On the Ball
I've mentioned before that I play football every other week. A group of guys, most of whom I'd never met before, from different walks of like, get together and have a runabout. It's good fun, a bit of exercise and we all get to pretend we're our favourite footy stars, plus it gives those of us who do work together something to use as ammo ('You had a shocker on Sunday,' etc).
Somehow, the organisation of this has fallen to me and part of that is to make sure we have a ball to play with. I normally have three, mainly because we play inside a fenced area and we're not all as accurate as we'd like to be, so rather than stop all the time to collect balls, we can keep playing. One of the trials of this has been, however, finding good quality, reasonably priced balls. We only play once a fortnight, so we don't want to spend £50+ on a football (and you can, a lot more too). I'm usually looking for something in the £10-15 range. Unfortunately, that generally limits you to training balls.
The problem with this is they don't come up to spec. There are, you see, specifications for a match ball as laid down by FIFA. If a ball has been tested and approved it can use either the FIFA Approved or FIFA Inspected logo to indicate its status. FIFA Approved is slightly more rigorous. The specifications cover the size, weight, sphericity (roundness), pressure loss, water absorption, rebound ability and durability of the ball.
The main concern for cheaper balls is the weight, a FIFA Approved ball is supposed to be between 420 and 445 grams, a FIFA Inspected ball between 410 and 450 grams. Most lower-end balls are much lighter, anywhere from 275 to 400 grams typically. Unfortunately, it's very hard to find this information. Some manufacturers (Mitre, for example) are quite good at telling you which of their balls are FIFA Approved or Inspected, but still don't give specific weights. Nike, Adidas, Umbro and many others don't seem to publish any information about their balls (in fact, all three of those manufacturers should be ashamed of their websites as a waste of space, they give no information about any of their products, all they provide is big adverts).
Now, I'm not fussed about whether the balls is approved, inspected or otherwise, provided it's a good weight, size is rarely an issue, as are any of the other factors, but you can tell when you're using a light ball. I have spent many an hour hunting websites for any specifications on these. The only ball I have found in my price range with a FIFA Inspected approval is the Adidas +TEAMGEIST Official Replica Football. The official ball is something like £75, but even the replica meets the official standards and beats most of the competition in it's price bracket.
So, football manufacturers, either get your balls approved and put logos on them, or else release some statistics so people can make some informed decisions. Idiots.