced the ball towards a goal. In England, too, the monarchy often tried to stop such activities and in 1365, King Edward III decided to ban football for military reasons because the troops preferred it to fighting or even practising their archery.
At some unknown point, someone discovered that inflated pigs’ bladders were very kickable and bounced extremely well and these were incorporated into many games. It is not clear how the bladder was inflated but there is evidence at the time of simple pumps being used to force air into the “ball”. If the bounce was entirely unpredictable because of the shape of the bladder, then that all added to the fun. The ferocity and violence of these mob games often caused such a ball to burst, however, so the balls began to be encased in leather to give them strength.

Ball evolution

The Oldest Ball

The oldest leather football in existence is probably over 450 years old and was found hidden in the rafters above Mary Queen of Scots’ bedroom in Stirling Castle in Scotland as recently as 1999.

Photo courtesy of the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum, Stirling, UK.

 

The ball itself was constructed of a pig’s bladder with a grey leather casing sewn around it. The Queen is understood to have thrown the ball from her balcony at the start of matches between the staff of the royal household and soldiers. The matches were generally free-for-alls between dozens of men and probably bear more relation to modern rugby than to association football.

No one is sure how the ball came to be jammed in the rafters but there is a strong possibility that it stuck there having been kicked through the open window. A poem written in the Scots dialect in 2001 by James Robertson tells the tale as he imagines it happened:

The ball from Stirling Castle which Mary Queen of Scots allegedly threw from her boudoir into the courtyard below to start a game of football between the troops garrisoned there.

Ball evolution

Association Football

The game of football spread from schools to universities and then to ”Old Boys” teams (former school pupils) and finally to clubs. Until this time, pupils from the same school had only been able to play each other because all of the rules were different for each establishment. But, at this point, teams began to get together to try and form some kind of universal rules so that the different teams could actually play each other too.

In 1848, many of those public schoolboys who had been to Eton, Harrow, Westminster, Charterhouse, Shrewsbury and the like got together to set out a common form of rules so that they could ”associate” or play together. They were known as the Cambridge Rules and consisted of 14 points, many of which were different from today’s Laws of the Game. For instance, a player could not catch a ball but he could stop it with his hands and he was offside if he was in front of the ball.
In 1857, Sheffield FC, the first football club that was not allied to a school or university, was formed and it, too, developed its own set of rules, which included the strange fact that players had to wear coloured caps to identify the two teams. This must have made heading the ball a somewhat unreliable tactic!
However, such was the increasing popularity of the game that, on 26 October 1863, 11 teams got together to form the Football Association and develop a set of uniform rules. This is probably the most significant date in the history of the game and is why The FA has the honour of being the only football association in the world that does not have its country’s name in its title.
At this time, there were no specifications about the ball itself. In fact, the first time that a standard-sized ball seems to have been specified was for a representative game between the London Football Association and the Sheffield Football Association in 1866, when it was stated that a ”Lillywhite’s Number 5” must be used. Later, it was proposed that a fixed size of ball should be used for the FA’s Challenge Cup competition. Again, the general agreement was that a “Lillywhite’s Number 5” should be used.
 
Eventually, the rule for the FA Challenge Cup became that the ball should have an average circumference of not less than 27 inches (68.5cm) and not more than 28 inches (71cm). This rule then became the norm for all games in 1883. The standard weight in 1889 was between 12 and 15 ounces (340 to 425 grams), and this changed again in 1937 to become 14 to 16 ounces (397 to 453 grams).

Ball evolution

The popular game

Life for working men up to the 19th century did not leave much time for sport. People worked six days a week and were expected to go to church on Sunday and certainly not indulge in any boisterous activity on such a holy day.

But the industrial revolution in England led to a change in the way ordinary people lived their lives. New machinery was being used on the land, so farming was becoming less labour-intensive but, at the same time, machines were being developed for manufacturing and thousands of people flocked from rural lives into the cities to work in the factories.

