What exactly is a soccer ball? Most people in responding to such a question would simply and straightforwardly answer that it is a spherical object of a certain size that is kicked around a football field for ninety minutes. Any observations as to any differences which may exist between one ball and another are likely to be limited to some peripheral quality such as brand name.
And yet soccer balls come in fact in such a range of brands, designs and types that it would be difficult to do them all justice in a short article such as this.
For starters not all soccer balls are used on the football field. There are indoor balls which have the texture of a large tennis ball rather than being smooth to the touch, there are futsal balls which are usually slightly smaller, and beach balls which of course are much larger and lighter. Then there are training balls, which can vary in size and constitution. Matches played by very young children also tend to be with smaller balls, for reasons which are obvious.
Covers and Bladders
These are the two “layers” of the ball, essentially the outer and inner respectively. The outer skin will typically be made of synthetic leather, polyurethane or PVC. In days gone by of course leather balls really were leather, which made them heavy (especially when wet) as well as sometimes a little misshapen. The surface of the ball is divided into a number of visible “panels”, typically thirty-two but sometimes fewer as explained on this handy soccer balls guide website.
The ball’s bladder itself comes in either butyl or latex/rubber. The latter generally speaking provides for a better quality ball but it does not retain its air for the same length of time as does the former.
These panels themselves can be put together in any of a variety of different ways. Historically better quality balls have been stitched by hand, although today there is a greater tendency towards thermal molding, which produces the same effect but with less effort involved in the production. Cheaper balls tend to be glued, although these can have a tendency to come apart.
Appearance and Colour
Training balls, as has been mentioned, have a fluffy appearance, whereas the beach ball is usually multi-coloured and ostentatious in appearance. Competition footballs however tend to be more consistent in their presentation as there are rules governing their use in serious play.
In the days of the old real leather football the natural colour was brown, which tended to darken when the product became wet Ever since they were replaced by the lighter, friendlier, synthetic objects of today though they have usually been white, which makes them more visible, especially in failing light.
Balls used for training can of course be any colour, and are often to be seen in blue, orange, silver or even black. Indeed there are no rules when it comes to kickabout – if it’s round and it can be kicked then it’s a football.