Ball (association football)

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Adidas Telstar-style ball, with the familiar black and white truncated icosahedron pattern.

A football, soccer ball, or association football ball 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]


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.[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 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.[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.


In 1838, Charles Goodyear introduced the use of rubber and their discoveries of vulcanisation, which dramatically improved the football.[3] 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 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][5]

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 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.[6][7] 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

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.

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.[8][9]


Today's footballs are 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.[2] Some premium-grade 32-panel balls use non-regular polygons to give a closer approximation to sphericality.[10] The inside of the football is made up of a latex bladder which enables the football to be pressurised. The ball's panel pairs are stitched along the edge; this procedure can either be performed manually or with a machine.[3] The size of a football is roughly 22 cm (8.65 inches) in diameter for a regulation size 5 ball. Rules state that a size 5 ball must be 68 to 70 cm in circumference. Averaging that to 69 cm and then dividing by π gives about 22 cm for a diameter.

The ball's weight must be in the range of 410 to 450 grams (14 to 16 oz) and inflated to a pressure of between 0.6 and 1.1 standard atmospheres (8.8 and 16.2 psi) at sea level.[11]

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.[12]


Many companies throughout the world produce footballs.[13] 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.[14]

As a response to the problems with the balls in the 1962 FIFA World Cup, Adidas created the Adidas Santiago[15] – 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 supplied match balls for the 2008 Olympic Games.[16] They also supply the ball for the UEFA Champions League which is called the Adidas Finale.

FIFA World Cup

From 1970 FIFA World Cup, Official match balls were used by FIFA.

UEFA European Championship

The following balls were used in the UEFA European Championship over the years:[17]

Championship Official football Manufacturer Additional information
1968 Telstar Elast Adidas This the first championship use of this ball[15]
1972 Telstar Adidas
1976 Telstar Adidas
1980 Tango Italia Adidas
1984 Tango Mundial Adidas
1988 Tango Europa Adidas
1992 Etrusco Unico Adidas This was the same ball used as in the 1990 FIFA World Cup.
1996 Questra Europa Adidas
2000 Terrestra Silverstream Adidas
2004 Roteiro Adidas
2008 Europass Adidas
2012 Tango 12 Adidas
2016 Beau Jeu Adidas Elements of the Adidas Brazuca in a new design
Fracas Design variant of the Beau Jeu

Olympic Games

The following balls were used in the football tournament of the Olympic Games (note this list is incomplete):

Olympic Games Official football Manufacturer Additional information
1984 Olympic Games Adidas Tango Sevilla Adidas
1988 Olympic Games Adidas Tango Séoul Adidas
1992 Olympic Games Adidas Etrusco Unico Adidas
1996 Olympic Games Adidas Questra Olympia[18] Adidas
2000 Olympic Games Adidas Gamarada[15] Adidas The aboriginal word for friendship, variation of the Adidas Terrestra Silverstream[15]
2004 Olympic Games Adidas Pelias Adidas
2008 Olympic Games Adidas Teamgeist 2 Magnus Moenia Adidas Variation of the Teamgeist, with Magnus Moenia meaning 'walls of the great' in Latin[19]
2012 Olympic Games Adidas The Albert Adidas Variant of the Adidas Tango 12
2016 Olympic Games Adidas Errejota Adidas Variant of the Adidas Beau Jeu

