This article originally appeared on this site in July 2007, but amongst you were reading this site then? As it’s Friday night and our heads from a week of the world going crazy in the coconut on the subject of two football television anchors whose names have escaped us, we’ve spruced it up, replaced the images and have decided to give it a second run out. Ten footballs from the history of the game – nothing more, nothing less. Feel free to add your own in the comments box below.
1. The 1966 World Cup Final Ball: The end of an era, this. Traditionally, footballs were made of 18 panels of leather arranged in a pattern consisted of six strips of three, and this design made its last appearance in World Cup football at the 1966 World Cup Final. The first World Cup to be recorded in colour (though not shown on British television in Colour – British television didn’t start broadcasting in colour until 1969, and the first match to be shown in colour was a First Division match between Liverpool & West Ham United, in case you were wondering), the 1966 was (both unsurprisingly and surprisingly) the only tournament at which the balls were supplied by Slazenger, a company perhaps better known for their tennis balls than for their footballs. Made of leather (synthetic materials wouldn’t be used for balls at the World Cup Finals until 1982), you can see from the picture how intimidating it must have been to stand in a wall for a free-kick and face it. It looks like it’s made of freshly varnished wood rather than leather. Curiously, although most manufacturers changed their design, Mitre, the UK’s biggest football manufacturers, haven’t done so, meaning that England, the SPL, Wales and the Football League use the older, 18 panel design.
Most Famous Moment: Geoff Hurst’s second goal for England in that match, which clearly crossed the line by at least three yards, if not more.
2. The Adidas Telstar (1970): Close your eyes and think of a football. Just a generic one. There’s a reasonable chance that you will, no matter what your age, think of an Adidas Telstar. The design (32 panels – 20 of them hexagonal and 12 of them pentagons) came from the American architect Richard Buckminster, who was searching for a “perfect” spherical shape for building design. Nicknamed in architectural circles the “Bucky Ball”, they’re used in structures known as “geodesic domes” (here’s one), and was picked up by Adidas, who had won the contract to supply balls for the 1970 World Cup. Naturally Adidas were interested in the concept of a “perfect sphere”, but their stroke of genius was to colour in the pentragammic panels in black, whilst leaving the hexagonal panels white. This had two main beneficial effects – firstly, the two contrasting colours allowed players to judge the spin on a moving ball more effectively. Secondly, in an era when many countries still broadcast in black and white (Italy, for example, wouldn’t get colour television 1977, whilst Romanians would have to wait until 1983), it was easier to pick out on a television screen. Curiously, this most iconic of designs was used for a relatively short period of time – for those of us in Europe, it lasted in major tournaments from the 1970 World Cup finals until the 1976 European Championships, although the look was briefly bought back for Euro 2008.
Most Famous Moment – Carlos Alberto thumping the ball the ball into the net for Brazil against Italy in the Azteca Stadium.
3. The 1973 FA Cup Final Ball: The white football was the norm in a global scale by the middle of the 1970s. However, in 1973 the FA decided to use a yellow ball for the FA Cup Final between Sunderland and Leeds United. There’s something very much of its time about this decision. Not only slightly gimmicky, but the fact that it was slightly off-colour looking fitted in very much with the economic state of the country at the time. Perhaps the ongoing effects of the Three Day Week meant that white colourant was in short supply (this is humour, by the way, the Three Day Week didn’t become law until December 1973). Maybe it was just some crazy psychedelic decision made by the FA (because this was definitely the hairiest FA Cup Final of all time). It wasn’t repeated.
Most Famous Moment – There were several key moments in this match, of course, but Jimmy Montgomery’s amazing double save caught out everybody, crowd, commentators and perhaps even players themselves, remains possibly the greatest of its sort ever seen.
4. The Adidas Tango (and its enormous spawn of variants): We can only presume that someone in the design department thought that the Telstar (which was withdrawn after the 1974 World Cup in West Germany) wasn’t confusing enough for viewers. The Adidas Tango Durlast appeared in time for the 1978 World Cup, at a time when marketing was starting to creep into the game. Possibly inadvertently, they came up with a design classic. The geometric design had (to the glassy eyes of at least this six year-old) an almost other-worldly look about it, and it would prove to be a durable look. The use of the Tango would spread into the Football League in the early 1980s, and Adidas left the design unchanged for the 1982 World Cup (although the 1982 ball – the Tango Espana – was widely criticised because the general build quality was so bad that they had to be replaced several times throughout the course of each match due to wear and tear), and it wouldn’t change much cosmetically over the next twenty years.
