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History of World Cup Soccer Balls
1930-2006: From 'Tiento' to 'Teamgeist'
Marcelo Mackinnon (pelarco)     Print Article 
Published 2006-04-13 16:54 (KST)   
The World Cup to be held this June in Germany will be the greatest sporting event of all time. For every edition, the number of citizens around the world that view the TV broadcasts increases into the billions. However, without the presence on the pitch of that spherical rubber implement known as "the football," the event would be a complete failure.

Since the subject of this article is a description of the development of the football during the World Cups organized by the International Football Federation (FIFA), there will be a brief overview of the ball's history prior to the first World Cup (Uruguay 1930), which covers thousands of years.

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The earliest examples are from several places in the world. The Mayans of Central America were known to play a game with a small tennis-size rubber ball that had to be thrown, kicked or headed through a vertical stone loop. The losing players would be sacrificed to their gods!

Also in Asia between 255 B.C. and 220 A.D., drawings show players trying to kick a spherical shaped ball into a silk net hung between two bamboo poles.

In medieval times, villagers learned if they kicked an inflated animal bladder, it would go farther than throwing it by hand. Competitions were organized between neighboring towns whereby the citizens had to take the bladder to the central square of the other town. The town that did this first was the winner. There were no rules, so fatal casualties amongst the villagers were frequent.

An important breakthrough occurred in 1836 as Charles Goodyear invented vulcanized rubber. But it would only be until the middle of the 19th century that balls began to be made with rubber bladders instead of pig or animal bladders.

Another important year would be 1862, when Englishman H.J. Lindon created the first inflatable rubber bladders and in the process caused Mrs. Lindon to contract a lung disease, apparently after blowing up too many pig's bladders. These balls with rubber bladders kept the ball hard and round. However, on the outside they were still made from leather, making them become heavier when the matches were played in wet pitches or under rainy conditions.

In 1872, the English Football Association officially stated in its rulebook that the ball "must be spherical with a circumference of 27 to 28 inches" (68.6 cm to 71.1 cm). In 1937 the official weight was set at 14-16 oz. In 1956, according to The Encyclopedia of Association Football (first published in England), "the ball must be spherical with an outer casing of leather or other approved materials." These standards are still followed today by FIFA.

In 1888, the English and Scottish Football Leagues were founded, and this began the process of mass production of footballs. Mitre and Thomlinson's of Glasgow, Scotland were some of the pioneer producers of the time.

Another important feature to consider was that the leather layers of the balls were stitched together. Since in the U.K. rainy and wet conditions are common, the stitches and leather casings were specially painful when players headed the ball, also they frequently lost air pressure and had to be inflated on the spot.


Argentina and Uruguay, the host country, and made it to the final in 1930. In those days, South Americans used a leather cord called "Tiento" to sew up the ball. According to my father (who was a young boy at the time), first the rubber bladder would be inflated with a pump, then the bladder would be inserted into the leather casing. The air valve would also be inserted underneath the gash (as can be seen in the photo) and tied up with "tiento". It was frequent that during the match the ball would deflate since the security air valve had not been invented yet. Both teams brought a pump with them just in case. Also with the constant kicking of the bladder would deform it and so the ball would not bounce evenly.


In the 1940s the leather balls were made water proof by using synthetic paints and other non-porous materials over it, but it was not enough, they still became extremely heavy under wet conditions. Also, the lace was eliminated after the invention of the safety valve for the bladder.

In the 1950s, electric floodlights at stadiums were introduced and leather balls began to be painted white so that fans could see the ball better.
A major revolution would occur in the 1960's when the first synthetic ball was produced, thus avoiding the threat of water absorption. Now the balls are sewn together with synthetic leather patches shaped as pentagons, hexagons or triangles.


First a few words about this well-known German company: Since the 1970 World Cup held in Mexico, Adidas has been officially appointed by FIFA to provide the footballs used in matches.

Adolph and Rudi Dassler were the sons of a shoemaker from the town of Herzogenaurauch. Continuing with the family business and making football boots, the Dasslers began producing soccer balls. They did quite well together until 1948 when Rudi decided to form his own company called Puma. Since Adolph's nickname was Adi, he joined it up with the first three letters from Dassler, ADI-DAS, and created the famous brand name.