Factory work was hard, dull and repetitive but generally work finished at Saturday lunchtime. The men needed a release from the drudgery of their weekday work and so football became the ideal outlet. And as the game spread fast in the latter part of the 19th century, so leagues were formed and the need for equipment, and a ball in particular, became ever greater.
By the 1870s, professionalism had begun to creep into the game, albeit illegally, when a Scotsman called J.J. Laing admitted that he was being paid by Sheffield Wednesday. By 1885, The FA decided that it had to do something about the increasing practice of undercover payments so they made it official but with such restrictions on transfers between clubs and on where a player might live that players were left with little bargaining power. But nevertheless, the beginnings of the professional game had been born.

How is a football manufactured?

Almost every football manufactured today is made of synthetic leather because its thickness varies far less than real leather. Normally, a ball consists of several layers of material that are covered with a waterproof coating. The layers are printed and cut into panels of various shapes, usually pentagons or hexagons, though sometimes rectangles or other shapes, all of which are stitched together to form the ball.

 Huge drums were used for tanning the hides. Photo courtesy of Pittards Leeds, UK

Balls are usually finished by hand by skilled stitchers, though some are manufactured by machine. It takes over four hours to produce a handstitched ball with its 1,400 to 2,000 stitches. The ball is sewn together inside out. Before the last piece is stitched, the ball is turned the correct way round, then the rubber valve is inserted and the last stitch is sewn using a special curved tool. This allows the stitchers to pull the threads from inside the ball and ensure a perfect smooth finish.

History Facts

Early Tanning Processes

Animal hides were certainly the first forms of clothing. They would have offered warmth in winter but were inclined to go stiff in the cold. In the summer they would have rotted in the heat and become extremely smelly! Without tanning the bacteria in an animal hide will cause it to disintegrate fairly quickly but the tanner’s art is to use the right chemical and finishing processes to create perfect piece of finished leather. The tanner’s art has not changed over hundreds of years but the speed and sophistication of the process has. For instance, 150 years ago it could take up to two years to tan leather properly - now the entire process can be completed in less than a week.

Leather Football Manufacture in the Twentieth Century

The ball construction changed little in the middle half of the twentieth century. Leather was the only material used and balls were generally either of the 12-panel ?box’ construction or the 18-panel variety. Both worked on the same six-sided rounded cube pattern developed by Joseph Pracey. In the 12-panel version, the six sides of the cube are effectively split into two and, in the 18-panel version, they are split into three.
In the 1920s, manufacturers also started to use strong cloth to back the leather to prevent it from stretching a going out of shape. And improved water resistance was created by coating the leather with water-resistant materials or synthetic paint.
Until the 1930s, all the leather panels had to be cut by hand so, however skilled the cutter, there was always a margin of error. By the 1930s, however, manufacturers had developed machines with shaped cutting knives which speed up the cutting process and made for more uniformity. The panels were also plain so each stitcher had to punch his own stitching holes by hand with an awl.
The Disadvantages of Leather
Whilst anyone who has played with a leather football would say that, at the time, there was nothing like the feel of a brand new leather ball. But leather has its disadvantages. Firstly, one could never be sure how long that ?perfect feel’ would last. If the leather panels stretched, then the ball would soon become misshapen. But worse still was the problem of water absorption. Although various coatings were tried out in the latter part of the 20th century, leather was quite water absorbent and by the end of a match in a downpour a leather ball could weigh 25% more than when it started it which made for a less-controlled game and was not at all pleasant for the players. To help the ball keep its shape and size, cloth linings were used to back the leather but often the linings were too strong which made the ball feel hard and unresponsive.
Leather is also a natural material and, although it would be finished and shaved to an even thickness, nevertheless imperfections could occur. Indeed post-war leather was of such poor quality that the ball burst in both the English FA Cup Finals of 1946 and 1947!

Synthetic Leather

A major breakthrough in football manufacture came in the 1960s with the first totally-synthetic football seeing the light of day.
This was because manufacturers began to look for a material with more consistency. This search coincided with the development of artificial or synthetic leather. This was developed originally not for the benefit of football but for the very much bigger market of clothing, footwear and accessories such as handbags. This was itself part of a much larger trend of using synthetic materials to produce consumer goods to replace traditional materials such as steel, wood, cloth and of course leather.

