What is the Oldest Soccer Ball in the World?

Have you ever wondered what the oldest soccer ball in the world looks and feels like?

Well I certainly have!

You see, the soccer balls that get manufactured today differ greatly from the ones that existed before the advent of television.

I thought it would be really interesting to gather bits and pieces of information about the world’s oldest soccer ball, as it would be easy to document some of the major contrasts between that ball and the ones currently available on the retail market today.

So, I put my head down and went looking for official data on the oldest ever soccer ball.

And what I uncovered was quite interesting to say the least…

The oldest soccer ball in the world is a ball of grey colour made from cow hide, that’s stored safely within the confines of the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum. It is said to have belonged to Mary the Queen of Scots, who was a Scottish royal that lived during the 16th century.

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Now buckle up, because I’ve got some more facts and figures to dish out!


Backstory behind the world’s oldest soccer ball

Believe it or not, the genesis of soccer ball history took place in a lush castle within Scotland.

According to the Guinness World Book of Records, the ball was discovered during an excavation project – hidden behind a piece of oak-panelling inside a bedroom.

This old relic could have landed there as a result of being kicked very high in the air, with the person who launched it unable to retrieve it or simply forgetting to do so.

Historians usually like to explore old ruins and landmarks that used to be famous or held in high regard, so it doesn’t come as a surprise to me that they managed to stumble upon something amazing here.

Now, the bedroom where the ball was found is said to have been formerly occupied by Mary – Queen of Scots.

Some theories put about suggest that either the soldiers or staff members who worked for Mary at the time could have put this ball together and played games of handball within the courtyard of the castle.

Although there’s no concrete evidence to suggest that Mary played with the ball herself, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) posits that the Queen of Scots had a keen interest in sports, with particular preference for golf and soccer.

In addition to this, royals (kings and queens) were said to actively participate in the sport as the welcoming nature of soccer being as a game for all existed then, just as it does even now.

The BBC also claim that on one occasion at Carlisle Castle, Mary recorded events that unfolded in a particular soccer game within her own personal diary.

If I try to connect the dots together here, I’d guess that the game which Mary recorded in her diary could have been the very one in which the oldest recorded soccer ball was used.


How old is the world’s oldest soccer ball?

This article wouldn’t be complete without me telling you how old this soccer ball is.

So, let’s do some basic calculations…

If the ball was supposedly lodged in the Queen’s chambers during James V’s reconstruction of Stirling castle – that took place between 1537 and 1542, we only have to subtract that year from the present one to arrive at the approximate age.

The median year for the aforementioned range sits between 1539 and 1540 so I’ll just round up the figure here to 1540.

Taking 1540 and subtracting that from the current year (2021) we arrive at an estimated age of 481 years.

Personally, I’d say this a much more accurate estimate than the 436 years mentioned by the Guinness World Book of records publication.

Ultimately, even though the first soccer ball made from vulcanized rubber was invented by Charles Goodyear in 1855, its initial inception can be attributed way further back to the medieval era.


Where is the world’s oldest soccer ball located?

Such a treasured item shouldn’t simply be dumped in a closet!

This ball holds great significance at it perfectly encapsulates the humble beginnings of the world’s most popular sport.

After its discovery, it was gifted to the Sterling Smith Art Gallery and Museum and it rests comfortably on a piece of green velvet within a plexiglass chamber situated somewhere inside the building.

Take a look at the image below for yourself:

the oldest soccer ball in the world - glass casing
Source: Atlas Obscura

And here it is on tour for the 2006 World Cup celebrations:

With entry into the gallery being free of charge, I’d be booking a trip right away after seeing this!

Just make sure not to visit on a weekend though, as the museum is only open from Thursday to Sunday.


What material does this ball comprise of?

Earlier on I mentioned that the oldest soccer ball in the world was made of animal skin.

A pig’s bladder was used as the inner tube to inflate it and the outer construction was said to be built from cow hide.

Furthermore, when you take a closer look at the image below, you can see that its sewn together with pieces of lace threading.

Source: Atlas Obscura

There’s also plenty of evidence which suggests that this ball was half the size of a modern soccer ball which you can buy today, so make of that what you will.

I’d guestimate that this piece of history would match the modern equivalent of a size 3 specification ball.



The world’s oldest soccer ball is said to be a grey coloured ball made of cow hide and inflated using a pig’s bladder. It is likely to have been created between the years of 1540 and 1570 by Scottish soldiers who served Mary – Queen of Scots – during her reign in the 16th century.

Samuel Waihenya
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