Last updated: September 9, 2021

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Football is the world's most popular sport and often referred to simply as "the beautiful game". It is played by hundreds of millions of people all over the world and is the most-watched and beloved professional sport of all time. The reason people love it so much is that it is democratic - everyone and anyone can play and players from humble backgrounds, even those in extreme poverty can show their quality and make something of themselves.

You can play football anywhere there is an open space and it is frequently played on beaches, in backyards, on basketball courts, and in the middle of the street. All you need is a ball and you're good to go. With that in mind, we have put together the below guide to the best footballs on the market.




Key Facts

  • You really only need a ball to play football.
  • Balls come in different sizes based on the age range of the players and the style of football being played.
  • The playing surface dictates the kind of ball needed.

Ranking: The best footballs

In the below section we have compiled a list of the best balls on the market. They are all slightly different, but all offer great value for money. After reading through this section you will undoubtedly have found something that suits your needs and experience level. Always make sure to check the product rating and the ball size/material to get the right product.

Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about footballs

As you have likely realized the market for footballs is quite large. This might make it hard to choose the right one for you, but it is good because there is good value for money out there. In the following section we will answer some of the most commonly asked consumer questions to make your purchase decision easier.

What is a football exactly?

There are so many different balls for different sports and they are all designed to do different things. Footballs are the only balls you can use (officially) to play football - though people around the world often make do with what they have on hand. Most balls are made from flexible material that is then inflated using pumps. They are made to be light enough to be thrown, kicked, carried, and passed easily.

There are three kinds of goal posts: permanent, semi-permanent and portable.(Source: Bowden: 33478588/ 123rf.com)

Where do footballs come from?

The first record of football-like balls dates back to BC China. Hard roots were pulverized and made into a sphere which was then covered with hide. The first balls, in general, were made by the Aztecs in Mexico. This was observed by the Spanish when they first landed on the continent.

The predecessor to the modern football first made an appearance in 19th century England. But the leather cord that was used to seal the ball used to cause lacerations. The cord eventually disappeared in the 1930s when the game was taken to Argentina. .

How are footballs manufactured?

In the past, footballs were made with leather (as were many other balls). But leather is not waterproof and balls would quickly become waterlogged. Modern balls are synthetic and made from polyurethane or a similar material. They consist of 20 hexagons and 12 pentagons sewn together, which are then glued and vulcanised.

The highest quality models are hand-stitched. The air chamber and the air valve are both made from latex or butyl. You'll also find layers of polyester or cotton coating between the outer cover and the chamber. While non-pro balls are manufactured similarly, they don't use the same high-quality materials.

Eduardo GaleanoUruguayan Football Journalist & Writer
"And one fine day the goddess of the wind kisses the foot of man, that mistreated, scorned foot, and from that kiss the football idol is born. He is born in a straw crib in a tin-roofed shack and he enters the world clinging to a ball."

How should I inflate my football?

If you are playing for real you need proper inflation. Without adequate inflation of the ball, your passing and shooting will be completely off. Too soft and too hard are equally bad. To get the right inflation you can apply the following three steps (which will also make the ball last longer):

  • Get an appropriate pump for your ball. Models with built-in pressure gauges are the best.
  • Make sure the needle and valve are properly lubricated. This will ensure you don't accidentally puncture the ball.
  • Find out what the manufacturer-recommended pressure is. Put the needle into the valve delicately and pump slowly and methodically, always keeping an eye on the pressure gauge.

What's the best way to preserve my ball?

A little common sense will be enough to get you a lot of use out of your ball. The most important thing is to make sure you only play with it on appropriate surfaces, and that you don't put your full weight on it, or sit on it. Some people do this, however. Doing this can cause the seams to burst or deform.

In general, you should only use your football of soft surfaces and avoid terrain with stones, sand, or asphalt. Also, avoid shooting it against walls. Maintain the valve in good condition, especially when you are using it. Most pump manufacturers suggest lowering the pressure of your ball after each time you use it and reinflating it the following time.

Different styles of football need different sized goals.(Source: Gelner: 44328457/ 123rf.com)

Where can I repair my football?

