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by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

Anyone who watches games on a regular basis has certainly seen incidents of the ball bouncing in an unexpected way, whether it be by a player bouncing it on the run, from an umpire at the center bounce or a ball-up around the ground. The commentators will sometimes refer to ".. an unkind bounce ...". The AFL recently allowed umpires to recall the ball if they felt their bounce was offline.

If the AFL takes up the offer from academic engineer Dr. Firoz Alam that could all change. Alam specializes in aerodynamic research for planes, trains and automobiles with an instinct and ideal for perfection, something he admits he has yet to achieve. He has used the wind tunnel at work (one of the biggest in the southern hemisphere) to test the aerodynamics of balls from cricket, golf, tennis, and the various football codes. He recently tested the latest soccer ball which will be used in this year's World Cup - the Adidas Jabulani. According the manufacturers, the ball is made of only eight ''thermally bonded'' and ''spherically molded'' panels and, is the roundest and most accurate soccer ball ever. Alam loves soccer balls, describing them as "... so balanced, so predictable and perfect, so … spherical ... absolutely beautiful ...". According to Alam, it is extremely difficult to achieve such perfect spherical geometry and even more difficult to achieve the desired ball behavior.

Alam, who was born in Bangladesh and educated in Russia, has never been to a footy game and has no love for the old Sherrin (first produced by Tom Sherrin in 1879) due to its odd behavior. He believes the ball can, and should, be modified to improve accuracy. Alam said that the seams should be molded and made flush with the surface of the ball. He believes such modifications could improve goal kicking accuracy as well as player to player accuracy. Ted Hopkins, who kicked four goals for Carlton against Collingwood in the famous 1970 Grand Final comeback win, has been interested in aerodynamics of the ball since 1993. Hopkins, founder and owner of AFL statistics company Champion Data, caused a bit of a stir in 1993 when he wrote in The Age that he thought printing the McDonald's logo on the ball would affect the flight of the ball. He believes Alam's modification ideas would help decrease "... ugly, defensive football, congested play, and a rising handball count ...".

The AFL was contacted for their opinion on the subject. A spokesperson at League headquarters said the AFL "... would rather not ... comment''.

Source:, ed. notes

Article last changed on Friday, May 28, 2010 - 11:37 PM EDT

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