Soccer Ball

How about the soccer ball? Does she "behave" in flight as a baseball?

The drama of the penalty kicks and penalty shootouts is well known to many fans,all over the world.In theory,it is not the goalkeeper ability to catch the ball but the poor execution of the kicker that makes a difference. 


The same principles of aerodynamics applies here too.The presence of the ball seams determines turbulent behavior resulting in reduced drag and more predictable Magnus effect for a conventional football, compared with a smooth ball.

In other words,at high speeds, the drag force falls, which means that the ball does not slow down as much as expected.

Also,kicking the ball slightly off-centre with the front of your foot - and with your ankle bent into the shape of an "L" - the ball will curve in flight.The applied force willact as a torque, which gives the ball a spin, enabling the Magnus effect to come into play. 

When a soccer ball is traveling through the air, its trajectory is influenced by a number of factors, including wind flow, air speed and pressure. As the player strikes the ball, the drag and force experienced by the ball strongly influences its trajectory, especially if the ball is spinning.

A standard soccer ball is an Archimedean Solid - a "truncated icosahedron" of 60 lines and 32 faces. Twelve of the faces are pentagons (5-sided polygons) and twenty are hexagons (6 sided polygons).

Even if the ball is not perfectly smooth it can be considered so if we compare it with a baseball.How will be then its flight? 

As with the baseball ball, the seems have a big influence in the path of flight. To increase the length of the seems, Adidas designed for the 2010 World Cup a new ball,called Jabulani. This new ball is made from eight spherically molded panels and has a textured surface.

Here is a study made by NASA regarding the aerodynamics of this ball:

A free kick has can reach up to 70 mph speed with a spin of 600 rev/min. David Beckham famously uses spin imparted on the ball to curve a free-kick around a defensive wall and goalkeeper to score his goals. Calculations show that at 25 m from the goal and a velocity of 25 m/s, Beckham can swing the ball 4.57 m from the straight path by using spin. 

What is his secret? Can his performance be duplicated by somebody who studied aerodynamics? Watch the following video and decide : 

I am sure that after viewing this video you will try some kicks in your backyard.Isn't that David Beckham does not look so special once you know his secret? 

Return from Soccer Ball to Aerodynamics in Sports


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