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The fascinating history behind the world’s most watched ball: The Football

Team StoryWeavers|August 31, 2020, 09:58 IST| 85

Do you know what transformed football from just a sport into a global phenomenon? Yes, it had to do with the unbound popularity of sensational players like Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar, Rooney, and Fabregas. But there is more to the sport than the nail-biting leagues and the gripping world cups that have made it the most-watched and played sport on the planet.

What most fans don’t know is that football originated in 476 BC China and has since undergone centuries worth of evolution. So sit back as we take you from the ball’s humble beginnings to the international spotlight it finds itself in today.

Ancient civilizations

It would be safe to say that much of the football frenzy also existed among our ancient ancestors. There is enough evidence to suggest that early Chinese, Egyptian, Roman, and South American civilizations played with a spherical-shaped ball made from either cloth, animal bladder and skull, or scarily enough — human heads! In fact, the Chinese version of the game — which FIFA acknowledges as the first codified ancestor of the sport — was called Tsu Chu.

A representation of Tsu Chu being played in China (Image: Wikimedia Foundation)


We can all thank Charles Goodyear (Does the name ring a bell? The world-renowned tyre and rubber company is named after him.) for sparing us the horror of playing football with animal parts! Goodyear introduced the world to the first vulcanised rubber football bladder in 1855. He also created panels similar to today’s basketball and glued them at the seams. Prior to this, cow and pig bladders covered in leather were used extensively for the sport. This did not allow the players to aim well in a certain direction and also took away the key factor of bounce from the ball.

A football made out of pig bladder (Image: Pinterest)


The English Football Association (FA) standardised the official weight and size of the football in 1872. It described the ball as “spherical with a circumference of 27 to 28 inches”. Additionally, the weight was defined to be 13-15 oz and later changed to 14-16 oz in 1937. The association already required the ball to possess an “outer casing of leather or other approved materials”.

The ball used in the finals of the first-ever FIFA World Cup in 1930. (Image: Pinterest)

Early 1900s

Footballs in the early 1900s were far less tough than the ones we use today. Most balls back then would tatter and be unusable after a single match. In order to make them tougher, they were reinforced with tanned leather covers with 18 sections of six panels with three strips per panel. All this was hand-stitched together with an opening to insert the inflated bladder.


In the ‘40s, the focus shifted to how well a player could control the ball. Experts added strong and stable materials between the inflated bladder and the outer shell to increase durability and control while playing. Another problem faced by players was that most footballs were not water-resistant. That’s why for the first time they began to coat footballs with synthetic and non-porous materials to prevent water absorption.


Better visibility on the field was achieved with the official introduction of the white football by whitewashing leather. Interestingly there were also orange footballs for teams who played on snow.


The first part-synthetic football was created in 1960. However, the first fully synthetic leather football was created only in 1980.


The next two decades saw the football evolve into a completely synthetic object.
The architect, R Buckminster Fuller created the ‘Buckyball’ — a model that has been used till date to mass-produce footballs.

Did You Know?

Richard Buckminster Fuller was an American author, systems theorist, architect, designer, inventor, and futurist. He dedicated his life to using the best of technology to revolutionize the construction and improve human housing. 

Apart from giving the world the iconic football design, he is also well known for accurately representing the Earth’s surface on a polyhedron consisting of 20 triangles of equal size and is said to have invented his own geometry. Additionally, his famous geodesic dome design has been reproduced over 300,000 times globally. In Organic Chemistry, a kind of carbon molecule known as ‘fullerenes’ is named after him due to its resemblance to his geodesic designs.

Adidas manufactured the Telstar ‘Buckyball’ with the classic 20 hexagonal and 12 pentagonal patches that are fitted and stitched together to form a sphere. It also featured the unmissable black spots designed to help players learn how to curve a football and track its swerve.

The Telstar Football aka ‘Buckyball’ with the classic 20 hexagonal and 12 pentagonal patches is the single most iconic design of the football. (Image: Pinterest)

1980s – Present

While the world of football stayed true to the ‘buckyball’ structure, changes have been made periodically to enable better performance. For instance, in 2014 Adidas introduced the most tested football ever, the Brazuca, at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Adidas introduced the most tested football ever, the Brazuca, at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. (Image: Pinterest)

In 2018 Adidas came full circle and paid homage to the first Telstar of 1970 with the Telstar 18. Though the original Telstar had 32 panels, Telstar 18 has only six textured panels glued together unlike its stitched predecessor.