If you get a ball that is defective, you should take it to a professional. These days the best option is to take it to a sports shop, especially if the valve is malfunctioning. You will also get more use of the ball by asking them to have a look at scratches or punctures.

With that mind, you can also purchase one of many fixes that exist on the market, including liquids, sprays and other adhesives that are meant for spot pairs. If you use a liquid, you should inject into the valve until air bubbles stop coming out of the hole you are trying to fill. Clean the valve after so it stays clean.

What are the most famous football brands?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most renowned football manufacturers are also the biggest and most popular sports brands out there: Nike and Adidas. Adidas tends to be slightly more popular because it has the biggest contracts with football's governing bodies. Adidas balls are used in world cups and other big regional cups.

Nike is no slouch, however. Nike has its own league that uses exclusively Nike footballs, as does the English Premier League. Umbro (from England), and German brands Puma and Ulsport, Japan's Mikasa and Joma from Spain are other well-respected manufacturers.

Shopping Criteria

To get the right ball for you you need to have certain shopping criteria in mind before making your purchase. You need to apply these to any football you buy so you get the best product at the best price. Your decision will need to factor in the age of the players, the surface it is being used on, and the type of football you're playing.

Size

Size is determined by the sport's governing bodies, and the official number on the ball indicates how much the ball weighs, as well as the age range best suited for the ball in question. In the table below we lay out the sizes and who they are made for. If you plan on using a ball for competitive, official matches you have to meet these standards:

Number Size Weight Age
No. 5 68-70 cm 410-450 grams From 12 years onwards
No. 4 62-64 cm 368 g 9-11 years
No. 3 58-61 cm 311 g 6-8 years

Surface

Depending on the surface you're playing on, you will need different types of balls. If you are playing on grass or turf there are many different brands and options out there to choose from. You should get a ball made of the correct materials and that is weighted correctly so that it is easier to control and shoot.

If you are playing on hard surfaces, you will need a much tougher football. Hard balls are definitely harder to control. If you want a harder ball this is just something you will have to deal with.

Quality seals

Back in 1996, FIFA introduced a quality assurance process for all footballs. The goal was to make sure the balls evolved with the sport and were always the best possible technology for the contemporary game. Each ball that is certified by FIFA has to go through strict testing and meet certain requirements.

According to the official rules of the game, every ball must include at least one of the major seals recognized by FIFA or the Football Confederation Competition. These specific marks are: FIFA Quality PRO, FIFA Quality and IMC (International Match Standard).

Men, women and people of all ages love football. (Source: Bowden: 33478648/ 123rf.com)

Replica

Most people like to buy footballs that are exact replicas of the balls used in official and beloved competitions like the world cup or the Copa America. They are more affordable than the authentic balls, and having professional quality is really only required for professional matches.

Contrary to what you might think, comparative analyses carried out on different footballs have proven that replicas are not of poor quality.

These studies measured sphericity, dimensions, weight, aerodynamics, shape retention, loss of pressure, water absorption and bounce.

Use

You don't have to put too much effort into deciding on a ball just for fun in the backyard or at the park with friends and family. You should get a harder and more resistant ball if that is the style of football you're playing. This way you can play on concrete and gravel. The Mikasa balls from the previous section are good choices.

As we mentioned, it won't provide you with the same accuracy and control as the lighter grass and turf balls. This isn't necessary however when just playing street ball. The main thing for this level of playing is that the ball is tough and lasts a while.

Summary

Footballs have been a staple recreational and football accessory for decades. People used to create their own balls and in many of the most underprivileged parts of the world children still do. The official balls used in international competitions used to be made out of a pigs bladder or rubber, but are now synthetic.

The technological advances have benefited both the professional sport and amateur players. Everybody can now use good quality footballs, but you need to do some careful research to make sure you're getting the right one.

If you enjoyed our guide to footballs and found it useful, share it with your friends and family on social media. Additionally, you can drop us a comment in the below section and let us know what you think.

(Source of featured image: Blach: 71942922/ 123rf.com)

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