Pigs Bladder Football

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This article was written on 10 Apr 2012, and is filled under 2012, Games, News.

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Football Culture

A question which we continually return to in our Pigs Bladder Football project is “How much does the game determine the type of ball and how much does the ball determine the type of game?”

If you compare our proposed clinically engineered football, which will be grown using living organic matter, to the footballs used competitively today (which are made of synthetic materials) it is clear that we are taking a totally different trajectory in terms of how a football is designed and made.

Below is a video showing the mechanised production process for the Adidas Jabulani ball which was used during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa:

In 2010, Professor Andy Miah identified in a short blog post a range of ethical questions surrounding the introduction of new technology within sport, and gave his perspective on the commotion surrounding the Adidas Jabulani World Cup Football, which was claimed to be the most perfectly spherical ball to date. He points out that:

In most cases, what unites new sports technologies is their common pursuit of reducing the uncertainty brought to the playing field by unforeseeable environmental changes.

(Andy Miah, 2010, “Fifa World Cup”)

This principle seems to hold true even of the Uppies and Downies balls, made in Workington by Mark Rawlinson for one of the few authentic “mob football” games still taking place at Easter time in England each year.

The Uppies and Downies ball is made using four panels of tough saddle leather and it is filled with wool-flock so that the ball will float if it goes in water. These distinct properties of the ball help to facilitate a game where the ball itself is put under intense physical pressure, and where achieving a goal can involve wading in rivers and swimming in the harbour!  The Uppies and Downies ball is not only for playing the game though – it is also the trophy which the victor takes away – a unique object – symbolic of victory.

This leads us to some interesting new questions for this development period:

What might be the desirable properties which we would like to bestow on our lab grown ball? How might players at all levels adapt to this new kind of ball?

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