FIFA Says It Isn't `Deaf' to World Cup Ball Complaints, Will Meet Adidas

Soccer’s governing body said it acknowledged complaints about the Adidas AG ball being used at the World Cup in South Africa, though won’t address the issue until after the tournament.

With some players and coaches saying the Jabulani ball is unpredictable and flies through the air too easily, FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke said his organization would discuss the matter with coaches and teams before meeting with Adidas after the tournament.

“We’re not deaf,” Valcke told reporters in Johannesburg today. “FIFA is not unreceptive about what has been said about the ball. This is a very different ball perhaps.”

Adidas has been making the World Cup ball since Mexico hosted the event in 1970. Jabulani is the first tournament ball to be molded from eight “thermally bonded 3D panels” to create a perfect sphere, replacing previous models with flat panels, according to FIFA’s website. The ball’s aerodynamic profile enhances control and stabilizes flight, it said.

England goalkeeper David James described the Jabulani as “rubbish,” saying in a June 12 interview that it is “just not a very good football.” Seven days later, Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac said his players complained that it is “difficult to play.”

“You never know what the ball’s trajectory will be once it hits the turf,” Rajevac said after an error by the Ghana goalkeeper gave Australia a goal in a 1-1 draw on June 19. “Players don’t know how to resolve the problem.”

Ronaldo’s Radar

It’s not just goalkeepers who have struggled. One of the attacking players yet to master the Jabulani is Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo, FIFA’s 2008 world player of the year. Of the 17 shots Ronaldo has had at the tournament, seven were on target, according to statistics provided by FIFA.

None of Ronaldo’s four free kicks hit the target and his only goal in three games came in a 7-0 rout of North Korea after the ball popped up, rolled off his neck and onto his right foot.

Herzogenaurach, Germany-based Adidas said the players had enough time to get used to the ball, which was released at the beginning of the year. The 440-gram (15-ounce) Jabulani, which means “to rejoice” in Zulu, fits the criteria laid down by FIFA, Adidas spokesman Erik van Leeuwen said June 14.

“People have to adapt themselves to it,” Van Leeuwen said. “It’s nothing to do with the Jabulani.”

Six of the 10 World Cup stadiums are above 1,200 meters (3,937 feet), where the air is thinner. That may be affecting the Jabulani’s movement, Van Leeuwen said. A ball kicked at altitude travels 5 percent faster than one kicked in Durban, which is at sea level, he said.

All participating countries approved the ball in February, FIFA said.

“Our relationship with Adidas is very constructive and there is nothing more important in a World Cup than the ball,” Valcke added. “If there are problems with the ball we will discuss it with them.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Dan Baynes in Durban through the Johannesburg newsroom dbaynes@bloomberg.net

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