HISTORICAL LOOK BACK
The 1930 World Cup was the first World Cup organized by FIFA but it was not the first international soccer tournament. The greatest football nations could compete during the Olympic Games even before the first FIFA World Cup. The balls used in the 1930 World Cup therefore originated from the Olympic Games and also from the national football championships. This means that no new balls were introduced for the first World Cup.
Most of the balls used in the beginning of the XX. century were made in Britain and exported to many countries where football became more and more popular. These balls were all hand sewn, made of the highest quality leather and always had laces (until the arrival of the „Superball” in the fifties). The panel structures were all different but as the first FIFA World Cup was approaching, only two types remained, becoming the most widely used: the 12 panel balls and the T-model balls.
Picture 1 shows a page of a vintage football equipment catalogue made by the French AA Tunmer & Co. from 1913 where these two new models were already advertised. The 12 panel ball on the left hand side was called „Players”, while the other ball on the right hand side was the famous „T-model” that consisted of only 11 panels. Both balls were more spherical than their predecessors and immediately became successful and widely used for many decades during the Olympic Games and national competitions. No wonder that these two models were later adopted for the first FIFA World Cup in Uruguay as the only balls used in the tournament.
There was another famous variation of the regular 12 panel balls as seen on Picture 2. The name of this ball was „Globe” and it was manufactured by another British company called Cliff’s. The difference between the „Globe” and the above mentioned „Players” is only the roundness of the edges of the 12 identical panels the balls were made of. (This set of design was so successful and long lasting that even the 1950 World Cup ball had similar, 12 panel structure, however this new ball was already laceless.) As you can see on Picture 3 the final match of the 1928 Olympic Games between Uruguay and Argentina was also played with this classic 12 panel ball, the „Globe”. This is another official record to prove the success of the 12 panel balls even before the first FIFA World Cup in 1930.
Overall we can say that both of these balls were the best balls available before the first FIFA World Cup but we could not see two perfectly identical balls if we compare their sphericity. The reason is that these balls were not only hand sewn but also inflated by different people, which had a great impact on the sphericity of each and every ball. The laces kept the bladder under the skin and inflating the balls was not an easy job. Several operations were necessary: loosening the laces and extracting the appendix of the bladder; pumping air into the bladder at the right pressure; bending and tying the appendix with a sharp thread and finally it was absolutely necessary to strongly tie the laces throughout the passages. The balls could namely no longer retain their original weight in the wet.
BALLS USED IN THE WORLD CUP
There were only 18 matches played by the 13 participating teams during the first FIFA World Cup in Uruguay. The balls used in the tournament were not allowed to have any prints or manufacturer’s logos on their surface, this formal practice originated from the Olympic Football tournaments before the 1930 World Cup. As for the balls used in the World Cup, we can see the same thing: there were no new balls constructed directly for the first World Cup, they used the 12 panel and the T-model balls as described in the introduction. The T-model ball was the most frequently used ball during the first FIFA World Cup (13 matches out of the total 18 games played). The T-model ball (also called the „Wembley”) was made by the English company John Salter & Son from Aldershot (London) and had been imported by Clericetti & Barrela from Montevideo but as stated earlier none of these balls were branded in the World Cup matches.
During the World Cup the two participating teams of each and every game had to agree which ball to use. Before the final Uruguay always played their matches with the T-model ball whereas Argentina were allowed to use the 12 panel ball which they called „Tiento”. This ball was brought from Buenos Aires but imported from Scotland where it was manufactured. These two teams had already faced each other in the final of the 1928 Olympic Football Tournament so the conflict of which ball to use in the final should both these teams reach the most important game of the World Cup was already in the air…
WORLD CUP FINAL MATCH
The success of Uruguay and Argentina brought them all the way to the final again. As expected the two nations could not agree which ball to use in the most important game. The Belgian referee (John Langenus) remained neutral and did not want to influence the game with his own decision. Therefore a compromise was born: they played the first half of the match with the 12 panel ball supported by Argentina and the second half with the T-model ball as the host nation requested. As we know from the outcome of the game the role of the used balls became crucial: Argentina won the first half 2:1 with their 12 panel „Tiento” ball but Uruguay came back in the game and finally won it with the T-model ball and became the first World Champions. The score being 4:2
It is important to mention that there were two T-model balls used in the second half of the final match. The first ball had become deflated and had to be replaced. One of the T-model balls had 5 rows of laces and it is now kept in the National Football Museum in Manchester. The other T-model ball had 7 passages of laces and it was auctioned for 50,000 EUR in Germany in 2004 and now it is kept in the Spanish Football Museum in Madrid.
This is the intro video of the 1930 FIFA World Cup ball made by our website
(watch it on full screen)