With the 2022 World Cup underway, we thought it’d be appropriate to look into the history of the sport, and more specifically the ball used for football, or soccer.
Throughout this article, we’ll refer to the game as both soccer and football.
The sport has ancient roots, being traced back to China in the Han Dynasty, 206 BC – AD 220. Back then, the game was called Cuju, or 蹴鞠, literally meaning kick ball.
And although the Greeks, Romans, and even Egyptians have a similar history of ball sports, Cuju seems to be the most relevant rendition of modern day soccer, where a ball is kicked around a field, aiming toward a net at the opponent’s end. At this point in time, the ball was hand sewn leather, stuffed with feathers.
In the ensuing centuries, the game evolved and proliferated, with dozens of countries hosting their own form of competitive leagues and teams.
By the 1800s, the ball resembled an early version of today’s ball, although it was hand stitched leather with laces on one side, similar to a rugby ball.
The advent of the vulcanized rubber from Charles Goodyear in 1938 dramatically improved the performance of the soccer ball, by making it more resilient, better inflated, and more consistent throughout the game.
The game continued to evolve, with more and more structure, league buildout, and worldwide competition, including the World Cup.
Below is a quick timeline of some important milestones in football over the past several hundred years:
- 1409 – First Documented Use of Word ‘Football’ In England
- 1581 – First Football Played in English Schools
- 1848 – Cambridge Rules Established
- 1857 – Sheffield Rules
- 1863 – Football Association Formed
- 1870 – First International Match Played
- 1871 – FA Cup Invented
- 1877 – Laws of The Game Ratified
- 1888 – Football League Formed
- 1904 – FIFA Formed
- 1930 – First World Cup
- 1954 – UEFA Formed
- 1960 – First European Championships (Called European Nations Cup)
- 1985 – Heysel Stadium Disaster, English Clubs Banned from Europe
- 1992 – Premier League Formed
- 2012 – Goal line Technology Used for The First Time
- 2016 – VAR is used in an International Match for the first time
The balls also evolved, as seen from 1936 below.
Fast forward 90 years, and the soccer ball has become iconic, but also high-tech, with manufacturing processes that ensure each ball not only performs beautifully, but that each and every ball from the factory will be just as consistent.
“Today’s footballs are much 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 or butyl rubber bladder which enables the football to be pressurised. The ball’s outside is made of leather, synthetic leather, polyurethane or PVC panels.” – Wikipedia
And here is the official ball used for the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar, made by Adidas. It’s pretty cool to know so many hundreds of years of history have gone into a sport, which continues to be the most popular game around the globe.
Sources: History of Soccer, Soccermodo, and Wikipedia.