Whenever you think about buying a top end football, you think Nike and Adidas. But while footballs like Nike’s Setrito and Adidas’ Speedcell are arguably the two most widely recognised footballs on earth, they cost upwards of £80. It’s out of the reach of many of us. In saying that, we don’t want to fall for the monotony of a £15 football. This leaves nearly everyone in the middle band. We don’t want to get a crap football that probably won’t last for half of the season, but paying £80 is too much. Where does that leave the rest of us?
Fortunately, Puma have looked at the middle band and have come out with the PowerCat 2.10 matchball. Sharing many of the features of the top of the range PowerCat 1.10 matchball, it’s a bit like comparing the Mercurial Superfly with the Mercurial Vapor. It shares nearly all of its features, but it’s minus the spectacular price tag. I’ve had the ball for a few months – plenty of time to run the rule over Puma’s ball – and now it’s time to see if this ball can compete with the heavy hitters in the football market.
Featuring a 20 panel thermally bonded PU cover and Puma Dimple Technology (just like many of the top models on the market); these two combined together should give a predictable flight and make the ball easier to control. The flight of a football has suddenly become a hot topic after the controversies at the Festival of the Round Ball in South Africa last year, but you shouldn’t have these problems with the PowerCat 2.10. Testing the ball out with a few team mates, we all came up with the conclusion that the ball is easy to header or volley. You can rely on the ball to stick to a path and it won’t start dipping or swerving as it reaches the player.
There’s something about thermally bonded footballs that helps your ball control. When juggling the ball, you appreciate the textured feel of the ball. Because of the ball’s multi-layered construction, the ball rebounds nicely when you control the ball, whether it be receiving a 10 yard pass or a 40 yard cross field ball. I’ve used a few top model footballs throughout my career, and you wouldn’t notice the difference in feel between this and a more expensive ball.
Something you’ll notice when you pick up the ball for the first time is that the ball is quite hard. Even though the ball is quite hard, once you press your finger into the ball, it’s easy to break past the tough outer layer. This is down to the ball’s multi-layer construction, so while the inner layers are soft, the ball has a tough outer ‘skin’. This means that you’ll have to pump the ball a little less than you would for a normal ball. I normally pump a ball to about 9-10 psi (I’m a ref, we’re specific okay!) and I went by this habit when I used the ball for the first time, and boy did I know about it. The ball was way over inflated, even though this would be normal for most footballs. Once you go down to about 6-7 psi, that’s probably the best pressure for the ball. So what does this hard outer layer mean?
The best thing about the hard outer layer is that lining up and striking the ball feels terrific. When you get your laces behind the ball, you have the confidence that the ball isn’t going to float in the air. At the same time, it’s not bone breaking when kicking the ball either. As we mentioned earlier, the flight of the ball is consistent and it’s easy to keep the ball down low when you want to do it. It almost seems like you kick the ball stronger with the PowerCat 2.10.
As great as the ball is for driving or passing the ball, there are some instances that you want a bit of curve to your shot. The hard outer layer of the ball means it’s not that easy to wrap your foot around the ball and curve the ball. If you want to drive the ball, your foot breaks through the tough outer casing and the ball absolutely flies. But you don’t smash your foot through the ball when you want to curve it, so you don’t push through the hard outer casing. It’s the only real negative about the performance of the ball, but it’s a flaw that stands out when using the ball.
As you already know, Puma PowerCat 2.10 has multiple layers which have been thermally bonded, as opposed to the machine or hand stitched footballs. Nearly each of the better football’s on the market these days are thermally bonded and this is one of the keys that help to aid the durability of the ball. You should never have problems with durability if you buy a thermally bonded football and the PowerCat 2.10 is another example of the durability of these footballs. Not only that, I’ve hardly had to pump the ball over it’s testing period, which is thanks to the Puma Air Lock valve (PAL).
While this is something that really shouldn’t matter about any football product, the only other flaw that I found about the ball is related to the design. The actual pattern on the ball is clean and modern. It’s a breath of fresh air compared to the design of your Nike and Adidas footballs.
So what’s wrong with the design? It’s actually got to do with the colours on this model. While it’s hard to tell in the pictures, this ball is probably closer to a grey than it is too white. This became a problem in a situation which probably won’t occur for most people.
I was playing for my school one week and I brought this ball along as most of the footballs we use are rubbish. It was an away game near the sea and it just so happened that there was a fairly thick blanket of fog covering the ground, so much so that you couldn’t see the opposition’s goal if you were the keeper. The referee judged my ball was probably the best one available, but the ball sort of blended in with the ball and it was a little hard to see it. While I managed to work this to my advantage (true story, I crossed the ball from the right but I didn’t get my foot around the ball. I thought the keeper was going to catch it, but he couldn’t judge it through the fog and it’s sailed over him into the far top corner. I still claim to my mates that it was meant to be a shot!), this model isn’t brilliant for foggy (or maybe even snowy) conditions. So while we may scoff at the Seitiro’s claim of aiding visibility, perhaps it’s not as ridiculous as it sounds. However, the Puma PowerCat 2.10 also comes in a high-visibility option, so maybe look out for that one if you might face a similar situation that I faced.
Retailing at around £40-50, I have to admit that this ball certainly exceeded expectations. Considering I’ve played with quite a few £80+ footballs, this definitely ranks up there with them, and perhaps even exceeding them. Many people are put off by the high price of premium footballs, but I still think they are worth it, especially if they are thermally bonded. Puma have managed to find the gap in the market for those who can’t afford the premium footballs and, to be honest, this ball definitely matches the performance of those balls.