Bending a Ball

Football fans the world over were stunned by Roberto Carlos in the Summer of 1997. With a wall of defenders between the goal and him, he curled the ball around them and watched it drop into the corner of the net.

The technique Carlos and players like David Beckham use is ‘bending’ the ball, which uses natural air resistance to make a shot change direction in mid-flight.

Bending a Football

Bending a Football

Because Carlos kicked the ball with spin on its right side, after it had lost a certain amount of speed it began to drift in the direction it was spinning. Physicists still do not completely understand how such motion works, although there are a lot of very complicated theories.

The principle remains true that to bend a ball like Roberto Carlos did, you need to strike it off-centre and give it the exact amount of power and spin required. Too much power will result in too slow a bend; too little spin and there’ll be no bend to speak of.

The direction of bend depends on the rotation of the ball. A ball spinning clockwise will bend to the right; a ball spinning anticlockwise will go left.

Roberto Carlos goal – 1997

To spin a ball it is necessary to maintain contact with it for longer than a straight ‘punch’. Practice is needed to develop the right combination of power and friction from the boot. Remember that the follow through will point away from the target because the ball is struck at an angle.

Bending can be less useful for passing because teammates might be surprised by where the ball ends up! Although hardly a necessary skill, bending shots provide a potent finish to any offensive campaign. When they’re executed with panache, they can quite demoralise the opposition.