The Sideline: Some celebrate the Jabulani ball, some don’t

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — It’s that time of year again, folks: time for adidas to roll out the World Cup match ball, and time for the players to complain about how much it knuckles. (For a historical perspective, see reports on the adidas +Teamgeist from June, 2006.)

The new adidas Jabulani (which means “celebrate” in Zulu) is an ultra-light synthetic ball containing eight molded panels and a “grip and groove” texture that, according to its makers, provides “unmatched flight characteristics.”

But apparently most players would beg to differ—and it’s not just goalkeepers who are complaining. Because the Jubalani has eleven different colors to represent the eleven official languages of South Africa and the fact that it is adidas’ eleventh World Cup ball, The Sideline highlights 11 choice quotes on the new ball:

“An impossible ball.” — Morten Olsen, Denmark coach

“A disaster.” — Giampaolo Pazzini, Italy striker

“This Jubalani ball isn’t right.” — Gianluigi Buffon, Italy goalkeeper

“It’s like one of those balls you buy in the supermarket.” — Júlio César, Brazil goalkeeper

“You are going to kick it and it moves out of the way. I think it’s supernatural.” — Luís Fabiano, Brazil striker

“Highly unpredictable when hit from long distances.” — Wendell, Brazilian goalkeeper coach

“I think it’s sad that such an important tournament like the World Cup has such a rotten ball.”— Iker Casillas, Spain goalkeeper

“This is a ball you have to get used to.” — Xavi, Spain midfielder

“It makes the game exciting and I think that’s what they’re trying to do.” — Joe Hart, England goalkeeper

“As the days pass by, I am sure that we will feel more comfortable.” — Xabi Alonso, Spain midfielder

“There are certain things you can do to make the ball act differently, the way you kick it, for example. Then there’s the way it acts at high altitude. There are subtle differences which I’m happy to tell Fabio [Capello] about.” — Dr. Andy Harland, British scientist (and English national team fan) who helped design the ball

One strike and you’re out (of the country)?

Foreign fans coming to South Africa will want to think twice before doing something that could get them arrested.

In an interview with the Cape Argus this week, Willem Damons, the South African deputy correctional services commissioner, talked about the country’s plan for dealing with foreign fans who are arrested during the tournament.

“World Cup offenders will not be thrown into the country’s gang-infested prisons during the event,” Willem Damons told the Argus. “Instead, they will be detained and kept at police stations until they can be deported.”

“The government’s general plan is to process World Cup-related incidents within 24 hours, including deportations.”

It’s often tough to separate fact from fiction when it comes to police warnings, and it’s likely that Damons was referring only to serious offenses.

But given the intense pressure being faced by South African security officials these days, it’s truly hard to say.

Summit reporters neglect work to read about soccer

The Africa-France summit began this week, with seminars and presentations on everything from economic development to human rights to climate change. But according to AP writer Don Melvin, journalists at the summit have been ignoring many of the presentations to catch up on, that’s right, soccer scores and injury reports.

“Some of the journalists appeared to be researching not trade statistics, but the football championship of the world,” Melvin wrote this week. “Who might be injured seemed as important as the summit’s final communique.

“Journalists are famous for filing on deadlines, but many of the reporters here have been remarkably foresighted in making plans for watching key games.”

And journalists weren’t the only ones whose minds were apparently elsewhere. At a summit dinner on Monday night, French President Nicolas Sarkozy offered a World Cup-themed toast to the predominantly African crowd.

“On June 22nd, may the South Africans go easier on the French team than the Senegalese did in 2002.”


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