Recently I was sent a link to a YouTube video posted on 4 January 2019 titled Mind Control, in which Arthur Fulford claims to show footballers using psychokinetic influence to direct the ball. The video’s description states: ‘Obviously the scientists haven't checked this out – but I recon (sic) that footballers use their hands to manipulate a forcefield that helps them control the ball. Take a look.’ It is an intriguing idea, so I thought I would.
The video itself begins: ‘The best footballers appear to have the ball attached to their hand [as if] by a piece of string. By using their hands they exert a force over the ball. Here are some examples of strange acceleration, deceleration as well as change in direction of the football that are due to players using their hands.’ It must be stressed the hands are not in physical contact with the ball, but are apparently being used to direct a mental influence from the player to the ball to assist in controlling it.
A number of factors need to be taken into account in assessing the claim, such as: the condition of the pitch; dampness versus dryness; wind speed and direction; the speed, spin and curve of the ball (Bernoulli's Principle); the player's balance and direction of travel; the contact between boot and ball; the angle of the camera filming the action; and random arm movements that might seem to correlate with those of the ball.
There are seven clips in Mind Control, each preceded by a short summary explaining what to look for, and the clips are repeated numerous times. I came away impressed by the ability on display, if not sufficiently to consider those in the top rank worth their obscenely bloated pay packets. But bearing in mind these are players who can do amazing things with a ball through constant practice, I think that what is presented here is a long way from evidence of psychokinesis. These are my thoughts on each of the examples in the video:
Pogba's ball seems to my eye to travel in a straight line, and his arm goes up to maintain balance and facilitate his turn. He may even be following through the movement of the ball with his arm as he focuses on the ball’s flight to the goal, but that is not the same as saying there is cause and effect. The summary mentions Pogba exerting ‘a telepathic force on the ball’ but this should be psychokinetic force.
Sanchez's ball is probably spinning, and while he does push his head forward, following the trajectory of the ball he has just headed, I cannot see the ball deviate from the curve initiated by the previous kick, nor speed up.
Edinho's play is brilliant, but again I cannot see the ball acting in a manner that suggests normal dynamics have been contravened.
Messi waves his arm but the ball does not seem to do anything unexpected, and after a quick glance to check the position of the ball as he receives it, he focuses on where to deliver his own shot, which suggests the suspected arm movement is unconnected with the ball.
In the first Giroud clip, he catches the ball on his foot, it goes behind him, he turns and kicks the ball; all seemingly natural with no psychokinetic influence. In the second his footwork is nifty and he does not require any extra help in controlling the ball. The hand movement looks synchronised but the ball's descent seems to be what one would expect from the preceding bounce, and both arms are being used for balance.
Lukaku chases the bouncing ball, but if its speed has slowed appreciably in flight it is certainly not obvious, as the speed looks constant. Judging by the way his opponent slides on his knees it is possible the ground is wet, and the ball accordingly bounces sluggishly.
As well as watching the arms in all these clips as instructed, I was watching the ball, and cannot say from its behaviour that there was anything unambiguously paranormal going on. Really, if players were able to control the ball using some form of PK it seems likely they would be aware of it, and I cannot believe it would remain secret even if there was a feeling among some of them that such an admission could be embarrassing.
Of course it may be possible that some footballers are able to employ psychokinesis, and perhaps it was used in these clips and I missed it despite repeated viewings. However, these players seem talented enough as it is, without the additional ability to control the ball using their minds. If they can use their minds, why do they need their hands to direct the influence anyway? And where are the examples of players using the ability to pull the ball away from their opponents?
Arthur indicates at the end of the video that this is merely a sample and there are many more to be seen once the viewer focuses on the player’s hands rather than feet. Perhaps compelling examples will emerge from sustained study of football match recordings (preferably watched on a high definition screen), and the obvious step of investigating the theory under controlled conditions could then be carried out, particularly among footballers less skilled than those shown in the clips; those selected here are players whose level of skill provides a confounding variable. In the meantime, the answer seems less likely to be found in psychical research than in physics and the possession of magic (in the metaphorical sense) boots.