When playing soccer, having a soccer ball with a sound design and structure is extremely important. The ball’s name varies with whether or not the sport is called soccer or football. Therefore, the ball used can be called a football or a soccer ball.
The ball is usually spherical in shape, and the size, weight, and material are uniform and by the standards maintained by the International Football Association board. These standards are mentioned in Law 2 of the Laws of the Game.
Furthermore, there are more standards that FIFA and other subordinate governing bodies specify to ensure that the balls used in games are up to the mark. These standards are withheld because the ball must react to strikes the same way every time.
The standards set by FIFA and other governing bodies are essential for the players and the viewers because if they are not taken care of, the ball may react differently when it is kicked. Therefore, the game would depend on the ball instead of the player playing.
Thus, the game would be unfair for both the players and the spectators. It may also become frustrating because the ball used would be the deciding factor.
Early footballs were made using animal bladders or stomachs. Since there were no rules or standards, people gave little thought to making footballs. Thus, the balls would fall apart quickly if used too much.
Improvements were made to these balls, and in the 19th century, rubber was introduced by Charles Goodyear. The modern football used today came about. Initially, this design consisted of 32-panels, but with improvement, it was reduced to a 24-panel design.
Now, both 24-panel balls and 42-panel balls are used, and they contain a black and white spherical truncated icosahedron design. This design was popularized by Adidas Telstar and has now become the symbol of the sport.
Many different designs of balls are available on the market. These balls differ in appearance, physical character, and innovation. There are specific balls for different kinds of soccer too.
Construction of Ball
A soccer ball has four main components that come together seamlessly to make a ball that can be played on the field. It consists of a cover, stitching, lining, and the bladder. If you are unsure as to which ball will be perfect for your quality and playing needs, knowing the inside of the ball really helps.
The covers of soccer balls are usually made using synthetic leather. This material is an improvement from when people used full grain leather. However, this kind of leather tends to absorb water. Therefore, it becomes cumbersome and requires more strength from the player than if it was dry.
Synthetic leather used in modern-day soccer balls consists of polyurethane, PU, polyvinyl chloride, or PVC. The kind of synthetic leather used in soccer balls is not the same throughout. Many companies and countries that manufacture footballs use their own synthetic leather.
For example, Japanese Teijin Cordley, AI- 2000, Microfiber, Korean Ducksig, PVC, Leather Art Pakisyan Synthetic Leather, English Porvair, etc.
The soccer balls used in official games are usually one of the best. They are produced mostly using Cordley, Microfiber, Ducksung, or other kinds of PU synthetic leather.
Promotional soccer balls are usually made using rubber, molded or stitched covers, and PVC. The covers used in soccer are generally waterproof. Therefore, they are not affected by rain or wet conditions and perform just as they would be the conditions and field dry.
Performing uniformly is of extreme importance. Thus, the cover must be made using materials that will not affect the strike and that the ball will respond in the same manner every time.
To ensure that the soccer ball has a uniform surface overall and that it retains its shape, it uses paneling to make up the outside covering of the ball. The number of panels used varies for each design, but 32-panel balls are the most common.
The 32-panel ball is used in professional matches. It consists of 20 hexagonal and 12 pentagonal surfaces. These six-sided and five-sided surfaces make up the 32 panel balls.
The shape made is called a truncated icosahedron. Therefore, more spherical because of the bulge of the panels due to the air inside.
Other paneling designs of the soccer ball include 18 and 26-panel constructions. These balls are used in various professional leagues such as Major League Soccer, Scottish, and English Leagues.
Thirty-two panels have proven to work perfectly for soccer balls because fewer panels would result in the ball curving more when kicked. The ball would also be less stable because of the curvature and the instability of the cover.
The panels are either stitched, glued, or thermally molded together. The highest quality balls are mostly stitched using polyester or similar threads. Usually, 5-ply twisted polyester cords are the material that is preferred.
Most professional leagues prefer stitched balls because the seams are much tighter and firmer. Some balls also use Kevlar reinforced polyester stitching. Furthermore, higher-end balls are hand-stitched, while mid-priced balls are mostly machine-stitched.
