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Want to Play like a Pro? Magnus Effect and Soccer

Updated: Oct 12, 2020

Bonjour! It's nice that we bumped into each other in France. During my stay in France, I learned something amazing. It’s a secret! Promise not to tell anyone? Okay, you seem trustworthy. I know we all want to play like a pro. This secret is something you can do to score in almost any sport. Come on I’ll tell you all about as we ride to Stade De Gerland, Lyon, France. Taxi! Taxi! TAXI! Finally, a taxi pulled up! Come on! I’ll tell you the secret formula. Conduire, s'il te plaît.

To explain the secret, we have to go back in history. In 1997, the match between Brazil and France was a history. Brazilian player Roberto Carlos made one of the world's finest goal in soccer. He made a score with 35 meters out from the post with ball curving at a speed of 137mph and made an impossible goal. This spectacular move happens with any sport, but we are going to take a look at soccer (football). When Carlos Roberto comes on the field to make a penalty kick, but it seems like he will miss the goal! Suddenly, the ball turns as if it was magic, the goalie and defenders become baffled as the ball turns toward the goal.

When I watched this video, it stunned me. The science behind this goal is Fluid Mechanics. In a more specific way, it is the Magnus effect. So, what’s the Magnus effect? Magnus effect, “Generation of a sidewise force on a spinning cylindrical or spherical solid immersed in a fluid (liquid or gas) when there is relative motion between the spinning body and the fluid. Named after the German physicist and chemist H.G. Magnus”. This phenomenon applies to soccer. This effect may happen in baseball, tennis, golf, and even when playing with a frisbee.

To learn about this magnificent phenomenon, we have to turn the table over to the Magnus effect. H.G. Magnus documented a scientific answer to the spin. This kick is called the Magnus Effect or Banana Kick or a Curveball. In 1670, Sir Isaac Newton first noticed it when playing a friendly match of tennis with a friend. This effect is explained in Newton’s first law of motion: "An object at rest remains at rest, or if in motion, remains in motion at a constant velocity unless acted on by a net external force.". This phenomenon is also explained in Newton's third law of motion. Newton's third law states: "If an object A exerts a force on object B, then object B must exert a force of equal magnitude and opposite direction back on object A". Let’s get back to our soccer match. When the player kicks the ball, he gave it the direction and velocity, but what was the magic force that made it curve. Was it magic? Yes, magic is soccer physics. The magic happens in the spin! When he kicks the ball and gives the spin in the lower center of the ball. The air pressure assists in making the goal. On one side, the air was coming in the same direction as the spin. On the other side of the ball, it was going in the opposite direction of the ball spin. High pressure is created on the side against the ball spin direction and the low pressure is created on the side with the same direction as the ball spins. Which turned the ball towards the goal and made a fantastic history.

To make this remarkable history in soccer, the player needs to have precision in his kick. If he kicks the ball wide, the ball will never reach the goal. If he kicks the ball too narrow, the ball will turn its direction quickly. If he kicks the ball too aggressively, there will be no goal. Now that you will be getting what I said, this kick takes a lot of precision. The move takes months to years to learn and even longer to perfect. Don’t forget this Magnus effect applies in also many other sports. In soccer, the Magnus effect comes into the picture to make almost impossible corner kick.

We can use the Magnus effect to do all types of shots in soccer, tennis, baseball, and so on. Back to our soccer match. If our soccer player kicks it in different ways close to the center of the ball, the ball will move in different directions. If he uses the inside of his left foot, the ball will curve left. If he uses the outside of his left foot, the ball will curve right. I think its time that we talk about another sport. Let’s try baseball! When the pitcher throws the ball with a spin, it is not very likely that the batter will hit the ball. It might be easy, in some sports to learn a curveball, but in others, it might be a little tough. It is still a great move to trick your opponent.

So, the Magnus effect and force comes to effect in most sport and is an excellent way to take down your opponent. It can be explained in witty physics and of course proof from our brainy scientist Sir Issac Newton. Let’s give three cheers to Sir Issac Newton and H.G. Magnus for their contributions to the world of physics. Hip, hip hooray! We are at our stop, Lyon, France! Enjoy! Hope to see you next time! Bye!


  • To my dad who tried his best to explain to me the Magnus effect

  • My brother put this thought into me- Why does the Soccer ball change its direction and make a goal.

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