Here’s the full 12 page letter openly sent to FIFA’s Sepp Blatter from Craig Johnston, former Liverpool footballer, inventor of the Predator football boots and Footy Boots Awards ambassador 2009, regarding the Jabulani World Cup Ball.
Dear Mr Blatter,
If a sponsor came into your office before the World Cup and said. Ä‚Ë˘€š¬” We are going to give you a new, perfectly round match ballÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦the players wont like it at allÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦and there will be more mistakes made than in any other World CupÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦Ä‚Ë˘€š¬”
Ä‚Ë˘€š¬” There will be less goals scoredÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦less free kicks scored…less passes completeÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦less control by playersÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦.and roughly 70% of crosses and shots on goal will miss wide and go way over the crossbarÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦Ä‚Ë˘€š¬”
What would you say to them..?
My name is Craig Johnston. I am risking my reputation and goodwill within certain football circles by writing this open letter to yourself and anybody else who is interested in the Jabulani ball issue and why its endorsement by FIFA could ruin the game as we now know it.
I am however not only writing with the problem, but also an easy solution to the problemÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦
I am a former football player with Liverpool Football Club in England, and I am also known for inventing the adidas Predator football boot, the adidas Traxion sole systemÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦and the research and testing done on previous World cup footballs.
I am a big supporter of the FIFA Goal initiatives, and we have met many times over the years, on various football issues. I have also presented to you, the executive committee and the FIFA Technical team many innovations in football and specifically youth development over the years.
I am therefore writing to you as a friend of football, a friend of FIFA. I am also writing to you as someone who actually knows what they are talking about when it comes to World Cup footballs and their flight characteristics.
A lot of things have been said and written about the new Jabulani BallÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦but the word disaster is on a lot of players and managers lips…
Ä‚Ë˘€š¬” The Balls are a disaster, both for goalkeepers and for attackers.Ä‚Ë˘€š¬”
” Dreadful and Horrible…”
Fabio Capello-Manager England
” The worst Ball I have ever seen.”
It is very alarming that the best players and teams in the world are struggling to control this ball to their own satisfaction.
What is even more alarming than the playersÄ‚Ë˘€š¬˘€žË assessment of the Ä‚Ë˘€š¬‹Ĺ›bad ballÄ‚Ë˘€š¬˘€žË, however, are the statistics ofÄ‚€š' Ä‚Ë˘€š¬‹Ĺ› bad playÄ‚Ë˘€š¬˘€žË.
What this means to the quality of this tournament in South Africa is quite shocking.
The statistics are showing that is the worst passing, shooting and controlling of the ball of any World Cup in history of the competition. That cannot be ignoredÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦and it cannot be fixed up laterÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦.as we are being told..
The problems with this ball will not go away and they need to be understood by the FIFA Technical department and addressed immediatelyÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦before there are any more on field disasters.
I know you and FIFA are under pressure at the moment. The issues such as Goal Line Technology and poor refereeing decisions are not as important compared to the Jabulani Ball issue and the poor quality of play that it is causing.
There was a furious global public reaction to Frank LampardÄ‚Ë˘€š¬˘ goal against Germany that was denied by the officialsÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦
By my calculations we have been denied at least 10 more goals that were not scored in this World Cup so far, because of the erratic and unstable flight of the Jabulani football…but nobody is jumping up and downÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦yetÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦!
Who is taking responsibility for denying us these goals and bits of magic..
To make a get a goalmouth call wrong and make a mistake happens once or twice a year.
To get the actual football itself wrong, affects every single touch, pass or shot that a player makes, in every single game.
And there are an awful lot of mistakes happening at this showcase tournament.
Daniel Agger-Denmark- Dead Ball expert
“It makes world Class players look like drunken sailors”
The erratic behaviour of this ball is ruining the flow of the game and downgrading the quality of play.
This is an absolute disaster for the puristsÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦and it cannot continue in this manner.
Just listen to the players Ä‚Ë˘€š¬'¦.just look at the statisticsÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦they are very very damning of this ball.
