How to choose the right football for kids and adults?
Anything can be a football with a little bit of imagination. Those looking for a regular football should however know answers to a few basic questions. As there is a variety of sizes and kinds of a football. Who, where/on what and how often will play with it are the most important ones.
Footballs by size
Footballs sizes go from 1 to 5. The smallest footballs are designated mainly for children as they're easier to control and easier on the body, being lighter.
- A football size 5: is generally the most commonly used football. These are used for competition matches of children from 12 years upwards. However, it is no exception when younger kids play with this size of a ball. The diameter of a size 5 football is about 22 cm. The weight of size 5 balls ranges from about 410 to 450 g. The only exceptions are lightweight balls for bare foot football on the beach. And futsal balls, dedicated for indoor football. Those are a bit smaller (despite being labeled as size 5) and a bit heavier to have a lower bounce.
- A football size 4: used for trainings and matches of kids from 8 to 12 years of age. Diameter: almost 21 cm. Slightly ligher, about 350 grams.
- A football size 3: for 8-year-olds and younger. Diameter: 19 cm. Weight, in this case, is around 290 g.
- A football size 2 and 1 (diameter cca 15 cm) dedicated to the youngest ballers. Due to their size you can bring them along basically everywhere so these are also a perfect gift, souvenier as well as a great tool for improving one's technique.
You can also stumble upon a special 4,5 size too when you look for freestyle balls. Skillbals are slightly smaller and stickier so it's easier to perform tricks with them.
Footballs by surface
Yes, football can be played basically everywhere and with anything, that's why it's so popular. However, playing with the ball on the right surface, on one which it was made for, increases it's longevity and in some cases also improves the game experience.
Apart from skillbals for freestyling, where the ball is in the air most of the time, there are futsal balls. A bit heavier and with lower bounce, used for indoors football. Then there are lightweight balls, designed for playing with bare feet, on the beach. There are also more durable footballs, which can bear playing on concrete. The most common ones are still footballs for grass pitches.
Footballs by quality
The right shape, size, weight, pressure and maintaining of these criteria over time, and also bounce, balance and water absorption. These are the metrics observed by FIFA, when it comes to awarding their ball quality certifications. A football can get one of the following three.
1. The highest quality of a football is guaranteed by the FIFA QUALITY PRO sticker. All the premium match balls have it. All professional league and international matches, including the Champions leagues and World Cups are played with these. Elite teams also train with them, of course. Their price tag starts somewhere around €80.
2. Second tier of quality is the FIFA QUALITY sticker. Most of these footballs are to be found in the training balls section. They are very well suitable for competition matches of non-professional categories too. It is the golden mean in price-performance ratio.
3. Then there's the IMS (Internation matchball standard). This sticker guarantees that the ball meets the basic FIFA requirements for a quality ball. These footballs are primarily leisure or training balls.
The cheapest footballs have no quality stickers. That does not necessarily mean they are of a poor quality, because the FIFA testing is voluntary and it depends on individual manufacturers whether they are interested in obtaining it for the particular product. Several other aspects are reflected in the price of all balls aslso. For example, the materials used and the method of production.
Footballs by types of material
A football is made of two main parts. Both, the inner and outer, can be produced in various ways and from different materials, which has a direct influence on the price.
The inner part - bladder
The inner part of a football - bladder - can be either from latex, butyl or rubber.
A latex bladder is used for the best match footballs. It provides the best contact, flight pattern and has a quality bounce. It needs to be inflated more often, in comparision to the butyl bladder.
Butyl bladders are mostly used for training footballs and some matchballs too. They keep pressure better and from a long-term point of view are also more durable than those with latex insides. Flight patterns are still really good. They tend to be a bit harder and heavier though. The cheapest balls have a rubber bladder inside. This one holds the air pressure the longest and is quite durable. It will not provide as good of a contact or flight patterns as the previous two.
Outer layer - surface
Three main materials, just like with the inner part, are used for the outer layer of a football. PU – Polyuretan, PVC – Polyvinyl chloride, or a mixture of the two.
The quality of the top layer can be recognized at first touch. The best contact with the ball is provided by polyuretan, which forms a soft layer on the surface. Additionally, the modern footballs have a fine or coarser surface pattern that further enhances the contact. Usually cheaper balls with a smooth surface may be a little more resistant to water, but they slip on a wet surface and are not as easy to handle.
Footballs according to the method of production
Football is ever evolving. The tastament to it is the ball itself. The brown-leather ball (which was able to absorb a lot of water and did) was gradually redesigned into to the generally depicted football, looking like this: ⚽ 32 black and white panels in the shape of a pentagon. Introduced in the 1970s. As time goes by and technology evolves, different balls with less panels and of different shapes and colours are being introduced. Each manufacturer comes up with their own shape and panel layout. The main difference of today's football is in the way the panels are connected together.
Footballs can be divided into seamless and those with visible seams. Seamless footballs are put together by heat-sealing. They are more durable, water-resistant and have a better grip, which means better control. Those with visible seams are either hand or machine sewn. The most advanced balls are produced by the combination of the two.
How to take care of footballs
Proper care prolongs longevity. This applies to a football too. It's good to remove all the dirt after a game as it can damage the upper layer over a longer period of time. The metal needle should be moistened before inflating (water or saliva does the trick) not to damage the bladder or the valve. Pressure in the ball should be somewhere between 0,6 and 1,1 bar. The ideal pressure for a particular ball might be written right by the valve. If not, or you don't have a pressure gauge with you, go with your feeling and do not over-inflate the ball, to protect the seams. Store your ball in a room temperature, above 15° C and do not leave the ball outside in winter, neither on the heating to dry up. And most importantly: use the ball as often as you want and enjoy the game!