A Short History of the Soccer Ball (Part 1)

The picture right above is not that of a decaying piece of leather lump, but one of the game's earliest renditions of the piece of material typically kicked around during a game, and the most critical aspect of the game - without such the entire game cannot be played. This material is commonly known as a soccer ball. The purpose of this article would be to narrate briefly about the origins of this item, which has brought joy and purpose for billions of human beings across the long stretch of recorded time.

Early renditions of soccer were played during the medieval ages in Continental Europe

A natural question which follows in reader's mind upon seeing the statement, would be, what do these medieval people use as the soccer ball. Well, things like animal skulls and pig bladders - they really must have very strong bones and muscles...! Perhaps the frequent brawls and wars which occur in a society much less civilized helped in this aspect. What's more amazing was that these player do not have studs or shin pads.

Things took quite a while to improve to standards which we today would consider at least slightly conceivable..

A major benefit of the civilizing effect which came in as the Middle Ages went away, was that the most popular sport in the world became much less aggravating to the body. A huge driver of such civilizing effect was the rapid onset of scientific thinking and scientific inventions, which the evolution of the soccer ball was not immune to. In 1855, Charles Goodyear came up with the first vulcanized rubber soccer ball, which was a huge step forward in the soccer ball's development as it started to standardize the size and shape of a soccer ball. (The picture above in fact is Charles Goodyear's soccer ball). An even better early modern rendition of the object was H. J. Lindon's, which came in 1862. He came up with an inflatable rubber bladder, which was much lighter than Goodyear’s rubber ball, and would retain its shape much better.

With modernization, comes standardization...

A decade later, the English Football Association finally gave size and weight regulations for soccer balls to bring more consistency to the game. They stated that the ball should be “spherical with circumference of 27 to 28 inches”, weighted at 13-15oz. The Law of Football required it to also have an “outer casing of leather or other approved materials.” These dicta then led to the mass production of soccer balls—higher quality balls had leather hide from cow rump, lesser quality from had leather from the cow’s shoulder. Such were hand-stitched so there were still small variations and minor inconsistencies in the ball. To end off on a fun fact - the game of basketball was invented with this version of the soccer ball!

Stay tuned for the second part of this article..!

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