Synthetic materials are basically created from polymers, molecules of chemicals (mainly derived from petrochemicals like oil) which react together to form long chains. Different combinations of chemicals produce materials with differing characteristics. For example: polyethylene is soft and can be used for plastic films such as those used in sandwich bags; polypropylene is more brittle and often used for packaging such as yoghurt containers; polyamide is more commonly known as nylon which can be turned into hardwearing carpets and brushes and so on.

PVC (polyvinyl chloride) was the first choice for early footballs. When blended with a plasticiser it becomes pliable and had been very successfully used in the clothing industry for raincoats since it was waterproof and could be stitched easily. Some footballs are still made of PVC but it is not the perfect choice since it scuffs quite easily and can become brittle in cold weather and tacky in hot weather.

A better choice for footballs proved to be polyurethane which is formed from the reaction of molecules of diisocyanate and dialcohol and is very versatile. One form of polyurethane can be spun into elastic fibres called, spandex, most commonly seen in Lycra sports clothing. Some can be foamed by forcing pressurised gas into the polymerising mixture and are used, for example, in a soft form in upholstery and a hard form in surf boards.
Natural leather workers hate the description ?artificial leather’ preferring the more accurate name ?synthetic material but there is no doubt that the average consumer would find it very difficult to tell the difference between real leather and a polyurethane-coated material without a very close inspection!

Synthetic materiala are produced in specialist factories on a rolling production line. Peter Stonehouse of one such coated textile manufacturers, J.B. Broadley, based in Lancashire, UK which made materials for footballs until the late 1980’s, explains:
“Firstly a roll of silicone-coated paper around 1,000 metres long and 160 centimetres wide is loaded at the start of the spreading line. The paper will generally have an emboss or pattern in it which is reproduced on the material. The roll goes though a series of feed rollers and a solution of polyurethane is pumped on and spread to an even thickness over the paper. This may be only a few hundredths of a centimetre thick and will usually also contain pigment and other additives to give it the correct appearance.
“The weight of the coating is checked to ensure that it is even throughout and then the roll continues though a long oven to solidify the coating. This can be heated from anything between 70º to 150º Centigrade. A second coat of polyurethane is then pumped and spread of the previous coating. This mixture is thicker however. This thickness can be created by the introduction of air either by foaming the polyurethane mixture as one would whisk egg whites or by introducing a chemical blowing agent which decomposes into tiny gas bubbles.

“Then the second layer then goes through a similar drying process.
“For footballs,, a third layer will generally then be applied. The roll of backing material - poly-cotton generally - is laminated onto the back of the polyurethane roll whilst it is still tacky. This gives strength to the final material and prevents it stretching and going out of shape - but not so much that it loses its elasticity.
“Finally the paper is peeled off for subsequent re-use and the roll of finished material is trimmed, inspected and delivered to customers.”
But much testing and technology goes into finding his perfect polyurethane material for football because the ball has to fit certain criteria. Firstly, the Laws of the Game state it must weigh between no more than 450 grammes and no less than 410 grammes. Taking into account the weight of the bladder and valve and sewing twine, the cut leather patches must be of an exact weight to make up the difference so it is important that the thickness of the material is calculated exactly.
Then the ball must have a circumference between 68 cm and 70 cm. Providing the patches are the right shape and size, one might conclude that this is no problem to achieve with a leeway of two centimetres. However, the ball also has to be inflated to up to 1.1 bar which puts a strain on the material itself so, if it is too soft, the ball will over-inflate (like a soft rubber a balloon) to reach the required pressure and will become too large.

This is one of the reasons that the polyurethane film is backed with a supporting material - to minimise the stretch. But because this supporting material is woven it will have a certain amount of natural stretch in itself. The material is woven from strands of thread set on a loom. Long strands of thread known as the ?warp’ run longitudinally and then shuttles interweave threads alternatively up and under the longitudinal threads. This is known as the ?weft’. Pull a piece of material and you will see that there is much more stretch in the weft than there is in the warp and, where clothing is concerned, it is important that manufacturers take this into consideration.
The same applies to footballs. It is important that the amount of stretch in the casing of the ball is equally balanced all round. If the ball were constructed with the stretch all one way, then eventually, over time and with use, it would become more oval and consequently unbalanced. So the material for footballs is tested for several characteristics before it even gets to the ball manufacturers.