Adidas began producing balls in 1963, inspired by the 1962 World Cup held in Chile. Adidas named its first model "Santiago" after the Chilean capital, which continued with the following successors:


For the first time, Adidas was officially appointed by FIFA to produce the balls for Mexico 1970. Adi Dassler also made up the name for the ball from the combination of two words: Television and Star (TEL-STAR), because at Mexico there would be the first live TV broadcast to Europe, South America and other countries. It had to be visible on the black and white television screens of the time, so Telstar was formed by 12 black pentagons panels and 20 white hexagons. It was the roundest ball that had been produced until then.


Adidas designed two match balls for the next World Cup staged in 1974 in West Germany. A new Telstar with black letters and another model called Chile-Durlast were used. There were no major innovations from the materials and techniques used at Mexico 1970


The model designed for the 1978 edition held in Argentina was named after the national dance of that country, the "Tango". It would be one of the most successful and revolutionary balls due to its design composed of 20 panels with "triads" that created a visual effect of 12 identical circles. It was very attractive to see on television especially when it was flying through the air.


The diagrams on the model for the next edition were just a variation of "Tango Argentina", but this ball was revolutionary since it incorporated the most advanced water-proof techniques. This model was also the last all leather model produced by Adidas for the World Cup.


Adidas continued perfecting its technology during the 1986 Mexico World Cup, since this model was made of polyurethane and fully water proof. The outside designs were based on those of the native Aztec civilization.


This model introduced an internal layer of polyurethane foam and was fully made of synthetic fibers. The underneath layer included fabric coated with latex that prevented tearing and maintained stability. Yet again the outer design was based on art forms of ancient civilizations from the Italian peninsula.


The technological innovations introduced into this model meant it would fly faster after being kicked and had a softer feel to the touch. Since it was made from a polystyrene foam covering, it had higher water prevention qualities.


Adidas named this model after the three colors of the French flag : Blue, red and white. It was the first colored World Cup ball , made with a thin layer of syntactic foam.


What attracted the attention most of football fans was the glossy finish on the outside, an innovation that has been an inspiration for other balls and sports products since then. Fevernova was made of thicker inner layers that guaranteed the accuracy of the ball's trajectory during flight. Fevernova's improved syntactic foam layer,
consisting of highly compressible and extremely durable gas-filled micro-balloons, had remarkable energy return properties.


And so Adidas has the honor of manufacturing the model for this year's edition that will be played once again in its home country. "Team Spirit" is its name in English and according to the maker, "The fine gold accents along the rounded propellers are inspired by the golden FIFA World Cup Trophy. The latest technology has been used to design and test this model and a 14 panel design is the innovation for this year.

With fewer seams, Teamgeist is rounder and bounces higher and will be more accurate during flight.

According to Adidas, its patented Thermal Bonding technology makes the new ball virtually waterproof.

The Adidas Research team in conjunction with the the Sports Technology Research Group of the University of Loughborough, tested Teamgeist under strenuous laboratory conditions and also with human players. According to Adidas, Teamgeist is rounder, more precise and consistent than any other match ball produced by competitors. Good Luck during Germany 2006 Teamgeist!

Technical Specifications:

FIFA Approved Standard: 68.5 cm - 69.5 cm.
Teamgeist: 69.0 cm - 69.25 cm

FIFA Approved Standard: max. 1.5 percent difference.
Teamgeist: max. 1 percent difference.

Water Absorption:
FIFA Approved Standard: no more than 10 percent weight increase. Teamgeist: Water absorption: no more than 0.1 percent weight increase.

FIFA Approved Standard: Weight between 420 and 445 grams.Teamgeist: Weight between 441 and 444 grams.

Shape and Size Retention:
FIFA Approved Standard: 2,000 cycles at 50 km per hour. Teamgeist: 3,500 cycles at 50 km per hour.

Rebound Test:
FIFA Approved Standard: No more than 10 cm.
Teamgeist: No more than 2 cm.

Loss of Pressure:
FIFA Approved Standard: Maximum Loss of pressure: 20 percent.
Teamgeist: Maximum Loss of pressure : 11 percent.

Improved all weather performance for consistent play in any condition.
  • Revolutionary Panel Shape: eliminates surface irregularities to create a perfectly round ball for greater accuracy
  • New Carcass: improves accuracy and power
  • Complete Underglass Print: significantly decreases abrasion of design
  • Thermal Bonding: seamless panels create a smooth, consistent kicking surface

    Will not include the embedded circuitry to alert referees when it has crossed the goal-line.
  • ©2006 OhmyNews
    Other articles by reporter Marcelo Mackinnon

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