Nike Flight is effectively promoted as the antithesis of the Jabulani, which was criticised in South Africa a decade ago for its unpredictable nature. In contrast to the Adidas ball, which was made up of eight super-smooth panels, the Nike Flight is covered in small grooves which encourage air to move around the ball rather than gripping the surface.
After eight years of innovation at the company’s Oregon laboratory, the result, Nike claims, is a “game-changing football” which “delivers a measurable benefit of 30 per cent truer flight than its Nike predecessor”.
“The construction started with a square-shaped Aerotrack groove,” said Kieran Ronan, Nike general manager of global football equipment. “Over the course of 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.”
The ball is supposed to help deliver more accurate passing, crossing and shooting, but it may also provide goalkeepers with more certainty, particularly when dealing with long-range shots and free-kicks.
The Argentina striker Diego Forlan used the Jabulani’s wild swerve to his advantage at the World Cup, firing off long shots with regularity and enjoying plenty of success. Goalkeepers were particularly critical, with Brazil’s Julio Cesar commenting: “The football is horrible. It is like one of those you buy in the supermarket.”
Yet the ability to impart sudden dip and swerve on the ball, as demonstrated by protagonists of the knuckle-ball free-kick including Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford, might find their technique is not quite so devastating next season if the new Nike Flight takes a smoother route to goal.
It is understood the Premier League version of the ball will be coloured in the English top-flight’s bright pink and yellow colours.