For years, the entire Instep staff have swooned over every new Puma match ball and wished that we could get our hands on them. When Puma held the Ligue 1 contract for the league’s match balls, we oft wondered how the oddly shaped Puma top-tier ball would stand up to the more widely recognized Nike or Adidas match ball. Now, with the evoPower 1 Puma match ball, we have gotten our hands on the best ball that Puma has to offer and we decided to throw it out on the pitch to see what the ball had to offer. So, how does Puma’s latest entry into elite soccer balls stand?
First, the look and design of this boot is truly unique. One circular band runs along the middle of the ball and the ball has another circular shape on the ends. If the design team had been basing this on anything, I think that it would have been one too many viewings of Iron Man. The band all the way around the ball is dotted with golf-ball style dimples (think the non-leather Vapor IX), but all of the ball not covered in the band has been covered with smaller dimples similar to what is typically found on an adidas match ball. While it seems cool under hand, it seems that these might factor in to the balls performance…which we will discuss later. One thing to note is that, while some newer thermally bonded match balls seem slightly smaller than a size 5, the evoPower ball is definitely a properly sized match ball.
Although it is an amazing looking ball, the problems with this Puma release were quickly evident on the first kick around. A simple strike for a long pass saw the ball start to show the “weeble-wobble” in a knuckling fashion and this seemed to occur more often than with any other ball. While attempting to knuckle a ball can be seen as a skill, a ball that knuckles without being struck properly shows a slight defect. It could be placed down to the construction of the ball and shape, but my money would be on the differing dimpling on the casing. Two different dimpled sections on a ball being affected two different ways by the flight would make any ball fly in a sporadic manner…which I think is the case here.
The other negative aspect of this ball is the fact that is feels a bit over-padded. One of my favorite attributes of a top-end match ball is that, even when fully pumped, there is a slight padding that allows it to still feel amazing when playing with the ball. The evoPower 1 seems to go a little above and beyond in this category…making it feel a bit over-padded. Some shots that felt and sounded like full-blown power strikes looked like fluffed attempts, and it feels like the padding of the ball has some detrimental aspects.
Given that the evoPower 1 is a fair bit cheaper than the other match balls on the market, we had extremely high hopes. Sadly, while it is nothing close to a Jabulani-sized failure considering this ball will not be center stage in Brazil, the evoPower 1 is a bit of a disappointment. Puma have been really impressive with practically every release that they have put on the market in the last few years, but it might be time to go back to the drawing board with this one. As of this moment, it is better to save your money with a $50 ball or spend a little more and snag the current adidas or Nike match balls. So much promise…perhaps next time…