2014 World Cup: Evolution of the Football

2014 World Cup: Evolution of the Football

Posted 29 May 2014 by Donna Creek

“Did you know footballs were once made from a pigs bladder?” I didn’t believe this at first, when I was told the other day, so I did what anyone else would do and put these words in to Google (images)…….. and there it was…….. a balloon shaped pigs bladder! This didn’t put me off though, it made me even more intrigued to read up about the evolution of the football.

So, let’s go back to the 1800’s.

150 years ago you wouldn’t be able to just walk in to a shop and buy a football, you would have to get one made – this would be made from a pigs bladder that was dried out and inflated (hand blown) and tied. The pigs bladder was then placed inside leather which was stitched together – the main issue with this was the football size was determined by the size of the bladder.


It wasn’t until 1844 that a man names Charles Goodyear patented vulcanised rubber – vulcanisation is the removal of sulphur from rubber and then heated, this enables rubber to retain it’s elasticity and become waterproof and weatherproof. In 1855 the first vulcanised football was made, this was made up from rubber panels that were glued together, the pigs bladder was also replaced with rubber giving the ball a much better bounce! The addition of the rubber bladder also meant the size of the football could be set, so the English Football Association announced that the ball should be spherical and between 27-28 inches in circumference – it still remains this size.

Footballs remained leather right in to the 1900’s and even featured during the first World Cup in 1930 – look at the picture below, fancy giving that a header?

World Cup Football

By the 1960’s the lacing was removed and white footballs were introduced to improve visability on the pitch but the biggest breakthrough was synthetic leather. Synthetic leather is made from PVC which is very pliable and has a shiny surface – the synthetic leather proved to be a more popular material because manufactures had more control on the panel construction of the ball, this created an even more curved ball. Another improvement was its resistance to water, previous leather balls had soaked up the water and lost their shape over time.

Synthetic leather was not the only improvement to football during the 60’s – sports brand Adidas started to make footballs. It wasn’t until the 70’s when Adidas designed the Telstar a panelled football for the 1970 World Cup – made up of 32 panels which had been die cut, stitched and alternately painted in black and white, quite labour intensive!


By 2010 Adidas had introduced the Jabulani – this ball was majorly advanced at the time, it had been thermally bonded which meant the panels were arranged inside the mould with an adhesive, this meant they no longer had to be stitched together and only consisted of 8 panels. You can watch the production process here – http://bit.ly/1hB8yUw

4 years on and Adidas have revealed the Brazuca for this year’s 2014 World Cup – the carcass has been made up of 6 polyurethane interlocking panels that have been thermally bonded together – it’s been reported to be the most advanced ball which has been tried and tested by many, including the likes of footballer Lionel Messi who has had a strong influence in the development of the Brazuca.

From pigs skin to vulcanisation to thermal bonding, it will be very interesting to see the next football makeover!

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