World Cup ball to baffle keepers
Players are complaining that the ball behaves erratically and they are having difficulty judging its trajectory.
Tue, Jun 08, 2010 at 02:05 PM
HARD TO CATCH: Much of the criticism has come from goalkeepers rather than outfield players. (Photo: ZUMA Press)
The new ball created for the 2010 World Cup will be faster and more erratic than its predecessors, according to an Australian scientist who believes it could leave goalies grasping at air.
Nonetheless, the British university team involved in the ball's development has stressed its merits.
The boffins at Loughborough University, in the English East Midlands, say they have designed a ball featuring "a completely new, groundbreaking technology, which "has perfect roundness."
The ball has been named Jabulani ("to celebrate" in Zulu), but players are lining up to complain that it behaves erratically and they are having difficulty judging its trajectory — especially at relatively high altitude.
England goalkeeper David James has described new adidas ball as "horrible," Spain's Iker Casillas says it is "rotten" and Gianluigi Buffon of Italy fears its "unpredictability" could ruin the World Cup.
Research by Adelaide University's Derek Leinweber would appear to back up their complaints.
Professor Leinweber said the players had a point, with his computer simulations showing it was faster than previous balls, while its rough surface made it more erratic.
"And ... they bend better," he told AFP on Tuesday.
"What it means is that the goalkeeper's intuition is just a little bit off.
"You see the ball coming towards you, you might quickly work out where the ball is going to be, and something different happens."
Leinweber, who heads the university's chemistry and physics school, simulated trajectories for the almost perfectly spherical Jabulani which took into account the aerodynamic impact of the ball's unique tiny ridges.
"Any sort of texture on the ball, or grooves that are on the surface of the soccer ball, that has a big impact on the nature of the air flow," he said.
Nonetheless, Dr. Andy Harland from Loughborough University's Sports Technology Institute, and his team remain impervious to the criticism.
"I am delighted that Loughborough University have again been asked by adidas to assist them in the development of such a high profile product," Dr. Harland said.
"It reflects the high esteem that Sports Technology at Loughborough is held in and allows our research to have real impact on the World Cup."
And as Leinweber noted, much of the criticism has come from the goalkeepers rather than outfield players.
"If you want the goalkeeper to design the ball, they will give you an iron ball that sits at the center of the field," he told AFP.
Copyright 2010 AFP Global Edition