FOOTBALLS: IS IT TIME WE LEFT THEM ALONE?

Interestingly, many American Major League Soccer clubs are having a similar debate with footballs at the moment.

adidas jabulani mls

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!

adidas world cup jabulani

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!

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36 Comments

  • My team use the replica version of the ball.
    We have 2 of them, and even though we have only used it for 2 games, I have noticed if the ball is not fully inflated, the connection with the ball feels weierd and doesnt go where u want it to go.
    If it is fully inflated though, the ball does feel a bit heavy at the start but when you hit a shot with it, it is great.

  • Unfortunately I do not own a Jabulani or any of its replicas and can’t speak regarding its performance. I have always been a fan of a round ball that does its job.
    As far as developing new technologies every so often – it is done solely for the manufacturer’s bottom line and increasing sales numbers in my opinion. Although we can completely disregard that development has its benefits.
    I would say my favorite adidas ball is Tango and as I said – it is round and it works. It curves, it dips, it rolls and flies. A lot depends on how you strike it.
    So, for the most part I would agree with Keller and would say – If it aint broke – don’t fix it.
    But we live in a world where proper endorsements and advertisement will sell everything. It is not about what you use anymore, it is about “Who” uses it.

  • “Can’t we get to a point where we like a ball that we have and just stick with it?” —> nope, i guess no can’t do, sir… the companies gotta keep selling something.

    the teamgeist was a ground breaking technology. that was the first time i saw a ball that wasn’t made from many pentagonal shapes.
    it has the perfect endurance, flight, visibility, grip, and so on…
    but what happened? adidas just had to make another ball every year that has 1% better flight capability.

    just like football boots.
    many players thought the vapor series already got perfected at its 3rd or 4th incarnation. but nike just had to make another vapor/superfly that are lighter by 5 or 6 grams for evey new season.

    what really matter is not the 1% flight or 5 grams lighter, but their capability to create a better items.

    innovations are vital for us humans. that’s all we got 🙂

  • To me the balls can stay the same, I mean the CL ball has always had the same, yet slightly altered design. The ball underneath has changed recently but it is always the star pattern, and a certain set of colors. If all companies that make footballs just stuck to one final panel design they could always change the design on top of it, along with the colors, and still sell “newer” balls.

  • I have a replica of the Jabulani, and it’s nothing special. No surprise really, since it has none of the technical advancements as the real professional match ball. But I did find, like McBride, that it had to be inflated fully to fly its truest.

    I’ve been most impressed with the Nike T90 Strike – a replica of the EPL match ball from the 08-09 season. It gets the job done, and looks pretty good too.

  • i do own the ball.
    it’s a really nice ball.
    it goes fast. further than other ball by a small margin, and you feel that when you shoot it or pass it on the ground it just keeps going for a longer distance than other balls. it really helps strikers.
    it looks great as well:)

  • i do own the ball. it is really a great ball. it goes fast and it goes further than other balls by a small margin. and when you shoot it or pass it on ground it just keeps going a bit more than other balls. overall it is a great ball. looks nice as well:)

  • i think that, keller is right. All the ball manufactuers should find make a product that works and stick to that product. if they want you can change the design for cosmetic purpose but, as a player having to get use to a new ball every season, is hard but mostly annoying. the past what 3-4 seasons there has been some new technology. rugby, amaerican football, baseball, basketball. have had basically the same ball for seasons now. why does soccer have to always have something new. keep it simple and stop trying to suck money out of people.

  • I like this article. Very interesting and full of good points. However I have to agree with Keller I dont think he is saying, the ball is bad but I dont like how we keep trying to improve it. I think he means that every year, a new ball comes out that has a different trajectory and movement through the air. While this is ok, this specific years model is very poor. I think after the World Cup 2006 model ball was invented, Adidas should have stopped producing different balls. That ball was a breakthrough in technology that revolutionized soccer balls but was also very proficient.

  • I agree that if the ball works, you should keep using it. It needs to be the players’ skill that makes the ball go further or bend more, not the ball. Plus, if the ball only works well when it is fully inflated, then there are obviously problems with it. I have some $25 balls and a $40 Jabulani replica ball and they work fine, even when flat.

  • The ball is on the heavy end of the range that FIFA allows. It absolutely pings when fully inflated. It is way faster. It travels way farther. A goalkeeper can send it into the opposing box way easier, so he can get more control.

    So are the players way faster. Don’t we want a fast, hard game, where the play takes these amazing players endowed with unbelievable ball control to the edge of their skills? So that there are some embarrassing misses, because the game has become just that fast?

  • Uh oh, I wasn’t aware the ball had these problems. But the Bundesliga guys have been using it for much longer than the MLS guys without any complaint. Why is this?

