Ball (association football)

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Adidas Telstar-style ball, with the familiar black and white spherical truncated icosahedron pattern, introduced in 1970 Football Pallo valmiina-cropped.jpg
Adidas Telstar-style ball, with the familiar black and white spherical truncated icosahedron pattern, introduced in 1970

A football, soccer ball, football ball, or association footballball 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. Improvements became possible in the 19th century with the introduction of rubber and discoveries of vulcanization by Charles Goodyear. The modern 32-panel ball design was developed in 1962 by Eigil Nielsen, and technological research continues today to develop footballs with improved performance. The 32-panel ball design was soon overcome by 24-panel balls as well as 42-panel balls, both of which improved performance compared to before, in 2007.[ citation needed ]

A black-and-white patterned spherical truncated icosahedron design, brought to prominence by the Adidas Telstar, has become an icon of the sport. [1] Many different designs of balls exist, varying both in appearance and physical characteristics. [2]


First years of football codes

Early football ball (with its leather lace) used in the 1930 FIFA World Cup Final 1930 World Cup Final Ball Uruguay.jpg
Early football ball (with its leather lace) used in the 1930 FIFA World Cup Final
Leather ball used in the football tournament at the 1936 Summer Olympics Fussball 1936.jpg
Leather ball used in the football tournament at the 1936 Summer Olympics

In the year 1863, the first specifications 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. [3] 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 have 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. [4] 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 introduced vulcanized rubber, which dramatically improved the football. [5] Vulcanisation is the treatment of rubber to give it certain qualities such as strength, elasticity, and resistance to solvents. Vulcanisation of rubber also helps the football resist moderate heat and cold. Vulcanisation 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 balls of this time had tanned leather with eighteen sections stitched together. These were arranged in six panels of three strips each. [6] [7]

Reasons for improvement

During the 1900s, footballs were made out of leather with a lace of the same material (known as tiento in Spanish) used to stitch the panels. Although leather was perfect for bouncing and kicking the ball, 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. By around 2017, this had also been associated with dementia in former players. [8] Another problem of early footballs was that they deteriorated quickly, as the leather used in manufacturing the footballs varied in thickness and in quality. [6]

The ball without the leather lace was developed and patented by Romano Polo, Antonio Tossolini and Juan Valbonesi in 1931 in Argentina. [9] [10] This innovative ball (named Superball) would be adopted by the Argentine Football Association as the official ball for its competitions since 1932. [11]

Present developments

Adidas Torfabrik football used in the Bundesliga in 2011 Torfabrik 02.jpg
Adidas Torfabrik football used in the Bundesliga in 2011

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 Loughborough University; these two models are called the Basic FE model and the Developed FE model of the football. The basic model considered the ball as being a spherical shell with isotropic material properties. The developed model also utilised isotropic material properties but included an additional stiffer stitching seam region.

Manufacturers are experimenting with microchips and even cameras embedded inside the ball. The microchip technology was considered for the goal-line technology. The 2018 World Cup in Russia ball had an embedded chip which did not provided any measurements, but provided 'user experience' by interaction on user smartphone after connecting with the ball via NFC connection. Since 2017 American football league is already using chips in their balls that measure live speed and flight data. [12] [13] [14]

Future developments

Companies such as Umbro, Mitre, Adidas, Nike, Select and Puma are releasing footballs made out of new materials which are intended to provide more accurate flight and more power to be transferred to the football. [15] [16]



Today's footballs are much 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. [4] Some premium-grade 32-panel balls use non-regular polygons to give a closer approximation to sphericality. [17] The inside of the football is made up of a latex or butyl rubber bladder which enables the football to be pressurised. The ball's outside is made of leather, synthetic leather, polyurethane or PVC panels. The surface can be textured, weaved or embossed for greater control and touch. The panel pairs are either machine-stitched, hand-stitched or thermo-bonded (glued and bonded by heat) along the edge. [5] To prevent water absorption balls may be specially coated, or the stitches bonded with glue. The size of a football is roughly 22 cm (8.66 inches) in diameter for a regulation size 5 ball. Rules state that a size 5 ball must be 68 to 70 cm (27 to 28 in) in circumference. [18] Averaging that to 69 cm (27 in) and then dividing by π gives about 22 cm (8.7 in) for a diameter.

Size and weight

Types of ball

There are a number of different types of football balls depending on the match and turf including training footballs, match footballs, professional match footballs, beach footballs, street footballs, indoor footballs, turf balls, futsal footballs and mini/skills footballs. [21]

A professional/premium match soccer ball. Adidas MLS Tango 12 soccer ball.jpg
A professional/premium match soccer ball.


Many companies throughout the world produce footballs. The earliest balls were made by local suppliers where the game was played. It is estimated that 55% of all footballs are made in Sialkot, Pakistan, with other major producers being China and India. [22]

As a response to the problems with the balls in the 1962 FIFA World Cup, Adidas created the Adidas Santiago [23] – 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 for the Olympic Games. [24] They also supply the ball for the UEFA Champions League which is called the Adidas Finale.

FIFA World Cup

In early FIFA World Cups, match balls were mostly provided by the hosts from local suppliers. Records indicate a variety of models being used within individual tournaments and even, on some occasions, individual games. Over time, FIFA took more control over the choice of ball used. Since 1970 Adidas have supplied official match balls for every tournament. [25]

League balls

The following lists the most up-to-date balls used in various club football competitions:

The association football symbol (U+26BD) was introduced by computing standard Unicode. [28] The symbol was representable in HTML as ⚽ or ⚽.[ citation needed ] The addition of this symbol follows a 2008 proposal by Karl Pentzlin. [29]


In Unicode there is a symbol U+26BDSOCCER BALL (HTML ⚽) for football.

