MOST football fans have a favourite goal, one they love to recall over sessions in the pub.
Such sporting classics are often surrounded by an aura of wonderment, goals so special that their images live on in the minds of those fortunate enough to have witnessed them, either live or on television.
So it is perhaps a pity that scientists have now taken the decision to dismantle one of the game’s most spectacular efforts: Thirteen years ago a stunning shot by the Brazilian left-back Roberto Carlos appeared to curve so sharply that it left the French goalkeeper Fabian Barthez looking stunned and helpless as it whizzed past him, but according to a report by the BBC, a study published in the New Journal of Physics suggests that the long-held assumption that the goal was a fantastic fluke is wrong.
So get your head around this, a French team of scientists “discovered the trajectory of the goal and developed an equation to describe it!” And this bunch of Gallic spoilsports also reckon the shot could be repeated if a ball was kicked hard enough, with the appropriate spin and, crucially, the kick was taken sufficiently far from goal.
“We have shown that the path of a sphere when it spins is a spiral,” lead researcher Christopher Clanet from the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris told the BBC. Dr Clanet described this path as a “snail-shell shaped trajectory”, with the curvature increasing as the ball travels. “On a real soccer pitch, we will see something close to this ideal spiral, but gravity will modify it,” explained Dr Clanet, “but if you shoot strongly enough, like Carlos did, you can minimise the effect of gravity.”
The crucial aspect of the wonder strike, according to the scientists, was the distance the ball had to travel to beat Fabian Barthez. “If this distance is small,” said Dr Clanet, “you only see the first part of the curve, but if that distance is large – like with Carlos’s kick – you see the curve increase. So you see the whole of the trajectory.”
The vast majority of international fixtures were played last Friday rather than over the weekend, with the second batch of European Championship qualifying games on Tuesday, apparently to give players more time to recover before their club matches next weekend. And with no Premiership or Championship games being played last Saturday, the football calendar was pretty bare. This led to one football supporter to come up with the idea of making it “non-league football day”.
James Doe, a lifelong football fan, supporter of QPR and follower of Harrow Borough FC, said the aim was to promote the semi professional game. “I urge all fans of the big clubs to get out and watch their local non-league teams instead,” said James. He added: “Given the current financial climate, clubs outside the Football League need all the support they can get, so your presence at a game will be genuinely appreciated with tickets and refreshments at a fraction of the cost.”
Worthy sentiments but unfortunately for one non-league club being in the spotlight was the last thing they wanted. Croydon Athletic, who play in the Ryman League Premier Division, have shot into the headlines because of links to the alleged Pakistan cricket betting scam. A Sunday newspaper implicated Croydon owner Mazhar Majeed in the scandal and the 35-year-old businessman is also the subject of separate investigations into alleged fraud and money-laundering.
Club chairman David Le Cluse said little has been heard from Majeed since the story broke and confirmed that investigators from HM Revenues and Customs (HMRC) had been at the Keith Tuckey Stadium to discuss the money-laundering allegations. Those allegations include claims that Majeed, a property developer who also worked as a cricket agent, laundered millions of pounds earned in global betting scams through Croydon Athletic. An undercover reporter for The News of the World recorded him saying the “only reason” he bought the club was to do this.
Croydon-born Majeed bought the club in 2008 when it was struggling in the Ryman League Division One South. On Saturday they lost 3-1 at home to Concord Rangers in front of 177 spectators. Immediately after the game the club issued a statement saying that they had been unable to pay the August wages for the players and “are faced with a number of other financial claims.” The statement went on: “Croydon Athletic FC is doing all it can to stay in business and are hoping that by publicising their plight they may find someone willing to take over the club. The League has agreed to a request from the club to postpone its next two league fixtures in order to give the club time to see if it can survive the difficult position in which it finds itself.”
Croydon also announced that manager Tim O’Shea and his assistant Neil Smith have left with immediate effect. Maybe they will be glad for the spotlight to fall back on Wayne Rooney and the other Premiership superstars next weekend.