Most of us have owned at least one football in our lives. Whether we played every day, or from time to time when friends came over, or almost never, there often came a time when we realised we were unlikely ever to have a pro career or discover a new hobby, so the football got relegated to the back of the cupboard or the inner recesses of the garage, forlornly gathering cobwebs.
If you have kids of your own you may have seen that pattern repeating itself, which is a pity, as it's a great game. At the same time, we realise not everyone wants to play any more, but this needn't mean curtains for any football we have lying around – since there are plenty of uses for it, some surprising, some not so much, and some downright wacky.
We'll take a look at the top 28 of them; by the time you've read them all you might even find yourself popping down to the sports store to buy a brand new football as well!
Just to clarify, by 'football', we mean the roundball type – there will be myriad uses for the American or Australian versions of the ball, as with a Rugby ball – it's just that they're a different shape. So the uses will be a bit different, though with some tweaking many of the following might work there too.
1. Explaining Things to Flat Earthers
There are people who believe the earth is flat. I mean people alive today - not some ancient Sanskrit folk - who believe the earth is more like a flat disc than a globe. What they think when they go up in a plane (if they are even allowed on a plane) and see the horizon curving off into the distance, or see all the pictures taken from space over the last 60 years is anybody's guess, but we can start simple by using a good, spherical-shaped football to explain to them that the earth is, in fact, a globe and to stop being so ridiculous. Bouncing the football off their head to make the point even stronger can sometimes help in the most stubborn of cases.
2. Fooling People into Thinking You Have kids
Leaving a football (better two or even three) out on your front lawn or by the front door can make neighbours, the postman, and passers-by think that you have kids, even if you do not. Be prepared to do some explaining if the authorities come round, or at census-taking time, though!
3. Far Away Cows
This only really works for the old-style black-and-white patched footballs, so if you can't get one of those, then forget it. It might also not work if you live in a highly-built up, inner-city area. However, anyone with any open space at all nearby can simply put a dozen or so black-and-white footballs randomly in a group, then retire to a distance. This makes it look like there is a herd of Friesian cows on the horizon, and can actually make for an idyllic pastoral scene without the downside of having to milk the cows, or encountering angry farmers, cowpats, etc.
4. As a Chess-Distractor
This combines points 2 and 3 above really, but if you do indeed have children, you may be worried that one or two of them are getting too interested in cerebral activities like chess, and neglecting their computer-gaming in the process. Placing a football, again one of the black-and-white old school types, strategically in their line of sight can draw their attention away from such feckless activities as chess and in the direction of football, ideally in the form of 'FIFA Ultimate Team Championship' for the PC, or a similar computer game. Because who wants their youngsters to expend either their not-inconsiderable mental energies on games like chess, or their physical ones playing football outside, when they can be safely cooped up in front of a glowing screen for 14 hours in a day (sarcasm intended-ed.).
5. As a Gravity Checker
Speaking of basic principles, a football can be used at any time to check gravity is still working. Simply drop it on the floor (you can do this inside or out) and if all is well, the ball will fall to the ground at the usual rate. On a hard surface it will even bounce back up, saving you the labour of having to bend down and pick it up.
6. The Most Obvious Present Ever
Part of the joy of birthdays and Christmas, even for adults, is the excitement of unwrapping a present. The tension is heightened at Christmas when the presents have to sit for several days under the tree, taunting all who pass by them. But what can look like an awesome present when it is wrapped, can upon divesting the attractive wrapping paper turn out to be a rather mundane book about hills, or a jigsaw puzzle or something. This leaves the recipient having to feign delight and gratitude, or in the case of kids, just to announce it wasn't what they wanted, thus casting a pall over the rest of the Christmas morning.
So take away all the stress of Christmas and other gift-giving events by simply wrapping a football, thus presenting the most mind-numbingly obvious gift ever – no questions about what it might be and no surprises on the day. It has the added benefit of being unbreakable; if you drop the present by mistake (or intentionally too) it just bounces. You can even buy footballs for everyone, saving the hassle of having to choose a present, and giving the Christmas tree area a fun 'ball pit' look, and if people can't wait until the big day they can always play with the wrapped balls whenever they want.
7. As an Earth Tremor Detector
In some parts of the world, earthquakes are an ever-present danger. But in others, any earth tremors which may happen can be so faint as to be faintly ridiculous. Leave a football at one side of a bedroom before retiring, and in the morning; if it has moved a significant distance, this can mean there was an earth tremor during the night. It can also mean you have a poltergeist.
