Technology

Adidas predator powerswerve

Posted on February 9, 2008. Filed under: Shoes, Technology, Video | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

I had the chance to try out a pair of the new Adidas predator powerswerve boots today. I haven’t used a pair since the predator pulse boots from a couple of years ago that I own but I was pleasantly surprised with the powerswerves. They’re part of the new Adidas range along with the adiPURE boots in use by Kaka’ and Gerard.

Although I wasn’t able to use them during a match as they belonged to the keeper on my team, I was able to get a bit of shooting practice in them. Until you put them on they’re quite flimsy and don’t feel like they’ll support the foot all that well but they are quite comfortable once laced up. They seem to have gotten the materials and design right on instep as the first thing you notice is a clean strike with good contact and excellent accuracy. The powerswerve does live up to it’s name as you can get some nice spin with them, it’s just a shame I couldn’t try them out with all the other important parts of the game. I still think I’m leaning towards the mercurial vapor 4s for my next boot but we’ll see, might try to borrow the powerserves for half a game. I’ve also heard that the new F50s are due out soon but they haven’t impressed me since switching to the tunit chassis. Nice concept but it doesn’t seem to work in my opinion.

The boots were created with help from Zidane after he finished uphis playing career at the 2006 world cup. That says a lot about the boot and that you should expect excellent control as he was one of the best trappers of the ball in the game. Apparently the powerswerve can impart 8% more swerve and 3% more power than the previous predator. It builds on the same golf and tennis technology utilised on the predator pulse by adding well-placed weight to the front of the boot for extra power.

Enjoy some Kaka’, Gerard and Messi silliness in the ad below.

Independent thoughts

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Nike Pro Compression

Posted on January 25, 2008. Filed under: Technology | Tags: , , |

So a couple of weeks ago I finally took the plunge and bought a Nike Pro sleeveless crew with zoned compression areas. I’d been wanting to get one for a while but the prohibitive price usually dispelled my desire pretty quickly. My local sports store had a sale on and I found one for half-price, sold!

The idea behind the dri-fit, compression gear is that the zoned compression areas support the muscles in those regions while the material is designed to wick sweat away from the body. I’ve always been a bit skeptical about these sorts of claims but I’d also heard some good things so I thought I give it a try. When you put the top on there is an immediate impact, you become very much aware of your posture and it’s fairly amazing how those zoned areas give you that sort of feedback. There’s also a cooling sensation in some areas which is a unique feeling too.

I’ve had some back injuries from playing in the past so I’m fairly aware of that part of my body and I definitely feel some benefits there. The support isn’t going to prevent an injury but you can feel those muscles better and the warmth would help when the cooler months roll around. The crew is well-made and robust unlike some of the lycra type products I’ve felt, seems like it will last a while.

I’m quite impressed how well Nike’s investment in new-age synthetics are paying off, much like the skin on the mercurial vapors, the dri-fit material is quite revolutionary. It combines hydrophobic and hydrophilic layers (big words for water-repelling and water-attracting respectively) to remove the moisture from your body creating a corrugated pattern on the skin. The fabric itself barely absorbs any water so it’s very effective at keeping you fairly dry. This is very noticeable and I can see it being beneficial all year round.

If you find any of these tops at a discounted price, don’t hesitate to give them a shot. They are an amazing garment with a lot of technology that actually has noticeable benefits.

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Ten years of mercurial vapors

Posted on January 20, 2008. Filed under: Players, Shoes, Technology, Video | Tags: , , , |

Continuing on with my posts of late (such as the Nike Mercurial SL Vapor IVs), I found an interesting video about the research that went into the nike mercurial vapor III. A bit late with the vapor IVs coming out very soon but I was good to watch and this is still my favourite boot (who knows until I try the IVs out). Basically them monitoring Henry as well as the Ronaldos performing various movements that occur in games.

I have another video I found which is just a Nike ad for their mercurials. It’s Ronaldo shooting hundreds of balls to show how many goals he’s scored since strapping on his first pair of mercurials in 1998. I still remember those shoes and have always lusted over them but never ended up getting a pair myself.

