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.
In 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. 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. 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. 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.
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. Another problem of early footballs was that they deteriorated quickly, as the leather used in manufacturing the footballs varied in thickness and in quality.
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.
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.
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. Some premium-grade 32-panel balls use non-regular polygons to give a closer approximation to sphericality. 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. 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.
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.
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.
As a response to the problems with the balls in the 1962 FIFA World Cup, Adidas created the Adidas Santiago – 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. They also supply the ball for the UEFA Champions League which is called the Adidas Finale.
The following footballs were used in the FIFA World Cup finals tournaments:
|World Cup||Ball(s)||Image||Manufacturer||Additional information||Refs|
|Two different balls were used in the final: Argentina supplied the first-half ball (the 'Tiento') and led 2–1 at the break; hosts Uruguay supplied the second-half ball (the 'T-Model' which was larger and heavier) and won 4–2.|||
|1934||Federale 102||ECAS (Ente Centrale Approvvigionamento Sportivi), Rome|||
|1938||Allen||Allen, Paris||Made up of leather, consisted of 13 panels and had white cotton laces on a separate thin panel.|||
|1950||Duplo T||Superball||First ball to have no laces and introduce the syringe valve.|||
|1954||Swiss World Champion||Kost Sport, Basel||The first 18-panel ball.|||
|1958||Top Star||Sydsvenska Läder och Remfabriken, Ängelholm (aka "Remmen" or "Sydläder")||Chosen from 102 candidates in a blind test by four FIFA officials.|||
|Senor Custodio Zamora H., San Miguel, Chile
|The Crack was the official ball. Referee Ken Aston was unimpressed with the Chilean ball provided for the opening match, and sent for a European ball, which arrived in the second half. Various matches used different balls, with the apparent rumour the European teams didn't trust the locally produced ball|||
|1966||Challenge 4-star||Slazenger||18-panel ball in orange or yellow. Selected in a blind test at the Football Association headquarters in Soho Square.|||
|1970||Telstar||Adidas||Telstar was the first 32-panel black-and-white ball used in the FIFA World Cup finals. Only 20 were supplied by Adidas. A brown ball (Germany-Peru) and a white ball (first half of Italy-Germany) were used in some matches.|||
|1974||Telstar Durlast||Adidas||The first polyurethane coated ball, making it waterproof and resistant to wear and tear.|||
|1982||Tango España||Adidas||Similar to its predecessor the Tango the Tango España had a polyurethane coating. It had new and improved rubberized seams and was the last leather ball to be used in the World Cup.|||
|1986||Azteca||Adidas||First fully synthetic FIFA World Cup ball and first hand-sewed ball|||
|1998||Tricolore||Adidas||First multi-coloured ball at a World Cup finals tournament.|||
|1999 (women)||Icon||Adidas||First ball specifically created for a Women's World Cup. Technically identical to the Tricolore, but with a different visual design.|||
|2002||Fevernova||Adidas||First World Cup ball with a triangular design. The ball for the 2003 Women's World Cup was technically identical to the Fevernova, but had a different visual design.|||
|2006||Teamgeist||Adidas||The Teamgeist is a 14-panel ball. Each match at the World Cup finals had its own individual ball, printed with the date of the match, the stadium and the team names. It was replaced for the final match by the gold-coloured Teamgeist Berlin. As in 2003, the ball used for the 2007 Women's World Cup was identical in performance to the ball used in the previous year's World Cup, but with a different visual design.|||
|2010||Jabulani||Adidas||This ball has 8 panels. The ball for the final match was the gold Jo'bulani (picture on the left), which was named after "Jo'burg", a standard South African nickname for Johannesburg, site of the final game. The ball was notable for the controversy it attracted, with players and fans contending that its aerodynamics were unusually unpredictable.|||
|2011 (women)||SpeedCell||Adidas||Technically identical to the Jabulani, but with a different visual design.|||
|2014||Brazuca||Adidas||This is the first FIFA World Cup ball named by the fans. The ball has been made of six polyurethane panels which have been thermally bonded.|||
|Brazuca Final Rio|
|2015 (women)||Conext15||Adidas||Based on the technology introduced in the Brazuca. The Conext15 Final Vancouver is the first ball created specifically for a Women's World Cup Final.|||
|Conext15 Final Vancouver|
|Championship||Official football||Manufacturer||Additional information|
|1968||Telstar Elast||Adidas||This the first championship use of this ball|
|1992||Etrusco Unico||Adidas||This was the same ball used as in the 1990 FIFA World Cup.|
|2016||Beau Jeu||Adidas||Elements of the Adidas Brazuca in a new design|
|Fracas||Design variant of the Beau Jeu|
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||Adidas|
|2000 Olympic Games||Adidas Gamarada||Adidas||The aboriginal word for friendship, variation of the Adidas Terrestra Silverstream|
|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|
|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|
The following lists the most up-to-date balls used in various club football competitions:
|Nike Ordem 3||Premier League|
|Nike Ordem 3||La Liga|
|Derbystar Brillant APS||KNVB Eredivisie|
|Puma King Ball||Primera Division|
|Golty||Categoría Primera A|
|Nike Ordem||Campeonato Brasileiro Série A|
|Nike Ordem 3||Serie A|
|Adidas Pro Ligue 1||Ligue 1|
|Adidas Argentum||Argentine Primera División|
|Adidas Brazuca||Russian Premier League|
|Nike Ordem 3||Primeira Liga|
|Nike Incyte||Süper Lig|
|Adidas Brazuca||Superleague Greece|
|Nike Maxim||Liga I|
|Mitre Delta V12||Scottish Premiership|
|Adidas Brazuca||J1 League|
|Adidas Brazuca||K League Classic|
|Adidas Brazuca||/ Major League Soccer|
|Nike Ordem 4||Chinese Super League|
|Nike Ordem 5||I-League|
|Mitre REVOLVE FL||Welsh Premier League|
|Molten VG-5000A||United Football League|
|Adidas Finale||UEFA Champions League|
|Select Brilliant Super||Belgian First Division A|
|Select Brilliant Super||Danish Superliga|
|Select Brilliant Super||Veikkausliiga|
|Select Brilliant Super||Allsvenskan|
|Mitre Delta V12||National Premier Soccer League|
|Voit||/ National Premier Soccer League|
|Puma evoPower 1 S||Indian Super League|
|Nike Ordem 3 NWSL 2016||National Women's Soccer League|
|Nike Ordem 3||Saudi Premier League|
|Dong Luc Group Galaxy UHV 2.07||V.League 1|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Association football balls.|