Jabulani: The last-minute swerve… towards boredom

When goalkeepers criticised Adidas’s new World Cup ball, we expected goals galore. Is the Jabulani to blame, or just the answer to a question that no-one was asking?

The first round of this World Cup saw fewer goals than in any previous tournament: just 25, at an average of 1.56 per game. While the early rounds are often cagey, the ‘goal drought’ has left many looking for culprits, and for many, Adidas’s Jabulani ball is prime suspect.
The Jabulani is a genuine high-technology product, designed partly in England by a team of ‘sport engineers’. Tested rigorously with kicking robots and wind tunnels, it is meant to have the smoothest flight of any ball in history, thus travelling 5% faster through the air. That doesn’t sound like much, but the effect is magnified by the fact that many games in this World Cup are being played at altitude, where the air is thinner. Thinner air means lower resistance to the ball’s flight, which increases speed yet further.
Harnessing that extra speed has proved difficult so far. Over-hit passes have been commonplace, and according to the statisticians, only one-third of shots have been on target: an amazing 10% lower than in 2006.
Mario Gomez, who scored in Germany’s 4-0 win over Australia, thinks practice makes perfect: ‘it’s a case of catching it right [and] you learn how to do that with practice’.

If he’s right, then the Daily Mail has a point when it complains about sponsorship deals allowing some teams more practice than others. The Jabulani, rather than being a surprise to all, has been a common sight in the German leagues for six months. Meanwhile, the Premier League is prevented from using it owing to a contract with Nike, while the England team have an arrangement with Umbro.

If it ain’t broke

Aside from the vexed matter of money in football, the Jabulani raises a broader question, and that’s about the role of innovation. It is fantastic that Britain is at the cutting edge in various high-tech industries, and politicians on all sides agree that such excellence will be key to our future prosperity. But is innovation a good in itself? Or should our mantra be ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’? Usually, the debate around science and technology focuses on fears of Frankenstein-like mad scientists creating havoc. Perhaps the Jabulani is evidence of a more banal, irritating phenomenon: pointless meddling.

You Decide

  1. If a rule or a tradition has lasted a long time, does that mean we should respect it more? Or does it mean that it is high time it was re-invented?
  2. What would you do to make the World Cup more exciting?
  3. What to you think of the statement: “nothing is so bad that change can’t make it worse”?

Activities

  1. If you had a job as sports scientist what piece of equipment or clothing would you improve and how would you do this ? Watch the videos from the following website to give you some ideas :http://bit.ly/cM0cYJ

Some People Say...

“I beat the people from China. I win against China. You can win against China if you're smart.”

Donald Trump

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