By Nick Harris
15 June 2010
Adidas’s controversial World Cup football, the Jabulani, wasn’t simply offered to competing nations for use months ago, but was rejected in some cases – including by England – because of commercial considerations to other firms, namely Umbro in England’s case.
England’s squad would only have been able to use the Jabulani for a couple of training sessions anyway before each of two 2010 Wembley friendlies, but didn’t because England are contractually obliged to use Umbro balls for training outside major events.
The England squad has used the Jabulani consistently since coming together as a group on 17 May.
This means England have had not nearly as much exposure as some nations. Spain, Argentina and Germany have used it for months, and it has already being used in leagues in America, Argentina, South Africa and Germany, and was used at the 2010 African Nations Cup.
But that lack of exposure is not the fault of Adidas but rather through choices made by the English FA (contracted to Umbro) and the English Premier League (which uses Nike balls).
The already infamous error by Rob Green that gifted the USA a draw on Saturday has been partially blamed by some observers on the new ball. However England could stray into embarrassing territory if they start to lambast it in public, not least because one of England’s star players, Frank Lampard, was involved in the development of the ball, in giving feedback. The ball was created with vital input from scientists at Loughborough University in England.
An article on the Loughborough website from December contains a photograph of Lampard testing the ball, and a video of him endorsing it.
The fact that Lampard is an “Adidas” player makes it only slightly less valid that he speaks highly of the ball. As recently as April 2010, Lampard said: “I think this ball as I was saying before is quite true in its flight when you hit it cleanly which it what you want and its what the keeper want, but if you can hit it with different techniques then you can get movement which is part of the skill level so I think it is a very good ball for both sides.
“There is obviously a lot of human error in football, on certain days you catch the ball wrong as players we look to criticise the ball but I think as I said before all balls, have advanced technology and all balls have the regulations that they have to be. So I think if players are moaning about the size or the weight I think that is probably football players.”
Lampard and his Chelsea team-mate talk Petr Cech in glowing terms about the ball in the video below.
Adidas don’t deny that the ball has behaved in a manner unusual to some players, but argue that has as much to do with playing at altitude (unfamiliar to most), and with trying something new.