League balls

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

Ball League Name
Voit Mexico Liga MX
Nike Ordem 3 England Premier League
Adidas Torfabrik Germany Bundesliga
Nike Ordem 3 Spain La Liga
Derbystar Brillant APS Netherlands KNVB Eredivisie
Puma King Ball Chile Primera Division
Golty Colombia Categoría Primera A
Nike Ordem Brazil Campeonato Brasileiro Série A
Nike Ordem 3 Italy Serie A
Adidas Pro Ligue 1 France Ligue 1
Adidas Argentum Argentina Argentine Primera División
Adidas Brazuca Russia Russian Premier League
Nike Ordem 3 Portugal Primeira Liga
Nike Incyte Turkey Süper Lig
Adidas Brazuca Greece Superleague Greece
Nike Maxim Romania Liga I
Mitre Delta V12 Scotland Scottish Premiership
Adidas Brazuca Japan J1 League
Adidas Brazuca South Korea K League Classic
Puma Bulgaria Parva Liga
Puma Poland Ekstraklasa
Adidas Brazuca United States/Canada Major League Soccer
Nike Ordem 4 China Chinese Super League
Nike Incyte Australia A-League
Nike Ordem 5 India I-League
Mitre REVOLVE FL Wales Welsh Premier League
Molten VG-5000A Philippines United Football League
Adidas Brazuca Norway Eliteserien
Adidas Finale UEFA Champions League
Select Brilliant Super Belgium Belgian First Division A
Select Brilliant Super Denmark Danish Superliga
Select Brilliant Super Finland Veikkausliiga
Select Brilliant Super Sweden Allsvenskan
Mitre Delta V12 United States National Premier Soccer League
Voit United States/Canada National Premier Soccer League
Puma evoPower 1 S India Indian Super League
Nike Ordem 3 NWSL 2016 United States National Women's Soccer League
Nike Ordem 3 Saudi Arabia Saudi Premier League
Dong Luc Group Galaxy UHV 2.07 Vietnam V.League 1


Unicode 5.2 introduces the glyph ⚽ (U+26BD SOCCER BALL), representable in HTML as ⚽ or ⚽.[20] The addition of this symbol follows a 2008 proposal by Karl Pentzlin.[21]

See also


  1. ^ football World – Early History Archived 16 June 2006 at the Wayback Machine. (Accessed 9 June 2006)
  2. ^ a b Price, D. S., Jones, R.Harland, A. R. 2006. Computational modeling of manually stitched footballs. Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers – Part L — Journal of Materials: Design & Applications. Vol. 220 Issue 4, p259-268.
  3. ^ a b Materials Science and Engineering: A Volume 420, Issues 1–2, 25 March 2006, Pages 100–108
  4. ^ a b Viscoelasticity of multi-layer textile reinforced polymer composites used in footballs. Journal of Materials Science. Volume 43, Number 8 / April 2008. 2833–2843.
  5. ^ "Oldest Soccer Ball". 2013. Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  6. ^ Analysis by Bazian Edited by NHS Choices. "Heading footballs 'linked to brain damage in professional players'". NHS.UK. Retrieved 2018-03-21. 
  7. ^ Nicola Davis. "Footballers could be at risk of dementia from blows to the head, study suggests | Sport". The Guardian. doi:10.1007/s00401-017-1680-3. Retrieved 2018-03-21. 
  8. ^ football World – 2000 and Beyond (Accessed 9 June 2006)
  9. ^ "World's First Intelligent Soccer Ball Receives FIFA Recognition". PR Newswire. Retrieved 2015-07-21. 
  10. ^ Eastaway, Rob; Haigh, John (2005-10-15). "Balls; and why theyaren't quite spherical". How to Take a Penalty: The Hidden Mathematics of Sport. Robson. pp. 4–5. ISBN 9781861058362. 
  11. ^ "Laws of the Game 2017/2018" (PDF). 
  12. ^ Soccer Balls, Soccer, 2013-10-14. Retrieved: 2013-10-14.
  13. ^ "Best soccer ball brands". Soccer Gear HQ. 
  14. ^ wright, tom (28 April 2010). "A Soccer Sore Point". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  15. ^ a b c d The Blizzard: Issue 6. 2012. ISBN 978-1-908940-06-3. Archived from the original on 27 August 2012. 
  16. ^ football World – Team Geist (Accessed 9 June 2006)
  17. ^ football World – European Football Championship balls(Accessed 9 June 2006)
  18. ^ "A Few Good Balls – "Adidas Gamarada 2000 Sydney Olympics"". Archived from the original on 6 March 2014. Retrieved 13 September 2012. 
  19. ^ "AFGB: 2008 Olympics". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 13 September 2012. 
  20. ^ "Miscellaneous Symbols Range: 2600–26FF" (PDF). Unicode Consortium. 2009. Retrieved 2010-03-14. 
  21. ^ Pentzlin, Karl (2 April 2008). "Proposal to encode a SOCCER BALL symbol in Unicode" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-03-14. 

External links

  • New York Times interactive feature on the evolution of the world cup ball
  • van Rheenen, Erik (16 August 2013). "Why Are Soccer Balls Made of Hexagons?". Mental Floss. Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
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