Football is the world’s most popular sport simply because all one needs to play it is a ball. It’s an image that is vastly known by the soccer world. That picture that one has in mind of children playing the beautiful game on a dirt surface with line markings scraped into it and a ball made out of stray cloth wrapped around a dense fruit.
For a large portion of children in the poorer nations of the world, this ball is their life. And yet, despite the poverty, it’s from these parts that the finest footballers have emerged. Manchester United winger Nani grew up playing football on the streets of a shantytown on the outskirts of Lisbon. Alfredo Di Stefano, the architect of Real Madrid’s early dominance in Europe, started playing with a rubber ball on the streets of Buenos Aires. Pele, regarded by many as the greatest footballer of all time, was so poor when he was a boy that he had to play with a sock stuffed with newspaper.
Soccer balls have progressed from similar makeshift balls to the 1855 version of the Charles Goodyear ball, which was the first world’s first vulcanized soccer ball, to the rubber bladder balls used in the 1900s. Then came the first synthetic leather ball in the 1930s, and finally the Adidas Finale balls that are used in the Champions League today (soccerballworld.com).
Where’s the soccer ball going to go next? A few Harvard graduates seem to have come with a quite brilliant answer.
In 2008, they teamed up to create a soccer ball that stored the kinetic energy created from rolling so that it could later be used to power an LED lamp, bright enough to light up a small area. The product, called SOCCKET, was finalized and hit the market in 2012. The ball is made out of water-resistant EVA foam that is also strong enough to prevent punctures and air loss. It comes with an attachable lamp.
For most people in the poorer parts of the world, this is nothing less than a dream come true. Now, parents can send their kids out to play football knowing that when they come back, the family will have a source of light to use in the night to eat meals etc.
It is a wonderful creation that brings power to the parts of the world where lack of electricity is one of the only things keeping them in poverty. SOCCKET is currently being used in Mexico and economically disadvantaged parts of the United States, with hope of global expansion in the near future.