A Japanese researcher’s investigations into the new official ball made by sporting goods manufacturers Adidas to be launched in just a few weeks’ time at the FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil reveals many changes from its predecessor. More interestingly, its new panel design takes its inspiration from ideas borne centuries ago and made famous by Japan’s stealthy assassins – the ninja.
University of Tsukuba’s Health and Sports Science Institute head Takashi Asai says the “Brazuca” – the ball’s official name, which is Brazilian slang referring to natives of the country – differs from the 2010 cup ball, the “Jabulani,” in that the predecessor had eight panels. The Brazuca only sports six panels, and they come together in such a way that is reminiscent of the now-famous shape of the shuriken – the local name for the lethal ninja throwing stars. Many players – especially goalkeepers – protested about the Jabulani’s performance. The altitude and air pressure in South Africa, combined with the specific design of the Jabulani, made the ball prone to “knuckling” – those sudden jerky motions that a ball does in flight when it is struck with force. Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo has been famous for perfecting this technique of striking free kicks without spin, making the ball erratic in its motion. The Jabulani was famously unpredictable, making for some wild strikes in South Africa.
Asai says that the Brazuca – because of fewer panels and longer seams – is more stable in its flight. While that may be good news for World Cup goalkeepers, it’s bad news for Ronaldo – and closer to home, the Samurai Blue’s Keisuke Honda, who strikes the ball similarly – as there will be less “knuckling” action in the air by these versions. “Because the Brazuca has a lower lift force when it flies, the so-called ‘knuckling’ effect will be harder to achieve,” Asai said. But there is a silver lining to the ball, says Asai, who did his research on the official World Cup match balls with physics professor John Eric Goff of Lynchburg College. Asai says that the because of the ball’s design, it tends to travel faster even with softer kicks, which he says is more optimal to the Asians’ game – kicking softer than their European or South American opponents.
[via Global Post]