Sunday, June 11, 2006

Pretty Bubbles In The Air

A few months before each World Cup, Adidas unveil the official ball of the tournament. And every time, they get blasted for it. In 1982, the balls were of such a poor build quality that they couldn't last ninety minutes without having to be replaced. This time around, as it has been for the last two or three tournaments, it's the weight. Goalkeepers have criticised the way that they move in the area, and several times already we've seen shots that have resulted in goalkeepers having to make very unorthodox saves indeed. At the moment, I'm watching Holland vs Serbia, and twice Edwin Van Der Saar has made saves with parts of his body that he wouldn't ordinarily choose to stop a rapidly moving football with.

It does make me wonder how they keep getting this contract. In most sports, a manufacturer that consistently supplied materials that were complained about by the people taking part in said tournament would be replaced by someone that supplied materials to a higher standard. At this rate, by about 2018 they'll being beach balls with remote controls in them and goalkeepers will get man of the match awards for every shot that they manage to save. I suspect that money is the problem here. These contacts aren't won on the basis of quality - they're based on the amount of money paid to FIFA for the right to do it. One can only hope that Nike, Umbro or Mitre can stump up the cash to do the job at some point in the future.


colin said...

I remember, after Roberto Carlos scored that free kick against France in Le Tournoi, a man from Mitre going on the radio solely to point out that it would have been impossible with one of his company's balls.

As I understand it, the issue with the new ball might be the small number of panels. Fewer seams often make the ball more spherical, but tend to make for a less stable ball.

It starts to act almost like a baseball. The less spin on the ball, the more likely it is to bobble wildly as the seam trips the air moving around the ball.

Somebody with a better grasp of physics might be able to confirm or deny this.

JonathanMortimer said...

Adidas will never lose the contract whilst Blatter is top boy at FIFA... thats if they're in danger of losing it at all. In the early 70s in the years up to the 1974 World Cup, they practically invented, with Joao Havelange, rampant commercialism in football which has completely taken over the game and lead to situations like the ticketing scandal which we have in Germany 2006, where large companies pay FIFA small fortunes to advertise their products and get free tickets as part of the deal, decreasing the chance for true football fans from attending games, unless they pay small fortunes to those who work for these companies and have no interest. Its all about greed.

But Blatter seems intent on revolutionising the game himself in other ways, by trying to outlaw physical content in football, as a means of promoting the attacking side of the game. Admittedly, everyone prefers to watch their team attack rather than defend, but the game is going to change beyond recognition if he continues to get his way. The fact that the balls are getting lighter and therefore easier to score with seems to reinforce this theory - defenders jobs are getting harder to do all round basically. And why? Probably for the same reasons as highlighted in the previous paragraph. Greed. By making football more attacking, it supposedly makes it more appealing to those who would not usually want to watch it, perhaps richer countries like the US, who FIFA have yet to find a way of squeezing more money from.

Football is changing, and has even more so since the early 90s than ever before, and its all about the money. Brazil found out the hard way in 98 by being forced to carry a dead weight in the form of Ronaldo who was clearly unable to play after suffering a seizure. I also get the impression several of their more recognisable names like Roberto Carlos and Cafu are being retained in the current squad, as well as the Ronaldo, for the same reason - the Nike marketing monster that seems intent on taking over football.

Perhaps Blatter will be ousted from his role by an American who wants to take over the FIFA presidency and use Nike just like Havelange used Mr Dassler in the 70s. If, god forbid, that every happened, expect the game to be divided into quarters to incorporate more advertisement breaks, 2 balls on the pitch, and a 30 second shot clock.

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