History of association football balls

A football, soccer ball, or association football is the ball used in the sport of association football. The name of the ball varies according to whether the sport is called "football", "soccer", or "association football". The ball's spherical shape, as well as its size, weight, and material composition, are specified by Law 2 of the Laws of the Game maintained by the International Football Association Board. Additional, more stringent, standards are specified by FIFA and subordinate governing bodies for the balls used in the competitions they sanction.

Early footballs began as animal bladders or stomachs that would easily fall apart if kicked too much. As time went on, footballs developed into what they look like today. This was possible with the help of people like Charles Goodyear and Domenico Nobili, who introduced rubber and their discoveries of vulcanisation to the design of footballs. Today, technological research is ongoing to develop footballs with improved performance.


In 1863, the first specification for footballs were laid down by the Football Association. Previous to this, footballs were made out of inflated leather, with later leather coverings to help footballs maintain their shapes.[1] In 1872 the specifications were revised, and these rules have been left essentially unchanged as defined by the International Football Association Board. Differences in footballs created since this rule came into effect has been to do with the material used in their creation.

Footballs have gone through a dramatic change over time. During medieval times balls were normally made from an outer shell of leather filled with cork shavings.[2] Another method of creating a ball was using animal bladders for the inside of the ball making it inflatable. However, these two styles of creating footballs made it easy for the ball to puncture and were inadequate for kicking. It was not until the 19th century that footballs developed into what a football looks like today.


In 1838, Charles Goodyear and Domenico Nobili introduced the use of rubber and their discoveries of vulcanisation, which dramatically improved the football.[3] Vulcanization is the treatment of rubber to give it certain qualities such as strength, elasticity, and resistance to solvents. Vulcanization of rubber also helps the football resist moderate heat and cold. Vulcanization helped create inflatable bladders that pressurise the outer panel arrangement of the football. Charles Goodyear's innovation increased the bounce ability of the ball and made it easier to kick. Most of the balls of this time had tanned leather with eighteen sections stitched together. These were arranged in six panels of three strips each.[4][5]

Reasons for improvement

During the 1900s, footballs were made out of rubber and leather which was perfect for bouncing and kicking the ball; however, when heading the football (hitting it with the player's head) it was usually painful. This problem was most probably due to water absorption of the leather from rain, which caused a considerable increase in weight, causing head or neck injury. Another problem of early footballs was that they deteriorated quickly, as the leather used in manufacturing the footballs varied in thickness and in quality.[4]

Present developments

Elements of the football that today are tested are the deformation of the football when it is kicked or when the ball hits a surface. Two styles of footballs have been tested by the Sports Technology Research Group of Wolfson School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering in isotropic material properties. The developed model also utilised isotropic material properties but included an additional stiffer stitching seam region.

Future developments

Companies such as Mitre, Adidas, Nike and Puma are releasing footballs made out of new materials which promise more accurate flight and more power to be transferred to the football.[6]


Today's footballs are more complex than past footballs. Most modern footballs consist of twelve regular pentagonal and twenty regular hexagonal panels positioned in a truncated icosahedron spherical geometry.[2] Some premium-grade 32-panel balls use non-regular polygons to give a closer approximation to sphericality.[7] The inside of the football is made up of a latex bladder which enables the football to be pressurised. The ball's panel pairs are stitched along the edge; this procedure can either be performed manually or with a machine.[3] The size of a soccer ball is roughly 22 cm (8.65 inches) in diameter for a regulation size 5 ball. Rules state that a size 5 ball must be 68 to 70 cm in circumference. Averaging that to 69 cm and then dividing by gives about 22 cm for a diameter.

There are a number of different types of football balls depending on the match and turf including: training soccer balls, match soccer balls, professional match soccer balls, beach soccer balls, street soccer balls, indoor soccer balls, turf balls, futsal soccer balls and mini/skills soccer balls. [8]


Many companies throughout the world produce footballs. 40% of all footballs are made in Sialkot, Pakistan.[9] The earliest balls were made by local suppliers where the game was played. As a response to the problems with the balls in the 1962 FIFA World Cup, Adidas created the Adidas Santiago[10] – this led to Adidas winning the contract to supply the match balls for all official FIFA and UEFA matches, which they have held since the 1970s, and also supplied match balls for the 2008 Olympic Games.[11] They also supply the ball for the UEFA Champions League which is called the Adidas Finale.

FIFA World Cup

The following footballs were used in the FIFA World Cup finals tournaments:

