WORLD CUP TECH
Dom Cadden, Commonwealth Champion Powerlifter – @DomCadden
Technology is constantly evolving the way we watch and participate in sports. Soccer (or football, as the rest of the world knows it) is no exception, and at the World Cup in Brazil technology will also go a long way to helping officials make sure that the ref’s calls are correct and adhered to.
THE BRAZUCA BALL
Balls are a testy subject – the Adidas Teamgeist ball from 2006 and their Jabulani ball from 2010 were both slammed for their erratic behaviour in flight. The Teamgeist was a radical departure from the norm. Traditionally, a football is made of 32 panels stitched together. The Teamgeist had 14 panels that were glued together with heat (thermally bonded) and the Jabulani had only eight thermally bonded panels. In both cases, the ball was much smoother than a traditional ball and many coaches and players compared the Jabulani to a beach ball that swerves unpredictably.
This year’s ball, the Brazuca, features six propeller-shaped symmetrically interlocking panels. The panels are still thermally bonded, but the big difference is that the seams are much deeper – 50% deeper than a 32-panel ball and three times as deep as the Jabulani. The seam length is also longer – 327cm, compared to 202cm on the Jabulani (on a 32-panel ball the seam is 405cm). This changes the drag pattern of air behind the ball so it behaves very similarly to a 32-panel ball. It’s all about the seams – the seams of a football disturb the air to help it achieve low drag at lower speeds, which allows for truer direction (no swerve) unless spin is specifically applied.
It’s not unusual to see players wearing an under shirt, but that might not be any ordinary T-shirt. AlignMed’s Posture Shirt molds itself to an athlete’s torso and hips to construct neuromuscular stimulation which will ultimately create muscle memory. The Posture Shirt trains muscles to remain in the proper position over time. This is a big deal for players coming back from injury (especially back or shoulder) as it provides players with stability during the match and keeps their body in proper alignment. It uses patented modular panels are adjustable and trademarked by AlignMed as NeuroBands. Biofeedback is created by the varying tensions of the panel used to produce conscious and unconscious stimulation to support desired physiologic muscle and joint changes over time.
BODY AND SOLE
Elite football boots tend to focus on maintaining stability without sacrificing motion control, weight or kick power. Adidas has already developed the lightest shoe in the world, and now in Brazil expect to see teams using a boot that tracks speed performance data in real time.
The adiZero F50 boot can be used with an information-gathering chip – the adidasmiCoach – attached to a port on the sole to track the player’s performance. The shoe can be programmed to record stride rates, distances, average speed and sprint times, and then transfer the data to a computer or hand held device through a USB link or WiFi.
This is a game-changer for in-match data. Coaches will be able to study a player’s efficiency at half time and develop better game plans so that their key players maintain their stamina until the final whistle.
GOAL LINE DECISIONS
The ref’s ability to call whether a ball has crossed over the goal line while in the air has been a thorny issue in football for some time. Now there is a definitive solution.
GoalControl-4D is a goal line technology system which works with 14 high-speed cameras (7 per goal) around the pitch at the stadium roof/catwalk. The cameras are connected to a powerful image processing computer system (up to 500 frames per second) that filters out the players, referees and all disturbing objects – that is, it has an unobstructed focus on the ball. It picks up that ball’s three dimensional x-, y- and z-position with a precision of up to 5mm. Better yet, there will be no lengthy delays waiting for the call (are you reading this, cricket administrators?) – when the ball passes the goal line, the system sends a vibration and optical signal to the ref’s watch in less than one second.
This is no high-tech device – in fact, it’s extremely low-tech, but a brilliant solution to a problem that has plagued football. For years, sneaky defenders have crept in to cut down the official 9.15m distance on free kicks. Pablo Silva, the Brazilian developer of the vanishing spray, knows all about sneaky defenders and disappearing free kick zones. Down 1-0, he was taking a crucial free kick he knew he should make. By the time he took the shot the ball struck the defender in the stomach – he was just three metres away! Silva complained to the ref and was subsequently sent off. Vanishing spray is his redemption.
At the World Cup, referees will use the water-based, shaving cream-like foam to ensure players lining up a defensive wall against a free kick respect the 9.15m distance. Refs will also spray a circle to mark the point of infraction so that attackers don’t roll the ball forward.
The spray is not harmful to the players, the field or the ozone layer.