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2010 FIFA World Cup: Players' Complaints About New Ball Unjustified

Jack DoyleCorrespondent IMay 31, 2010

FLORENCE, ITALY - MARCH 02:  Jabulani the official ball of 2010 FIFA World Championship during an Italy national team training session at FIGC Centre at Coverciano at Coverciano on March 2, 2010 in Florence, Italy.  (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

It's like clockwork.

Adidas creates a new ball specifically for the World Cup. Players get their hands on it. Complaints come flooding in.

The latest ball from Adidas is called Jabulani, which means "to celebrate" in isiZulu, but Italian striker Giampaolo Pazzini thinks he has come up with a more suitable name.

"Disaster."

Pazzini was quoted by the Associated Press calling it such, and he is by no means the only one who feels that way. The list of cynics includes United States goalkeeper Tim Howard and Brazil forward Luis Fabiano, who said the ball moved with a "supernatural" feel.

But are these grumblings justified?

Absolutely not.

Try to think of a sport that hasn't had this type of equipment change.

FIBA basketballs for international use, super-sized drivers in golf and metal baseball bats are only a sampling of alterations to gear across sports. With each modification there are always the purists who feel the game should be played "the way it always has," but new technology is part of the changing sports landscape.

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Besides, minor changes to equipment can be good for a sport.

Years ago, hockey goalies were forced to wear smaller pads to increase scoring and make the game more exciting. For proof of its success, look no further than Saturday's Game One of the Stanley Cup Finals, which ended with the Chicago Blackhawks beating the Philadelphia Flyers 6-5 in the most watched Stanley Cup Finals game since 1999.

That isn't to say all games are like this, but recent studies show goals per game increased from 5.15 in 2003/04 to 6.17 in 2006, so the numbers speak for themselves.

At the 2006 World Cup in Germany, the Teamgeist ball drew the ire of goalkeepers because they had not seen that kind of spin or trajectory on a soccer ball before. But, in my opinion, the dramatic curvature of the Teamgeist creation added to the magic of "the beautiful game" rather than subtracting from it.

Who could forget German midfielder Torsten Frings' snipe from 30 yards out to the upper-right corner in the Cup's opening game against Costa Rica?

After Germany, Adidas implemented the Teamgeist technology in multiple leagues and competitions around the world, such as MLS and the 2006 La Copa del Rey final. By that time, the complaints had subsided and players adjusted to the commonly-used ball.

Regarding the Jabulani, the simplest comment was also the most rational. Spanish defender Alvaro Arbeloa, who is sponsored by Adidas, told the AP, "It's round, like always."

Despite his relationship with Adidas, it's hard to disagree with Arbeloa.

Sure, there are small dots on the ball to make it "sail true" in the air, but players adapted to the new panel technology of the Teamgeist ball, so it's hard to believe the same can't be done with the Jabulani.

 

When all is said and done, the whining sounds like exactly that—whining. Professional athletes are paid millions upon millions of dollars to play the game and entertain fans, and griping about a little adjustment to their gear makes them look like spoiled crybabies.

And just like 2006, the petty complaints will fade into the background and people will focus on what actually matters: the world's biggest—and best—sporting event.

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