Development of Soccer Ball
Football is the game which has stirred the wave of craze across the globe. There is no other game which would have its fans in every part of the world. There are numerous events and series of games which take place throughout the year and keep the foot ball fans in the state of anticipation for excitement that this game offers. There is fanatic following by football fans which has given it a rather commercial touch; this is the reason why every aspect of this game is now loaded with logos. However, where there is a huge fan base across the world but not many of them know about locus of it: soccer ball.
Like many college students, even I am a big fan of soccer with Manchester United as my favorite team. I know all about this club, its history, players and everything that happens in the world of soccer. However, I am no different than other soccer fans. Like many of them, I had a perception that it’s a bladder made of rubber, coated with leather patches and have been imprinted with the logos of sponsors. Over time, with my increasing liking for the game, the interest about this object also increased which made me perform research about it. And after, research I found out that making soccer ball is not as simple as it looks.
Unlike many other games which have a degree of sophistication about them and use of many objects, soccer is rather simple where all that is needed is a ball and a functional leg. It was the simplicity of it which made it famous in ancient times and several civilizations have shown evidences of soccer being part of their sports. History has shown that Chinese, Roman, Egyptians, Greek and many other civilizations had some form of soccer included in their lives.
My research taught me that like many other aspects of our lives and products which are now part of our routine, soccer ball have also gone through its share of evolution. From human skull, it has now, transformed into a sophisticated object which undergoes tedious manufacturing process and laborious scientific testing during the phase of production. Today’s soccer ball is nothing but a state of art object which makes the world goes in the state of awe whenever it is used.
My research began with the online browsing. Luckily, there was sufficient material available online which made me aware of the history of soccer ball. Today, many of us would find it rather unbearable to hit a pig’s bladder but it is true. The earliest soccer ball used in civilized times was animal’s bladder preferably pig’s bladder. There are various claims that human skull was originally used in the ancient times for this game because of its peculiar shape. However, it was in 19th century when soccer ball was made to have a rather civilized shape and the first ball made of rubber was introduced.
The first ball was a vulcanized version of a globe made of rubber introduced by Charles Goodyear. In this ball, the patches of rubber were glued together to form a round shape. Before that, the soccer ball was nothing but an animal bladder which gave no uniformity to the games played as the game was dependent on the shape and size of the bladder which made football a game of luck rather than skill. In 1862, an inflatable version of this ball was introduced which ensured that the ball retains its integrity and shape during the game.
With evolution in the structure, the need for uniformity and standards also arose. Stress was levied on the fact that soccer ball should be made with reference to official standards with respect to weight and size. That is where English football association played its role. A standard was set which now made soccer ball a spherical with a circumference of 27 to 28 inches” (68.6 cm to 71.1 cm) and the weight of 13-15 oz. The standards remained unchanged until 1937 when the weight of ball was increased to 14-16 oz. It was also made part of law that the outer casting must be present over official soccer ball.
Although the basics are still the same but the manufacturing style of ball has changed greatly where new technology has been introduced. A mere globe made of rubber has been replaced by multi-layered scientific object which has a lot of dynamics going on it. Simple rubber replaced pure leather and other synthetic forms of elements. It was in the twentieth century when the soccer gained immense popularity and the game became ruthless which demanded the ball to be stronger and more up-to-date. At this point, the ball was made of tanned leather, cut into eighteen sections of six panels, hand stitched with an inflatable bladder inside the leather casting.
Where these hand-made soccer balls changed the face of game and made it more interesting, it also gave rise to various concerns. First was the durability of the ball. The hand-made balls were at the mercy of ruthless kicks and it was a rare event when the ball made it throughout the game. Secondly, the selection of casting leather also had an impact on the game’s outcomes. In fact, it’s thought that the outcome of the first World Cup played in 1930 between Argentina and Uruguay had a lot to do with the quality of the soccer ball used by each team. Thirdly, the water absorption issue also affected the quality of the ball.
It was in 1940s when the manufacturing style of soccer ball was further evolved. A carcass was added between the bladder and external casting which provide strength to the ball. Secondly, the material of outer casting was also changed (now made of synthetic, non-porous, rubber) which resolved the water absorption issue. Thirdly, a valve was introduced which helped in overall inflation. In 1950s, the soccer ball was given a more sophisticated face with white coating. That was a rather civilized addition to earlier raw globes. Later on, the colors of balls were often changed with the help of paints. Furthermore in 1960s, the leather-made balls were replaced by complete synthetic rubber balls which provide more durability and better performance (Wiki 2012).
