Your Ultimate Guide to the Soccer Banana Kick

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The year is 1997. Roberto Carlos, the Brazilian soccer legend, lines up for a free kick against France. The ball is positioned tantalizingly out of scoring range. The audience collectively holds its breath, daring to hope for a miracle.

Then, it happens—Carlos strikes the ball with the precision of a surgeon using the outside of his left foot. Then, it curves in an arc around the defensive wall, leaving the defenders and the goalkeeper bewildered.

That jaw-dropping moment? That’s the soccer banana kick in all its glory.

At first, many dismissed it as a fluke. Was it really just an inexplicable twist of fate, or is there more behind this remarkable feat?

In this article, we’re diving headfirst into the world of the banana shot. Let’s kick off!

The Physics Behind the Banana Kick

Roberto Carlos’ free kick wasn’t a fluke, after all.

There’s enough science to explain what caused the ball to curve, and it all boils down to the “spinning ball spiral” or the Magnus effect.

Let’s see how getting the ball to spin around its axis can make that much of a difference.

Three Women Playing Soccer Game in the field

The Magnus Effect

According to the wise old Newton and his third law of motion, for every action, there’s an equal yet opposite reaction. This principle is the cornerstone of the Magnus effect. 

As our soccer ball cruises forward, spinning around its axis, the air rushes head-on to meet it. Now, on the left side of the ball, where the air flows along with the spin, things get speedy, and the air darts towards the center of the ball.

But on the right side, the air opposes the ball’s spin direction.

So, the air’s movement around the ball becomes lopsided. This unequal distribution of pressure is the secret sauce behind the banana kick’s swerve.

You might come across some folks describing the situation using Bernoulli’s equation. But we can just stick to the basic explanation of the Magnus effect for now—we don’t want to overcomplicate things!

Fun Facts

The Magnus effect isn’t confined to the soccer field.

It has made guest appearances in sports like golf, baseball, cricket, and tennis. Believe it or not, it even has a cameo in aircraft design and ballistics!

Using the Banana Kick Strategically: One Key Application

In dead ball situations, this move is pure gold. It allows you to curve the ball around the defenders and then whip it back towards the goal like a magician’s trick.

It’s not just theory; go back and see how Carlos’ shot fully bamboozled Fabian Barthez.

The maneuver also comes in handy for unassisted corner kicks.

So, when the game gets tough, remember that this crafty shot can be your secret weapon to outsmart the toughest layers of defense!

Legendary Banana Kicks to Learn From

Carlos wasn’t the only soccer player with jaw-dropping ball curves.

Check out these five iconic banana shots from soccer history:

  • Juninho, February 2009: Barcelona’s defense stood no chance against Juninho’s spectacular kick.
  • David Beckham, May 2003: Beckham’s trademark precision was on full display as he spun the ball past Everton’s wall.
  • Teofilo ‘Nene’ Cubillas, June 1978: Nene left Scotland’s goalkeeper wondering what just happened with his astonishing curve.
  • Garrincha, June 1966: Aside from being an awesome dribbler, Garrincha showcased his magic with a banana kick that defied belief.

Can Roberto Carlos’ Free Kick Goal Be Mimicked?

Close-up of a soccer player kicking a free kick

So, the burning question remains: can anyone else pull off Carlos’ iconic banana kick? The short answer is… maybe.

Carlos himself claimed he’d done it before against Roma while playing for Inter Milan, though never quite like that 1997 stunner. At one point, the player also thought a gust of wind lent a hand in that legendary free-kick against France.

Fast forward twenty-two years, and Carlos attempted to recreate his magic and shared the results in an Instagram post. So far, the clip has over 2.5 million views!

While he didn’t quite nail it this time, scientists say the shot isn’t impossible to mimic. They say that the shot could be replicated, provided that the player kicks the ball hard enough, around 40 meters out, and adds that special twist.

How to Do Successful Banana Kick

Do you want to master the art of the banana kick?

It’s tough, but here are some tips for a seamless ball curve:

Step 1: Choose Your Direction

First, decide where you want that ball to go to avoid the opposing team’s interception.

If you want the ball to turn left mid-air, you need to get it spinning in an anticlockwise direction. Typically, this requires hitting it with the inside of your right foot.

Step 2: Position Your Support Foot

A soccer team training indoors together

Your support foot’s toe should point slightly to the side of your target, where the ball will start its journey before curving.

Step 3: Make Contact with Your Instep

Use the inside of your foot to strike. Aim for the lower half of the ball, slightly off-center. Remember that this is key for the spin!

Step 4: Follow Through

Lock your ankle and point your toes upward inside your cleats during the follow-through.

Why Banana Kicks Are Hard to Nail

The ball skills and precision required for the banana kick are no joke.

Hit the ball too high or wide, and it’s a miss. Not wide enough? The opposing team’s defenders will intercept it.

Speed also matters. If it’s slow, it’ll swerve too early. But if it’s faster than necessary, you end with a late curve.

The Final Score

The banana kick is not just a move—it’s physics, strategy, legendary ball skills, and a dash of luck.

Mastering this curved shot might not be easy, but with determination and practice, you’ll get there. Good luck!

This article was written by

  • Mia Johnson, Fitness Expert & Soccer Coach

    Hello! I'm Mia, a high school Physical Education teacher in Orlando, Florida by day and a soccer blog contributor by night. My journey with soccer began just like any other enthusiastic player - on a local field, chasing after a ball and dreaming big. Soccer became my way to teach, inspire, and connect with others. In addition to my role in education, I've taken my passion for soccer a step further by earning a coaching qualification. This badge not only represents my commitment to the sport...