8. As a Castaway-style Friend
We all remember the Tom Hanks movie Castaway, where he made a 'friend' of a punctured football which bore his bloody handprint. Indeed, the bit where 'Wilson' (he even gave it a name, because it was a Wilson-made football of course) drifts off into the sea, leaving a devastated Hanks alone on a raft, is probably one of the most heart-wrenching moments of cinema history (yes, intentional sarcasm again). But you needn't wait to be the sole survivor of a plane crash somewhere in tropical seas, and spend several years presumed dead on a desert island while your wife marries someone else, in order to employ a football thusly. Why not do it yourself? In the superficial era of social media 'friendships', it might even end up being more real than you would expect.
9. As a Lampshade
Half a football can make an attractive, almost Le Corbusier-esque designer lampshade, throwing out light over a wide arc, and being largely indestructible. You can if you're really clever even insert a lightbulb inside a complete football, and have a dimmer, globe-shaped bedside light, which projects a back-to-front 'Mitre' silhouette on your wall to boot. Be careful it doesn't melt though.
10. As a Plant Pot
Continuing the purely practical theme, half a football filled with soil could make an attractive, if rather unstable, plant pot, particularly for growing edible window-sill plants like cress or mint. Your recycling will keep environmentalists happy too, so everyone's a winner.
11. Demonstrating to Australians, Kiwis or Americans How a Normal Football Should Bounce
Let's face it both codes of Rugby, together with Aussie Rules football and American football, have a ball which bounces in a way that can be, well, a bit unpredictable. 'Imagine having a ball which bounced repeatedly in a straight line and kept doing so with no sudden changes in direction, angle or speed', you might say to your Antipodeian or North American friends. If they don't believe you, you can use your football to prove it. Be sure to point out to them that only the goalkeeper is allowed to touch the ball with their hands, however.
12. Fake Breasts
On the subject of bouncing and gravity, we need to slay the elephant in the room and point out another use for - in this case two - footballs. Yes, we really are crass enough to go there. They can be used to give them impression that one is, well, more well-endowed in the chestal department than one really is. Each to his own anyway. Make sure the footballs are secured fast to their moorings however, or your little ruse may be detected. More usefully, two halves of a football can be employed as chest protectors when engaging in the noble sport of fencing. Many men might like to think half a football could offer them some similar protection too, but dream on guys, and head over to the tennis ball department at a sportsgoods store.
13. As a Neighbour Annoyer
Worried you may be getting on too well with your neighbours and might not be annoying them enough? Simply bounce a football up and down for hours on end on a summer's evening. You can read whilst you do it, or even employ someone to do the bouncing/kicking for you, the main point is it should drive them mental enough that you'll have the entire street to yourself in due course. Or not as the case may be.
14. As a Globe
A football can be used as a tabletop globe of the world for those who don't want to fork out on an expensive, backlit item. Use a marker pen to draw the continents on to the ball's surface, but be careful, or you could end up with a grossly enlarged Greenland, undersized South America and no Australia at all. Come to think of it, many early maps of the world did look just like that, so scrawl the place names on in Latin for that 'authentic' seventeenth century look. And keep the 'globe' in a dimly-lit place for good measure. Then throw it out.
15. As a Hammer
A football can be used in lieu of a lump hammer, if you need to hammer something not that sharp into a substance which is not that hard. Not the best use for it but we're running short of ideas here, and it could theoretically work. At least you won't injure your thumb.
16. Slow Basketball
A football bounces, sure, but it doesn't have nearly as much of a rebound as a basketball. Thus, you can slow the game of basketball right down by using a football instead, perhaps putting the Harlem Globetrotters out of business forever in the process, in spite of point 14 above. This is also ideal if you aren't that good at basketball or don't want to run around too much, and it is ideal for senior citizens' basketball too. Conversely, you can speed the game of football right up by employing a basketball instead. Indeed some premier league games could be vastly improved by employing such a strategy.
17. Papier Maché Models
If you have kids who don't like football and a surplus of actual footballs, why not use them (the footballs, not the kids) as papier maché structures. This follows the same principle of using balloons and covering them with papier maché, only you can't easily pop a football after the model has hardened. On the other hand, it will be sturdier and bounce in a satisfactory way.
18. Cats' Exercise Ball
A football makes an ideal full body exercise ball for cats, giving them a workout that they hitherto could only have got by climbing various trees, knocking things off a flat surface, sprinting across the road just as a car comes, and rolling around for no apparent good reason, all without leaving the comfort of the home. That said, if they're anything like the human equivalent, the ball is likely to see a lot of use in the first few days, only to sit dolefully in the corner of the room, unused and uncared for, once the novelty value has died out.