However, the present shape of soccer ball was given by Buckminster Fuller. He made a model constituting of twenty hexagonal, and 12 pentagonal pieces which were fitted and stitched together to form a sphere. The black spots designed into it helped players learn how to curve a soccer ball and track its swerve. FIFA’s first World Cup soccer ball, the Adidas Telstar, and the first World Cup Buckminster model soccer ball were used in Mexico’s 1970 World Cup competition. However, the development did not stop there and soccer ball companies continued to perform research on it.
Today’s ball has a bladder made of Butyl or latex with internal linings of polyester and a cover which made from synthetic leather (PU (polyurethane) and PVC (poly vinyl chloride) and not the real one. As far as number of panels are concerned, they vary as per the design made however the most common ones are 32-panel balls with 20 hexagonal (six sided) and 12 pentagonal (five sided) surfaces stitched together for a round shape. The selection of gluing instead of stitching and hand stitching instead of machine-based stitching also has an impact on the quality and price of the ball (Wiki 2012).
Where hand-sewn balls are considered to have better quality, material thickness plays a vital role in providing strength to such balls. Usually, there are more than four layers of lining in a hand-made ball. As far as bladder are concerned, both Butyl and Latex bladders have their own merits but Butyl bladders are preferred more due to better air retention and contact quality. Similar material is used for the manufacturing of valves which are also silicon-treated. Silicon treatment offers easier needle insertion and better air retention.
In the preliminary stage, the leaves are cut to form outer casing and are then pre-printed with the respective brand names, logos and other graphics with the help of silk-screening. Later on, a layer of urethane is applied for protection of printing. Once the panels are cut as per requirement, the holes for stitching are punched to facilitate needle insertion. The outer casting is then sewn inside out with the help of specialized needle. Later on the bladder is inserted along with other synthetic layers and the last stitch is made (Royston, 2005).
Other than this traditional method soccer ball making, in 2010, a new technology ball was introduced at the event of FIFA World Cup which was made with the help of South-African technology (YouTube 2010). The newly developed “Grip’n’Groove” profile provides the best players in the world with a ball allowing an exceptionally stable flight and perfect grip under all conditions. Comprising only eight, completely new, thermally bonded 3-D EVA and TPU panels, which for the first time are spherically molded, the ball is perfectly round and even more accurate than ever before (Soccer Ball World 2010). In this new ball, eleven different colors are used which represents the eleven players in the team and also eleven languages spoken in South Africa.
The history of football is immensely rich and has shown flavors of various cultures. During this research, I learnt how with the advancement in technology, the face of a simple sport has changed greatly over time. The football that we hold today is not just a rubber globe; it is a result of research performed over centuries. The most interesting part of this learning experience was to know the variations and different benefits offered by various elements used during production. Also variations in the behavior of a ball with the change in constituents, was also a fascinating observation.
Furthermore, I also learnt a lot about the manufacturers of soccer ball. I came to know through research that these high-tech, high quality balls used all across the world are actually manufactured in a small city of a developing country called Pakistan. Its city Sialkot was the main exporter capturing at least seventy to eighty percent of world soccer ball sales for decades. It was after the introduction of new Adidas ball introduced in 2010 FIFA World Cup, manufactured in China which acted as a blow to this city. However, still at least 30% of global consumption of soccer ball is satisfied by this city annually. Whereas China, India and Thailand are also making their roots strong in this field, with better technology and design (Mansoor, 2011).
Soccer Ball is a passion of billions all around the world. With the beginning of local, regional and international seasons, the excitement and passion of its fans can be felt globally. Over time, the game has evolved and so has the soccer ball. From manufacturing styles to its elements, everything has changed over time. Today’s soccer ball is a state of art object offering maximum entertainment to its lovers and durability to its players. Manufacturers of soccer ball are performing extensive research everyday to make it more sophisticated. And even in this present state, it manages to spin the world with its single movement.
“How is the world cup football made?” YouTube. 12 February 2010. Web. 2 August. 2012.
Mansoor, Zainab, Football Industry Hub Sialkot Struggles Forward, 2011. 2 August, 2012.
Official Match Ball – 2010 World Cup Jabulani Soccer Ball. SoccerBall World Inc. 2010. 2 August, 2012.
Royston, Angela. How is a soccer ball made?. Heinemann Library, 2005.
Wikipedia contributors. “Football (ball).” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 23 Jul. 2012. Web. . 2 August. 2012.
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