For example, the material is tested for resistance to abrasion and scuffing and also that the layers do not split because they have peeled. Stretch and breaking point is also measured on a tensile strength machine. Peter Longstroth, quality control manager at Broadley’s, the says “General stretch on the warp would usually be around five to 12 per cent before the material would break and on the weft between 12% to 25% s.” This means that there is more stretch one way than the other.”
Materials can be tested in a laboratory of course but it really had to be made up into a ball to see more precisely how it would behave under the pressures of a match and in wet weather.
 

Synthetic material is produced in 1,000- metre rolls on a rolling production line. Photo courtesy of J.B. Broadley, Leeds UK

Making a Football

Regardless of whether the ball is made from leather of from a synthetic material, the method of making A hand-sewn ball has changed very little over a hundred years. One well-known name in the 1970s was that of Minerva who manufactured balls in North London. This is a step-by-step demonstration shows how a ball was made then. The process is more automated now with printing, weatherproofing, cutting and hole-punching done by machinery but hand-sewing is still done in exactly the same way now as it was done a century ago.

Photos courtesy of Chris Fairclough from his book ?Making Footballs’

Modern Football Manufacture

As the game increased dramatically and globally in popularity so the nature of manufacturing began to change also. Smaller firms found that they could no longer compete on price with the bigger companies who were able to take advantage of the world-wide marketplace to source both material and labour.

Now over 40 million footballs are produced each year. They vary in price from a few dollars in to perhaps $150 or more. It is difficult to estimate the actual number of football manufacturers worldwide but, suffice to say, just over 100 manufacturers are registered FIFA licensees. These include: the big, worldwide brands which have some three-quarters of the world market between them; other somewhat smaller companies which still have a world market; those which are well-known and mainly sell in their own countries; right down to small manufacturers producing only a few hundred footballs a year. Of course many of the household-name companies produce sportswear and footwear as well and so footballs are simply part of their product range.

Where the major brands are concerned, marketing and distribution is mainly done from big US or European headquarters with satellite offices, or agents, in the major markets. Manufacture of both materials and balls is almost exclusively done in Asia. Gone are the days when a hide from a slaughtered cow went to a local tannery and thence to a nearby leatherworks to be turned into footballs. In the 21st century, synthetic materials may be sourced from China, Korea, Taiwan, India, Thailand or any other Asian country and may then be sewn in yet another. The chances are that the ball itself will be made in Pakistan and in the Sialkot region in particular. The region has made a speciality of football manufacture, a proportion as own brands, but the majority being made for one of the big manufacturers.

How is a football manufactured?

Almost every football manufactured today is made of synthetic leather because its thickness varies far less than real leather. Normally, a ball consists of several layers of material that are covered with a waterproof coating. The layers are printed and cut into panels of various shapes, usually pentagons or hexagons, though sometimes rectangles or other shapes, all of which are stitched together to form the ball.

 Huge drums were used for tanning the hides. Photo courtesy of Pittards Leeds, UK

Balls are traditionally finished by hand by skilled stitchers, though today more and more are also manufactured by machine. It takes over four hours to produce a handstitched ball with its 1,400 to 2,000 stitches. The ball is sewn together inside out. Before the last piece is stitched, the ball is turned the correct way round, then the rubber valve is inserted and the last stitch is sewn using a special curved tool. This allows the stitchers to pull the threads from inside the ball and ensure a perfect smooth finish.

Historical facts

Early tanning processes

Animal hides were certainly the first forms of clothing. They would have offered warmth in winter but were inclined to go stiff in the cold. In the summer they would have rotted in the heat and become extremely pungent. Without tanning, the bacteria in an animal hide will cause it to disintegrate fairly quickly but the tanner’s art is to use the right chemical and finishing processes to create a perfect piece of finished leather. The tanner’s art has not changed over hundreds of years but the speed and sophistication of the process certainly has. For instance, 150 years ago it could take up to two years to tan leather properly – now the entire process can be completed in less than a week.

