Players complaining about the new ball: It’s one of the traditions that returned like clockwork with this World Cup, along with egregious diving, English misery, and American fans perking up when the team performs and then swearing off soccer for another four years when USA crashes out.
But while equipment discontent typically fades as the tournament enters its final stages, anger toward World Cup 2010’s Jabulani ball won’t subside. So Caltech scientists decided to find out for themselves: They took the ball into their lab’s wind tunnel to see if it’s really so bad.
If you’ve spent any time kicking around a soccer ball, you’ll remember that it isn’t a perfect sphere, but rather is made of geometric panels with grooves in between. But while a traditional ball contains 32 panels, the Jabulani contains only 8, which made the team led by Beverly McKeon suspect there could be something to the complaints about its erratic behavior.
If you relax and concentrate, you’re more likely to make a goal. Seems pretty logical, but researchers at Britain’s Exeter University have tracked soccer players eye-movements to make sure. They have confirmed that players who ignore goalies’ distracting antics are more likely to make the shot.
The latest in the why-Britain-hasn’t-won-the-World-Cup-since-1966 line of research–which has also looked at the ball’s surface (smooth is good but some grooves necessary) and the psychological benefits of playing on your home field (it’s better)–Greg Wood’s study will appear in the Journal of Sports Medicine. Hopefully it will be available in time for the World Cup‘s start on June 11th.
Wood says that goalies can make use of a biological instinct to screw up a kicker’s shot.
“We focus on things in our environment that are threatening. In a penalty kick, that threat is a goalkeeper,” Wood said. “If he (the goalkeeper) can make himself more threatening, he can distract the kicker even more. By doing (certain) behaviors, he can make it so the kicker will kick (the ball) near the goalie.” [AP]