Evolution of the ball used in football.

Football has the widest audience in the world, the most glamorous leagues, some of the highest paid professionals.

Evolution of the ball used in football.

The modern day adaptation of football came only much later, earlier historical references suggest that the early civilisations such as the Chinese, Egyptians, Romans as well as the South Americans played with a spherical shaped ball made out of human heads, stitched cloth, animal bladder and skulls.

In the medieval age, these bladders were covered with leather to give better shape and retention to the ball.

Formation of rules for the size and weight of football

The English Football Association (FA) was formed in 1863, but it was only nine years later that a set description was given for the size and weight of the football.

In 1872, it was stated that the ball must be spherical with an outer casing measuring a minimum of 27 inches and maximum 28 inches in circumference, and the weight can be a minimum of 13 pounds or a maximum of 15 pounds. However, the weight of the ball was revised in 1937 to a minimum of 14 pounds and a maximum of 16.

Evolution of the ball used in football.

Although in the past one and a half century the weight and size of the ball have remained more or less the same, what has changed is the material used in manufacturing a ball and the shape of the panels that make a ball.

Advent of the English Football League and mass production of footballs

The initiation of the EFL in 1888 also started mass production of footballs as the demand increased manifold.

Two of the foremost mass-producers of football were Mitre and Thomlinson, who maintained that the quality of football is defined by how well it can retain its shape. The strength of leather being used and skills of the stitchers were the main factors contributing to the shape of a football and its retention.

With the turn of the century, advancements were made in the design of football too, which now was being produced using multiple interlocked panels instead of single leather which was stitched at either end of the ball. These panelled balls came closer to being spherical in shape.

Footballs in the early 1900s

The bladder of the balls was now largely made of vulcanised rubber, which could withstand its shape for a longer duration of play and heavy pressure too.

Evolution of the ball used in football.

The outer casing of the balls was made using 18 strips of leather, stitched together using hemp and lace into six panels of three sections each.

These balls were laced up after inserting the bladder and inflating it and had to be re-inflated several times during a game to maintain its composure.

The Buckminster football design and use of synthetic casing

The Buckminster Ball concept was the brainchild of one American architect Richard Buckminster Fuller. He got this idea while researching on ways to construct buildings using minimum materials.

Essentially, a Buckminster ball consists of 20 hexagonal and 12 pentagonal patches. This is the same white and black ball which many of us have seen throughout our childhood.

The first synthetic ball was produced only in the 1960s though then leather ball were considered to have a better bounce and control. With the advancement in technology, the cell structure of leather ball was replicated synthetically to give the ball the same kind of behaviour as its leather counterparts, leading to their complete replacement by the newer footballs in the 1980s.

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