Nov 28, 1995	Qualities of soccer balls and boots (Garry Archer)
Dec 13, 1995	Evolution of footballs (Garry Archer)
Sep 16, 1996	Balls and floodlights (John Dunnicliff)

From: (Garry Archer)
Subject: Re: NAS Qualities of soccer balls?
Date: Tue, 28 Nov 95 14:20:16 EST

"Howard H. Hamilton" ( wrote:
> My question to you is, what qualities do you look for in a soccer ball?
> Do you look for the ability of the ball to swerve? Or dip? Or any
> other quality that I forgot about?  I know that there are some players
> on the list, so I hope I can get some input from you all.

As one who has played with all kinds of balls (hey, hey, be careful now...)
I'd like to add some input.

When I was growing up in England I played with cheap plastic balls from
the local Woolworths at the park with friends.  I played with tennis balls
in the playground at school.  I played with water-logged "caser" footballs
in games lessons at school.  I have played with tin cans and brick ends
in the streets.

When I came to the US I played with cheap Brine balls or cheap balls from
Caldors and they were all like cannon balls.

By the late 1980s I bought new balls for my Over-30 team.  I forget the
brand -- but the panels were soft and cushy and felt great to kick and head.
I'll never forget -- my team hated them.  We had played with rock hard
Brine balls for so long that when something like this came along they
just couldn't get used to it until a long time later.  Now they would
never go back.  I still have some of those old balls sitting in a bag
in my basement -- never been kicked in years.

The underlying common factor between all of these objects that I have
kicked over the years is -- feel.  Bricks feel harder and less supple
than (most) footballs today!  Also, a lot depends on the footwear
you are using.  It must be a marriage made in heaven, the way your foot
can "feel" the ball when you kick it -- in a variety of ways -- through
the boots or shoes you are wearing.  I dare say that the technologies of
both balls and boots have evolved together over the years.

When I first started playing back in 19 my boots were
like hobnail miner's boots with a blunt, slightly up-turned toe end.
The ball was an all-leather "caser" with a rubber bladder and laces.
The leather was not covered in any synthetic material like it is now,
so it would absorb the weather -- making heading the ball on a wet day
a particularly life-threatening event.

Now boots -- and balls -- are streamlined.  The boots were heavier back
then, so it was possible to exert enormous force behind even a heavy ball
to kick it any long distance.  But now, the balls are more aerodynamic
and the attributes of the boots of today, like the new Predators, for example,
can introduce all kinds of effects.

So what makes one ball "feel" better than another?

When I buy balls now -- I prefer top-of-the-line Mitres, same as those
used in the English FA Premieship -- I like to feel their texture (soft
panels), see how they bounce and check their weight.  Bounce will always
depend on the field though.  Some balls are designed to play on hard
surfaces (like Astro Turf and hard pitches frozen or baked by the weather).

If a ball does not "feel" right, it does not matter how much it swerves
and dips.  These factors depend more on the skill of the player more than
the ball, in my opinion.  But if you can lift a ball from a dead-ball
situation, or fire a rocket shot into the top far corner of the goal
without crushing your toes, you're half way there.  But you can feel
the difference in balls even with the basic side-foot pass.  You can
make a better pass if the ball feels softer.

How does one scientifically measure "feel"?  I'm not sure.  But it
depends on _all_ of the components of the ball.  The interior as
well as the exterior.

The Eurosport catalogues always describe the components of balls in their
regular "From the Outside In" feature.  They always talk about the "feel"
of a ball too -- and rarely about any other attribute.

From: (Garry Archer)
Subject: Re: Orange balls (was Re: ESPN and John Paul)
Date: December 13, 1995

Bright orange balls, used in recent European matches on ESPN[2] recently,
are just about only used these days in bad weather where visibility is
a question.  As you may have noticed in the FC Nantes and Panathinaikos
(did I spell that right?) match they started with a "traditional" mostly
white ball.  But as the snow continued to fall, and heavier at that, then
they were forced to switch to the orange ball.

Having played in many games in the snow, believe me, it makes a _huge_
difference to play with an orange ball that you can see!

I do not recall exactly when white balls were first introduced -- or 
regularly used at least.  I do recall that by the time the 1970 World Cup 
rolled around the now-familiar "white ball with black spots" was being used 
in the "big" games.  Perhaps the 1970 World Cup introduced this style of
ball for all I remember now.

The "spotted" ball came around the time of a great period of evolution in
balls for football matches.  Clubs and teams around the world were progressing
from the familiar old all-leather 18-panel "caser" with the rubber bladder
inside and the laces on the outside so that you could access the bladder.
They were moving upto the 26- and 32- panel balls, with -- gasp -- no laces!

The difference in the balls may have changed how The Game looked forever.

The difference between 18-, 26- and 32-panel balls is in the aerodynamics of
the ball.  A ball with straight seams -- the 18- and 26-panel balls -- keep
a straight, "true" flight.  32-panel balls with angular seams usually swerve
towards the _end_ of their flight.

Hence goals being scored were beginning to look more spectacular.  Goalkeepers
were initially stunned by how much the ball deviated from it's apparently
original trajectory.

Ball technology has evolved in the usage of materials too.  Casers were
leather with rubber bladders inside.  They became like cannon balls when
wet.  All the older players will _never_ forget the feeling of heading a
caser on a rainy day!  I remember badly bruising my toes when "toe-poking"
a heavy wet caser once.

