TV Recap – “Abby’s Places” Explores the History of the Soccer Ball Itself in Latest Episode

ESPN+ has found a format that works for series that dive into the history of our favorite sports. We’ve seen it with Peyton’s Places covering the NFL, we’ve seen it with Vince’s Places covering basketball, Rowdy’s Places covering combat sports, Big Papi’s Places for baseball and even Eli’s Places which took a look at the world of College Football. Now, Abby Wambach is back as she continues to explore the world of soccer with Abby’s Places.

The sixth episode, titled “It Starts with a Mob,” takes a look at the history of the soccer ball itself and sees Wambach meet with legendary player Landon Donovan, exploring a bizarre tradition in England and going over the original rules of the game.

The episode opens with Wambach meeting Donovan on the pitch to try out some of the oldest soccer balls and go through a bit of a history lesson. She starts out by explaining that the very fist soccer ball was actually a human skull. They try it out and it doesn’t go so well. They then upgrade to the rag ball, consisting of t-shirt and tape, but that doesn’t go well either. They try out the pig’s bladder and the leather ball before eventually getting to the Telstar, the ball they played with and the one that is still used today.

Wambach then heads to Ashbourne in the UK to go back further into the history of soccer, er football. She checks out a centuries-old tradition by watching a football game played by seemingly everyone in the town of Ashbourne. A local historian explains the concept of mass street football, which began in 1642. It’s essentially a game of capture the flag played with a soccer ball and a few thousand players.

Wambach then heads to London to look into the history of the rules of soccer. She meets with legendary British player Kelly Smith. Together, they go through the original “laws” of “football” and find them to be a bit ridiculous. They then try out some of their own new rules, like having to thank a player who passes you the ball, or each player getting a do-over once a game.

This was another fun episode of Abby’s Places though it was a bit directionless. It felt as though any one of these topics could have taken a full episode, rather than being crammed together. The history of the ball is interesting and the mass street football tradition is fascinating to watch.

You can watch Abby’s Places on ESPN+ now. Fans can subscribe to ESPN+ for just $6.99 a month and can cancel at any time.