Big Bang Fair reveals how to become the perfect footballer

To mark the opening day of The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair, an England international will test a formula for footballing excellence.

The formula, developed by physics students at the University of Leicester, calculates how to take the perfect set piece and will be tested by England under-17 international Riva Casley and schoolchildren attending the Fair.

Taking into account the size of the ball, the density of the air and the distance from goal, the formula can help footballers know where and how hard to kick the ball to score every time.

The formula (below) demonstrates that the distance a ball bends (D) as a result of the “Magnus Force” is related to the ball's radius (R), the density of air (ρ), the ball's angular velocity (ω), its velocity through the air (v), its mass (m) and the distance travelled by the ball in the direction it was kicked (x).

Jasmine Sandhu, a PhD student from University of Leicester specialising in Physics with Space Science and Technology, said:

“This formula may seem complicated, but in reality it is a mathematical expression of what good footballers do every time they line up a free kick or a penalty.

“For instance, if a player standing 15 metres away from the by-line kicked an average football so that it was travelling at a velocity of 35 metres per second and had an angular velocity of 10 revolutions per second, the ball would bend around 5 metres towards the goal.

"This formula can help players become more aware of how they can use spin to bend the ball in a game of football. In addition, this research is also relevant to other sports, such as tennis, which shows that physics definitely gives you the edge!"

Science and maths help improve performance of professional sportspeople, motivate and track progress of amateur athletes and broadcast the highs and lows of competitive sport to a global audience.

Ahead of the start of the new Women’s Super League season, Oxford United [1] and England footballer, Riva Casley, said:

“There’s more to being a good footballer than kicking a ball – I’m constantly learning about how science can help me perform at a higher level. Looking at how a formula can help improve my understanding of how the ball moves through the air after a free kick has been taken will hopefully help improve my performance.”

The Big Bang Fair gives young people the chance to discover the real-life applications of science and maths, from sport to medicine, from gaming to space travel.

Paul Jackson, Chief Executive of EngineeringUK, commented:

“Modern engineering is at the forefront of developments in sports technology. From sports stars to backroom experts, the sporting industry is reliant on science, technology, engineering and maths skills.

“Visitors to The Big Bang Fair will get an insight into the role of science and maths in the world of sport and in almost all areas of UK business. We hope the young people enjoying the hands-on activities and theatre shows will be inspired to continue their studies and use them in their career.

“The Big Bang Fair showcases such careers through lively, interactive activities. I urge parents to bring their children to the NEC, Birmingham to enjoy first hand the fun of the fair and find out what exciting careers their studies could lead to”.

Dr John Meeson, Assistant Director at the Institute of Mathematics & its Applications, added:

"Maths is the language of science. There are many and varied real-life applications of studying maths to an advanced level, from football to nuclear fusion. The Big Bang Fair provides a great opportunity for young people to appreciate all the careers and real life opportunities associated with maths."

The Big Bang Fair is free and runs from Wednesday 16 March to Saturday 19 March. Schools will be attending on Wednesday-Friday, with families encouraged to come on Saturday 19 March, when the hundreds of activities include a series of careers talks. For more information and tickets, go to:






University of Leicester

The University of Leicester is led by discovery and innovation – an international centre for excellence renowned for research, teaching and broadening access to higher education. The University of Leicester is ranked among the top one per cent of universities in the world by the THE World University Rankings and also among the top 100 leading international universities in the world. It is among the top 25 universities in the Times Higher Education REF Research Power rankings with 75% of research adjudged to be internationally excellent with wide-ranging impacts on society, health, culture, and the environment.

Find out more:

The full paper, ‘How to Bend it Like Beckham’, is available at:

Read a feature explaining the significance of the Physics Special Topics at:

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