World Cup Ball(s) Image Manufacturer Additional information Refs
1930 Two different balls were used in the final: Argentina supplied the first-half ball (the 'Tiento') and led 2–1 at the break; hosts Uruguay supplied the second-half ball (the 'T-Model' which was larger and heavier)[10] and won 4–2. [10][12]
1934 Federale 102 ECAS (Ente Centrale Approvvigionamento Sportivi), Rome [13]
1938 Allen, Paris [14]
1950 Duplo T Superball [15]
1954 Swiss World Champion Kost Sport, Basel The first 18-panel ball. [12][16]
1958 Top Star Sydsvenska Läder och Remfabriken, Ängelholm (aka "Remmen" or "Sydläder") Chosen from 102 candidates in a blind test by four FIFA officials. [17][18]
1962 Crack
Top Star
Senor Custodio Zamora H., San Miguel, Chile
The Crack was the official ball. Referee Ken Aston was unimpressed with the Chilean ball provided for the opening match, and sent for a European ball, which arrived in the second half. Various matches used different balls, with the apparent rumour the European teams didn't trust the locally produced ball[10] [10][12][17][19]
1966 Challenge 4-star Slazenger 18-panel ball in orange or yellow. Selected in a blind test at the Football Association headquarters in Soho Square. [12][20]
1970 Telstar Adidas Telstar was the first 32-panel black-and-white ball used in the FIFA World Cup finals. Only 20 were supplied by adidas. A brown ball (Germany-Perù) and a white ball (first half of Italy-Germany) were used in some matches. [12][21]
1974 Telstar Durlast Adidas [12]
1978 Tango Adidas [12]
1982 Tango España Adidas [12]
1986 Azteca Adidas First fully synthetic FIFA World Cup ball and first hand-sewed ball [12]
1990 Etrusco Unico Adidas [12]
1994 Questra[22] Adidas [12]
1998 Tricolore 100px Adidas First multi-coloured ball at a World Cup finals tournament [12]
2002 Fevernova 100px Adidas [12]
2006 Teamgeist Adidas The Teamgeist is a 14 panel ball. Each match at the World Cup finals had its own individual ball, printed with the date of the match, the stadium and the team names.[11] It was replaced for the final match by the gold-coloured Teamgeist Berlin. [12]
Teamgeist Berlin
2010 Jabulani 100px Adidas This ball has 8 panels. The ball for the final match was the gold Jo'bulani (named for Jo'burg, venue for the match. [12][23]
Jo'bulani The gold version called the Jo'Balani was used for the final match. Once found please place here.
2014 Brazuca A leaked picture can be found online of what the ball looks like for the 2014 World Cup. Once found please place here. Adidas This is the first FIFA World Cup ball named by the fans. [12][24]

European Football Championship

The following balls were used in the UEFA European Football Championship over the years:[25]

Championship Official football Manufacturer Additional information
1968 Telstar Elast Adidas This the first championship use of this ball[10]
1972 Telstar Adidas
1976 Telstar Adidas
1980 Tango Italia Adidas
1984 Tango Mundial Adidas
1988 Tango Europa Adidas
1992 Etrusco Unico Adidas This was the same ball used as in the 1990 FIFA World Cup.
1996 Questra Europa Adidas
2000 Terrestra Silverstream Adidas
2004 Roteiro Adidas
2008 Europass Adidas
2012 Tango 12 Adidas

Olympic Games

The following balls were used in the football tournament of the Olympic Games (note this list is incomplete):

Olympic Games Official football Manufacturer Additional information
1992 Olympic Games Adidas Etrusco Unico Adidas
1996 Olympic Games Adidas Questra Olympia[26] Adidas
2000 Olympic Games Adidas Gamarada[10] Adidas The aboriginal word for friendship, variation of the Adidas Terrestra Silverstream[10]
2004 Olympic Games Adidas Pelias Adidas
2008 Olympic Games Adidas Teamgeist 2 Magnus Moenia Adidas Variation of the Teamgeist, with Magnus Moenia meaning 'walls of the great' in Latin[27]
2012 Olympic Games Adidas The Albert Adidas Variant of the Adidas Tango 12

League balls

The following balls were used in the UEFA, AFC, CONCACAF, CONMEBOL, OFC, CAF balls over the years:

1. League
Ball League Name
Adidas Torfabrik Germany Bundesliga
Nike Maxim England Premier League
Nike Maxim Spain La Liga
Puma King Ball Chile Primera Division
Nike Maxim CBF Brazil Campeonato Brasileiro Série A
Nike Maxim Italy Serie A
Adidas Le 80 France Ligue 1
Adidas Tango Argentina 12 Argentina Argentine Primera División
Adidas Tango 12 Russia Russian Premier League
Adidas Tango 12 Portugal Liga Sagres
Nike Maxim Turkey Süper Lig
Nike Maxim Greece Super League Greece
Nike Maxim Romania Liga I
Mitre REVOLVE FL Scotland Scottish Premier League
Adidas Tango 12 Japan J. League Division 1
Adidas Tango 12 South Korea K-League
Puma Bulgaria Bulgarian A PFG
Puma Poland Ekstraklasa
Adidas Prime United States/Canada Major League Soccer
Nike China Chinese Super League
Nike Seitiro Australia A-League
Nike India I-League
Mitre REVOLVE FL Wales Welsh Premier League
Nike Maxim Malaysia Malaysia Super League
Derbystar Brillant APS Netherlands KNVB Eredivisie


Unicode 5.2 introduces the glyph ⚽ (U+26BD SOCCER BALL), representable in HTML as or ⚽.[28] The addition of this symbol follows a 2008 proposal by Karl Pentzlin.[29]


  1. #79662284 (Bulgaria v. Morocco)
  2. #81345734 (Peru v. West Germany)
  3. #80752534 (Peru v. Morocco)

External links

  • soccer ball construction and design
  • Oh My News! – History of World Cup footballs
  • Adidas – The History of FIFA World Cup Match Balls
  • History of world cup Winners
  • New York Times interactive feature on the evolution of the world cup ball

ar:كرة القدم bg:Футболна топка da:Fodbold (bold) de:Fußball (Sportgerät) el:Μπάλα ποδοσφαίρου fr:Ballon de football ko:축구공 it:Pallone da calcio nl:Voetbal (voorwerp) ja:サッカーボール pt:Bola de futebol ru:Футбольный мяч sv:Bollen (fotboll) tr:Futbol topu

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