Other mercurial related posts…
Nike mercurial vapor IV review
Mercurial vapor 4s have arrived finally
Who is the fastest
Nike mercurial vapor IVs on the way
Nike mercurial SL (limited edition)
Nike mercurial vapors

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Nike Mercurial SL (Vapor IV)

Posted on January 16, 2008. Filed under: Players, Shoes, Technology, Video | Tags: , , , |

MercurialSLWell the Nike Mercurial Vapor IV’s are out soon and I came across this cool post on ballhype about a special variety of the new mercurials. I have the video at the end of the post if you want to see for yourself. Basically they get Asafa Powell, some terribly fast sprinter (so I’m told), to try out the new mercurial SLs. It looks all underground like a dodgy drug deal, huge black SUVs and all the timing equipment etc. ready to go. He sprints the length of a football pitch and advises the dudes around him that the boots are fast. Within seconds they’re packed away in a box with C. Ronaldo and Drogba’s names on it. Twelve ours later they arrive in London to deliver the boots to Drogba, “Asafa say’s they’re fast”.

No offence but Drogba’s anything but a fast player, amazingly gifted but not in the speed department. Christiano on the other hand is another kettle of fish but I guess if you looks at it another way, if anyone needs a speed increase, it’s Drogba.

The boots look awesome and I’m totally blown away by them. Full carbon-fibre construction weighing in at 190grams using the latest F1 technology. I think these boots would be so tough they’d never wear out! My MVIIIs are lasting for ages as it is but I can only see the glue being a weak point on these, if any. I like how they’ve done away with the lace cover on these as I don’t much care for it on the normal IVs. Only thing is that at 190grams, they weigh about the same as the normal MVIIIs. Light but not much lighter than the last pair (which were 196grams).

If you’re after a pair, you better sit down before you check the price. I saw them for 250 british pounds at prodirectsoccer but I think it’s a fair price as they are a limited run of 450 pairs to celebrate 10 years of mercurials, the shoe first designed for Ronaldo in 1998 (the original Ronaldo, Christiano was probably still playing marbles at that stage). A lot will end up as collector’s items but personally, I’d love play in them week in and week out. You’ll also have to wait till May the 19th, just in time for Euro 2008.

Check out the other video after the Asafa Powell clip of C. Ronaldo taking on a Bugatti Veyron, I kid you not. It’s not as silly as it first seems because even though the Veyron only has 1000 horsepower (basically two v8s stuck together with four turbochargers bolted on), they race him a short distance (in the wet) and then have to beat him back in reverse. Basically a test of acceleration, stopping and turning. If you want a good review of the mercurial IV’s, head over to footy-boots as always.

Other mercurial related posts…
Nike mercurial vapor IV review
Mercurial vapor 4s have arrived finally
Who is the fastest
Nike mercurial vapor IVs on the way
Ten years of mercurials
Nike mercurial vapors

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Adidas Europass ball

Posted on December 26, 2007. Filed under: Technology, Video |

I found a really cool clip on the onion bag blog about the production of the Adidas Europass ball that will be in use in the 2008 Euro competition (although there vid seems to be gone now for some reason?). It fits in nicely with the post I wrote a couple of months ago on soccer ball technology. So amazing the way they create and test these balls.

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Adidas Predator Pulse

Posted on December 12, 2007. Filed under: Shoes, Technology | Tags: , , , , |

Adidas Predator PulseTo go with the release of the new Predators, the Adidas Predator Swerve as discussed on footy boots and to follow up my post about the Nike Mercurial Vapors, I thought I’d post about a pair of Predators that I’ve owned (well, in fact still use on occasion), the Predator Pulse.

These were released in 2004 about the time of the Euro cup (although so were the F50s, I had the white ones for a brief period, don’t mention wet pitches with those shoes!). I grabbed a pair of blue ones in mid-2005, the ones that Kaka’ was using for a while on the national team (I think these were the Pulse 2 as they received a minor update). I fell in love with the look and colour.

