Football is the name given to a number of similar sports played throughout the world. The most well known are association football (soccer), American football (gridiron), rugby football and Australian rules football. The balls used in these sports all have slight differences in size, shape and construction. The two general shapes for a football are a sphere and prolate spheroid (oval). Let’s find out what footballs are made from and how they are constructed.
American football (gridiron)
This game evolved from rugby and the original ball used for the game was a rugby ball. However, the ball used for the game was later redesigned with pointier ends to make it easier to throw. Today, balls used in professional and college games are made from leather that is tanned brown, plastic is sometimes used for cheaper balls. The ball starts as 4 leather panels that are stitched inside-out. The two top panels have a series of small holes that are used to lace the ball together. A rubber or polyurethane lining, called a bladder, is used inside the ball so that it can be inflated.
Association football (soccer)
The ball used for this sport is a sphere and is usually made from waterproofed leather or special plastic material. A soccer ball usually has 32 panels (12 pentagons and 20 hexagons) that are individually stitched together. Other designs have also been used, such as the 14 panel Adidas ball used for the 2010 World Cup. These panels were thermally bonded instead of being hand stitched. A ball that contains a tracking chip has also been developed. This chip sends a signal to the referee when it completely crosses the goal line (indicating a goal has been scored)!
There are two main variations of this game and the ball used is very similar in each of these variations. The first rugby ball was made out of four panel leather casings with a pig bladder used for inflation. After this time the rugby ball continued to be made out of leather, with a rubber bladder, but synthetic materials became popular if the field was wet because this material didn’t absorb water. Eventually, both variations of the game switched to balls made of synthetic materials. The modern ball is an oval shape and has 4 hand stitched panels with an inner rubber bladder.
Australian rules football
The ball used for this game is also similar to a rugby ball, but is smaller and has rounded ends. It is also made of four leather panels and internal bladder. Like American football, the ball used for this game has laces on the top. The ball is dyed red for day games, and yellow for night games.