Lower-end soccer balls have their panels glued to the lining, which makes them harder when touched. Thus, they are generally less expensive as compared to stitched balls.
Thermally molded balls are also becoming popular over time as their panels are thermally molded together, making the soccer ball sound in shape.
Linings and Bladders
The thickness of the material is crucial in hand-sewn soccer balls, as the thicker, the lining is between the cover of the ball and the internal bladder, the stronger the ball will be. Furthermore, its structure and bounce will be better too.
The layer of most balls is made using polyester and cotton bonded together, and cotton is also laminated together sometimes. Although the number of layers varies, professional soccer balls have four or more layers.
Other kinds of soccer balls, such as promotional or practice soccer balls, usually have fewer layers. Therefore, these balls are not strong enough to endure long-term use and may not retain their shape and bounce after some time has passed.
To add cushioning and ball control, foam layers are added to soccer balls.
The innermost layer of a soccer ball is the bladder, which holds the air. Bladders are usually made using latex or butyl. Compared to latex bladders, butyl bladders retain air for longer. Thus, the ball is able to retain its shape and bounce for much longer. Furthermore, soccer balls made using butyl bladders also have excellent contact quality.
However, latex bladders are better at providing surface tension, which is vital for soccer balls. Since bladders generally increase the bouncing quality, futsal balls or indoor soccer balls are filled with foam to help limit the bounce that soccer balls have, as futsal balls are used on hard flooring.
To improve air retention, most balls use butyl valves. More expensive higher-end balls use a silicone-treated valve, which has superior performance. These valves help easy insertion of the inflating needle and protect against air loss.
It is always a good idea to put a few drops of silicon oil in the valve of your new ball. This helps make the needle insertion more effortless, and the ball’s air retention is much better.
Natural latex bladders are ones that have the best response and are overall the softest feeling. However, they have micropores that let air escape, so their air retention is not the best. Thus, these balls need to be re-inflated regularly compared to butyl bladders.
Some balls also use carbon-latex bladders. In these bladders, carbon powder is used to close many micro-pores that allow the air to escape. Latex bladders are used despite the micropores due to the excellent bounce that latex bladder balls have. They also feel incredibly soft and have the same angle re-bounce characteristics, which is essential for professional soccer balls.
Size and Weight of Balls
Soccer balls come in various sizes and weights. Thus, you must determine your ball’s correct size and weight based on the different requirements. These sizes are based on the age of the players and range from sizes one to five.
Size one is the smallest size of soccer balls and is perfect for children below three years of age. Usually, these balls are 18 to 20 inches in circumference and weigh seven ounces, making them the ideal size for young children. Older players can also use these balls to improve their first touch, ball control, and footwork.
Size two soccer balls are usually aimed at children ages three to five. These balls are 20 to 22 inches in circumference and weigh eight to nine ounces. The small size is perfect for young kids who are just starting out and trying to develop their skills.
Size three balls are generally for children aged five to eight. They are slightly bigger than the size two balls and are sized at 23 to 24 inches in circumference. Due to their size, they are also slightly heavier and weigh 11 to 12 ounces. Size three balls are the smallest balls used by junior players in their official matches.
Size four balls are aimed at players aged eight to 12. These balls weigh 12 to 14 ounces and have a circumference of 25 to 26 inches. Size four balls are medium-sized and thus ideal youth soccer ball size for youth players that may not have the skill to play with size five soccer balls.
Size five balls are the largest and the international standard size for official matches. Players aged 12 and above can easily use these balls as it is what professional players use. These balls are 27 to 28 inches in circumference and weigh 14 to 16 ounces.
Soccer balls have different designs and structures worldwide. Still, manufacturers must meet specific standards if a ball is to be used in international or professional batches. However, still, within those stringent rules, companies can make certain changes.
There are many different sizes and materials used in soccer balls. They help change the ball’s air retention, bounce and feel. Therefore, it is vital that before you buy any ball, you pay attention to the materials used to make the ball.