History of the Soccer Ball: Part 1

History of the Soccer Ball: Part 1

Throughout history, humans have enjoyed kicking things for fun. Long time before rubber was invented, South Americans were known for using things as animal or human skulls, stitched up cloth, pig or cow bladders and even human heads to play their ball games.

Balls were invented before football or any other sport was regulated, and they have shapeshifted over the years to respond to especial needs and technology advances that have appeared. Keep reading to know how everything started!

Before Rubber

In China, during the Ts’in and Han Dynasties (255 BC-220 AD) they had a very popular game called “tsu chu” where balls made out of animal skin had to be dribbled across gaps of a net that was stretched between two poles. Some Egyptian rites share similarities with early stages of football game, just like ancient Greeks and Romans had games that involved kicking a round-shaped object across a field.

Before Rubber

Before V century, existed some legends that complete villages would kick a skull along a path to a neighbour village square, making the other villagers take turns to kick the skull back to the first village’s one. When Medieval arrived, the bladders of animals killed for winter sustenance were inflated to play a game where people used both feet and hands to keep the ball on the air. Eventually, these bladders started to be covered with leather in an attempt to keep the shape.

Saved by Mr. Goodyear

1836 was a hitmarker both for football future and the world: Charles Goodyear patented vulcanized rubber. In 1855, he designed and built the very first soccer balls with that material, symbolizing a total change on the game and its rules because, since bladders could be irregular in both sizes and shapes, their behavior was completely unpredictable and non regulable.

Later on, H.J. Lindon came with an idea of making rubber bladders inflatable. He developed this invention in 1863 after his wife died from a lung disease caused by inflating pig bladders to create soccer balls. Leather balls with rubber bladders on the inside were not only easier and safer to produce, it also ensured that the ball was keeping its oval and hard structure.

English Football Association

Just a year after Lindon’s invention, the first football association of the world was created. In that first set of rules (which is still part of FIFA’s reglaments until today) there wasn’t a description regarding the ball. In 1872, when the first revision of the rules was made, the committee decided that the ball “must be spherical with a circumference of 27 to 28 inches”, with a weight of 13-15 oz and “must be spherical with an outer casing of leather or other approved materials”. These regulations still active, with a small change in 1937 of the weight, going to 14-16 oz. However, changes didn’t stop here for the ball: this was the beginning of a story full of material changes and panel divisions for the shape of it.


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