Football is the most popular sport in the world in part because the only equipment you need is a ball. But to maximize the accessibility of the sport, especially in poor communities where a deflated ball can mean the end of the game, Japanese design studio nendo has created a alternative to non-inflatable soccer ball which assembles like a puzzle.
Work with Molten, a supplier of balls to several official sports leagues, the designers of nendo were inspired by makeshift soccer balls that are often created by weaving materials like bamboo. They are not inflatable and do not have the bladder that you will find inside real soccer balls which gives them stiffness and bounce, but the weaving process causes enough tension on the different parts that these balls of fortune should offer a very similar experience when pushed up and down on a soccer field. They don’t last forever, but they retain their shape and bounce even when they wear out or get damaged.
nendo’s’my football outfit‘comes flatbed as an Ikea cabinet (another plus is that DIY balls are cheaper and easier to ship) requiring a step-by-step manual to follow to properly assemble the 54 separate pieces into a spherical ball. Instead of natural materials like bamboo, the different parts of the nendo non-inflatable ball are made from recycled polypropylene and elastomeric synthetic resin. It makes the ball durable and gives it bounce, but it’s also flexible enough to feel soft on the feet when kicked. Specific materials were also chosen because when they do break or shatter, there is less chance that smaller parts will have sharp edges that could cause injury.
The modularity of the bullet also means that if one of the parts breaks, a repair is as easy as exchanging a spare, assuming spare parts are readily available or included in the kit. Will nendo’s creative design ever replace soccer balls at the amateur or professional level? It doesn’t seem likely any time soon, but the color combinations of the different components can be customized and the balls can be easily branded with logos or sponsors, which is really important in sports, isn’t it?