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Fitness Testing Newsletter: World Cup Science

Hi and welcome to the June 2010 fitness testing newsletter about Science and Football (Soccer). With the World's greatest sporting event currently well underway, I thought it was a good time to discuss the role of science in soccer. I'll use the term 'soccer' as the majority of readers are from the US where this term is more common, and I am from Australia where it is also what we call this sport.

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Fitness Testing For Soccer

As with most team sports, there are a range of fitness components that are important for success. In soccer, aerobic fitness is one of the most important attributes, closely followed by anaerobic fitness (running speed and repeat sprint ability) and agility. A fitness testing battery for soccer players should include tests for the following:

For more about fitness testing for soccer, see 

Soccer Physics

There has been discussions that the "Jabulani" ball used for the 2010 World Cup does not react as many players expect. The physical attributes of the ball can be modified, but the laws of physics cannot. The movement of the soccer ball through the air is affected by the initial forces applied to it by the head or the foot, then while it is in the air, gravity and aerodynamic forces can cause it to curve. Putting rotation on the ball can cause it to bend in the air like a baseball curve ball. A free kick has been measured at speeds up to 70 mph speed with a spin of 600 rev/min. David Beckham famously uses spin imparted on the ball to curve a free-kick around a defensive wall and goalkeeper to score his goals. Calculations show that at 25 m from the goal and a velocity of 25 m/s, Beckham can swing the soccer ball 4.57 m from the straight path by using spin.

More on Physics and Soccer: 

Soccer Technology

Many people will agree that there is a need for goal line technology in soccer, highlighted by the 'no goal' by England in their recent match. It was obvious to the millions watching on TV that the ball had crossed the goal line. FIFA are reluctant to embrace technology compared to other sports such as cricket, tennis and American Football, where technology has been successfully implemented, and in general the fans have welcomed it. There are two main options for goal line technology in soccer, the smart ball and Hawkeye. The "smartball" is loaded with an computer chip, and uses a network of receivers around the field designed to track the ball's precise position in real time - including exactly when it has fully passed the goal line. That information would be relayed in less than a second to a watch-like device worn by the referee. For Hawkeye, a technology successfully implemented for other sports, the system uses three cameras focused on each goal-line, and each taking footage at 600 frames a second. This is able to give a definitive decision on whether the ball has fully crossed the line, and relay this information in the form of an audible beep to the central referee within half a second. The technology is there, FIFA just need to take the step to implement it.

More on Soccer Technology: 

About this Newsletter

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Rob Wood

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