Pre-Adidas World Cup match ball (reproduction)
FIFA World Cup 1938 France
About 1938 France
THE APPEARANCE OF BRANDED BALLS
As we could see at the 1934 World Cup, the host nation Italy supplied the official balls for the tournament and this practice did not change in the 1938 FIFA World Cup, either. There was a French company called „Allen” who had already produced footballs for the French Cup competitions and other international meetings in the 1920’s, therefore this Paris based company became the supplier of the official footballs for the French World Cup as well.
As you can see on old photos of the French team, Allen supplied balls even as far back as for the 1924 Olympic Games. Please note that the name of the company was already printed on the ball in the Olympic Games and the company kept this habit for the 1938 World Cup, as well. If you look at photographs from the 1938 FIFA World Cup, you can always see an Allen commercial before the starting ceremonies of the matches: they put a branded ball on a billboard supported by a tripod into the centre circle of the pitch for the photographers. This is one of the very first examples of marketing a sports equipment brand in history. However, please note that these balls were later removed from the soccer field and were never used during the matches – these balls were temporarily displayed for promotion only.
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THE ALLEN „COUPE DU MONDE” BALL
The Allen ball was very similar to the „Federale 102” (the official ball of the previous World Cup) because it also consisted of 13 panels. However, the edges of the panels of the Allen ball were much more rounded so the overall design was not completely the same as the Italian ball four years earlier. The Allen ball was much more like the „Globe” and the „Players” balls from the 1930 World Cup. However, the manufacturer maintained the developments of the Federale 102 and the laces were put on a separate, thin panel. Black and white pictures prove that the cotton laces of the Allen balls were white, however, this was not a long lasting colour, since the rain and mud immediately changed the colour of the laces to brown. This ball was hand sewn just like its predecessors and had to be inflated by a skilled person. If the man who inflated the ball and closed the laces was not precise, the ball did not become spherical which would influence the trajectory of the ball.
OTHER BALLS USED IN THE WORLD CUP
Vintage photos prove that the 13 panel Allen ball was not the only model used in the 1938 FIFA World Cup. We could see a regular 18 panel ball with linear cut on the ground as an example. Such a famous picture was taken before the final match of the World Cup between Italy and Hungary. However there are another evidences that the ordinary 13 panel Allen ball was also on the pitch before the same final game – it is situated right in front of Meazza’s feet on old photos. And to make this story even more interesting, the Italian Football Museum in Coverciano has a regular 12 (!) panel ball in its exhibition, indicating the ball was used in the final match of the World Cup. Either the museum’s statement is wrong or 3 different balls were used in the last and most important game of the 1938 World Cup. What is the truth is? – well, we will probably never know. The television footage of this final is so poor, with no close ups of the ball, that it offers no clues. So the answer to this question is kept by the football stars of heaven…
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