Adidas may have finally created a sleek, streamlined football that players can live with | Smart News
After more than thirty years of making soccer balls for the World Cup, in 2006 Adidas started to mix things up. That year, the standard 32 stitched panels were dropped for a radical 14-panel design. In 2010, the number of panels fell to eight. This year, the ball has only six panels.
Each time the design has changed, it has led to confusion and complaints from players that the ball moves differently – unexpectedly – through the air. How will this new ball fly?
On a technical level, there is a clear answer to this question: the scientist Simon Choppin undertook a detailed analysis of the aerodynamics of the balloon. You can read his full journey at The conversation. But the short version is: this ball has much shorter seams than its predecessors. The seams impact the airflow over the ball, Choppin explains:
When air flows over a smooth, sleek object, it hugs the surface until it has completely passed over it, creating very little drag. Air flowing over a ball behaves differently, it separates from the surface, creating an area of low pressure behind it – a wake. The low pressure region creates a drag force and slows the ball. At low speeds, the airflow is smooth (laminar) and separates early, creating a large wake and relatively high drag force. As the speed increases, the air becomes more chaotic (turbulent), which helps it stick to the ball longer, reducing wake size and drag force.
During the 2010 World Cup, players complained the most about deflected balls: any small gust of wind or air change could cause the ball to spin and move. But this year’s prom might not have that problem, Choppin says. The seams on this new ball are deeper, he says, which will create more drag and stabilize the ball in the air.
From a subjective point of view, players and coaches are almost guaranteed not to be completely satisfied, they never will be. Choppin’s final analysis: “While players and coaches may well find fault with the Brazuca, it is certainly not a beach ball.”