‘Wobbly’ ball to be kicked out
The “knuckleball” free-kick, popularised by Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, could become a thing of the past as top leagues prepare to use a ball that supposedly does not wobble in the air.
The knuckleball technique has become a favoured method of shooting for some top players, with the “punching” motion causing the ball to move unpredictably through the air, baffling goalkeepers who cannot read its trajectory.
Scientists at Nike claim that their latest ball (right), which will be used in the Premier League from next season, will have a more “predictable and consistent” flight.
Nike said the ball was the result of an eight-year investigation into improving consistency of football flight.
The company claims the design “promotes air movement around the ball rather than gripping its surface”, therefore reducing the wobble as it moves through the air. Nike said this would help to reduce misplaced long passes or shots that stray off target. Asked in 2014 to describe the knuckleball, Real Madrid player Bale said: “You want to run up and hit it as flat as you can, with a bit of topspin to get it up and over the wall. “Hopefully the air moves the ball and it deceives the keeper a bit.”