Despite the fact that today football is not made of pigskin, players and fans have been calling it “pigskin ball” for decades. In the beginning, the nickname “The First Soccer Ball Ever Made” was pigskin because it was made from swollen pig bladders. In the early days, before Charles Goodyear made better use of rubber, rugby balls at the beginning, football games were played with swollen pig bladders.
In 1836, Charles Goodyear patented vulcanized rubber, but balloons continued to be made from pig bladders for nearly 20 years. In the days before vulcanized rubber was widely produced and purchased, balloons were made from pig bladders. The first inflatable rubber balloon for football was made in 1862.
Modern balls used in college games and professional leagues are made from leather. Traditionally made from brown leather, modern soccer balls come in a variety of colors and patterns. Ball materials include rubber blisters, seams, cowhide and special seams. Balls have been made from a variety of materials over the years, including blisters, leather, rubber, paint, leather, and rope.
The most primitive balls used in professional football games were spherical and made from pig bladders. Experiments have been carried out with natural rubber balls, but their bouncing is too high to be used in football games. The balls were banned by the NFL in 1976 because the paint made the balls too slippery. As a result, in 1976, the NFL banned “Every Big Game” footballs because the paint on them made them too slippery.
Before the invention of football as we know it, soccer balls often exploded, leading shoemakers to sell leather cases to protect swollen blisters. When balloons were first made, they were inflated (rough) animal bladders stuffed with things like straw to keep them in place. Until the 1860s, football, football, and rugby were played with a plum or pear-shaped leather ball, inside of which was the swollen bladder of an animal.
That’s why in the late 1800s, when American football began to take shape, balls were made from rubber and cowhide (aka leather). In an effort to do away with the brute task of blowing blisters, soccer balls began to be made from rubber and cowhide, making American football a far more enjoyable experience for all involved.
During the 1982 World Cup in Spain, the seams of the balls were covered with rubber for the first time to prevent water from seeping in and making the balls heavier. In the 1970s, leather balls were covered with a special polyurethane preparation that prevented the absorption of water during matches.
Incredibly, the first completely waterproof synthetic balls were not used until the early 1960s. It is likely that rubber balloons began to be used shortly after Charles Goodyear patented vulcanized rubber, but pet bladders were still relatively widely used in the 1860s. Nowadays, soccer balls are usually made of cowhide or vulcanized rubber, which makes their nickname “pigskin” somewhat ironic.
Regular soccer balls are now made from cowhide or vulcanized rubber, which is a little different from pigskin in the early days. Ironically, although they are still referred to as “pig skins”, nowadays all professional and college soccer balls are actually made from cowhide. Flasks are sometimes referred to as “pigskin” because in ancient times balls were made from whatever material was available, which often included a pig’s bladder. A pig’s bladder was used to inflate the original balloons, but the pigskin nickname has survived.
Ball laces were originally used to seal a pig’s bladder that was encased in an NFL football. The skin of the ball is initially cut, shaped, and then the company logo is applied. The leather was tied with laces specific to the NFL game ball.
Wrapped in leather cases to make the balls easier to handle, led to the addition of laces. Manufacturers also commonly stamp leather panels with a grain-like texture to help players hold the ball. The use of balls with different skin segments has allowed manufacturers to make balls more spherical, improving the modern game of football for players and fans alike.
As production methods have improved over the years, the ends of the balloons have become more visible. Progress was made in stadium lighting, making football redundant and in 1956 officially replaced by the standard brown football we have today. Another change occurred in 1956, when the white ball traditionally used for night games was replaced by the standard daytime football surrounded by two white stripes. In 1951, the first year of night football, the ball was white with two black stripes so players and spectators could easily see the ball in the dark.
The first games of Australian football were played with round balls because round balls were more readily available. The fledgling National Football League reduced the length of the balls to about 11 inches, the size and shape of which are still in use today. The first soccer ball ever made was originally a rugby ball and later redesigned to make it easier to throw.
The popularity of today’s fast-paced game grew over the years, and leather was eventually introduced to cover the pig’s bladder to make the ball more resilient. Balls made from animal blisters were also a bit rough, so they were often wrapped in leather or a pigskin case—hence the pigskin soccer ball’s nickname to this day—and tied with strings.