Most Famous Moment: Probably too many to mention, really, but Nelinho’s outrageous curling goal for Brazil against Italy in 1978 seems as iconic as any.
5. The First “Official” Football League Ball: In 1979, the Football League decided that a little bit of marketing money should come their way, and so was born the “Official Football League” ball, would be be seen sporadically on “Match Of The Day” for the next three or four years or so, primarily at Norwich City, Ipswich Town and Manchester United, though it was also used for the League Cup final for a few years too. It was a strange affair, reminiscent in its own way of the Nike ball currently being used by the Premier League, with one orange stripe around the middle of it. But who made it? The answer question would seem to be… everybody, it would seem. Minerva certainly had a go, and this picture of Manchester United goalkeeper Gary Bailey seems to show a ball with the Mitre logo on it, whilst the sportswear manufacturers Stewart Surridge also stake a claim to it (under the very “Close Encounters Of The Third Kind” name of “UFO”), and make a ball based on its design to this very day.
Most Famous Moment: Justin Fashanu’s Goal Of The Season for Norwich City against Liverpool in 1980.
6. The Minerva Supreme: While the rest of the football world was starting to tentatively dip its toe into the murky world of marketing and aesthetics, the last of the truly old-time balls was still being used at a large number of football league clubs. Plain, simple and to the point, the last of the traditional white balls would often acquire enough dirt by the end of the match to be practically invisible. Mitre and Adidas also made plain white balls for English clubs that, you know, didn’t want any of that “foreign muck”.
Most Famous Moment – Nothing specific springs to mind, so here are Spurs playing Manchester City in December 1980 using one.
7. Le Coq Sportif Triatom: A very personal choice, here – indulge me for a moment. Early in the 1980s, I started going on holiday with my parents more or less every summer. We used to try and take in a match wherever possible, and in every sports shop you went in you could by Le Coq Sportif Triatom, a ball whose design is forever indelibly linked with my childhood (largely because I would always return to England with one). This design remains indelibly linked with those long, hot summers that I honestly believed would never return.
Most Famous Moment: Anything that Michel Platini did with one for Nancy or St Etienne before he moved to Juventus, I should think. I’d be amazed if there isn’t one being used in this video.
8. Mitre Indoor: Have you ever wondered what it would be like to play football with a massive tennis ball? Well, anyone that has ever played five-a-side indoors will already know the answer. Covered with a layer of felt-type material which reduces the bounce and less likelihood of windows or other peripherals from being smashed to smithereens. From a playing perspective, they weren’t too bad. It was still perfectly possible to belt them (as it goes, the fact that they were slightly softer than your normal leather ball almost encourages you to belt them) and, from a goalkeeping perspective, they didn’t sting your hands at all. It would certainly be something to be an outdoor match played with one. Presumably, it would absorb all the water on the pitch in about three minutes and acquire the consistency and properties of a lead cannonball.
Most Famous Moment: Erm…
9. Mitre Multiplex: When the next apocalypse comes, when the cockroaches crawl from the wreckage and set up their own Premier League, they’ll have to use the Mitre Multiplex as their official ball, because these will be the only things that will survive it with them. The Multiplex was almost completely indestructible. If inflated to its optimum weight, it took on the attributes of a ball of lightweight concrete – indeed such was its, well, “hardness” that it was difficult to even kick, making many a Sunday League match look a match-up between two teams of overgrown small children.
Most Infamous Moment: Any Sunday League or former Sunday League player will remember the unique, simultaneously freezing cold and burning hot sting of receiving a Mitre Multiplex at close range on the inner thigh on a cold, January morning.
10. Topper – Maracana 1984: Is it possible to love a football for a single goal? One single, solitary moment in time? England supporters have a tough time of it, hated by more or less everybody and with a team that is starred never to win anything ever again. There are, however, occasional moments in the sun and one such came on a tour of South America during the summer which was laid on to cover for their failure to qualify for the European Championships. It was in the Maracana, the home of world football, that John Barnes announced himself onto the world stage when he beat the Brazilian defence single-handedly to score the first goal in a 2-0 win there, and he did it with a ball made by the Brazilian sports company Topper that had an almost symbolic snake-like design across it. It was a friendly match and the result meant nothing in the long term, but it was a moment of singular brilliance from a thrilling young player.
Most Famous Moment: Well, it has to be this, doesn’t it – although Mark Hateley may disagree.
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