See also

Related Research Articles

A ball is a round object with various uses. It is used in ball games, where the play of the game follows the state of the ball as it is hit, kicked or thrown by players. Balls can also be used for simpler activities, such as catch or juggling. Balls made from hard-wearing materials are used in engineering applications to provide very low friction bearings, known as ball bearings. Black-powder weapons use stone and metal balls as projectiles.

A football is a ball inflated with air that is used to play one of the various sports known as football. In these games, with some exceptions, goals or points are scored only when the ball enters one of two designated goal-scoring areas; football games involve the two teams each trying to move the ball in opposite directions along the field of play.

1872 in sports describes the year's events in world sport.

Water polo ball

A water polo ball is a ball used in water polo and canoe polo, usually characterized by a bright yellow color and ease of grip ability, so as to allow it to be held with one hand despite its large size.

William Gilbert (1799–1877) established Gilbert company, the manufacturer of sports equipment, in 1823. Gilbert had a boot and shoemakers shop in the high street next to Rugby School and started making balls for the school out of hand stitched, four-panel, leather casings and pig bladders.

Rugby ball elongated ellipsoidal ball used in rugby football

A rugby ball is an elongated ellipsoidal ball used in rugby football. Its measurements and weight are specified by World Rugby and the Rugby League International Federation, the governing bodies for both codes, rugby union and rugby league respectively.

Adidas Teamgeist official football for the 2006 FIFA World Cup

The +Teamgeist was the official match ball for the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. The plus sign in its name was introduced for trademark purposes, since the regular German word Teamgeist, meaning "team spirit", could not be trademarked.


Sherrin is a brand of football used in Australian rules football and is the official ball of the Australian Football League, designed to its official specifications. It was the first ball designed specifically for the sport.

Adidas Tango type of football designed by Adidas

The Adidas Tango is a successful family and brand of association football balls originally introduced as the Tango Durlast in 1978, specifically for the 1978 FIFA World Cup in Argentina. Variations of the design had been produced for various competitions including the FIFA World Cup, the UEFA European Championship, and the football competition of the Summer Olympics. The Tango balls have had different names applied to them to distinguish them in their construction, the competitions they have been used for, and even if they are official match balls or replica balls.

Adidas Telstar ball used in the 1970 FIFA World Cup

Telstar was a football made by Adidas. The 32-panel design of the ball, based on the work of Eigil Nielsen, has become iconic and is the standard design now used to portray a football in different media.

Adidas Roteiro association football ball

Adidas Roteiro, commonly known as Roteiro, was the official match ball of the UEFA Euro 2004 in Portugal and later, was the official match ball for the 2004 AFC Asian Cup held a month later in China. "Roteiro" means "road map" or "navigation chart" in Portuguese and was a reference to the discoveries made by the Portuguese in the 15th and 16th century, in particular Vasco da Gama. It is made by Adidas and it was presented on 1 December 2003 in Zabol.

Basketball (ball) Inflated ball used for basketball games

A Basketball is a spherical ball used in basketball games. Basketballs usually range in size from very small promotional items only a few inches in diameter to extra large balls nearly 2 feet (60 cm) in diameter used in training exercises. For example, a youth basketball could be 27 inches (69 cm) in circumference, while a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) men's ball would be a maximum of 30 inches (76 cm) and an NCAA women's ball would be a maximum of 29 inches (74 cm). The standard for a basketball in the National Basketball Association (NBA) is 29.5 inches (75 cm) in circumference and for the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), a maximum circumference of 29 inches (74 cm). High school and junior leagues normally use NCAA, NBA or WNBA sized balls.

Richard Lindon British leatherworker

Richard Lindon was an English leatherworker who was instrumental in the development of the modern-day rugby ball by advancing the craft for ball, rubber bladder, and air pump.

Adidas Jabulani official match ball for the 2010 FIFA World Cup

The Jabulani is a football manufactured by Adidas. It was the official match ball for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Adidas Brazuca official match ball of the 2014 FIFA World Cup

The Adidas Brazuca was the official match ball of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, which was held in Brazil. It is designed by the company Adidas, a FIFA Partner and FIFA World Cup official match ball supplier since 1970.

Comparison of association football and rugby union

Comparison of association football (football/soccer) and rugby union (rugby/rugger) is possible because of the games' similarities and shared origins.

Ball (gridiron football) device used to play Gridiron football

In Canada and in the United States, a football is a ball, roughly in the form of a prolate spheroid, used in the context of playing gridiron football. Footballs are often made of cow hide leather, as such a material is required in professional and collegiate football. Footballs used in recreation, and in organised youth leagues, may be made of rubber or plastic materials.

Nivia Sports Indian sports equipment manufacturer

Nivia Sports is an Indian sports equipment manufacturer based in Jalandhar, Punjab, India, under the banner of FreeWill Sports Pvt Ltd. The firm makes athletic equipment such as footwear, apparel, and accessories for football, cricket, hockey, badminton, basketball, and tennis. It has partnered with many national sports events in India.

Ball (Gaelic football)

A football, gah ball, or Gaelic football is the spherical leather football used in the sports of Gaelic football and ladies' Gaelic football and international rules football.


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