The Adidas 'Jabulani' football, the official ball of the FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa, being tested in a wind tunnel. © dpa

The Adidas 'Jabulani' football, the official ball of the FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa, being tested in a wind tunnel. © dpa

Nobody’s happy. Not the coaches, not the players, not the officials in charge, and certainly not the players. Nobody is happy with the ball to be used at the World Cup, despite having had weeks to get used to kicking it in frustration.

The new Adidas ball is ironically called ‘Jabulani,’ meaning ‘to celebrate’ in the native South African isiZulu dialect, but nobody is celebrating its apparent unpredictability.

First Spain’s Captain and Goalkeeper Iker Casillas had a go at it, said it was too light, and described it as a “beach ball.”  Brazil shot-stopper Julio Cesar wasn’t complimentary either: “It’s the same as the balls you buy in the supermarket,” he said.

“Every touch comes with the unknown,” added Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. “The trajectory is really unpredictable.”

France’s man between the posts, Hugo Lloris, gave his prognosis: “There will be many goals, beautiful and bizarre. The ball is light. It seems that it is made of plastic. It is far from a leather ball.”

Facing him on Friday will be Uruguay counterpart Fernando Musler who went even further with his criticism, slamming the ‘Jabulani’ as “the worst I’ve ever played with.” At least he has a plan to deal with it: “It’s probably best to try and keep it as far as possible from the goal.” Good call Fernando, although it’s usually a good tactic to keep the ball at the other end anyway.

It’s not just the goalkeepers who are incensed with the new ball. “The balls are a disaster, both for goalkeepers and attackers,” said Italy striker Giampaolo Pazzini. “You jump up to head a cross and suddenly the ball will move and you miss it.” Making excuses already Giampaolo?

He has support from Brazilian forward Luis Fabiano however, after he called the ball “very weird” and said it appears possessed. “All of a sudden it changes trajectory on you. It’s like it doesn’t want to be kicked. It’s incredible, it’s like someone is guiding it. You are going to kick it, and it moves out of the way. I think it’s supernatural; it’s very bad. I hope to adapt to it as soon as possible, but it’s going to be hard.”

His coach Dunga even had a go at FIFA after the organization’s general secretary, Jerome Valcke, said the criticism was motivated by the fear of failure rather than any problems with the ball itself.

“He needs to play,” Brazil’s coach responded. “If he played with the ball he would have a different opinion. He is a guy who never got on the field. I want him to be here in our practice, and we will give him the ball to see if he can control it.”

Naturally German manufacturer Adidas has vigorously defended its ball. Spokesman Thomas van Schaik said the company distributed balls to teams in advance so they could get used to it. “Apparently they have not taken advantage of that if we are only hearing this criticism now,” he said. “If you look back in history there have always been criticisms about the ball before the World Cup, but not so much afterwards, after you’ve seen great goals or great saves.”

Some players have been more positive about the ‘Jabulani’ however. Funnily enough, they’re all sponsored by Adidas. Germany captain Michael Ballack (who won’t be playing in any case), England’s Frank Lampard, Kaká from Brazil, and Spain’s Alvaro Arbeloa have all defended it, with the latter saying: “It’s round, like always.”
It seems they’d made an impression before one ball had even been kicked. At least the German team hasn’t been complaining. But then again, they’ve never been one for ‘Lahm’ excuses.