Football has changed greatly from the first World Cup in 1930. Players are fitter than ever before, football gear has changed from baggy shorts to tight fitting jerseys, rules have changed to suit the attacking team, and believe it or not the roundness of the simple football has become something of a science all in itself.
The balls that were used in the 1930s are very much different from what we are used to now, literally made from a pig's bladder, they are now put together with the science and preciseness of space age technology.
Here is a brief history of the development of the one device that the game cannot exist without.
WORLD CUP 1930 to 1950
Above is one of the two balls that were used in the 1930 Final between Uruguay and Argentina.
Looking back it's hard to imagine anyone playing with such a beast of a ball. Heading it would be akin to getting a punch from Mike Tyson.
One of the funny quirks of the World Cup Final in 1930 is that back then the teams supplied the balls for their own matches. Neither Uruguay nor Argentina could agree on using their opponents ball for such an important game so they used Argentina's for the first half and Uruguay's for the second!
Funny that Argentina were 2-1 ahead at half time but ended up losing 4-2...
Ball and technology were not two words that co-existed together in the 1930s and 40's and it was another 20 years before improvements were really made.
The ball they used in 1950 was the same as the traditional leather ball that had been used in football over the previous 40 years with one large exception, the laces had been removed.
Due to technologies invented during the war, footballs were now more water resistant than ever before and they now had a valve for pumping air into the ball. Traditional panels were used to augment aerodynamics and as such the first thing to go was the laces.
By the mid 1950s, FIFA had regulated the size, weight, and diameter of a football. Orange balls had also been introduced to allow fans and players to see the action on snow drenched pitches.
By 1954 players were able to manipulate the balls like never before and in 1958 one player emerged to bring football to another level completely.
This was also the end of the pure leather era, and Pele helped the old warhorse off into the sunset by treating it as it had never been treated before. Caressing it as no player has done before or since.
Synthetic footballs were introduced for the first time in the early 60s, although they were very different from what we know now.
The biggest advancement was in making the balls more water resistant and making them lighter. The theory was that players would be able to manipulate the ball much easier, but like any tool it took some getting used to before the advances could be seen.
The orange ball of the 1966 final is almost as famous as the Russian linesman or Geoff Hurst.
During the World Cup both white and yellow versions of the "Santiago" ball were also used but it is generally believed that an orange ball was chosen because of the importance of the occasion.
The first official FIFA match ball was introduced in 1970. It was also the first time that football moved away from the traditional rectangular panels to the hexagonal shapes we all know and love.
The official name to the 20 hexagonal and 12 shaped pentagonal ball is the "Buckminister" Ball. Named after an American architect, Richard Buckminister-Fuller, who was looking at new ways of building by using the minimum amount of materials.
The first 32 paneled ball was used in Denmark in the 1950's but the first official world cup ball was the Adidas "Telstar" in 1970.
Making the ball black and white was a conscious decision to make the ball more visible on what was essentially the first conscious televised World Cup.
The "Telstar" proved to be such a huge success that in 1974 Adidas were commissioned by FIFA for another official ball.
By this stage Adidas were only making match balls for nine years but were already the world leaders in the developement soccer balls.
The "Telstar Durlast" was used in 1974, again it was the iconic black and white ball that was also the roundest ball ever used at the time.
Adidas also developed the "Telstar Chile" which was a 32 all white paneled ball, and so Germany 1974 became the first and only world cup to use two different match balls since the introduction of the official ball.
In 1978 the design that would become the norm for the next 20 years was introduced.
It received the Tango name after the famous dance which originated in Argentina.
The, by now accepted 32 paneled ball, was designed to look like it had 12 identical circles.
It was a leather football coated by Adidas' Durlast compound which made the ball more resistant to water and easier to control.
The "Tango" design was retained for the 1982 World Cup in Spain with practically no changes save for one.
Adidas had moved ball technology on leaps and bounds in the four years since Argentina, and introduced water-tight seams for the first time. Thoroughly reducing water retention, weight gain, and absorption in wet conditions.
However, the seams were not as good as Adidas would have hoped and many matches resulted in the ball having to be changed a number of times.
On a sad note, this World Cup was the last time a wholly leather ball was used in a major tournament.
Synthetic materials were used for the first time ever in 1986 with the Adidas "Azteca."
Durability was increased along with further minimization of water absorption. The end result was a ball that performed much better at a higher altitude and in higher temperatures, as well as giving equal performance levels in the rain.
The same "Tango" design was kept but the black solid lines were replaced with a design to symbolize Aztec architecture.
The first fully water-resistant ball, the "Etrusco Unico" was developed for the worst World Cup of modern times.
Sporting a polyurethane internal layer, the ball was lighter than ever before and was harder for goalkeepers to judge in flight.
English footie fans could be forgiven for thinking that the omen's were on their side as Adidas introduced "Three Lion Heads" on each of the 20 triads that created the illusion of 12 paneled circles.
England made it to the semi-finals but were eventually knocked out by Germany on penalties.
The first official ball in 1970 was named after a satellite, the "Telstar" and Adidas returned to the space race to name their ball for the 1994 World Cup, and aptly named it the "Questra" after NASA's quest for the stars program.
The same "Tango" design was used but this time Adidas introduced a polyurethane foam around the inside layer making the ball softer to touch and easier to control.
The "Tricolore" was the last Adidas ball to be based upon the Tango, and it was also the first multi-coloured ball, featuring the red, white, and blue of the French national flag.
The Adidas science department once again revolutionized ball development by introducing a new "syntactic foam" layer.
At it's most basic level, this means that the ball had a layer of gas filled micro balloons around the inner layer which gave the ball a more responsive feel.
The ball was greatly accepted by all the teams involved and helped produce the greatest world cup of the modern era.
SOUTH KOREA / JAPAN 2002
For Korea/Japan 2002 Adidas parted with their traditional Tango design and introduced the "Fevernova."
The new ball design was based upon Asian culture and the syntactic layer was redefined to allow goalkeepers judge the path of the ball easier.
However, many teams complained that the ball was too light and was harder to judge than ever before. Some even went as far as to say it was the main reason for some of the upsets during the tournament.
The king is dead, long live the king.
Gone was the 32 paneled ball that had served the world so well for 32 years and in it's place was the 14-paneled "TeamGeist."
Adidas boasted that the reduction in panels had reduced the amount of touch points on the ball by 60 percent and that the total amount of lines on the ball were also reduced by 15 percent.
This was the first time the panel's were bonded together rather than stitched and as such once again water absorption was decreased to the extent that the performance of the ball would not change between wet and dry weather.
SOUTH AFRICA 2010
The Adidas "Jabulani" will be the ball that will grace the fields of play in South Africa come June.
Meaning "celebration" in Zulu, the aim of Adidas was to represent the multi-cultural society in the country. There are 11 colours on the ball each one representative of each of the nations 11 tribes.
Adidas continues to advance ball technology and this time around the ball is made of just eight bonded panels.
They have also gone down the route of golf technology and introduced a dimpled surface on a football for the first time. The hope is that they will make the ball easier to control on the ground whilst allowing for the ball to become more aerodynamic whilst moving through the air.
Here's hoping it helps make the tournament better...