Ä‚Ë˘€š¬” The guy who designed this never played Football.Ä‚Ë˘€š¬”
The fact is that the Jabulani ball with its new materials and new construction methods simply does not behave in the same predictable aerodynamic manner as the old ball we have all been using perfectly well for 40 years previously…
The players are all saying that the Jabulani has a mind of its own…
I have a trained eye and have been watching these things for years. If you watch carefully, and know what youÄ‚Ë˘€š¬˘€žËre looking for, you can see it move erratically, even on television…I have seen hundreds of basic trajectory miscalculations so far in this World Cup where the ball usually ends up going out of playÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦
Surprisingly, nobody has made a big deal out of it yetÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦but football people who really watch for the art and craft are starting to noticeÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦like the playersÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦like the managersÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦like the puristsÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦like the statisticiansÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦its all starting to add up.
I have outlined the more scientific reasons for the balls unpredictable behaviour in a separate section belowÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦please read it and you will understand the problem immediatelyÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦.then count the on-field mistakesÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦
In short, the new ball does not translate a lot of the backspin, topspin or sidespinÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦all of the special language that a player normally applies to a ball to make it behave properly in the air.
Why is this so importantÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦?
This language is the real art and craft of the footballer and of the game..
This is what we really pay all of our money to see.
This is what makes these guys so different from usÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦this special language is the genius. Asking players to Shoot or pass with this new Jabulani ball is like asking Picasso to paint a picture without bristles on his brushÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦to paint without the usual texture and without all of the feelingÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦
I have spent 3 weeks in South Africa at the World Cup and I have seen the Jabulani ball move more than 2 feet in the air in some instances when it is not supposed to move in the air. I have also seen the ball go absolutely straight at other times when clearly the player has tried to put a bend on it of 2 feet or more.
” All of a sudden it changes trajectory on you…I think it is Supernatural..”
Unfortunately the ball is also very nervous and jumpy to the touch when controlling it close to the body and when dribbling it.
Julio Cesar- Goalkeeper Brazil
” A Ball you would buy in a Supermarket…”
So the ball is a disasterÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦ and because of it there have been many mistakes…more than any World Cup everÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦I really believe that FIFA cannot continue to endorse this ballÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦
Because by endorsing this ball, FIFA are endorsing every mistake that that has been made by the players using it during this World Cup…
By endorsing this ball, FIFA are endorsing the removal of the playersÄ‚Ë˘€š¬˘€žË art and craft at the very top end.
The most frightening thing however is that by endorsing this ball, FIFA are allowing a sponsor to alter the very dynamics of how the game is playedÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦ and for the worse. Not just in this competition, but going forwardÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦into schools and youth leagues the world over..
Players are very clever and are adapting already technically and tactically to the balls idiosyncrasiesÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦
The German team knew exactly what they were doing when their goalkeeper kicked the ball deep into the edge of the England Penalty box, up and over the English defence for an unchallenged 1st goal. No other ball could ever have travelled that farÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦
That is also called Route One Football and soon everyone will be doing it because the ball is encouraging itÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦
To change the dynamics and the craft of the game like this is not a call that a vested interest sponsor should be allowed to makeÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦they have got it horribly wrong alreadyÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦Mr Blatter, I know you are horrified about the poor play because I know you are a football man. We have heard the excuses from FIFA but who is really making these critical footballing decisions about the players craft..?
The governing body of a sport needs to be independent from the sponsors products. FIFA should have been far more diligent in their own testsÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦.and should have binned the Jabulani ball before the competition..
This is what a very respected goalkeeper said a week before the competition started.
Tim Howard – USA Goalkeeper
“It’s tragic that youÄ‚Ë˘€š¬˘€žËre going to see good players look foolish. Defenders are having a tough time judging it, strikers are having a tough time judging crosses as well and for goalkeepers it’s murder so what can we do?”
“I think you’re going to see some really weird and unfortunate goals.”
From day one I have been saying that there is a simple solution and back up plan for this World Cup. You can easily apply exactly the same Jabulani ball graphics onto the traditional construction of your sponsorÄ‚Ë˘€š¬˘ previous Buckminster construction World Cup balls.
Two of the best footballs ever made were made by your sponsors…The Fevernova and the Tricolor Ball from the Asian World Cup and French World CupÄ‚Ë˘€š¬˘ respectivelyÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦
The normal Buckminster construction has given us every glorious moment of football we can ever recall…
As players and as fansÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦it set the standard for the very craft and soul of the gameÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦it has proven reliable, predictableÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦dependableÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦
This new Jabulani ball is unnatural, unpredictable, unreliable … and it is totally unacceptable how this ball has been endorsed by FIFA for this tournament and going forward..
