We’ve worn the jackets, carried the bags, stepped into the shoes, and even pulled up a pair of pants or two. But what most of us don’t quite realise is that sturdy leather is behind the biggest boundaries and hundreds, the most famous touchdowns, and most nerve-wracking goals, well, since the beginning of sport as we know it! A ubiquitous but rarely noticed the use of leather is in sport, and we thought we’d take this time when TV screens across the country are glued to sports channels and stadiums filling up with cricket fans to tell you how your everyday luxury is in fact, a huge part of your everyday sport.
Remember that white circular object soaring above the field as one of the greatest batsmen in the world of cricket became the first to score 100 centuries? It was a leather ball that Sachin Tendulkar smashed for every run of that thrilling Asia Cup innings and a leather ball that kept him on his toes through the hits and misses of his 24 year-long international career.
An orange sphere was dunked into the ring with only 10 seconds left on the clock for a match-winning point that went on to be known forever as ‘The Shot’. Michael Jordan ended his legendary career in basketball with a leather ball in hand as he took the Chicago Bulls to a prolific win.
It was a Rumble in the Jungle and the tenacity of Muhammed Ali’s leather glove helped him swing the deafening blow that unseated world champion, George Foreman from his 40-match win streak in the eighth round. Raising his leather gloves into the air, Ali planted his feet back in the world of champions once more in 1974.
The air was thick with tension as arch-rivals, England and Argentina kicked-off their quarter-final FIFA World Cup match in 1986. A black-and-white leather football raced from one end of the field to another until the 51st minute when Diego Maradona scored one of the most debated goals of all time – The Hand of God. Four minutes later, he dribbled unbelievably past five English players and goal-keeper to score another, dubbed The Goal of the Century. With leather at his feet (or fingertips)!
Ron Turcotte sat firmly in his crafted leather saddle as the Secretariat raced passed his fellow contenders at Belmont Stakes in 1973. The chestnut stallion went on to win that iconic equestrian race, setting a still unbroken record of 2.24 minutes, and becoming the first horse in 23 years to win the Triple Crown.
Sure, leather balls are mandatory in the professional levels of sports like cricket, football (both American and soccer), rugby and basketball, while baseball and boxing gloves are hugely dependent on leathers grip and strength. It even serves a very important purpose in equestrian sports like horse-racing, rodeo and show-jumping in its capacity for resilience and its cushioned slip-resistance. But, at a time when synthetics are taking over many fields, players’ preference for leather and the marked role it plays in shaping their careers is a true testament to its value in every game.