Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Balls – Tom Rossi

I’ve been watching the Confederations Cup, an international soccer tournament, on tv for the past few days, and I see that a problem has not really been fixed.

For the 2010 World Cup of Soccer (Futbol), Adidas introduced a new ball unlike any that had been seen before. Adidas holds the contract with FIFA to provide the soccer balls that are be used in the games. This contract provides plenty of opportunities for Adidas to make some serious money.

Adidas wondered how it could really cash in, and they came up with a way to make everybody say the name “Adidas,” over and over again: they came out with a new, really crappy ball. And that ball, or its very similar offspring, is still in use.

Video: The Jabulani in action…

The Adidas “Jabulani” ball has no stitches. It’s panels are bonded together in a kind of heat/glue process that makes the outer surface completely smooth. This makes for what aerodynamicists call “laminar” airflow around the ball, at least until the air gets to the back of the ball, where it makes a slight vacuum, due to turbulence.

Huh? Don’t worry about the technical stuff. What matters is that the Jabulani acts like a beach-ball. When a player kicks it up into the air, it slows down drastically, almost floats in suspension, and then falls back to the ground, significantly short of where you might expect from its original trajectory.

face paint

This causes passes through the air to travel so slowly that the defenders can get to the landing spot before the ball reaches the intended receiver. As a result, it essentially takes away the long pass as a strategy in many situations and thereby significantly alters the game of soccer.

Several good teams could not adapt, in the 2010 World Cup, to these changes. These teams had long used the long pass as an integral part of their strategy. Adidas essentially changed the outcome of many matches with their new beach-ball (although Spain might have won the whole thing, anyway – they had a great team).

I’m frustrated by the slowdown in the game when I watch, anymore. Scoring hasn’t suffered, due to the fact that the new ball curves like crazy on shots, but midfield play certainly has. The lack of the threat of a long pass has allowed defenses to swarm around the ball more, almost like in an AYSO game for eight-year-olds.

Video: Cute, but this isn’t what World Cup play should look like.

Is this another of my occasional digressions from politics into sports? Not really. This is a clear example of a giant corporation making a mess of something, strictly for the purpose of increasing their already massive profits.

The World Cup is a fantastic event that brings the countries of the world together, in peace, in civilized competition. Aside from a few incidences of hooliganism, it’s a chance for teams and fans from around the world to rub shoulders, have a beer together, and talk about their different lives and loves. It’s an incredible opportunity for fun, interaction, and sewing the seeds of peace.


Adidas hasn’t really changed all that, but the World Cup has been tainted by their greed. Now, there are rumors that, despite record profits in recent years. Adidas in testing a new ball that more closely resembles the balls of the past. Let’s see if they can fix it in time for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.


-Tom Rossi


Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.


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6 thoughts on “Balls – Tom Rossi

  1. Totally agree, Tom. Didn’t know you were such a cultured fellow! Let’s make a date for next June and celebrate England’s World Cup triumph! Need something to forget I’ll turn 50 during the competition.

    As for the ball – nothing wrong with the old pig’s bladder – unless you’re Jewish, Muslim, or a pig who values its organs.

    Btw – The English Premier League kicks off in 52 days, 23 hours and 57 minutes…but who’s counting.

    Thanks for the post. Glad someone is keeping an eye on what is happening in the world!

  2. Thanks Alon. We certainly should get together to watch Italia win its 5th World Cup!

  3. Is there some gamesmanship going on before the big games? The company points out that many top professional teams have used the ball since December, with nary a complaint. Plus, the chirps have been loudest from those teams outfitted by Puma and Nike, Adidas’ big rivals. On the flip side, Germany, which is sponsored head to toe by Adidas and is home to the company’s headquarters, has been complimentary. Oddly enough, the lead designer of Jabulani hails from England, Germany’s arch-rival, and he has offered to give his home country some free advice on how to use the ball to its advantage. But if the ball flies so true, why on the eve of the World Cup would one of the world’s best teams need a lesson on how to use it?

    • Hi Andrea. I’m sure “opinions” at this point, since the original, universal barfing sound, are influenced by loyalties and maybe even money and/or threats. I based my judgement simply on what I saw with my own eyes. “Beach ball” was the first thing that came to my mind as I watched the first game with that ball. Judging by what I’ve seen lately, they may have increased the weight or made other adjustments to make the Jabulani or its descendants work better. However, every team I’ve seen lately plays ground passes, almost exclusively.

  4. “It’s a little sad that the World Cup has balls of such poor quality,” Iker Casillas of Spain, one of the top keepers in the world, told Spanish reporters after being scored upon in a match. Other players have called its flight weird and unpredictable.

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