They are quite a different boot to the light, synthetic nikes that I also own. Not that they’re heavy but you can feel that they are a more robust, powerful, striking boot. The pulse built on top of a pedigree of an aggressive boot that has left it’s mark on the modern game. The predator has always been about ball-control. Being able to strike, spin and trap the ball effortlessly.

With these boots Adidas introduced the “PowerPulse” technology. They carefully and precisely distributed weight towards the forefoot of the boot to create a high amount of power as the player strikes the ball. The technology was heavily based around the same developments in the golf and tennis industry. The simple formula of mass (the boot) times speed (your kick) is what generates power.

The extra weight is noticeable but not to the point where it adversely affects other areas. Ball control is great but you can still run at someone at pace (not quite like the vapors though). Shooting with these boots is where it’s at. I’ve hit a few from distance that have turned out to be amazing shots. In the newer predators they’ve move the weight to the insole which allows you to customise the boot for speed or power. A nice touch even though the difference will never be huge.

While Nike has developed it’s synthetic to near perfection, Adidas has focused on it’s amazing K-leather. Based on Kangaroo leather (as a side note: I read that Kangaroo leather products were banned for a time in the US, odd because they are actually a pest, no matter how cute they are), the end product is softer that traditional cow leather but still quite durable. Because it is leather, there is a wearing in period but it’s rarely more than a couple of weeks and once worn in they are very comfortable. The boots also used “power” and “swerve” elements which are just the different polymer materials on the instep/top of the boot to help grip the ball and deliver either more power or spin respectively. Interestingly the new boot is called just that, PowerSwerve…

I’ll have to try the new Predators out sometime soon and post a review but I’ll probably look further into the history of the predators later.

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Nike Mercurial Vapors

Posted on October 28, 2007. Filed under: Shoes, Technology | Tags: , , , , , |

Nike Mercurial Vapor III Following on from a couple of posts I made about the technology involved in soccer (first with soccer balls then monitoring/statistical equipment), I thought I’d look into the latest innovations in soccer boots/cleats. What better shoe to start with then the Nike Mercurial Vapors. Not that I’m a Nike man or anything but I’ve got the first version of this boot (released in 2002 just before the world cup) and the third version also. I feel that Nike has found the best synthetic material to date for the upper in the third edition of these boots.

They were quite revolutionary when they first came out as being the lightest boots ever made. They weighed in at a paltry 196 grams per boot. This weight has pretty much remained the same throughout the newer versions. Because of the low weight, they were ideal for fast players such as wingers and strikers but weren’t so suited to defensive work because the synthetic was so thin you feel everything, including each hard tackle!

However, because the synthetic was so thin, the touch, feel and control was almost like you weren’t wearing boots at all. It speaks a lot about the material in the upper and that the perfect balance was found in a material that’s elastic, comfortable, water-repellent and extremely hard-wearing. In fact the material in the III’s have lasted almost two years without sign of failing (which is impressive considering how often I play and the workout I tend to put my shoes through). Although I didn’t wear my original vapors as often, I still have them and only the glue on the underside is starting to give, not the synthetic upper. That’s 5 years I’ve had those shoes!!!

The original vapors were very narrow. This wasn’t a problem for me with my clown type feet but many with broader feet would struggle. I also found them very awkward to cross with at first but got used to them soon enough. The biggest problem with the originals was the heel. Right at the top of the heel, Nike may as well have used a cheese grater because the blisters you’d end up with were horrific! I needed to use band-aid’s and strapping tape religiously around the heel to play without getting injured just from running. Apart from that they were fine.

The vapor IIs I can’t say a lot about because I didn’t own a pair of these. They seemed close enough to the originals with many other colour choices and it seems they fixed up the heel problems quick smart! Apparently the synthetic was also thicker in the IIs to make them a more general boot that didn’t hurt so much to get stepped on!

