Ball games and historic soccer were popular in fifteenth-century Florence. Although the place most often used for this game beloved of the people was Piazza Santa Croce, Leonardo could watch it in several other places in the city. "Football in costume" was also played, in fact, in Piazza Santo Spirito and Piazza Santa Maria Novella. In 1490 it was played, an exceptional event, on the frozen Arno, between Ponte Vecchio and Ponte Santa Trinita.
The most significant statement is found in Ms. I: «For painters, actions can be seen very well in players, and most of all ball players when they contend together, better than in any other place or action». Remarkable for its originality and modernity is Leonardo's statement, five centuries ago, that painters could observe the motions of man best of all when he is playing ball.
In his writings collected in the Codex Atlanticus, among those called "prophecies" by Leonardo, there appears a very topical one: «The skins of animals will move men, with great cries and swearing, out of their silence». He then explains that by "skins of animals" he means "balls to be played with". In other words, the game of football will induce men to break their silence with great shouts and swearing. It is hard not to read in this sentence a kind of prophecy of the violence pervading football fields, and thus a call to the use of reason.
One of the polyhedrons drawn by Leonardo for Luca Pacioli, the ycocedron abscisus solidus, with its 32 faces (20 hexagonal and 12 pentagonal), has the same shape as a modern soccer ball.