It's Just a Bag of Wind

Without a ball, there would not be the beautiful game of football. No one knows when the ball was invented but we all know how common it has become, whether for football, golf, tennis, cricket, hockey, basketball and a whole host of other sports.

From an early age, a child finds a ball a natural plaything and soon learns to throw it, kick it and bounce it. The development of the football is interesting and has at times caused some controversy when new styles have been introduced, often for major tournaments such as the World Cup.

In 1855, Charles Goodyear (known for tyres) designed the first vulcanised rubber football. HJ Lindon developed one of the first inflatable rubber bladders for balls. The bladder helped the ball to have strength when inflated and keep its shape.

In 1872 the English Football Association set the rule that the football must be spherical with a circumference of 27 to 28 inches. That rule is the same today and is part of FIFA laws. In 1937 the weight of the ball was increased from 13-15 ounces to 14-16.

The major changes to the football have been in the way the ball is constructed and the materials used. Early footballs made of leather consisted of 8 panels sewn together in later years increased to 32. The bladders in 1900 got stronger and enabled the balls to bounce better. A problem that leather balls had for a long time was that they would absorb water, become heavier and cause head injuries. Modern synthetic materials which mimic leather have long since solved that problem as they absorb little moisture.

In 1951 the white ball was officially allowed to help see the ball easier under floodlights. Orange balls were also introduced in the 1950’s to help the ball be seen in snow (those were the days!).

The makeup of the football is often tweaked which can create more or less swerve, travel farther or less for the same kicking force and will often cause much debate. A great deal of research and science goes into the development of footballs. Not being cynical but it also creates a new market for the millions of footballs that are required around the world!

If someone should ever say to you that football is a game where 22 men kick a ‘bag of wind’ do spare a thought for the ball that makes the beautiful game possible.