FanDuel - WFBC

June 14, 2010

Designer Defends Jabulani World Cup Ball: Senior Adidas product designer Janneke van Oorschot, the creator of the Jabulani soccer ball, is feeling defensive about the criticism by goalkeepers and others about how it is performing at the World Cup. New York Times columnist George Vecsey writes: "The unifying factor I noticed ... was the desperation of goalkeepers trying to track the new spheroid foisted on them by Sepp Blatter and his merry band from FIFA. The ball swerves and knuckles and dips and skips so viciously that it will surely lead to a collective nervous breakdown among keepers before this World Cup is out." Oorschot's response: "We tested it so thoroughly that we can say at this moment it is the best ball in the market today. And in the end it's the team that has to play with the ball. It's about the game and not about the ball."

posted by rcade to soccer at 11:03 AM - 20 comments

Can someone just start a blog tracking the every-four-years whinging about the ball so we have a permanent record and can point to a link when 2014 rolls around?

posted by kokaku at 11:14 AM on June 14

This is the talk of every World Cup (or at least the last 3 or 4). Someone makes a big deal about the ball, it's a minor story for a week, and then everyone forgets about it.

If this ball is so difficult to track and stop, how come it took 8 matches before more than 2 goals were scored in a match? I don't have any numbers in front of me, but I doubt that is a significant (if any at all) departure from the norm. If anything, I would be willing to entertain an argument that this ball made it easier for shots to sail high or wide, but I don't think that's the ticket either. FIFA has weight specifications for the ball, and this one falls in the range. In the end, when both teams are kicking the same ball, as long as it rolls and bounces, what difference does it make?

posted by bender at 11:18 AM on June 14

Why mess with ball every World Cup?

Think of other sports - baseball, hockey, basketball, football ... the balls / puck never change for simple "artistic impression".

Guess I'll add this as another part of soccer I simply don't understand, below the poetic descriptions of the plays and the 'looganism of the fans.

posted by cixelsyd at 11:37 AM on June 14

The ball swerves and knuckles and dips and skips so viciously that it will surely lead to a collective nervous breakdown among keepers before this World Cup is out."

This oughta be fun.

posted by mjkredliner at 12:14 PM on June 14

Like keepers aren't already mental.

They design a new ball every time so they can market and sell a new ball to the masses. What they fail to understand is that the kind of mug who would pay more than 80 quid for a ball in the first place would probably do so every time even if the only difference they made to the ball is on the paint job.

We tested it so thoroughly that we can say at this moment it is the best ball in the market today

Well then, the computers say it's better, so it must be. And all the players must be wrong. Stupid humans.

posted by JJ at 12:46 PM on June 14

If this ball is so difficult to track and stop, how come it took 8 matches before more than 2 goals were scored in a match? I don't have any numbers in front of me, but I doubt that is a significant (if any at all) departure from the norm. If anything, I would be willing to entertain an argument that this ball made it easier for shots to sail high or wide, but I don't think that's the ticket either. FIFA has weight specifications for the ball, and this one falls in the range. In the end, when both teams are kicking the same ball, as long as it rolls and bounces, what difference does it make?

The counterargument (not that I necessarily support it) is that the ball being a bit harder to control has led to sloppier play and mis-hit balls in the build-up, crossing, etc., which could also explain the lack of goals. I agree, though, that it should affect (for better or worse) both teams equally. I assume some stat-heavy person or organization could compare scoring, percentage of passes completed, percentage of shots that are on goal, etc. for the games of this tournament thus far compared to other WC tournaments or competitive internationals to try to better isolate the actual effects of the ball, but soccer does not seem to have the community of stats-focused professionals and amateurs that certain other sports have.

posted by holden at 01:50 PM on June 14

So you're saying nerds don't like soccer?

posted by wfrazerjr at 01:55 PM on June 14

The ball swerves and knuckles and dips and skips so viciously...

From what I've seen so far, every shot from outside the box has sailed high, wide and straight into row Z. Where is this swerving and dipping he's on about?

posted by afx237vi at 02:03 PM on June 14

I'm with you on this, afx237vi, but I wonder if it isn't the altitude (air thinness, pressure?) or the ball or both?