As I said before, with the IIIs, they perfected the synthetic upper to create something similar to leather but thinner and bringing all the benefits of a synthetic microfibre. Apart from that, the boot was broader to accommodate larger feet and actually had the core built around carbon-fibre and glass-reinforced nylon (the carbon-fibre you can see on lifting up the sole and around the heel on the bottom, very cool). Also they did a lot of work on the heel counter to lock the foot and boot together and stabilise the ankle. This worked quite well but depending on your foot, did take time to get used to and in my case seemed to fatigue a few muscles I didn’t even know about. It only took a little while to get used to and was probably more a result of my dodgy ankles that have been rolled one time too many! It also protects the heel area very well (and the tender Achilles tendon) because it’s is very solid and hard.

Apparently the MV IVs are on the way soon. There were some leaked pics going around but I rarely trust them and they didn’t look that great either. Oh well, time will tell, hope they are another step up like the IIIs were.

Check out the other research Teijin and Nike teamed up to produce. Interesting stuff for those skeptical about benefits of the dri-fit, etc. type materials (myself included at one stage).

Other mercurial related posts…
Nike mercurial vapor IV review
Mercurial vapor 4s have arrived finally
Who is the fastest
Nike mercurial vapor IVs on the way
Ten years of mercurials
Nike mercurial SL (limited edition)

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Soccer technology 2

Posted on October 11, 2007. Filed under: Technology |

Continuing on from my earlier post about soccer ball technology I wanted to explore some other high-tech advances that are going on behind the scenes of the modern game. The areas of match analysis, game statistics and player performance monitoring may have a limited impact on most followers of the world game but they are becoming invaluable to coaches and technical staff of major clubs.

There are basic systems that analyse match footage and can provide statistics such as the number of tackles and passes, etc. The more advanced systems use GPS tracking for real-time positional and movement data. Later on (post-match), computer tracking is added and this can be complemented with a video analysis montage system. The analyst can then jump to areas of interest very quickly and view the footage for that action. Some systems can positions and track movements using an autonomous vision system based on cameras installed around the pitch.

Research is being undertaken into some fairly interesting systems. The researcher discusses collecting the following statistics; distance covered, running speed, tasks (such as runs, jumps, interceptions, crosses, passes, touches, throw ins, shots and headers) among other individual actions. Also team performance including channels of ball circulation, possession, turnovers, styles of play, interaction zones, game pace, etc.

This level of statistical information could allow highly accurate virtual matches and scenarios to be played out using real data on real players. Coaches would be able to set up various formations, tactics and line-ups to do battle with the their next opponent to see what works best. The processing power of todays hardware could churn through countless simulations and benching a certain player could be backed up with quality data about their current performance or perhaps a simulation where they aren’t quite suitable for the selected formation/strategy.

It’s not the most difficult task for current image recognition technology to collect this data. A background of all green grass and players in distinctive colours (although the sheer number of objects to track and camera positioning about the field does affect the accuracy). Add some physical trackers to the players and ball for precise position/velocity data and tie this into the system for much better certainty?

I’m not sure how precise global positioning systems are at resolving the exact location of a player but I have noticed after some televised matches they sometimes display the distance covered of a particular player over the course of the match which could come from GPS data (but is more likely from camera technology as global positioning systems can be quite bulky). I dare say that soon enough, incredibly small global positioning systems will be available. In Australia, they show the heart rate of players during AFL (Australian-Rules Football League, think Gaelic football with an egg-shaped ball!) matches so it would be interesting to see that in soccer. It may already be in use during training but I haven’t heard mention of it in actual matches.

Personally I feel that these advances could do a great deal for the modern game. For coaching, training, player development, injury prevention and most importantly, deadly accurate statistics for video games like winning eleven/pro evo soccer! hehe. As for it’s use in real matches, I wouldn’t want the technology to interfere with the game in any way but it should definitely be used to clear up certain situations, such as whether a ball really did cross the goal line when there are hard to call cases. As for monitoring offsides I don’t know if that’s such a good idea unless it can be performed quickly, accurately and seemlessly (certainly not with slow video replays as seen in some other sports!!!).

