Football on Mars

How would you play football on Mars?

A trio of University of Leicester undergraduates have studied just that, looking at how the reduced Martian gravity and light conditions would alter the dynamics of a football game.

In what is effectively a very limited (2-page) study, the authors primarily look at how the reduced Martian gravity and atmosphere would mean that not only ‘hit’ footballs would travel four times the distance on Earth, but that the lack of air resistance would reduce the player’s ability to ‘bend’ the ball. The surface conclusion is that this would require a different set of skills than that of playing football on Earth, although I would argue against the authors’ point that it would require a reduced set of skills.

You can read the full study here – my main counter-points are as follows:

  • Reduced gravitational pull means that not only do distances covered by the football increase but also by the players, as it’s possible to go further with each step on Mars than on Earth (albeit it would take a lot of practice). Thus you have two options – a larger playing field or a more controlled game where ball-control becomes paramount, similar to small 5-a-side games here on Earth.
  • Lack of air resistance makes it more difficult to take advantage of spinning the ball one way or the other, requiring players to place a higher value on positioning, timing and pinpoint passing accuracy.
  • The lack of gravity and air resistance can both be countered by making a heavier ball – current footballs on Earth are deliberately made lighter to reduce air resistance and weight (i.e. effect of gravity). Doing the reverse, that is, building heaving balls, would compensate for both decreased gravity and air resistance. You could do the same for players by building heavier boots for them in order to replicate Earth conditions as closely as possible.
  • When football makes it to Mars, it will more than survive. It will, most likely, evolve and thrive in the same way football technology has evolved in the last four to six decades in response to demands for speed, flexibility and lightness.

    Football on Mars? Sign me up.