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Law 2 – The Soccer Ball

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Law 2: The Soccer Ball

FIFA’s Law #2 considers the ball.  In soccer (also known as association football), the soccer ball (or football according to whether the game is referred to as “football” or “soccer”) used in official matches is a specific type of ball standardized for size, weight, and material and manufactured to the specifications of the Laws of the Game – specifically Law 2.

Early soccer balls were actually animal bladders that deteriorated quickly, therefore limiting them to one or two games.  Today’s soccer ball Inflated Pig Bladderis an evolution from the bladder/ball, developing  into what they are today. People responsible for the ball’s changes are Charles Goodyear and Thomas Hancock, who introduced rubber and their discoveries of vulcanization to the design of footballs. Today, technological research is ongoing to develop footballs with improved performance.

History

In 1863, the first specifications for soccer balls were  written 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.

Vulcanization

Leather ball used in the football tournament at the 1936 Summer Olympics.

Leather football used in the football tournament at the 1936 Summer Olympics.

In 1838, Charles Goodyear and Thomas Hancock introduced the use of rubber and their discoveries of vulcanization, 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 pressurize 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]

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 likely 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

Today’s footballs are more complex than past footballs, but follow a basic model of manufacture considered as being a spherical shell with isotropic material properties, and are tested for deformation when it is kicked or hits a surface.  Most modern footballs consist of twelve regular pentagonal and twenty regular hexagonal panels positioned in a truncated icosahedron spherical geometry.[2] The inside of the football is made up of a latex bladder which enables the football to be pressurized. The ball’s panel pairs are stitched along the edge; this procedure can either be performed manually or with a machine.[3]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.[5]

*For more information on footballs/soccer balls, visit Wikipedia.

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About Author

Mike Slatton is a 2nd generation American youth soccer coach since 1984, and the son of one of the nation's first female licensed youth soccer coaches (Anita Slatton, 1979). He's also a professional soccer scout, a player since 1977, and the father of three adult and teenage children who all play or have played the game. "My job as a youth soccer coach is to develop detail oriented problem solvers who can react quickly under pressure. This relates to life - not just soccer."

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