A man who's kept science on the ball

February 20, 2004

Former Liverpool football star Craig Johnston is part of a movement that is revolutionising sport and giving engineering a new image, writes Ben Carlish.

His new football boot, dubbed "The Pig", is up for a top design award, and a win could bring welcome recognition of the role that science is increasingly playing in sport and bring young people flocking to engineering and sport science courses.

The Pig, which was launched last year at the Science Museum, is a technological innovation aimed at maximising the performance of the most essential piece of a player's football kit after the ball - the boot. So clever is its design that it has won its 43-year-old inventor a nomination for the FA Cup of design, London Design Museum's designer of the year awards.

The Pig is a galosh-type over-boot that is peppered with strategically placed rubber spikes. By increasing the boot's grip and purchase area, the spikes give players more control of the ball so that they can strike it with more swerve, power and accuracy.

The Pig, which straps over the boot, looks like a synthetic puffer fish.

When it strikes the ball, it makes a squealing noise when wet - hence its name.

It may not be pretty, but if Johnston's previous design is anything to go by - adidas' Predator boot - The Pig may prove to be highly effective. The Predator, which revolutionised football footwear design and became the bestselling boot of all time, is the boot of choice of such luminaries as David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane and Jonny Wilkinson.

The Australian Johnston was inspired by the rubber shoes he wore while windsurfing. He decided to incorporate rubber fins on the sole of his football boots to increase turning efficiency and weave into the design rubber nodules on the boot's toe to enlarge its "sweet spot".

Johnston, who is seeking a backer for The Pig, is one of four designers in the running for the London Design Museum's £25,000 prize, which will be announced in May.

An exhibition showcasing the designer of the year entries runs from March 6 to June 13 at the Design Museum by Tower Bridge in London.

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