The sponsors and FIFA marketing seem to be the tail that has been wagging the FIFA dogÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦and so far they have got away with itÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦
The only people that can make the call to radically change the dynamics of the ball and therefore the game itselfÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦. are the playersÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦.
And noÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦.not the players that are already being paid by the sponsorsÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦!
For me, probably the post prophetically damning statement about the Jabulani ball comes from the English midfielder Joe Cole..
Ä‚Ë˘€š¬‹Ĺ›Ä‚Ë˘€š¬˘€žË It took a bit of skill out of the gameÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦but It’s the same for everybody.Ä‚Ë˘€š¬”
WowÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦what an unbelievably sad statementÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦
I am not employed by anyone…and I am not looking for a jobÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦I also know I won’t make any new friends at FIFA, in-fact, I will probably be blacklisted, but itÄ‚Ë˘€š¬˘ a price I am willing to pay.
I owe it to the game to speak up…so does anyone that believes in skill and craft as the ultimate attributes for a footballerÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦
Mr Blatter, and FIFAÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦this has been a fabulous World Cup in many, many ways, and you all need to be congratulated.
I am sure that the ball designers, manufacturers, sponsors and testers of the Jabulani ball will not have been as honest and straight with you as I have in this letterÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦.and that is the big problem..
But why would theyÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦?
They are making hundreds of millions of dollars already out of this perfectly round football..
So, having had the benefit of understanding the problem, I will ask you the simple question one more time
If a sponsor came into your office before the World Cup and saidÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦ Ä‚Ë˘€š¬” We are going to give you a new, perfectly round match ballÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦the players wont like it at allÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦.and there will be more mistakes made than in any other World CupÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦Ä‚Ë˘€š¬”
Ä‚Ë˘€š¬” There will be less goals scoredÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦less free kicks scored…..less passes completeÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦.less control by playersÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦.and roughly 70% of crosses and shots on goal will miss wide and over the crossbarÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦
What would you say to them..?
Ex Footballer with Middlesbrough FC and Liverpool FC England.
Ex Footballer with Middlesbrough FC and Liverpool FC England.
Technical Observations of the Jabulani FootballÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦ Craig Johnston Ä‚Ë˘€š¬'¦South Africa June 2010Ä‚Ë˘€š¬'¦
Unfortunately, the players do not know WHY or WHAT is causing the Jubilani ball to behave., so erratically,
I do have some knowledge of the reasons, and that is why I am writing to you now to explain why this new ball is behaving in the manner that it is.
First of allÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦.How do I know all of this information…..?
I know it because I personally designed, built and set up the original testing Lab for adidas In Herzogenaurach Germany in the early 90Ä‚Ë˘€š¬˘…
In my role as lead innovation consultant I created theÄ‚€š' Predator football boot, The Traxion sole system…and tested the original prototypes of a ball that would fly further Ä‚Ë˘€š¬'¦the Questra World Cup Ball for USA 1994…
It was also at this Lab that I pioneered the use of super slow motion footage with Oxford scientific Films and digital techniques with the Frauenhoffer Institute.
This was specifically to study and understand the moment of contact between boot and ball and the following aerodynamic characteristics of the football in flightÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦
Although this was conducted with scientifically controlled parameters … I did it with a footballers touch and sensitivity always in mind…and a solid vision and feel for the end result…
First of all however, just a bit of background is required to put the balls behaviour into a more scientific context…
Each kick of a ball can be quantified as a mathematical equation …and some of the forces important to this equation include but are not limited to velocity, trajectory, lift, drag, external and internal air pressure and of course gravity…
You and I, and Pele and Franz Beckenbauer , and every other footballer on the planet grew up kicking a 32 panel Buckmister construction hand stitched football….It had 20 hexagon panels and 12 pentagons (small black ones).
The design and shape of this Buckminster ball that we all know so well, is not spherical, but is called a Truncated Icosahedron. It is not rounded until it is blown up with air and forced, with a butyl bladder…into a ball shape.
