Football shin guards are a mandatory piece of kit for players of all ages to wear. However, shin pads were not always a piece of kit that players had to wear. There are images of playing greats from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s in which their socks are down to their ankles with bare shins.
When were shin guards invented?
Shin guards were unveiled in 1874. Despite being around for so long, they were not made mandatory for footballers for over 100 years. In fact, the first shin guards were not for footballers but for cricket players.
Sam Weller Widdowson invented shin guards to protect the wearer from injury. The idea was the wearer would have more confidence playing football knowing they wouldn’t be sent to the ground in a heap after being kicked in the lower leg. Widdowson played both cricket and football. He made the first football shin guards by cutting down a pair of cricket leg pads. He then strapped the pads to the outside of his socks with leather straps. Although other players criticised Widdowson for using them, some players began to don the protective devices.
When did football shin guards become mandatory?
It wasn’t until 1990 that FIFA made football shin guards a mandatory part of a player’s kit. Prior to games or a substitute going onto the pitch, a referee or fourth official will inspect a player’s equipment to ensure they are wearing their shin pads.
Shin guards are made from rubber, plastic, or a similar material. Referees must determine whether or not the football shin guard offers enough protection to the player. Shin guards are placed under the socks and must be completely covered by the player’s socks. If the shin pad is exposed during a match, the referee is obliged to tell the player to pull the sock back up over the protective piece of equipment.