I love to help my son with schoolwork. It gives us personal time together. When he was recently assigned to write a report for school, I suggested something to do with his favorite sport of soccer. He likes to play and also watch matches on TV. This is going to be a hobby for life. Writing about the game would be a way to really get into the project and I could help. Reading about the game online, I became fascinated with the history of the ball itself after finding a piece about it from Top Corner Mag. It was clear that every culture from the beginning it seems had some kind of object to kick around for recreation and play. I don’t know how it is known, but the South American Indians had a light, elasticized ball. It would take several thousand years for rubber to be invented. Imagine!
My son read all the historical legends and was taken with some of the suggestions about what the early balls were like. Animal heads (and possibly human skulls?), stitched heavy cloth, and pig or cow bladders were common. He just couldn’t get over this. His little eyes grew wide with amazement. In other areas of the world, the Chinese were said to enjoy a game of “tsu chu,” in which animal-skin balls were dribbled about and send through holes in a stretched net. The Egyptians got in the picture with a kind of football while later the ancient Greeks and Romans had their version of kicking a ball. To round out the early history, medieval used a skull to propel down a path using the feet. There were village rivalries before spectators in the town square. Some say this is the first location of soccer riots. Ha!
Also during the Middles Ages, pig bladders from killed livestock (for food), were used to make an inflated ball. Both the hands and feet were used to keep the ball in the air. It wasn’t long for some ingenious inventor to cover the bladder balls with leather to create a round shape. We get into the modern era of soccer in the 19th century at which time Charles Goodyear patented vulcanized rubber. Now balls could be uniform in size and not reflective of the size of a pig’s bladder. This made kicking a ball more predictable. The English Football Association hammered out the rules for soccer in 1853 setting the size of the ball. Finally, in the early 20th century, rubber bladders were the norm with tanned leather covers for easy bouncing. In 1951 the white ball was permitted so spectators could see it better while in play even with floodlights.
Getting into the later history of the soccer ball, my son wrote about synthetic innovations and the various kinds now available and all the top-tier brands. They all meet international requirements. He was reluctant to put down his pencil at the end of the last chapter. As a school project, it had actually been fun.