Leather football manufacture in the twentieth century

Ball construction changed little in the middle half of the twentieth century. Leather was the only material used and balls were generally either of the 12-panel “box” construction or the 18-panel variety. Both worked on the same six-sided rounded cube pattern developed by Joseph Pracey. In the 12-panel version, the six sides of the cube are effectively split into two and, in the 18-panel version, they are split into three.

In the 1920s, manufacturers also started to use strong cloth to back the leather to prevent it from stretching or going out of shape. Improved water resistance was created by coating the leather with water-resistant materials or synthetic paint.

Until the 1930s, all of the leather panels had to be cut by hand so, however skilled the cutter, there was always margin for error. By the 1930s, however, manufacturers had developed machines with shaped cutting knives that sped up the cutting process and made for more uniformity. The panels were also plain so each stitcher had to punch his own stitching holes by hand with an awl.

The disadvantages of leather

Anyone who has played with a leather football would say that, at the time, there was nothing like the feel of a brand-new leather ball, but leather had its disadvantages. Firstly, one could never be sure how long that “perfect feel” would last. If the leather panels stretched, then the ball would soon become misshapen. But worse still was the problem of water absorption.

Although various coatings were tried out in the latter part of the 20th century, leather was quite water absorbent and by the end of a match in a downpour, a leather ball could weigh 25% more than when it started, which made for a less-controlled game and it was not at all pleasant for the players. To help the ball keep its shape and size, cloth linings were used to back the leather but often the linings were too strong, which made the ball feel hard and unresponsive.

Leather is also a natural material and, although it would be finished and shaved to an even thickness, imperfections could still occur. Indeed, post-war leather was of such poor quality that the ball burst in both the English FA Cup finals of 1946 and 1947!

Synthetic leather

A major breakthrough in football manufacture came in the 1960s with the first totally synthetic football seeing the light of day after manufacturers began to look for a material with more consistency. This search coincided with the development of artificial or synthetic leather. This was originally developed not for the benefit of football, but for the significantly bigger market of clothing, footwear and accessories such as handbags. This was itself part of a much larger trend of using synthetic materials to produce consumer goods to replace traditional materials such as steel, wood, cloth and, of course, leather.

Synthetic material is produced in 1,000-metre rolls on a rolling production line. Photo courtesy of J.B. Broadley, Leeds, UK.

 
Synthetic materials are basically created from polymers, molecules of chemicals (mainly derived from petrochemicals like oil), which react together to form long chains. Different combinations of chemicals produce materials with differing characteristics. For example, polyethylene is soft and can be used for plastic films such as those used in sandwich bags, polypropylene is more brittle and often used for packaging such as yoghurt containers, polyamide is more commonly known as nylon, which can be turned into hardwearing carpets and brushes, and so on.

PVC (polyvinyl chloride) was the first choice for early footballs. When blended with a plasticiser it becomes pliable and it had been used successfully in the clothing industry for raincoats since it was waterproof and could be stitched easily. Some footballs are still made of PVC but it is not the perfect choice since it scuffs quite easily and can become brittle in cold weather and tacky in hot weather.
A better choice for footballs proved to be polyurethane, which is formed from the reaction of molecules of diisocyanate and dialcohol, and it is very versatile. One form of polyurethane can be spun into elastic fibres called spandex, most commonly seen in Lycra sports clothing. Some can be foamed by forcing pressurised gas into the polymerising mixture and used, for example, in a soft form in upholstery and a hard form in surf boards.

Natural leather workers hate the description “artificial leather”, preferring the more accurate name “synthetic material”, but there is no doubt that the average consumer would find it very difficult to tell the difference between real leather and a polyurethane-coated material without a very close inspection.
Synthetic materials are produced in specialist factories on a rolling production line. Peter Stonehouse of one such coated textile manufacturers, J.B. Broadley, based in Lancashire, UK, which made materials for footballs until the late 1980s, explains:

“Firstly, a roll of silicone-coated paper around 1,000 metres long and 160 centimetres wide is loaded at the start of the spreading line. The paper will generally have an emboss or pattern in it, which is reproduced on the material. The roll goes though a series of feed rollers and a solution of polyurethane is pumped on and spread to an even thickness over the paper. This may be only a few hundredths of a centimetre thick and will usually also contain pigment and other additives to give it the correct appearance.
The weight of the coating is checked to ensure that it is even throughout and then the roll continues though a long oven to solidify the coating. This can be heated from anything between 70º to 150º Centigrade. A second coat of polyurethane is then pumped and spread on the previous coating. This mixture is thicker, however. This thickness can be created by the introduction of air, either by foaming the polyurethane mixture as one would whisk egg whites, or by introducing a chemical blowing agent, which decomposes into tiny gas bubbles.
Then the second layer then goes through a similar drying process. For footballs, a third layer will generally then be applied. The roll of backing material – poly-cotton generally – is laminated onto the back of the polyurethane roll whilst it is still tacky. This gives strength to the final material and prevents it stretching and going out of shape, but not so much that it loses its elasticity.
Finally the paper is peeled off for subsequent re-use and the roll of finished material is trimmed, inspected and delivered to customers.”

So much testing and technology goes into finding the perfect polyurethane material for football because the ball has to fit certain criteria. Firstly, the Laws of the Game state that it must weigh between no more than 450 grams and no less than 410 grams. Taking into account the weight of the bladder, valve and sewing twine, the cut leather patches must be of an exact weight to make up the difference, so it is important that the thickness of the material is calculated exactly.

Then the ball must have a circumference of between 68cm and 70cm. Providing the patches are the right shape and size, one might conclude that this is no problem to achieve with a leeway of two centimetres. However, the ball also has to be inflated to up to 1.1 bar, which puts a strain on the material itself so, if it is too soft, the ball will over-inflate (like a soft rubber balloon) to reach the required pressure and will become too large.

This is one of the reasons that the polyurethane film is backed with a supporting material, i.e. to minimise the stretch, but because this supporting material is woven, it will have a certain amount of natural stretch in itself. The material is woven from strands of thread set on a loom. Long strands of thread known as the “warp” run longitudinally and then shuttles interweave threads alternatively up and under the longitudinal threads. This is known as the “weft”. Pull a piece of material and you will see that there is much more stretch in the weft than there is in the warp and, where clothing is concerned, it is important that manufacturers take this into consideration.

The same applies to footballs. It is important that the amount of stretch in the casing of the ball is equally balanced all round. If balls were constructed with the stretch all one way, then eventually, over time and with use, they would become more oval and consequently unbalanced. So the material for footballs is tested for several characteristics before it even gets to the ball manufacturers.
For example, the material is tested for resistance to abrasion and scuffing and also to check that the layers do not split because they have peeled. Stretch and breaking point is also measured on a tensile strength machine. Peter Longstroth, quality control manager at Broadley’s, says:

“General stretch on the warp would usually be around five to 12 per cent before the material breaks and on the weft between 12% to 25%. This means that there is more stretch one way than the other.”

Material can be tested in a laboratory, of course, but it really has to be made up into a ball to see precisely how it will behave under the pressures of a match and in wet weather.

Making a football

Regardless of whether the ball is made from leather or from a synthetic material, the method of making a hand-sewn ball has changed very little over the last hundred years. One well-known name in the 1970s was that of Minerva, who manufactured balls in North London.

Photos courtesy of Chris Fairclough from his book ?Making Footballs’

This step-by-step demonstration shows how a ball was made back then. The process is more automated now, with printing, weatherproofing, cutting and hole-punching done by machinery, but hand-sewing is still done in exactly the same way now as it was a century ago.

Modern football manufacture

As the game’s popularity increased dramatically and globally, so the nature of manufacturing began to change. Smaller firms found that they could no longer compete on price with the bigger companies, who were able to take advantage of the worldwide marketplace to source both material and labour.

Now over 40 million footballs are produced each year. They vary in price from a few dollars to perhaps $150 or more. It is difficult to estimate the actual number of football manufacturers worldwide but, suffice to say, around 90 manufacturers are registered FIFA licensees. These include the major worldwide brands that have some three-quarters of the world market between them, other somewhat smaller companies that still have a world market, those that are well-known and mainly sell in their own countries, right down to small manufacturers producing only a few hundred footballs each year. Of course, many of the household-name companies produce sportswear and footwear as well, and so footballs are simply part of their product range.