    Maybe the Bundelsiga guys don’t mind having to pump up the ball to maximum capacity? Or maybe the MLS chaps are just having a go at the innovation? If it IS flawed will adidas go back to the drawing board and make a few modifications to release Jabulani II?

    I wish this could be sorted out because I am in need of a fifa approved ball and I was going to buy the Jabulani but at my level, having the ball fool about when under-pumped could be disastrous.

  • @MisterBroom12: i was thinking about that too. but we’ll call them ripoffs that way.
    then again, it’s the innovation to make a better product that’s counts. as long as they found a better way to produce something new, i guess.

    regarding a ball’s performance, the latest high-profile ball i played with is europass replica.
    never really thought about it’s performance though… if something goes wrong, i’ll blame my skills. if something goes accidentally right, i’ll review my skills (was it me, or was it the ball?)

    the latest ball i purchase however, is nike’s rolinho menor.
    yes, it’s a futsal ball. they’re heavier, good for practicing long range shots; smaller, good for accuracy; less bouncy, good for control; and somehow, i have to practice my lifting tricks & juggling skills all over again with this one.
    the best ball i ever practiced with.

  • I have not played with the Jabulani so I cannot offer an opinion on it, but I am always excited to see what new technology Nike, Adidas and other big companies have in store for us each year both with boots as well as footballs. It’s true that these companies are focused on profit (as are all corporations regardless of industry), but this focus manifests itself in high quality products that push the limits of what can be done with a shoe or a ball. Different types of footballs feel different from one another and players have to adjust. This has always been the case. A quality player is a quality player regardless of what he’s wearing or what kind of ball he is playing with. Boot and ball technology may contribute to a fluke goal or an awkward miss once in a while, but I do not think it’s as much of an issue as it’s been made out to be. If these footballs really made it so easy to beat keepers the same players wouldn’t be at the top of the goalscoring lists year after year. If they were really that difficult to work with for outfield players I think we would see a noticeable dip in the quality of play. I say keep the innovations coming!

  • i have the jubalini top repquile and it works fine. Slightly Flat or Pumped up. You can really feel the differance between it and the repquile of th EPL ball is massive. You get such a clean strike with the jubalini i broke a pannel off my fence

  • This ball absolutely pings. It weighs in at the high end of the range FIFA allows, and feels very solid to strike. You can absolutely hit it harder. It absolutely travels farther.

    So. . . players are constantly getting faster, and are able to control the ball better. Why not try to get the ball ahead of them, to stretch their skills? Isn’t the game terrifically interesting when the players aren’t entirely in control?

  • the same controversy sparked when the 06 wc ball came out. too much swerve, too much dip…it was even present during the world cup people were taking far out shots like no other. but eventually people started to like it more and more and now its used in the champions league and mls. the same thing is likely happen with this ball

  • wow, the ball is supposed to improve the players gaming, just like a football boot, is that true???
    but if the pros dont like it, everything is wrong =S

  • let them have fun with the balls, players should understand that they have funny balls. They will make the game more interesting, i get bored with basketball and baseball because they are too consistence. Albeit, there are players (beckham, carlos) that make even true balls funny.

  • I own the ball and I find it to be a bit different than the Teamgeists. The casing is different, probably because of the new texture, so it does feel a little heavier. However, they’re completely identical in all the FIFA tests, so there isn’t a difference there. It does seem to float a little longer than the Teamgeists, and when hit square w/o spin, it can dip pretty dramatically.

    Both players’ comments are a bit silly to me. Every ball moves around a lot when it’s not fully inflated. Physics is physics after all. As for using a new ball every year, isn’t that to be expected? With all the licensing deals and marketing in the game, company’s have no choice. I think the balls nowadays are great, and at the end of the day, no player is going to improve over another because of a ball.

  • wow thank you footy boots. i never liked my ball because it’s so unpredictable. the ball always seems to drop quicky or swerve…

  • I own a champions league teamgeist and have played plenty with the MLS Jubalani. I don’t know why these players are complaining. When I got my teamgeist I was blown away, the material used to make the ball makes it fly of your foot and the thermal bonding with less panels makes it’s trajectory predictable. Once in a while it will knuckle on a drive or a long pass but rarely does it knuckle when I don’t intend it to. The Jabulani blows my teamgeist out of the water. It is by far the best ball I’ve ever played with. It is definately not meant to be aired 3/4ths of the way. There is no need to with these balls. It doesn’t matter how hard they get they won’t hurt your foot because of there softness. Besides they have a suggested/required psi they should be filled to. I think players are complaining because they’re not progressing with modern football or they’re blaming a ball for their shortcomings. There are plenty other leagues testing this ball and everyone else is fine with it.

