How To Deflate A Soccer Ball Without A Needle

Soccer balls are tough. Really tough. 

They’re built to take the mother of all beatings for 90 minutes at a time. They get kicked up in the air, get caught between two studded feet constantly and while that’s going on, they have to stay true to the direction they’re kicked in too.

So they are pretty special too. Not much can endure such a rough life and still perform the job.

But soccer balls have evolved massively since their introduction. 

The First Soccer Ball

According to some historical reports, the first item used to have a kick was a hog’s head or the skulls of fallen foes in wars.

Aren’t we glad things change?

The first proper soccer ball was made with a pigs bladder – and air. Yep, the bladder was pumped with air until it reached a vaguely spherical shape and would bounce. And from there, soccer was born.

The Football Association in England was the first governing body to apply rules relating to the shape and dimensions of footballs — and these regulations remain in place at FIFA today. In 1863, the FA convened to decide the official laws of the game. They agreed that a ball should be perfectly spherical, and it should have a circumference of between 27 and 28 inches. In 1872 the weight of a regulation football was set at 14 to 16 ounces. Amazingly, these regulations are still in place — it is only the materials and construction methods that have changed over the years.

The pigs bladder was good to a point, but not until a leather casing was introduced was the soccer ball recognisable as we know it today.

And it was a vast improvement – but there were massive drawbacks.

Also read: What Does ‘Sacked’ Mean in Soccer?

Headers and Head Injuries

The leather soccer ball was far better than the pigs bladder. But when played in wet weather, the ball would soak up the liquid and at times, could double in weight. And there has been growing concern that this era of soccer players, from the 50s through to the 80s, may well have exposed themselves to heightened risk of brain injuries. Indieed, Celtic’s Billy McPhail has testified in court that he believes that heading a wet leather ball for a prolonged amount of time has led to his diagnosis of pre-senile dementia.

And there are proven scientific links that repeated blunt force does lead to dire consequences such as dementia.

So, the soccer ball couldn’t stay as it was. Although FIFA preferred the leather ball even though there were safer, water-resistant designs around. 

It wasn’t until 1986 that a synthetic design was introduced. At World Cup 86, the Adidas Azteca was introduced – and it was an iconic design.

And the rights and designs of soccer balls is huge business too.

The war waging between Nike and Adidas for soccer merch is worth billions, with both companies neck and neck. With Adidas having the exclusive rights for soccer balls and match official uniforms until 2030, it gives Adidas a global platform and suggestion that Adidas are the chosen company when it comes to soccer.

And they have designed plenty of innovative and colourful soccer ball designs for each World Cup. From the South African World Cup to the Brazil World Cup, via Germany and Russia – each ball incarnation has had its own design and colours that represent the country that the tournament is held in.

But let’s get to the guts of the conversation here.

What is a Soccer Ball Made of?

You would need a degree in chemistry to understand the finer points of soccer ball innovations.

But we can dip our toes in and take a look.

After the leather balls and stitching were phased out, polyurethane and PVC were introduced. Not only did this keep the liquid out, but it also made it incredibly durable and lighter in weight.

Different types of polyurethane have some mighty strange names too – Microfiber, Korean Ducksung, Japanese Teijin Cordley, AI-2000, Leather Art Pakistan Synthetic Leather and English Porvair.

Is the pigs bladder still in place? 

Not quite. 

Most bladders in soccer are now constructed of latex or butyl. The butyl bladders are more durable and retain air for longer – but they are less responsive when it comes to kicks. The latex ones don’t keep their air in for as long as the butyl variety, but they do have a better feel and respond far better.

There are others too, like polyurethane and ones filled with carbon powder inside to shore up the tiny holes that appear. For futsal balls, they are filled with foam to cut down on bouncing, as the ball is played on a hardwood pitch and mostly on the floor.

Then, there is the valve.

These are usually made with or treated with silicon. It makes the application of the needle far easier – and keeps the air in too.

But more on the needle later.

Despite these scientific materials and innovative designs, soccer balls are not invincible.

Here’s some moments when the soccer ball became the star of the show, rather than the soccer match itself;

Also read: How Much Do Soccer Referees Get Paid?

Soccer Balls Causing Chaos

In 2016, an international match between France and Switzerland was being played. The match would remain goalless, but the thrills and spills didn’t come from the action being played out. 

It was the faulty equipment.

Firstly, there were two instances where shirts ripped and play had to stop. Slightly eyebrow-raising, sure. But then, Switzerland’s Valon Behrami went in for a full-blooded tackle and the sheer force caused the normally hardy soccer ball to pop.

This really doesn’t happen that often, and now Behrami can boast of the time he was so tough that even soccer balls popped in his presence.

The Beach Ball

There are many things fans take with them into the stands at a game. Flares, rattles, scarves, pigs heads – and at times, inflatables.

Oh yes, we’ve seen all sorts of objects at a soccer game – but one of these played havoc in the English Premier League back in 2009. Sunderland played Liverpool, with both in need of a win. But Sunderland would get that win in bizarre circumstances.

Sunderland’s striker, Darren Bent, was in red-hot form, with seven goals in eight games. And it was Bent who took a shot. It was on target, but it looked like Liverpool keeper Jose Reina had it well covered. As Reina went down on one knee to gather up the ball, the soccer ball connected with a red beach ball directly in front of Reina. It had been swept in by the wind from a member of the crowd who had thrown it onto the pitch.

And it led to chaos.

The soccer ball hit the beach ball and it diverted past the grasp of an unwitting Reina. Amazingly, the goal stood and it is still the only time a beach ball has been involved in a match-changing incident.

Now, back to the original question.

Also read: Most Important Skills To Have In Soccer

How do you deflate a ball without a needle?

Unless you personally know Valon Behrami, you might have a problem.

The needle is designed to be the perfect diameter to cut down on air loss and fit the valve perfectly.

So, without one, you might need to get creative.

Well, if you have a paperclip handy, you can do it.

But don’t go in without moistening the tip a little with saliva or water. Without doing so and you can cause a puncture. And then instead of giving the ball a new lease of life, you’ll end up killing it.

Other people have identified coconut oil and a pen as other ways to deflate the soccer ball, but with either method, you’ll likely need a friend to help you. They can hold the soccer ball in place while you apply either the pen or the paper clip.

That should work.

Manuel Esposito

Hello everyone! My name is Manuel and I've recently got my PhD in Sport and Excercise Science at the University of Portsmouth. I'm raised and born in New York, and I've been a big fan of soccer my whole life. Soccer is the reason why I got my PhD in Sport and Excercise Science, and my goal with this blog is to help you improve your soccer techniques, strategies, and knowledge!

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