Adidas’ Telstar 18 was the official match ball for the 2018 FIFA World Cup held in England. (Image: Pinterest)


The evolution of footballs over the decades (source: Pinterest).

Most die-hard football fans would agree that football is more than just a sport — it is an emotion experienced by millions all over the world — well summed up by Ronaldinho when he said, “I learned all about life with a ball at my feet”. But before all the leagues, cups, and the global frenzy, there were men and women who worked hard for centuries to give our beloved players the best footballs to play with.

Did you enjoy reading this? For more slices of history, check out other interesting pieces from the Evolution of Everything series.

Tracking the evolution of technology

Driving down the history of Cars

The evolution of News

Leave a Comment




September 28, 2020

More give about cricket


September 23, 2020

So cool?? can you please also one more like this one about the history of badminton.

Harsh pratap singh

September 21, 2020

Nice article i want to know about cricket too??

Abhinav Kumar

September 13, 2020

It is very interesting?⚽.
I request you to give knowledge about cricket also .

Adrita Acharya

September 13, 2020

Wow! It’s just amazing.
Love it.

Sonismita Priyadarshini

September 12, 2020

It’s really a knowing fact about football. Thanks for the article from this I get to know more interesting facts about football.. Because I am a football lover too….


September 12, 2020

it is very interesting please give about badminton


September 12, 2020

Nice thank you byjus mam

Shivanshi Dwivedi

September 11, 2020

Wow! What an amazing evolution . I request for badminton tooo.
Thank u.


September 7, 2020

Very intresting artical I loved it thanks for giving information about football but I also want to know about cricket but once again thanks for information about football because football is very intresting than cricket and more fuuny

Niranjana. Manoj

September 7, 2020

Thank you very much Byju’s for this information about football ?. Me being a great football fan. It would be great to say this news to my school football team ☺️. I am a part. So a good information for mee


September 6, 2020

I am excited when English subject on byjuss I am waiting for English subject


September 5, 2020

Want to know more about another sports as well.

Nanaki Jaswal

September 5, 2020

Very interesting and informative information about football⚽⚽
Can I get a post for badminton ??
But at the end of the day, I love to read articles I these…..



September 4, 2020

Very interesting story about foot ball . Foot ball is my favorite sport . ⚽️⚽️⚾️⚾️


September 4, 2020

I really like this information thanks for it byjus

Shivam saawarn

September 4, 2020

The history of football is very interesting. I also want to know the history of cricket and hockey,please tell me the history of cricket and hockey

? Manashvi Singh

September 4, 2020

Woah :0
That was a very informative information Byjus . Loved it <3 Glad to see that you all chose Football over cricket because cricket sport is little overrated in my opinion. Football and Basketball at such awesome games too. Looking forward for more amazing information on sports

Sri harsha

September 3, 2020

This article is so amazing

Prabhkirat singh

September 3, 2020

Amazing give one for badminton as well


September 3, 2020


Soumyadeep Shyam

September 2, 2020

Really the article is so interesting.⚽⚽⚽


September 2, 2020

This is super thankyou BYJUS learning tree


September 2, 2020

Yes football is aexcellent sport created as a tsu-chuand I am really excited with this and I also want information about ?

Trrishan Saha

September 2, 2020

Hahaha! ??off! History of teachers! The first teacher was Confucius, who was the god of Confucianism!

Samruddhi Panhale

September 2, 2020

Very nice I request byju to give about atletics


September 2, 2020

But what about the results of the friendship day contest???

Aanya Sinha

September 2, 2020

It’s very excited topic and I love football

Arnav Singh

September 2, 2020

That is an interesting story. ?⚽⚽


September 2, 2020

It is very interesting for me. I learned many information. ⚽️⚽️⚽️???

Parth Kadam

September 2, 2020

The information was quite nice and surprising but the most horrible part was playing with animal bladders and human heads.

Rudra Pratap Parida

September 2, 2020

It was interesting but if there was a diy then it would be great


September 1, 2020

Seriously such a nice article to read about …. Even I am a football player but I did not know about it !