Nowadays balls are usually made of synthetic leather and high performance
balls are generally covered in polyurethane (PU).  Lower quality balls are
covered in Polyethylene Vinyl Chloride (PVC).  Of course, there are various
qualities of PU which makes some balls "feel" better than others.  English PU
and German PU are the best in the world.  Cordley PU made in Japan is also
extremely high quality.  Linings are usually made of polyester and/or cotton.
Interiors are usually latex rubber bladders.  Butyl bladders are used in
less expensive balls.

With the evolution of ball materials, the bounce of the ball is heavily
affected.  So now players are more concerned with bounce and swerve more
than their counterparts of only a couple of decades or so ago.  With the
evolution of the ball came the evolution of the football boot in its
design and manufacture.  The "Predator" is the latest prototype that can
make balls dip and swerve more than more traditional boots.

It seemed like all match balls were white with black spots until a few
years ago -- but now we're seeing all-white balls appearing more and
more and often "black-spotted" balls are replaced by some other design;
Umbro's diamonds, for instance.  Coloured balls are reserved more for
the kids -- especially the cheap balls seen in the big chain stores.
Ever see those purple and green spotted balls?  Yuk!

At match level, however, white is the dominant colour.  Occassionally
I have seen yellow balls and orange balls.  But yellow and orange have
been more traditional colours from the past too.  I seem to recall having
played with orange casers back in the 1960s.  I do know that yellow balls
with black spots in the 1970s was quite popular for a time.

Anyway, as usual, I have ranted and raved for far too long about such
a simple subject yet again!

But having played football with all kinds of "balls" -- rocks, cans,
tennis balls, cheap plastic balls from Woolworths (if you were rich) --
well, I kinda felt enthusiastic about the subject!

From: (John Dunnicliff)
Subject: White Balls
Date: Sep 16th, 1996

I can tell Ramsnetters that the first time a white ball was used at the
Baseball Ground was in the early fifties, for the inauguration of the new
floodlights and the first-ever night match played by the Rams.

It was a friendly with St.Johnstone of the Scottish league (I think Stuart
McMillan - manager at the time had some kind of contact up there, the Rams
went on a return match to Scotland later in the season )

It was quite an event - night football - who had ever dreamed of such a
thing? Pretty near a full house for this new phenomena and we all crammed
into the Boy's Corner, chuffed with the wonder of it all.  Pylons and
lights had been built on the corners of the Normanton & Osmanston Stands
and what a novelty it was for us to see the referee walking out with this
new WHITE BALL under his arm.

We were one of the first clubs to install floodlights.  Even Wembley didn't
have them yet - see the famous game against the Hungarians in 1953.
I still remember being impressed by the ball control and dribbling of the
Scots, their style was quite Continental we thought. Jack Parry  was
inside-right for the Rams, our local hero.

At home and next day at Strutt's School, Belper, we told everyone that "
under the lights, you can see really good, even to the other end of the
ground with no problem."  This resulted in much disbelief; nothing could
replace daylight.

At a later game, about 4.15 pm on a really gloomy, foggy, polluted, typical
Midlands, winter's afternoon ( before the Clean Air Act, it was atrocious)
the Boy's Corner started a chant that was picked up by the all the crowd:

It was to no avail, but DCFC, as reported in the DET, took up the question
with the Football League whose concern was that in switching on the
floodlights in poor light conditions could possibly give an advantage to
the team familiar with floodlights, over a team not having the experience
of this new environment.
The League reasoned that visual perceptions changed under the lights and
thus required adjustments that were easier for teams that played and
trained in this new, artificial light.

Believe it or not, this was a serious arguement and the burning question of
the times with much debate in the press and The Malt Shovel Inn.( no doubt,
I was too young to get in )  Finally a solution was sought in that the
referee, only with agreement from both managers, could order the floodlights 
turned on -- if weather conditions warranted such action.  The managers 
always said YES! so that formality was soon disposed of and things evolved 
to the state where the referee alone, ordered the lights to be switched on.

Does this still happen today? Who orders the lights to go on?

Now, back to Gaz' story of the evolution of footballs  It became the
practice that whenever the floodlights were turned on, the ball was
exchanged for a white one.  I have photographs of Rams games as late as 1959 
where the classic brown/orange leather ball was still in play in afternoon 
games. It was a slow evolution, this change to the white ball.  When "Match 
of the Day" began on TV in 1961 however, the BBC demanded that white 
footballs be used for better visibilty on the box.

So we had a situation where First Division teams, often on TV, were playing
with different equipment - white balls - than the teams in the other
divisions who were playing with classic brown & orange coloured balls.  A
couple of years later, 1964, the white ball was the standard for all games,
televised or not. This was an early example of of television's demands on
the game. (and the demands have never diminished.)

The diamond pattern " white with black dots " was introduced at the World
Cup in Mexico, 1970.  I don't think it was new technology, just a new
design that identified a particular manufacturer who paid FIFA a lot of
money so that only this ball would be used in the competition.  And off we
went into the nasty '70s.

Well, I have gone on again, hope they're of some interest, these tales of
the dear old BBG.  Its amazing what trivia the brain retains to the
exclusion of some really good jokes, brilliant ideas and hard lessons.