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The Physics of Football

Are you a football super fan? Are you also interested in science? Here, we will look into the physics behind football – perhaps it could improve your own skills or tactics, or even just give you a firmer understanding of how the game works!



If you play football, you may not even realise the physics that is going on whilst your body makes quick reactions within the game. The angle at which your foot makes contact with the ball, and the force with which it is kicked, determines its path. To make the ball go further, it obviously has to be kicked harder. However, being kicked at 45 degrees from the ground will create the optimum projectile.




In football, penalties are taken a mere 12 yards from the goal. Since this distance is so short, the goalkeeper needs to make a decision before the ball is even kicked! Where should they go? Michael Bar-Eli at Ben-Gurion University did some in-depth analysis of penalties and found that actually if the keeper stayed in the middle, they would have a greater chance of saving the goal.




Football is very fast paced; accurate passing is vital to ensure that the other team will not intercept the ball. Imagine you and your teammate are sprinting down the pitch. You are dribbling the ball and you need to pass it to them whilst you are both moving forward. You must judge their speed and direction (which combined is their velocity) to predict where they will be after you release the ball towards them. Correctly doing so makes the perfect pass, along with well-measured force behind the kick and, again the right angle!





Players must try to never let the ball get out of their control. The ball will bounce differently according to what material it bounces off. A harder surface will bounce better and go further. Using the foot or forehead will make a harder impact. If the ball interacts with a softer surface, the bounce will be more cushioned and controlled. Softer parts of the body that can be used include the chest and thigh. Depending on what kind of move the player wants to execute (based on how much bounce and what level of control the landing requires), the most appropriate body part will be used.


Without realising it, all decisions made by a player during a football match will have physics reasoning behind them. The probability of a goal being scored, the quality of a pass, the bounce of the ball – these can all be explained with the laws of physics. Try applying some of these findings in your next game and see if they make any difference!


Watch these videos to find out how to take the perfect penalty and how to save the perfect penalty!