Did you know that Charles Goodyear made the first vulcanized rubber ball in 1855?
The outer cover can be made of leather or synthetic leather. The ball used to be made only of leather in earlier times. Leather gives a long life and a beautiful finish. But leather also absorbs water and makes the ball heavy. Artificial leather, on the other hand, does not allow too much water to be absorbed. It is made of either polyurethane (PU) or PVC. The list of artificial leathers is long but the best covers are made of
- Ducksung or
These are PU materials. PVC or even rubber may be used in making practice balls. Indoor soccer balls may need a softer felt cover like the ones we use in tennis balls.
The outside cover of the ball is made of panels. The number of panels depends on the design of the ball. The 32-panel ball is used in professional games. These white and black balls are well known. It is called the Buckminster ball and has 20 hexagonal 12 pentagonal panels. These panels are stitched together and when inflated cause the ball to appear round. The panels do converge out when the air is blown into the ball.
The other types of balls have a differing number of panels. The 18-26 panel balls are the ones used in matches like league soccer, Scotland and England league matches. When there are fewer panels, the ball can curve better because the ball becomes rounder in shape.
Panels can be stitched together or they may be glued or even molded together. The best balls are always stitched together. Polyester thread is used. There is a specification to the thickness and quality of thread used. It must be 5-ply twisted polyester. The balls with hand stitching have a stronger and more durable seam. The polyester stitching may be reinforced with Kevlar for added endurance. If it is hand-stitched, be prepared to pay more than if it is machine stitched. Stitching is important to how is made a soccer ball.
If the price is less, the ball should have panels glued together on the lining. You will probably feel the surface is harder compared to the stitched ones.
Thermal-molding is the latest technique used. This technique is used in the World Cup matches.
Video – Last stitch
If you are curious about how the last stitch is made, take a look at the video.
The lining in the ball could be multiple layers. The quality of the hand-stitched ball could depend on the number of layers. Polyester and cotton are laminated together. This lining gives bounce, strength and a structure to the ball. Expect at least four layers in a professional soccer ball. Other practice balls will have less lining and so less chance of keeping its shape over a period of time so also bounce may reduce with time. Some kinds of soccer balls have a foam layer inside for more control and cushioning effect.
This makes up the inner part of the ball. It can be made of latex or butyl. Latex gives good surface tension but does not retain air as long as the butyl one. Butyl has a good combination of air retention and good contact. The balls used for Futsal use foam instead of air so they will have less bounce on a hard surface.
So now we need a valve to pump in air. Butyl valves are the most common valves used, but in the high end ones, silicone-treated valve for a better performance. These types of valves are helpful in inserting the needle for inflation and help in minimum air loss. Most people are advised to put a drop of silicoen oil on the valve to make inflation easier for this reason.
Latex bladders have a very good feel, but you may need to pump air often as they do not retain air as well as the butyl ones. The latex has micro pores that will let the air out over time. To over some this, carbon latex bladders may be used. The carbon tends to block air from escaping through the pores.
Finally, how is the soccer ball made?
The outer layer must be constructed. The outer layer is made of several foams, filled layers glued together. This will be the smooth and durable exterior of the soccer ball. This is an important aspect of how is made a soccer ball.
The leaves are cut into the correct panels needed to make a ball. Printing of brand names, logos and other designs required. Usually, screen-printing methods are used for this. A clear PU layer may be used to keep the labelling protected. Now it is time to cut out the panels as required. Any holes required are also made before putting the pieces together. The panels are stitched together inside out so that stitches do not show. Once it is ready the ball will be inverted and the bladder put in. Air may be pumped in at this time.
If any approvals are needed from FIFA or HFHS or FIFA inspected seals, then the procedures for this are followed. A lot of talent goes into how is made a soccer ball. A person with delicate hands makes those high-priced, hand stitched balls used in the World Cup or other professional matches. There we have it, a football or soccer ball is made and now ready for delivery to one of the hundreds of outlets around the world. We just have to make our selection based on the criteria we need and then it’s time to play ball!