Why Are Soccer Balls Black and White?

Soccer ball manufacturing has made massive strides in the last couple of decades.

The increased focus on production quality has seen today’s modern soccer balls excel when it comes to metrics like aerodynamics and bounce uniformity.

But taking a step back in time reveals the huge developmental gap.

This is because in the past, soccer balls featured a distinct black and white colour pattern that served some very basic purposes.

In this article, I’m going to take a much deeper look at why soccer balls used to be black and white.

Hopefully, you’ll learn a thing or two from this piece.

So, I’ll start by providing a summarised answer…

Soccer balls were black and white to primarily enhance the television viewing experience for spectators. The black and white television screens of the past would clearly reveal the black pentagonal accents of the soccer ball on a white background, therefore making it easier for a person to follow its spin and overall movement.

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Read on to find out more information on this interesting topic.


Reasons for the existence of black and white soccer balls

At the heart of the game is entertainment value.

The world football governing body – FIFA – recognises that the fans are such an important part of the game.

Which is why they tailor some of their legislative directives to cater towards the people that watch the matches week in and week out.

If you noticed my use of the word “mainly” in the answer I provided towards the start of the article, then give yourself a pat on the back!

That’s right!

The black and white soccer ball design was approved for more than one reason, and I’ll now attempt to comprehensively cover each one in turn.


1. Easier television viewing

black and white soccer balls - easier television viewing

As soccer gradually begun to grow in worldwide popularity over the 20th century, more and more people started to follow the sport on television.

Television sets slowly became more affordable over the years.

CNET documents the fact that the price per square inch for televisions has declined from approximately 110 dollars in 1953 to less than two dollars per inch as of today.

Even more so, according to the United States Bureau of Labour Statistics, prices for these pieces of technology are 99.10% lower in 2021 when compared to the year 1950.

This tells you all you need to know about the relative deflation that television prices have undergone since then.

During that time however, the availability of colour sets was limited, so people typically purchased black and white televisions for their soccer fix.

In that era, the soccer balls generally used were of solid colour, which was hard to keep track of on black and white screens.

So, as a way of enhancing the viewing experience for the fans watching games from the comfort of their homes, Adidas designed a ball with black and white panels.

The black pentagons and hexagons on the soccer ball added significant contrast that enabled the human eye to have an easier time following the ball’s trajectory on screen when airborne, along with its movement when passed along the ground.


2. Assisted foot placement for players

black and white soccer balls - assisted foot placement for players

The second reason concerns the players who make soccer games competitive.

When it comes to shooting, there are certain “sweet spots” that improve soccer ball velocity and acceleration when struck correctly.

The introduction of the black pentagons on soccer balls gave the players a useful reference point for making foot contact, which would ultimately improve shot accuracy significantly.

And that in itself would lead to a more entertaining game for spectators as well.

More accurate shots are increasingly likely to find the back of the net, and the neat culmination of an attacking moves are just one of the many things that fans adore.


Examples of iconic black and white soccer balls

Earlier on I alluded to the first black and white ball design by Adidas, so I wanted to give a bit more information on that soccer ball as well as another similarly iconic one from that era.

So, here goes…


1. Adidas Telstar ball

This was the first black and white soccer ball; designed as the centrepiece of the 1970 FIFA World Cup competition that took place in Mexico.

Check out the video below which gives a great insight on this:


2. Adidas Tango Durlast ball

Here we have another adaptation of the archetypal black and white soccer ball design.

This ball was used at the 1978 FIFA World Cup in Argentina and it consists of identical hexagonal panels with ‘triads’, giving the impression that each pentagon is surrounded by 12 black circles.


Are all soccer balls black and white?

Contrary to what newer fans may believe, not all soccer balls come in black and white colour.

In fact, if you watch Premier League games that take place during the festive period, you’ll notice the competition’s use of a yellow Nike ball.

The winter ball was implemented in the 2004-2005 season as it offers greater visibility for players during the cold and foggy months in the United Kingdom.


Why soccer ball colours have changed over time

Even though black and white is a symbolic colour palette for a soccer ball, it’s use in the modern day has waned.

This is because companies such as Nike and Adidas are continuously coming up with innovative ways to wow their customer bases with vibrant colour choices.

Black and white used to be revolutionary back in the 1950s, but in 2021 these colours are probably “too basic” to have a positive effect from a marketing and sales perspective.


Final thoughts

And that marks the end of my article on this topic.

But just to recap…

Soccer balls used to be black and white in colour to make television viewing easier for spectators not physically present at the game, as the black panels were easy on the eye. More so, the darker accents worked as a foot placement aid for professional players, resulting in more accurate shots and subsequent entertainment value.

If you’re still in a reading mood, why don’t you also check out our intriguing post that looks at exactly how many soccer balls would fit inside of a goal or our roundup of the greatest soccer balls you can buy!


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Samuel Waihenya
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