In Search of the Perfect Free Kick
Friday, September 16th, 2011
For those of you that have grown up playing the beautiful game (soccer, Global Football, or just football), I wonder how many weeks, hours or minutes you have spent being coached how to strike the ball? From my personal experience, albeit not at a professional level, I remember having 2 training sessions as a youngster. These involved demonstrations and being told in detail how to strike the ball for both power and curling kicks (as an aside the curling kick was introduced to the world in the 1950’s when a Brazilian by the name of Didi unleashed his revolutionary strike).
Now that I come to think about it, striking the ball is such a key component of the game, how did I not receive more training on the intricacies of striking the ball? Of course individually and as a team we did practise striking the ball… a lot, however the feedback on the kick was always based on the outcome of the kick rather than analysing the technique of it! Undoubtedly practice does make perfect, proven beyond any doubt to anyone who has read the book Bounce by Matthew Syed, however the overwhelming message in the book is it’s not just about practising, but more importantly practising with purpose, continually pushing the boundaries of what is possible.
To illustrate the complexities involved with striking the ball, David Beckham’s free kick has been analysed by experts citing that it is the topspin that he is able to impart upon the ball that allows it to dip. To the novice and some experts, this sounds like a reasonable explanation (anyone who has played tennis or table-tennis will also appreciate the noticeable effects of imparting top spin onto the ball). However according to Bartek Sylwestrzak’s analysis of the Beckham free kick, ‘He actually puts very little topspin on the ball, and often none at all’. It is gravity (evident in all shots ever taken by any level of footballer) that allows Beckham’s shots to dip. As his shots have little or no top spin on the ball, his best free kicks are more often than not taken from long range, rather than from the very edge of the box.
A player that has no problems striking the ball from the very edge of the penalty box, as he is able to place topspin on the ball is a Brazilian by the name of Juninho Pernambucano. Check out the video clip showing some of his goals from last season… Watch out for the strike from just outside of the 18 yard box whereby the ball goes over the wall and then bounces before the goal line, before going in, not something I was ever taught to do. And yes you are right this is possible due to the dip he gets on the ball by applying topspin. His free kick taking stats are incredible, at Lyon alone scoring 44 goals in 8 seasons; please let us know if anyone else in the world at the elite level has a better free kick record.
I am very impressed by Juninho’s striking ability, it must be stated that Marcos Assunçăo is another Brazilian maestro of kicking the ball with great technique and capable of imparting topspin onto the ball, but who is teaching these guys to strike the ball in such a way? I’ve tracked down a coach that does understand the intricacies of striking a dead ball, it would be great if England’s current and future free kick takers could learn from him…
As a final point, having watched the English Premier League over the past few seasons Xabi Alonso and Charlie Adam seem to effortlessly, consistently and with great accuracy stroke the ball around the pitch. As a sports engineer it to me seems very apparent that there is a severe lack of technology and coaching expertise being used by professional and amateur football clubs alike to assist young aspiring footballers to hone their abilities when it comes to striking the ball in order to replicate top professional such as Alonso, Adam, Juninho and Assunçăo.
Article by Jouni Ronkainen
This entry was posted on Friday, September 16th, 2011 at 4:14 pm and is filed under Balls, Boots, Football and soccer, Goalkeepers, Jouni Ronkainen, Shirts, Sports Technology Videos, Training equipment. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.