Manchester City

Jabulani Disaster

Moan, moan, whine, whine, that’s all you get from those goalkeeper folk. Now their whinging on about the World Cup ball again. So what if its too light, so what if it swerves all over the place, so what if you can’t judge its flight, so what if it means you make a heartbreaking and humiliating mistake in the biggest game of your career rendering you a figure of hated, ostracised by the nation, causing frail old women to toddle up and spit cruelly in your face as you pop down the shop trying to forget that horrible howler, just GROW UP!

Indeed, the ‘Jabulani’ has been widely criticised; with the likes of Iker Casillas, Gianluigi Buffon and Julio Cesar vocally asserting their concerns. Tim Howard is the latest name to pass judgment; suggesting the ball is far too light, and thus extremely difficult to read certain situations and the flight of the ball. He is also concerned over whether it might ‘come back and bite’ him, as we’re going to see ‘some crazy things with the ball’.

So, have Adidas produced a disaster in the Jabulani? Well, such concerns are nothing new: footballs have been continually getting lighter, whilst pretty much any major tournament ball is now met by disapproval from the GTU (goalkeeper’s trade union). This is understandable since it continually makes their job all the more perilous, but for us fans it’s all quite fun; more spectacular goals, more of the unexpected.

Having been manufacturing footballs since 1963, Adidas’ tenure as the official supplier for World Cup balls commenced during Mexico 1970. FIFA were looking for standardisation from a reliable and respected brand; the German company boasted these attributes and notable research facilities. This saw the launch of the famous and iconic ‘Telstar’. Telstar – short for ‘television star’ or star of television – was designed with 32 black and white panels rather than the standard one-colour design. This made it more distinguished on television – still largely black-and-white, though colour TV was slowly becoming a more viable option for some – and ensured it became a staple image, whilst embedding Adidas’ continued future as the official manufacturers. The ball was also the first ‘official’ one to use the Buckminster design; named after American architect Richard Buckminster Fuller who came up with the design when trying to construct buildings using a minimum of materials. Indeed, this ‘set the ball rolling’ for the modern use of synthetic leather patches sewn together, rather than sewn up with laces, and allowed for a more spherical and swerve-inducing product.

Skip forward a few decades – through the reduction of water-absorption, attempts at increasing flight accuracy, the increasing use of synthetics and other blah blah science stuff – and we focus more sharply on flighty features. For USA 1994, FIFA apparently wanted a football that would help produce a more exciting and dynamic competition than four years previously – Italia 1990 spawned the lowest goal-per-game average and is often regarded as a relatively poor tournament – so Adidas dutifully delivered. The Adidas Questra was lighter and more responsive, bending in the air like never before. Allegedly, this was seen as important in creating exciting games for the Americana television audience and advertising revenue.

Aaaaaaand the balls have been getting lighter and more high-tech ever since, in the reach for the optimum. All of which, in a quick round-about way, leads us back to now: a lighter, less ‘readable’ ball, but still just a ball, and a one which will likely provide us with plenty of memorable moments (balls, balls, balls!! I’ve been typing it too much, but it’s hard to avoid when writing primarily about balls). So, anyway, stop being whinging, whining little tits and get on with it… but if you dare make a mistake or misjudge that balloon, Mr. James/Green/Hart, I will hunt you down, kick your shin and gob straight in your stupid blundering eye, because you bloody deserve it young man.

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