The Soccer Ball History – From 1950 to Today
The Soccer Balls (Footballs) in 1950’s
The 1950’s saw the introduction of what is considered the modern soccer ball. Eigil Nielsen was the national goalkeeper of Denmark and played 28 matches for the country between 1940 and 1951. He founded the sports supply company Select in 1947 and manufactured soccer balls from the start. In 1951 Select became the first company to use an integral valve negating the need for external lacing. Thus creating a ball that was far superior in many ways. Keeping the air in the bladder was previously one of the biggest challenges. The fact that the heavy lacing was now gone meant the balls being more balanced had a truer flight. A major plus for the players was that with the hemp stitching gone it no longer hurt when heading the ball!
The Soccer Balls (Footballs) in 1960′s
Once again Select were at the cutting edge of soccer ball development. In 1962 the 32 panel ball was introduced to the world. The design was revolutionary and based on the the work of contemporary architect and all round genius Richard Buckminster Fuller. Fullers work on the geodesic dome inspired the iconic ball. The construction consists of 20 hexagonal and 12 pentagonal sections of leather, stitched together creating the most spherical ball todate.
The Soccer Balls (Footballs) in 1970′s and Beyond
The 60’s saw the development of synthetic materials, but it wasn’t until 1974 that the first hand stitched fully artificial leather ball was marketed. It took a few years for the leather ball to be given up as it was considered to be more consistent. The 1970 official World Cup ball made by Adidas was called the Telstar using the 32 panel construction in leather. This ball is used as an example by just about every illustrator there is whenever a soccer ball is required. But by the 1980’s the vast majority of soccer balls produced were made with synthetic leather.
Modern materials are extremely advanced with the molecular structure mimicking natural leather. This has all the advantages of leather without the flaws and inconsistencies found in a natural product. The design and construction is constantly evolving with many companies producing innovative and attractive match balls. With Adidas’ Teamgeist, Roteiro, Finale and Fevernova, Puma’s Shudah, Nike’s Seitiro, Geo Merlin, and Mitre’s ISO the development of soccer balls shows no sign of slowing up. The object is still the same to create a ball that has a consistent shape, is true in the air, soft yet strong and allows all of the energy to be transferred the ball.