For more information, check out www.soccerperformance.org which contained a lot of the information in this post.

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Soccer technology

Posted on September 30, 2007. Filed under: Technology | Tags: , , , , |

Ever wondered about the amount of technology that goes into soccer? I’ve always known that many products have a lot of technology and research involved, from the high quality leathers and synthetics on modern shoes to the latest innovations in ball design and testing. But I decided to have a good look into these technologies starting with soccer balls.

Historically (based on references and legend), early balls ranged from human heads, stitched up cloth, animal and human skulls to pig or cow bladders! Glad that’s not the case anymore!!

Before vulcanised rubber, balls were made from inflated pig bladders. This made the shape very irregular so you can imagine how hard it was to curl in a well-placed free-kick. In 1855 the first rubber soccer ball was made and we were on the path to our modern soccer balls.

Even though the English FA created the rules to the game in 1863, it wasn’t until 1872 that they agree on a size for the ball and the fact that it had to be spherical! It’s interesting to note that a weight was also given and that has basically remained the same until now.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s it was the type of the leather and how well it was sewn that decided the quality of the ball. As time went on, the construction of the panels allowed for a rounder ball but the problem with these leather balls was that they became water-logged and were painful to head due to the stitching. Eventually coatings and paints as well as better valves were introduced to reduce some of these problems.

In the 60s, synthetic balls were introduced but not until the 80s did they fully replace leather balls because initially they were less predictable in flight. In the 86 world cup, the “Azteca” ball was the first polyurethane ball used. It was great in the wet and very resistant to wear. The 90 WC ball was the “Etrvsco” and it introduced the black, internal neoprene foam which kept the ball water-tight.

In 94, the “Questra” had a layer of polystyrene foam that reportedly made it more water-tight, allowed greater acceleration when kicked and allowed better ball control. World cup 98 saw the famous “Tricolore” ball introduced, the first coloured ball (using the french flag’s colours). It had a newer type of foam that made it even softer and faster than the Questra. The “Fevernova” was the ball of the 2002 WC finals and was made up of 11 foam layers! Apparently this was to increase the ball’s accuracy when in flight. The technology reduced that amount of energy absorbed by the ball, rather it increased the rebound effect for higher velocities. The ball was small and heavy (the lower and upper FIFA limits respectively) as this made it more accurate.

It was a fast ball but was very controversial. Top players like Buffon, Rivaldo, Roberto Carlos and Edmilson criticised it. It was said that it felt too bouncy and light and it soared too far when kicked. Only Beckham has good things to say about it’s accuracy but sponsorship by Adidas may have biased his opinion a tad 🙂

Finally 2006 saw the unveiling of the TeamGeist ball for Germany. The amazing new panel shape was designed to reduce the number of corners and panels (14 panels instead of 32 for the usual buckyball type soccer balls). The ball is rounder as there are less seams and this improves accuracy. A patented Thermal Bonding process makes the new ball almost completely waterproof with identical performance characteristics wet or dry. It’s astounding that it only absorbs 0.1% of it’s weight in water (compare that to FIFA’s guidelines allowing a maximum of 10%!).

All of the information here was summarised from soccerballworld. Check out the site, there’s much more info there (especially about the history and about the Teamgeist).

There is also info about the euro 04 ball, the “Roteiro”. I found it pretty amusing because it had a statement from Beckham that read as follows…
“The most important thing for me is to know that I can rely on the ball to go exactly where I want it to go. The new Roteiro reacts very well to my foot. When I’ve helped adidas to test the Roteiro in Madrid, I’ve noticed that the accuracy of my corners, my passing and, of course, my free kicks improved from using this ball. When you’re kicking it, it even sounds better. No one has ever seen anything like this before. I think it is great to kick and it’s going to be a great ball to play with. Keepers are going to have a very tough time.”
Should’ve practised those penalty kicks a bit better hey Dave?

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