This football with its 180 panel edges, exposed to the elements, is far from round and far from perfect…. …and these very imperfections are what gives it it’s unique repeatable feel to the footballer. These imperfections help produce an optimum flight trajectory that players have been able to depend upon, every single time they kicked or received a ball…before even the World Cup Telstar ball in Mexico back in 1970.
This ball has a soulÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦it is predictableÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦ reliableÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦ beautiful….
Technically speaking, the construction of this normal ball, with its exposed panel edges and stitch lines, give it high lift and drag co-efficients which in turn, encourage a high rotation rate around the balls axis…
It is this rotation, when propelled forward which help create the drag and lift properties which magically seem to hold the ball up in the air.
This is called the Magnus effectÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦and it impacts the many types of technical kicks in many different ways
The long Pass
The Magnus effect happens at a optimal velocity when the airflow around and perpendicular to, the balls rotational axis, become a different pressure, and the ball starts to deviate substantially in the air…
This is usually when a ball has decelerated and is closer to the target.
This is what we call swerve or curl…where the ball literally bends it’s flight path in the direction of the spin that has been imparted…
We have all kicked a ball into a strong headwind and witnessed the huge and dramatic swerve effect that extra lift and drag have on a normal football…or cricket ball..or golf ballÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦
This phenomenon, is what allows a player to shape and curl each pass or shot on goal with backspin, topspin, sidespin or a combination of those attributes….
This is what you and I and every other footballer grew up with…and this, is the ultimate craft of a footballer…
Unfortunately the designers of the Jabulani have totally misunderstood the importance of this as their ball doesn’t behave in the same wayÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦
It has an artificial feel and trajectory and only about 20% of the craft a player is putting on the ball is being translated.
This equates to about 70% or more of crosses and dead ball free kicks being overhitÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦
The passing in this World Cup has been the worst ever.
Unfortunately the problems with the ball do not stop only with the craft of passing of the ball…
Straight Shooting With Power
It is a little known fact but once a ball has been kicked it is always deceleratingÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦
With a hard straight shot towards goal, that is, without spin, the drag and lift on a normally constructed ball is roughly equal on both sidesÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦.
The balls forward movements are therefore stabilised, predictable and repeatable… that’s why golf balls have dimples…
On the Jabulani ball the flight path is unstable, erratic and unpredictable…
This World Cup has seen the worst long range shooting ever…
Shooting with Accuracy
On a hard shot for goal, drag on the ball is really important to keeping it stable, to keep it flying straight and steady..
With this technique, the ultimate objective of a players strike is to get the centre of percussion (sweet spot) of his kicking foot, through the centre of the ball..
With traditional footballs, the kicking foot sinks deep into the panels and deforms the ball substantially, therefore the foot is in contact with the balls surface for longer.
This extra time, even if it is measured in milliseconds, allows a player to be far more accurate with his strike…
It is also the extra time that allows the secondary movement of the foot to put the spin or movement of the ball that the player wants to shape the shotÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦as in passing aboveÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦
With the Jabulani,Ä‚€š' the ball seems to jump nervously off the foot before the required deformation and therefore before enough purchase has been achieved by the kicker…which has ended in the disastrous number of strikes over the crossbar or completely missing the target on either side of the goal…
This lack of purchase issue, combined with the unstable flight path, can also account for the many mistimed headers and volleys in the competition so far…
The accuracy of shooting and heading is the worst of any World Cup…ever
Goalkeepers and Attackers Receiving the Ball
It is not only the goalkeepers who have been complaining about unstable and erratic movements of the ball.
Many attackers have complained about the ball moving at the last second as they attempt to head or volley the ball from crosses or set piece plays…
I believe that the erratic and unpredictable flight paths of the Jabulani balls are the cause of many strange refereeing errors and have also contributed to controversial goals and penalty decisionsÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦
The pace of game itself has become faster and more frantic, at this World Cup, specifically because the Jabulani ball is hyper sensitive to the touch. It is nervous and flighty to control, and to the players feet it has an artificial and jumpy feel.
The players are all making simple mistakesÄ‚Ë˘€š¬'¦and the referees simply canÄ‚Ë˘€š¬˘€žËt keep up with play..
Craig Johnston July 2010