  • i own the replica jabulani, its a great ball, but it feels heavy when you strike it and flies when you strike it, it requires proper inflation and connection. would love to test and compare it to the pro level jabulani.

  • Having only played one match with the jabulani i cant say too much as to its feel. but compared to my first game with a teamgeist… well it doesnt compare. my first time with the teamgeist i was nothing but impressed. my first time with the jabulani i kept looking down at my feet to make sure we werent playing with a kickball (the outside texture is similar on both). and i know the jabulani is supposed to be on the heavy side but it certainly doesnt feel that way. im sure if i got to play and train with it for a period of time id get used to it and enjoy the new ball. but until then ill stick with what i have. speaking of which:
    @kuuku: id recommend playing with the ball before you buy any if you can. personally for a fifa approved ball i have a select brillant super and an adidas terrapass which are both great balls id recomend taking a look at. and if you can still find them the puma v1.08 balls were great

  • Adidas should 100% undeniably leave ball design well alone. Their balls are HORRIBLE!!! haven’t made a good one since the early 90’s. Dreadful balls. Single worst thing about the world cup and Champs League is the use of Adi balls.

  • my team has Jabulani balls and the Nike T90 catalyst balls. I can’t stand playing with the Adidas Jabulani. Every opportunity I have I try to swap it out for one of the Nike balls. They
    I dislike the characteristics of the ball. It’s unpredictable and almost all footballers would agree with me, we want a ball that is consistent.

  • I own the original, and wow its beautiful, and i have played with originals from the Eurocup and the WC ’06 and i honestly find it more and more interesting i love the balls and i love the new technics that they are using, as a forward, it is so much easier to strike the ball, i see large improvements from ’06 to the jabulani, i like it

  • Nike T-90. Greatest ball ever. Has surface striations for grip and whip. And what a flier when you hit the large sweet spot!

  • Connor Wallace – You are a man of exceptional taste!

    The Puma v1.08 Balls? One of my favourites of all time!

    I loved the 1.06’s too, the golf-ball texture on the outside was great for training in the wet.

  • I own the 2006 WC ball and the most recent Champs League ball. Both are fantastic. I would imagine the Jabulani is similar, but without playing with it that is just a guess.

    The adidas balls feel really solid, have a nice little texture/softness to them, and the feeling of hitting one perfectly is hard to match. Clean is the word I would use to describe it. Simple foot meets ball and ball goes flying. Feels really crisp and easy to get the ball moving, especially on shots.

  • i have the authentic europass gloria, champions league finale 09/10, and jabulani matchballs and i must say the jabulani is noticeably different. i agree with those discussing the psi bit and all that, because that creates the optimal inflation for performance, but in all honesty the jabulani does act strange on shots and crosses. i find it to be heavier than both of my other matchballs, and long shots are more difficult to bend or simply smash at goal. with the gloria and finale, i can trust the bend on freekicks and for those hits from outside the area i can hit pretty much any spot on the goal that i want. but even after 4 months of owning and using the jabulani, i still cant trust it. sometimes i find it makes a screwing motion upon striking it with the laces, and it dips far more often that it knuckles. adidas should improve the teamgeist template rather than continue with this strange panel design. also, did anyone notice that the ascente ball in the major european leagues hasn’t come under scrutiny? and the omni didn’t either? maybe nike should be the one making world cup balls now, because guess what: they, unlike adidas, finally got it right.

  • Thanks for the tips Connor Wallace. I missed it earlier and just saw it. Yes I’ve seen a few of those puma balls and liked them for their price point. There is are a Select ball and a Brine ball on my e-bay watching list as well.

    I hope to pull the trigger on one for $40 including shipping rather than up to $100 for the Jabulani, just to make sure. I can’t get the chance to play with the ball before purchse so that’s my best option.

    Thanks again for the great advice. Cheers!

  • My friend has the jabulani full edition. I thought it was sweet that he got it and tried it out for a while. He also has the 2006 version of the world cup balls and I absolutely loved it. This Jabulani just doesn’t have the feel for me. I don’t own any expensive balls (I use a TF 40 which is a medium-cheap version of the teamgeist which I love and my friend always borrows from me because he likes it so much) so in practices and such I borrow his 06 ball, and often times he lets me. But at home in my backyard, I use the TF 40 which goes flat fast, but is magnificent and is 25 pounds.

  • I recently got the true Jabulani, it performs wonderfully, I haven’t had any problems with it losing pressure or being unpredictable. In my opinion its just a new outlet for the same problems that have always riddled players. Balls dipping and curving have always been a issue, we just have something new to blame it on.

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