Monday, May 31, 2010

Adidas Tired of Being Kicked Around

After enduring several days of harsh criticism of the balls it is rolling out for South Africa 2010, sports equipment giant Adidas is fighting back.

The complaints about the "Jabulani" ball (they all have to have names, for marketing purposes) have been both general and specific.

To recap:

Julio Cesar, Brazil's goalkeeper, called the Jabulani ball "terrible" and compared it to the cheesy kind of ball you would buy in a grocery store.

Italian forward Giampaolo Pazzini called it a "disaster", adding, "It moves so much and makes it difficult to control. You jump up to head a cross and suddenly the ball will move and you miss it. It is especially bad for the goalkeepers if it means they concede a goal because they can't judge the trajectory."

Said Brazil midfielder Julio Baptista: "There is no way to hide it. It's bad for the goalkeepers and it's bad for us. It's really bad. The players try to cross it and it goes to the opposite direction they intended it to go."

Said Spain goalie Iker Casillas: "It's sad that that such an important competition like the World Cup has such an important element like this ball of appalling condition."

It is something of a World Cup tradition for Adidas to come out with a new ball, and for players to complain about it. But usually, it's only the goalkeepers who are complaining. The criticism this time seems wider and deeper.

So now, Adidas has responded. And to boil it down, the German company says the players are 1) smokin' crack or 2) cretins who didn't bother to practice with the thing even though it has been available for months.

Complaints about sports equipment are not new, and they are not always unwarranted.

Remember the "new and improved" National Basketball Association ball made of synthetic something-or-other by Spalding? It was introduced at the start of the 2006-07 season, and players hated it. Hated it. They said it was slippery, and so hard that it split the skin on players' hands. Steve Nash, who was the two-time league MVP at the time, said it "tears my fingers apart."

They complained so much and insisted so strenuously that the old leather ball be returned ... that the league caved in and the players got their old balls back.

It seems unlikely Fifa will do the same. It is an imperious organization that cares far more about sponsors than players.

So World Cup players ... will just have to become accustomed to irregular flight paths ... unless they want to admit it's their fault they didn't embrace the new ball soon enough. That's allowed, too.

1 comment:

  1. I've played with the actual "Jubulani" match ball (U.S. cost: $125) and have seen its strangeness in flight. It really does do some weird things (curving opposite, bizarre hops), all of which leads me to believe that there will be an emphasis on connecting ground passes, and a shortage of middle or long-distance goals in this tournament.