Ashish kumar

September 1, 2020

As science is upgrading, everything is upgrading along with it .

Kashvi Ruparelia

September 1, 2020

I simply love playing football but I didn’t know there was soooooo much behind this ball.
I mean to say that even if you research about and observe the small things around you, you can unravel a whole new world!!
And you help us to do that by sending such facts on objects that no one ever even bothers to find out about!!
Thaks a to for giving me such a wonderful price of information!!????

Aayush Kumar?

September 1, 2020

Cool!My favourite is the Brazuca Football ⚽?

Vedant chhanam

September 1, 2020

How many things in balls changed


September 1, 2020

Nice information and also nice pictures⚽??️

Mayur Singh

September 1, 2020

It is so interesting, but please give information about cricket.
And some experiments

Reet Tiwary

September 1, 2020

I enjoyed reading this article, it was really interesting!

Bhargavi Bhabani Jena

September 1, 2020

This is amazing ! I Travelled many years back to the history of football from which we are playing now


September 1, 2020


Ishika Sharma

September 1, 2020

Amazing and really helpful information ??

Trrishan Saha

September 1, 2020

The “Buckyballs” of the 1970’s are the most popular!


September 1, 2020

very interesting….. i request you to give about some art skills or like basketball…. thank u

Suyash Ram

September 1, 2020

Article was very interesting. I also want to know about badminton

Maradani Jayati

September 1, 2020

Nice work ?? so nice byju ? ????. ?


September 1, 2020

So coooool✌️??? Could you please tell me about the evolution of basketball? too.Would ❤️to know. Thank you Byjus ?


September 1, 2020



September 1, 2020



September 1, 2020

I wondered that in ancient civilizations they played football with HUMAN HEADS!!!???


September 1, 2020

Wow??, amazing history behind Football


September 1, 2020

thanks byjus!!!


September 1, 2020

Thanks for giving this. Football isu favourite sport.


September 1, 2020

Very interesting story of football .I like it


September 1, 2020

Wow that ‘s nice happy to see this


September 1, 2020

Very good

Ishwari p.

September 1, 2020

Awesome evolution ??

Jhanvi Dutt

September 1, 2020

This is amazing, Thank you ??


September 1, 2020

This is very interesting ?

Aditya R Hegdekatte

September 1, 2020

Wow, it’s really awesome history. I love football


September 1, 2020

The story behind the football is great.
I’m a real fan of football.The story behind the football
Is amazing. Thank you Byjus.

Samadrita sen

August 31, 2020

Wow!!! So fascinating ??????


August 31, 2020



Om Jain

August 31, 2020

Thank you for this nice information

Lekshmi Jayan

August 31, 2020

Thanks for the information on the evolution of football (though not a great fan of football ? but love reading about the evolution of different things

Kindly keep posting new articles like this and on other topics. It’s a lot fun and interesting to read these.

Thank you so much ???? to Byjus Learning Tree.

Uday and Ujjwal Choudhary

August 31, 2020

We are Uday and Ujjwal Choudhary .we love byjus the learning app the best learning platform
Thanks for such a message


August 31, 2020

Wow it is very interesting….??

Harini Parthiban

August 31, 2020

Superb article about evolution of football…
Keep on posting about sports facts.


August 31, 2020

Thanks for the information..useful information??


August 31, 2020

Whoa!!!! I didn’t knew that football was evolved so many times!!!??

Samriddhi Gaur

August 31, 2020

I’m surprised to see the journey of football
Thank You BYJU’S to tell the journey of football

Maanvi Bachra

August 31, 2020

Woaa……I Very Interesting ????I Love Playing Football ? But Can’t Play As It Risky ?…I Cannot O
Play Other Outdoor Games…????…….I want to know about the history of teachers next???


August 31, 2020

Thank u byjus !!!! I love football so so so much !!!!!!! It was fascinating to read


August 31, 2020

Yes it’s quite nice


August 31, 2020

Yes it’s quite nice

Krishna periwal

August 31, 2020

Wow what a revolution

Som Satwik Deo

August 31, 2020

We are missing the byjus fun facts
Please bring it again.

Anindan Biswas

August 31, 2020

Really the article is so interesting.⚽⚽⚽

Krishna prasath

August 31, 2020

Very excited.And also I request to give about cricket


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