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The Nike Flight Ball: Return of football set to be graced by unique ball

Last updated 1 month ago | By Robert Abong'o and Emmanuel Too


Have you ever kicked a ball, and it spirals in the air maintaining the intended direction, only for it to be swayed by wind ending up hitting the wrong target?

Well, this has happened before even in elite leagues, causing dire repercussions in crucial contests with high stakes.

The movement of a soccer ball in the air has evolved with time, with the size, weight, and shape of the ball getting changing, rather improving.

With this, manufacturing brand NIKE has released a new generation, a state-of-the-art ‘flight ball' set will be used the next season in top-flight leagues.

The leagues include the English Premier League and the Italian Serie A’s 2020-2021 campaign. The two are among those sponsored by Nike.

 “Everything done at the Lab is rooted in science,” says Kieran Ronan, Nike GM of Global Football Equipment.

The ball’s features are something else. From afar, you can notice ridges similar to the ‘dimples’ on a golf ball.

This, the engineers say will help the ball travel straight in the air and stop the unpredictable motion of the ball once kicked.

This characteristic is meant to improve the consistency of the ball once kicked by a 30% increased truer flight on its predecessor, the ‘Merlin.’

The ball is an improvement of the contentious ‘Jabulani’ used in the 2010 World Cup. Adidas claimed that the ball was the 'roundest ever' but it moved all over the place, causing unnecessary eventualities.

This picture taken on December 4, 2009 in Cape Town shows the FIFA President Sepp Blatter posing with 'Jabulani' the official Adidas match ball for the 2010 World Cup during the handover event. Adidas, the German maker of sportswear and equipment and a top FIFA sponsor, declined to join US companies in calling for Sepp Blatter's immediate resignation on October 3, 2015 but urged reform of world football. AFP PHOTO / GIANLUIGI GUERCIA

The global company is engaged in the design, development, manufacturing, and worldwide marketing and sales of footwear, apparel, equipment, accessories, and services in the world of football.

The innovation comes to settle issues associated with the unpredictability of the movement of a ball in flight, which is often affected by aerodynamics.

The ball design according to Ronan, the Nike General Manager, has met the basic and small differences to have the best of balls.

“Here, we can detect small differences in performance that may not be perceivable to most athletes, but when those small differences are iterated upon 68 times, the result is a noticeable leap in performance,” he adds.

General view of a match ball held by Manchester United's David de Gea during the warm up before the match [Action Images via Reuters/Lee]

The Nike Flight ball now brings to conclusion an eight-year examination into improving consistency of football flight by the Nike Equipment Innovation Lab. The testing also included more than 800 professional sportsmen who participated in field testing validation before a final version was reached.

“To reduce wobble and create more predictable and consistent flight, the Nike Innovation Equipment Lab engineered a solution that promotes air movement around the ball rather than gripping its surface,” Ronan tells.

“The construction started with a square-shaped Aerotrack groove," explains Ronan.

"Throughout the 68 iterations, we modified the shape of the groove, added sculpted chevrons, and explored multiple features throughout to deliver one geometric pattern that helps promote a more stable flight."

Similarly, the design element comes in the repurposing of Nike All Conditions Control (ACC) 3D ink. Introduced in 2014, ACC helps ensure optimal grip in wet or dry conditions.

The Nike Flight ball uses the 3D ink layout to strategically print “micro flaps” along Nike AerowSculpt, dragging off of aerospace principles and further optimizing aerodynamic stability.

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