19. As a Gas Container
Footballs are usually filled with air of course, but there is no reason why you can't pump them up with some other gas, for whatever reason. Butane for cooking and heating, carbon dioxide for making fizzy drinks, and helium for pranking people with a temporary high pitched voice are all possible suggestions, but you might have your own better ones. NB. Do not actually do this!
20. Pretending to Be Good at Football
If like the author you were never any good at football, with juggling a ball more than 2 or 3 times already being a major achievement, and are still embittered about it, you can always get round that by leaving a couple of footballs lying around just to make it look like you are way better than you are. Extra points if you have a pair of luminous, gaudy boots to add. Beware though – visitors could potentially ask you if you fancy a game or something, so make sure you have some plausible excuse why you can't play any more, maybe pulling at the heartstrings at the same time (I had a terrible injury etc.) and gazing balefully at said equipment.
21. Replicating Circles
Drawing the perfect circle is, in fact, impossible, but you can use a football to draw a sort of not very good circle, by using it as an outline. Granted it won't be as good as one drawn with a compass, but there's less likelihood of having anyone's eye out.
22. Pretending to be bald
Some of us are curious as to what we would look like bald (or what we have to look forward to if we are already thinning on top) or simply with our heads shaved. Worried you might look just a little bit too much like a potato? Simply try on half a football over the old cranium and take a look in the mirror. If you don't like what you see, you might want to start investigating hair replacement therapy or simply leave the clippers alone.
23. As a Buoy
A football can double up as a durable sea-buoy when needed. Not being bright orange, it's a bit less eye-catching it is true, and it might be difficult to distinguish from a football which was simply kicked too far out to sea and lost, but desperate times can call for desperate measures.
24. Diego Maradonna Hand Locator
Just in case 1980s Argentine football legend Diego Maradonna has temporarily misplaced one or other of his hands, they can be easily found, simply by placing a football near them (for the youngsters reading this is a simple dig at an otherwise great player who seemingly cheated in the 1986 world cup semi-final against England, by scoring a goal of the hand – which you're not allowed to do of course, see use 11, above). This doesn't work just for Maradonna, but more recent or contemporary players' hands can be similarly located, including Thierry Henry, Luis Suarez and even Lionel Messi, all of whom have been guilty of shocking handball offences at least once. Of course in Maradonna's case he'd state that it was a 'hand of God locator', but this too could also have its uses.
25. Breathing Underwater
An air-filled or trimix-filled football can make an ideal back up aqua lung should you need to be underwater for about one or two minutes only. Again, this is a suggestion which is best filed under 'stuff we shouldn't actually do', and in any case the air would have an unpleasant burnt rubber aroma to it.
26. Moon Replica
The Moon seems like an ever-present in the night sky, but it's easy to forget that it has a disconcerting habit of practically disappearing or even buggering off altogether for a few days in a month. And if it's a cloudy night you won't even be able to see a full moon easily. That's where a nice white football can come in handy – simply suspending it on a piece of thin thread from a tree or some other high place, perhaps with a bit of lighting, can recreate that authentic 'lunar' look. Naturally it won't be quite as ethereal as the real thing, but you can also have several footballs painted with different amounts of black paint for the various phases of the moon as it waxes and wanes, if you wish. You can also point out where the Americans first landed there (somewhere around the top corner of the 'M' of 'Mitre') and in this case actually genuinely shoot for the moon.
27. Freaking People Out
A bit of a revisit to the film theme that we had with Tom Hanks in point 8, this one - but a football - imaginatively-used, can replicate some classic movie scream moments, at least for the impressionable. Simply daub an eyes, nose and mouth, maybe some wool for hair, and you've something that resembles a head. Lo and behold, you have a bouncing prop which you can really freak people out with, by leaving it in cupboards, under a pile of papers or on the car seat as you wish.
28. Actually Playing Football
Finally, and this may come as a surprise but you can actually use that unwanted gift of a football for playing the game of, well, football. An exciting sport, usually played by two teams of eleven players each on a full sized pitch with goalposts, a referee and a large crowd, its simplicity lends itself to a more informal game involving as many people as you can pick up really. Jumpers or similar clothing items can take the place of goalposts, and whilst you're unlikely to draw a crowd, a younger sibling might count as a spectator, as might the inevitable man-out-walking-his-dog. Indeed the man with the dog can double up as a referee when arguing over fouls, whether you're playing the offside rule or not, or what the actual current score is.
Words: Andrew Whyte
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