Where the major brands are concerned, marketing and distribution is mainly done from US or European headquarters with satellite offices, or agents, in the major markets. Manufacture of both materials and balls is almost exclusively done in Asia.

Gone are the days when a hide from a slaughtered cow went to a local tannery and then to a nearby leatherworks to be turned into footballs. In the 21st century, synthetic materials may be sourced from China, Korea, Taiwan, India, Thailand or any other Asian country and may then be sewn in yet another. The chances are that the ball itself will be made in Pakistan and in the Sialkot region in particular. The region has made a speciality of football manufacture, a proportion as own brands, but the majority are made for one of the major manufacturers.

The perfect Sphere

Until someone invents a better way of doing it, footballs have to be made from flat pieces of material linked together, but the material must be soft enough to stretch into a sphere as the air inflates it. As stated earlier, this may seem less than ideal, but in fact the panels make the ball fly faster and more accurately through the air. A completely smooth ball is far from ideal.

Illustrations courtesy of Platonic and Archimedean Solids by Dawud Abu-Asiya, published by Wooden Books.

The aim of ball manufacturers in the 19th century was to find a pattern in which the ball retained its shape and yet was easy to cut and stitch. This was all done by hand, so the simpler the better.
The eight or ten-panel orange segment design of ball with the button end was never equally balanced and started to elongate before very long. Interestingly, rugby balls and American footballs are designed exactly on the orange segment principle and are made of only four pieces of material!
Early manufacturers created their own designs, some of which were quite ingenuous. But, in fact, there are only five ways in which to divide a ball – or more accurately a sphere – into identical sections that have equal edges and equal angles. These are four triangles, six squares, eight triangles, twelve pentagons or twenty triangles.

Icosidodecahedron: this is the most commonly-used geometric design for a football. It comprises 12 pentagons surrounded by 20 hexagons.   Rhombicosidodecahedron: 62 sections - 12 pentagons, linked by 30 squares and 20 triangles.
     

Great Rhombicosidodecahedron: this also consists of 62 sections – 12 decagons, surrounded by 20 hexagons and 30 squares.

 

Snub Dodecahedron: of all the Archimedean solids, this is the closest to a sphere. It consists of 12 pentagons and 80 triangles.

Illustrations courtesy of Wikpedia

The lower the number of pieces, the greater amount of stretch there must be in each piece to allow for inflation to make the ball round. Too much elasticity means that the ball can go on and on stretching far too much, and thus become too large or too uneven.

The six-panel pattern, for instance, was basically a cube and needed a lot of stretch in the leather to make a decent sphere. This problem was somewhat solved by dividing each square in half to make twelve panels, or into thirds to make an eighteen-panel ball that had much less leeway for stretch in it. The modern version of this is the 26-panel ball, where the centre section of each of the three panels that make up the square is sub-divided again into three to give even more strength.
Strangely, triangles have never been a popular choice, neither have four panels nor even eight panels because the stretch would have been too great for the ball to keep its shape. (The ball used in the Workington game is in fact a simple four-triangle design.) The 20-panel version probably never caught on because each set of five triangles comes together at one point, which makes it even more difficult to sew tidily.

The most popular current choice is the truncated icosidodecahedron. This may sound like a the name of a disadvantaged dinosaur, but it is in fact a mix of 20 hexagons (six sides) and 12 pentagons (five sides). If you are wondering how anyone worked out that this would make a good combination, you would have to go back over 2,000 years to the area of the great Greek mathematicians.
It is easier to illustrate than to describe these mathematical complexities. But if you were to try and fit an object into a sphere so that all its points touched the inside edge of that sphere, you would get the idea.
Plato first described “Platonic solids” – objects with equal-sided faces such as a cube (or a hexahedron to give it its proper name) – or an icosahedron, a twenty-sided solid made up of twenty triangles.
Archimedes is probably known to most people because he is said to have run naked through the streets of Athens shouting “Eureka” (I have found it) because he had discovered the principle of the displacement of water in relation to objects of different weights.
But this astonishing mathematician also gave his name to the so-called Archimedean solids. These are basically thirteen shapes that will fit perfectly into a sphere using triangles, squares, pentagons, hexagons, octagons and decagons. Take a twenty-sided icosahedron and cut off (or truncate) its corners and you end up with a truncated icosahedron.
This is not the only solution to patterns suitable for making up a football. There is the 32-sided icosidodecahedron, for instance (a combination of pentagons and triangles), the rhombicosidodecahedron (a combination of pentagons, triangles and squares), and even the great rhombicosidodecahedron (comprised of octagons surrounded by squares and pentagons).

