Interestingly, many American Major League Soccer clubs are having a similar debate with footballs at the moment.
As we mentioned back in January, the top level of club football in the US would be using adidas’s World Cup 2010 ball; the Jabulani. According to strenuous FIFA testing, the Jabulani is the most consistent ball that adidas have ever produced.
However, several of the MLS’s biggest names have stepped up after just a month of competition that – if anything – this is the most wildly unpredictable ball they’ve ever used.
For once, it isn’t just goalkeepers complaining – as Chicago Fire’s Brian McBride mentioned in a recent interview that the current ball is only consistent and easy to control if it is pumped to maximum pressure.
“If it isn’t blown up all the way, it knuckles all over the place,” explained McBride. “Our equipment manager figured it out, otherwise we would have had a lot of broken noses.”
However, FIFA are quick to point out the strenuous testing the balls go through in addition to their extensive aerodynamic development – which includes being battered around by a robot foot, squeezed underwater 250 times and dropped into steel surfaces.
But, that still doesn’t reflect players true striking styles in a game situation – Ex-Fulham and now Seattle Sounders Goalkeeper Kasey Keller argues that “For every shot that dips and swerves and looks great, another 10 miss the target.
“Can’t we get to a point where we like a ball that we have and just stick with it?”
Personally, I’ve never entertained the thought of simply stopping developing new footballs – every season Nike release a new ball for the EPL, La Liga and Serie A, Adidas do the same in the Champions League and Mitre do the same in the Football League and SPL.
It’s like the rising and setting of the Sun, it just happens!
But Keller makes an unorthodox point – in many other sports, the ball has always remained roughly the same; Basketball, Baseball, Rugby etc. so why should football be any different?
In my own opinion – whilst I have the utmost respect for Kasey Keller – it seems kind of backhanded to complain that something’s not working like it should, then bemoaning it every time they try to improve it!
As for Brian McBride’s issue, I do fear that it might be something more tangible. Whilst I don’t doubt the rigors of FIFA’s testing -‘ If the Jabulani only works consistently with maximum pressure in the ball, I’m concerned there could be one or two more freak goals in this year’s World Cup, and several embarrassing misses.
What’s your take on it?
Do you own a Jabulani or one of it’s Replica’s? How’ve you found striking it?
Would you welcome sticking with just one type of ball over – say – 3 World Cups? Rather than changing them every time?
Let us know with a comment!