Have you ever wondered what makes a soccer ball different from any other ball? Despite the visual similarities between air domes and the balls of sports played within them, there’s plenty we don’t know on the subject, so we did a bit of research to find out: how did soccer balls come to be?
There is a good amount of history to the soccer ball as we know it today and if you want to read up a bit more on the subject, check out SoccerBallWorld.com. The site is an encyclopedia of everything you might want to know about soccer balls.
Soccer balls first appeared when humans first started kicking around ball shaped objects. Of course, rubber had yet to be invented so people had to kick around anything that they could find that was round. Random objects, bits of animals, even human heads were kicked around for fun (although the owner of said head, presumably, was not having much fun.)
Then we began making soccer balls. Before the 1800’s invention of rubber, balls were commonly made out of inflated animal bladders, with a leather covering to maintain the shape.
Charles Goodyear, yes that Goodyear, invented rubber in 1836, and with that invention followed the rubber bladder for soccer balls in 1855. The rubber bladder could be made the right shape—a much better alternative to trying to find an animal bladder with mostly the right shape. Of course, rubber was expensive so most balls were still made from animal bladders, but rubber balls were better and produced a more predictable bounce.
Fast forward a touch, and several more changes to the ball were made. Rubber bladders became common, the bladder got stronger, the balls were standardized, and soccer grew in popularity.
Now that the inside of the ball was up to the job, changes could be made to the outside of the ball. While still made of leather to be able to withstand the abuse of being kicked around, the way the leather was stitched together changed.
In the 1900’s the leather layer was made up of 18 strips, stitched together as six panels of three strips each. Similar to the look of a present day volleyball.
The next major changes happened after a few decades when it was time to change the leather layer of the ball. The leather, while strong and durable for what was available, would still begin to break down over time, as well as absorb water when playing in the rain. The solution was synthetic leather.
Shortly after is when the present day look of the soccer ball came to be. By using small leather patches, ball designers modeled new ball after the “Buckminster Ball” or Buckyball. This design comes from Richard Buckminster Fuller, an American architect. This shape would later become important in other fields besides soccer, like chemistry.
A Buckyball consists of 20 hexagonal patches and 12 pentagonal surfaces. On a traditional black and white ball, those pentagonal sections are the black patches. Have you ever wondered why the design and colouring is so?
The black patches are there to help the players perceive swerve and the trajectory of the ball!
So the next time you’re playing soccer inside of a Farley soccer bubble, know that there’s more history and just as much brain power spent perfecting the ball under your feet, as the dome over your head!