Back to basics: Manchester’s National Football Museum gives visitors chance to make ball – from a pig’s bladder!

By Alex Bysouth

Manchester’s National Football Museum will host a hands-on workshop showing people how to make a football from a pigs bladder this weekend.

Artist John O’Shea will be at the museum on Sunday giving visitors the chance to make their own unique ball to go on show as part of an exhibition.

Football fanatic John believes the dynamics of the beautiful game have evolved with the ever changing shape and structure of match balls.

He said: “This workshop on Sunday is purely to do with making footballs the way they used to be made, but also thinking about how if the ball changes the game is different.”

“The ball that was used in last world cup, the Adidas Jabulani, that ball was reported as being the most consistent , smoothest and roundest ball that had ever been made, but my question is did that make the game better? And the game better for who?”

Despite the advances in technology, O’Shea wanted to go back to basics with his latest project.

He added: “Things have changed for television audiences in my view, old fashioned tackles have gone out of the game, but I wouldn’t say the game has become less violent as you just get more sneaky fouls and diving that can almost make it worse.

“What I wanted to do was to have a go at starting from scratch with football, a lot of these techniques for making a ball from a pigs bladder are forgotten techniques.

“I had to speak to people who were two or three generations older than me as a lot of thing were not documented.”

Participants can expect to perform what John described as somewhere between butchery and a medical procedure using the bladders as natural organic balloons.

“Historically people would stuff the football with different things, so air or dried peas or with hay to keep the form and shape,” he explained.

“During and after the second world war children would have played with pigs bladders as footballs, the exhibition shows how people have used different materials for footballs for centuries, in terms of commercially you’re talking around 1920 when the bladder stopped being used in matches.”

The artist is also keen to find out what different games and ideas people can suggest using the footballs made, after participating in ‘mob’ football games himself.

He said: “There are still around 15 mob football games around the country using different rules, for example in Gloucestershire several small balls are thrown into the crowd and people try and smuggle them back to a point to score.

“People take for granted that football uses the simplest set of rules and we’ve seen games proposed in the past to try and change the dynamics, so that’s generally what the workshop will be about.”

The workshop runs from 12pm-4pm on Sunday October 14 and costs £5 per person, for more information visit the National Football Museum welcome desk or call 0161 6058200.


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