Aussie scientist: W-Cup ball to baffle keepers

SYDNEY: The new ball created for the 2010 World Cup will be faster and more erratic than its predecessors, according to an Australian scientist who believes it could leave goalies grasping at air.

The research by Adelaide University’s Professor Derek Leinweber would appear to back up complaints about the Jabulani ball levelled by many goalkeepers, who say its swerving motion makes it impossible to track.

England goalkeeper David James has described the new Adidas ball as “horrible”, Spain’s Iker Casillas says it is “rotten” and Gianluigi Buffon of Italy fears its “unpredictability” could ruin the World Cup.

Professor Leinweber said the players had a point, with his computer simulations showing it was faster than previous balls, while its rough surface made it more erratic.

“And ... they bend better,” he told AFP yesterday.

“What it means is that the goalkeeper’s intuition is just a little bit off. You see the ball coming towards you, you might quickly work out where the ball is going to be, and something different happens.”

Professor Leinweber, who heads the university’s chemistry and physics school, simulated trajectories for the almost perfectly spherical Jabulani which took into account the aerodynamic impact of the ball’s unique tiny ridges.

“Any sort of texture on the ball, or grooves that are on the surface of the soccer ball, that has a big impact on the nature of the air flow,” he said. “I think that’s one of the key things that goalkeepers are experiencing. They say things like, ‘The ball has lots of energy’.”

The ball’s English developers have defended the design, saying much of the criticism is due to unfamiliar effects arising from teams’ high-altitude training ahead of the tournament in South Africa.

Professor Leinweber noted: “If you want the goalkeeper to design the ball, they will give you an iron ball that sits at the centre of the field.” — AFP

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