Ten games in and no goals from direct free-kicks. In fact, they haven't even come close. No real bend, no hitting the post, no saves, none on target, not even close. We're talking about kicks from Argentina and England, who have well-known specialists. I'm watching for even one on-target free-kick (let alone a free-kick goal) from Spain, Portugal and Brazil.

posted by worldcup2002 at 02:30 PM on June 14

The shot from the Cameroonian player from distance (about 25-30 yards?) in the 85th-ish minute of the Cameroon-Japan game was pretty much on target, except for the matter of that pesky crossbar.

posted by holden at 02:43 PM on June 14

Every sport that I am aware of has a specification written into the rules for the ball (or puck). Every sport, that is, except soccer. Why is this? With a worldwide governing body and national associations, let alone all of the club leagues, one would think this had been done years ago. Other than the financial interest of FIFA in selling balls every 4 years, there is no valid reason.

posted by Howard_T at 02:58 PM on June 14

Football does have a specification written into the rules for the ball.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 03:01 PM on June 14

The ball specification isn't airtight.

posted by worldcup2002 at 03:03 PM on June 14

Other than the financial interest of FIFA in selling balls every 4 years, there is no valid reason.

Ding!

posted by grum@work at 03:27 PM on June 14

Holden is spot on. During one of yesterday's games the announcers mentioned that up to then there were half the goals than at the same point in 2006, though this doesn't account for the possibility that the first six-seven games might have featured less competitive matches this time.

Still, after watching 7 1/2 of the first 11 matches I am not seeing any kicks doing much of the down part of the arc still in the field of play. Germany made roadkill of the Aussies (sorry Owlie) but even so all of their goals came on basically straight shots.

posted by billsaysthis at 04:50 PM on June 14

I haven't kicked one of the things, but something's up with the ball, which is highlighted in the games at altitude.

It does look harder to control - in the Netherlands/Denmark game both sides made elementary mistakes, and long distance passes/crosses are regularly overhit. Other games have been similar. Free kicks are harder to keep down, which could explain why we haven't seen a goal yet from one of them.

However these problems are less obvious at sea level. Germany/Australia was in Durban, and the Mannschaft had no issues with the ball in running over the Koalaroos, to follow bill's analogy.

posted by owlhouse at 05:44 PM on June 14

Germany have also been using the ball in their domestic league since January.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 05:55 PM on June 14

The ball wasn't a factor in Italy Paraguay (sea level at Cape Town) either. I wonder if they reduce the pressure in the ball for games played at altitude, which I seem to recall they do for rugby. Anyone know?

posted by owlhouse at 09:26 PM on June 14

I only watch soccer or futball during the World Cup, and I'm certainly no expert, but it does seem as though excellent players are missing shots and passes on a much greater scale than usual.

I watched the England- US game and saw how incredulous the Brit players reacted to kicks that I thought were certain goals go completely awry.

posted by irunfromclones at 02:12 AM on June 15

@Howard_T: "Every sport that I am aware of has a specification written into the rules for the ball (or puck). Every sport, that is, except soccer."

This is just wrong. Insanely wrong. It isn't that hard to Google the official Laws of Football and FIFA (more specifically: IFAB) specifications for the ball, you know.

There are quite specific parameters for the size, shape, weight, and air pressure that all football manufacturers have to adhere to. The Jabulani ball fits within those official parameters.

But there's a lot of room to play with inside those official parameters, especially as new technologies, materials, and manufacturing techniques become available.

After the abandonment of external stitches, and later the replacement of leather with synthetic materials, the football hasn't really changed all that much - these complaints are mostly players complaining for the sake of complaining or trying to provide excuses beforehand in case they don't perform well at the World Cup.

It's not like baseball where the ball has been deliberately redesigned over the past century and a half to change the nature of the game (ie, the dead ball era, post-dead ball era, etc). Or American gridiron football which literally changed the shape of its "ball" to improve the passing game, at the expense of the kicking game.

posted by dave2007 at 04:02 AM on June 20

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