Perhaps the most nearly-perfect sphere formed from flat surfaces is the “geodesic” sphere. Geodesic domes are designed by taking a Platonic solid, such as an icosahedron, and then filling each face with a regular pattern of triangles bulged out so that their vertices lie in the surface of a sphere. The trick is that the sub-pattern of triangles should create geodesics, or “great circles” to distribute stress across the structure.
For example, if you divide ten pentagons into twelve triangles of equal shape but unequal sides, you end up with 120 panels in total. In terms of a football, this would amount to an enormous amount of stitching, of course. But this could be reduced to 40 panels by merging some of the smaller triangles into less even, if rather complicated, shapes. But the problem of a number of points all coming together in once place still persists, which was the very problem that early manufacturers were trying to solve with the button ball.

A geodesic sphere. This sphere comprises hexagons each divided into six equal triangles. It is immensely strong and is generally the way architectural domes are built. The same principle can be applied to footballs but the amount of stitching required makes it impractical.
Illustration courtesy of Wikipedia.

Whilst most manufacturers are opting for the truncated icosahedron (in plain language, the 32-panel ball), some are looking for alternatives. Le Coq Sportif, for instance, has developed a range of balls called “Triaton” which are based on the truncated icosahedron. This is made up of 32 faces (12 pentagons and 20 triangles). It therefore has 32 faces like the truncated icosahedron but only 30 edges and 60 vertices.
Another manufacturer, Uhlsport, has created its own unique design called “Triconcept”. This is based on the rhombicosidodecahedron. The rhombicosidodecahedron has 62 faces combining 12 pentagons separated by 30 squares and 20 triangles. But 62 faces and 120 edges are over-complicated in terms of cutting and particularly stitching since four points meet in one place each time. However, Uhlsport has managed to circumvent this quite ingeniously by merging one triangle and three half-squares into one sort of T-shape. This, in effect, means that no more than two points ever meet against a straight edge.
Whilst the design of the panels is crucial to the playability of the ball, it is probably the printed design that is first going to attract consumers.
Early balls had no printing on them at all but then, as small manufacturers began to develop their own unique designs and were trying to out-do each other with claims of long-lasting footballs that never went out of shape, the best way to distinguish one from the other was by giving them names such as “Champion”, “Referee” or “County” for example. These names were stencilled on the finished ball in black paint through a metal template and were quite crude by today’s standards.
It did not take manufacturers long to realise that a more professional finish could be achieved by printing on the leather before it was sewn, and therefore one had the benefit of a flat surface. But the use of black lettering on a brown leather ball persisted until the 1960s.
Then, as already mentioned, adidas produced a 32-panel ball for the FIFA World Cup™ in 1970 and printed the hexagons in white and the pentagons in black. The result was something so remarkably different that nowadays the printed design is a vital marketing tool in the sale of footballs. Most of the early designs were printed on the patches individually after they had been cut, a somewhat laborious process, but with the advent of material that comes in sheets or rolls, it is possible to print one or more entire football designs in one pressing.
Each manufacturer not only has their own logo and the ball brand name on each ball, but each also has a unique styling to set it apart from it rivals – loops, triangles, swooshes, stars, V-shapes, squares, zig-zags. And, whereas balls were once brown or tan, they are now mainly white with printed patterns in black. But even this is now changing and we are beginning to see balls with backgrounds that are perhaps off-white, cream, pale blue or silver and the printing may be in several colours.