My old buddy Liam Nash posited earlier this week football boots were entwined in the very tapestry of the sport's 200-plus year history — but I think the young man might have overlooked something even more important.
The ball itself.
No matter what other equipment you have, if you have a ball, you have a game — a game that has brought so much joy to so many across the globe no matter what circumstances it is taking place in.
Footballs have come a long way; it's been suggested in medieval times a skull or pig's bladder would be kicked around for entertainment, before the 20th century saw the primarily rubber design give birth to the ball as we know it today — and that's been taken to new level after level as designers search for the perfect aesthetic.
Outside The Box brings you today the 10 tastiest soccer balls — in our exclusive opinion — that range from some OGs to current-day crackers.
10. Adidas Teamgeist — 2006 FIFA World Cup
This was the first time I remember just looking at a soccer ball and thinking ‘'stop it''. It's a super clean design with a degree of creativity, and looked beautiful through the 2006 World Cup, the first that truly captured my imagination as a youngster. This will always be remembered as the ball in play when Australia made its deepest World Cup run in history. The World Cup final version, in silver and gold, was similarly delicious.
9. Nike Ordem Three — 2015-16 Premier League
Something about this bad boy gets the heart racing. The colour scheme of the orangey-red combined with the yellow swoosh and some white panels stands out, with the black pattern tying things all together. This was used widely across Europe — and the world — and for good reason, as this ball banged. Another down in history, this is the ball used when Leicester City claimed the Premier League title after starting the season priced 5000-1.
8. Mitre Pro Max — 1992-95 Premier League
Simultaneously, this ball gives off retro, nostalgic vibes, while also looking like a pill that would not be out of place in today's game. Mitre's designs through time all hold up well, but the version that marked the Premier League's inaugural season in 1992 is the pick of the bunch. The blue and red Vs are stylish, but the ball remains clean and based in white. Truly inconic.
7. Adidas Kopanya — 2009 Confederations Cup
Now we're getting a little niche. Adidas continued to play off the Teamgeist design for a few years after the 2006 World Cup, but paid homage to the cultures of the nations in which tournaments were being held. South Africa's debut as a host nation — for the 2009 Confederations Cup, which serves as a prelude for its 2010 World Cup — had the ball jazzed up with red, blue, yellow, green and black patterns, the colours of its flag. In a totally unoffensive way, they've taken a plain European ball and added a colourful African flair — and it is a thing of beauty.
6. Adidas Roteiro — Euro 2004
Oh boy. Another ball going down in history, as the one used for Greece's remarkable Euro 2004 victory. I typically prefer a ball to be based in white (bar some particularly notable exceptions soon to come), but this silver number had me at all ends. The black lines across the ball just created excitement, and you always got this thing moving through the air when booting one of these around the school playground.
5. Adidas Jabulani — 2010 FIFA World Cup
For pure sh*ts and giggles, this sucker has to be on the list. What do Fox Footy commentator Dwayne Russell and 2010 World Cup organisers have in common? They both just bloody love the chaos ball. Nothing brought more chaos than the Jabulani, which was one of the largest talking points of the tournament. While the aesthetic design was obviously elite, it confused the absolute holy hell out of the goalkeepers.
Let's go deep on this one; in a "technological advancement", this ball had no outside stitching, instead eight segments bonded together to create a totally different air-flow around the ball. I'm borrowing from one of my favourite websites here in DesignEngingeering.Com and it said; Goalies in particular have described the ball’s in-air behaviour as “ridiculous”, “shameful” and even “supernatural”. Not only does it travel faster than previous World Cup models, but players say the ball’s curve through the air or “bend” is erratic and unpredictable. This made for unbelievable, unforgettable drama.
4. Adidas Telstar — 1970 FIFA World Cup
Three words — respect your elders. This ball is THE football. It's just the ball we all started playing with, it is what a football looks like. Without it, we don't have the daring designs we have today. It is honestly one of the greatest pieces of sporting equipment of all-time and writing this has put a great smile on my face. This was the first time any real aesthetic design was prioritised, and my god did they nail it.
3. Adidas Finale Moscow — 2007-08 UEFA Champions League Final
The beautiful, iconic stars design of the Champions League ball had to be on the podium — and picking a favourite was not hard. While the stars have really just changed colours across the past 15 years, this one stands out because the red looks lovely, but it was also used in one of my more memorable football fan moments ever. As a Manchester United fan, to see Cristiano Ronaldo head this ball home in a Champions League final, before Edwin van der Saar saved a penalty to win the title — I will never forget this ball.
2. Nike Total Aerow 90 I — 2004-05 Premier League.
Completely stunning, this was the moment when you saw the new ball and thought ‘'ohhh they've nailed this haven't they?''. I'd score this ball an 11/10 for the simplicity yet stylishness of the blue hoop. It certainly didn't hurt that Football Victoria gave this ball away to every junior player in the state, meaning this was the pill most commonly seen in parks and on pitches around the traps. Love it.
1. Adidas Wawa Aba — 2008 African Cup of Nations
Hear me out — this is the best football ever designed. Again, it plays off the 2006 Teamgeist design, but adopts its host country's colour — the gold, green, red and black of Ghana. The first time I saw this monster, my eyes popped open — were you even allowed to use a ball this nice? It turned out you were, and the design is just everything I like about a tasty ball. It not only shouted out Ghana, but it looked damn good in doing so.