In this article, we are going to look back on the history of the soccer ball. Starting with it's earliest origins and how it has developed over the years. Of course, we will also answer why (sometimes) it is black and white.
One of the great things about soccer is that the amount of equipment you need to play is pretty simple. Put it this way: if you have a ball, then you are good to go. Unfortunately, the soccer ball is almost taken for granted. It does in fact have a long, interesting and colorful history, with two of those colors being black and white.
The Earliest Soccer Balls
The game of soccer has origins which go back as far as the Han Dynasty in China which occurred between 206 and 220 AD. It is fair to say that the first soccer ball they'd have used back then would not have been the synthetic ones of today. They and were more likely to have been made from the bladders of farm animals such as pigs.
From there, soccer balls progressed to leather panels which were stitched together and then inflated. One thing which the soccer balls had in those days was a lace. This tied the outer panels. The use. Here is where, as a sport, soccer owes a lot to Charles Goodyear, who gives his name to tires used all around the world. He made it possible for the bladder to be rubber. It enabled the balls to be more flexible, resist cold and heat, and it made them bouncier too.
The Laws of the Game for Soccer Balls
As with any sport there are rules which govern the equipment. In soccer this also applies to the ball. Especially when it is used in professional leagues and competitions. The International Football Association Board creates these rules. IFAB are the lawmakers for soccer across the world.
The specifications for a soccer ball are as follows:
- Circumference must be between 68 and 70 centimeters, which is between 27 and 28 inches.
- Weight of a soccer ball must be between 410 and 450 grams, which is 14 to 16 ounces
- Air pressure when inflated must be between 0.6 and 1.1 bars, which is 8.5 and 15.6 pounds per square inch.
The only specification laid down in the laws about what a ball can be made from is a 'suitable material'. This covers all the synthetic materials used in modern soccer balls which we will discuss below.
The laws also state that the ball must be 'spherical'. This may seem laughable as any other shape would make it difficult to play. This rule is there to cover any scenarios where a ball has gone out of shape due to deflation, for example.
Other rules exist relate to using a replacement ball if it becomes defective. Also, the use of extra soccer balls, located around the field of play.
Black and White...In Color
The 1970 FIFA World Cup was the first instance that many people will have watched on a color television. It is thus ironic that the ball which FIFA introduced at that competition was one with black and white panels. This was to aid its visibility on black and white televisions.
It was called the 'Telstar’. Given the link with visibility on television, it is apt that this name was derived from a communications satellite. The ball consisted of leather, and it was the first to have 32 individual shaped panels. Twenty of these panels were white in color and were hexagonal in shape,. The other 12 were black and pentagonal.
The Telstar was a huge success, and a version of it was used for the 1974 FIFA World Cup. This version had a special polyurethane coating on it. This helped prevent scuffs, and made it waterproof. It was appropriate given the downpours that occurred during the tournament.
The Telstar's iconic black and white panels are what many people think of when they imagine a soccer ball. Countless images and drawings of soccer balls still show a ball with black and white panel. Even though this styling has not been used at a major tournament, including the World Cup, for decades.
Modern Soccer Balls
The soccer balls used in modern soccer are made almost only from synthetic materials. The first synthetic soccer balls were produced in the 1960s. Development continues as soccer ball manufacturers seek ways to make them better.
The first synthetic ball used at a FIFA World Cup was in Mexico in 1986 with the aptly named ‘Azteca’. Despite being made from synthetics, it was still hand stitched. The panels still conformed to the hexagons and pentagons of previous soccer balls.
It wasn't until the 2006 World Cup in Germany that the ball used had curved panels. In the case of the 'Teamgeist', as the ball was called, there were 14 of these panels.
One strong benefit of using synthetic materials is that they do not absorb moisture. Those of you of a certain age will remember days when the ball doubled in weight when playing in the rain!
The manufacturers of balls continue to try new materials to make them more accurate when in the air. Balls will also be harder. Will travel faster through the air. Will allow for greater ‘bend’ when a player is taking a direct shot at goal. This great news for direct free-kick takers, not so much for goalkeepers.
We hope that you enjoyed this article and have a better understanding of why soccer balls are black and white.