Six moments that changed football kit forever
Football hasn't always been the slick, sexy beast it is today.
Can you imagine Cristiano Ronaldo kitted out in knickerbockers, or Lionel Messi nailing strips of leather to his shoes just to add a bit of grip? Manuel Neuer might fancy himself as the thinking man's goalkeeper, but how would he have coped in the days before gloves?
Football's glamorous world was built on unsophisticated foundations and it has taken a lot of innovation and invention to grow from a game of large mobs hoofing a pig's bladder through towns to the most-loved sport on the planet. From boots to balls and shorts to shirts, the technology in football kit and equipment moves even faster than Gareth Bale. Let's look at the key moments...
One: The leather ball (1850s)
Back in football's early days, mobs would kick around anything from a sheep's bladder to a hog's head. A bright spark then encased an inflated pig's bladder in leather and the first modern meat-feast football was born. They weren't popular – a headed flick-on felt like a glancing blow from a flying hog – but they certainly endured, with FIFA finally letting plastic have its day at the 1986 World Cup.
Two: Shorts (1900s)
Victorian England's allergy to showing a bit of leg meant that the FA initially forced footballers to cover their knobbly knees. First they wore trousers and then came the knickerbocker (those short trousers that look as if they're doubling as a colostomy bag). In 1904 the FA finally relented and, although it wasn't quite the sexual revolution, wearing shorts didn't half make it easier to kick a ball.
Three: Velcro shin guards (1960s)
Sam Weller Widdowson, an England footballer and Nottinghamshire cricketer, is widely credited with inventing the shin pad after hacking down a pair of cricket pads in 1874. After nearly a century of players putting up with pads scuttling around inside their socks, Velcro came to the rescue. The size of guards reduced as a result and shin protection was a lot less cumbersome.
Four: Goalkeeping gloves (1970s)
Before the 1970s, gloves were seen as a luxury to be worn only on mud-baths. Indeed, even England's Gordon Banks would occasionally use his gardening mitts. The development accelerated in the 1980s to the extent that gloves no longer fit like a glove – they fit like a hi-tech finger-protecting, grip-enhancing, water-resistant animatron.
Five: Moulded studs (1990s)
An FA rule in 1863 stipulated that no nails could project from boots: players' attempts to attach leather to the soles to obtain more grip had started to get a bit stabby. After screw-in studs took off (and fell off) in the 1950s along came moulded studs, offering back those hours of your life that used to be wasted doing DIY on your boots.
Six: Sports drinks (2000s)
The look on Jack Charlton's big, red, enraged face said it all: he wanted his players rehydrated. Now. His touchline outburst at USA 94, with his Ireland players in desperate need of water, shows how important this is. But these days it's a big step from Peckham Springs, with the development of sports drinks now a key area in helping to keep players hydrated and maintain their endurance performance.
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