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World Cup 2010: Fifa puts faith in new Jabulani ball

15 June 10 11:22 GMT

Fifa says there is nothing wrong with the new World Cup ball, dismissing growing criticism from players.

Slovenia's Robert Koren says the Jabulani is "really difficult to control", while Nigeria's Dickson Etuhu rates it as "the worst ball ever".

But Fifa has hit back and insisted it has been "tested" and "approved".

Manufacturers adidas claim altitude is the main factor affecting the Jabulani ball not its design and blames players for not practising enough with it.

"I wouldn't say I am surprised by the negative reaction. It is customary when there is a new ball that players need to get used to it," said Thomas Schaikvan, head of global public relations at adidas.

"What is strange is that people are saying the ball is lighter. That is just not true. There are stringent Fifa technical specifications and our standards are significantly tighter than that. We don't concentrate on making a faster ball, we want to create a more stable ball."

And adidas also said the Jabulani - from the Zulu words "to celebrate" - had been widely available for players and teams to practise with.

"The ball was launched in December. Since then it has been used in the United States, Germany, Argentina without any negative comments," said the company.

"There is absolutely no reason to change the ball. It is the best model that we have ever produced."

The Jabulani, which was tested at Loughborough University in England, was used at this year's Africa Cup of Nations and in several top leagues, including Germany's Bundesliga.

The English Premier League did not use it because it has a contract with rival manufacturers Nike.

However, Fifa says the ball was distributed to all countries in February and has been extensively trialled by Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Chelsea.

Despite its apparent availability, numerous players are unhappy with its performance.

Goalkeepers David James (England), Mark Schwarzer (Australia), Gianluigi Buffon (Italy) and Iker Casillas (Spain) all castigated it before the World Cup began.

"The ball is dreadful. It's horrible but it's horrible for everyone," stated James, who said some goalkeepers would end up "looking daft".

Buffon added: "The trajectory is really unpredictable. Usually you get used to it but in this case every touch comes with the unknown.

"I noticed the first day that this Jabulani ball wasn't right. The World Cup brings together the best players in the world and to those players you must provide something decent. The new ball is not decent."

The complaints keep on coming.

After Nigeria's 1-0 defeat by Argentina, Etuhu commented: "You don't know where it's going to go. It's the worst thing they could have done. It's so hard to play with."

However, Schaikvan is not concerned.

"There are players who play in leagues with other balls, who have not played in the Africa Cup of Nations and players with other federations who have not practised with this ball," he commented. "Those are the players who take the most amount of time to get used to it."

Fifa also says it has not received a single official complaint about the ball from any of the 32 teams competing at the World Cup and has complete faith in the Jabulani.

"The ball has been produced by adidas, which is a long-standing partner of Fifa and very experienced in this field," said Nicolas Maingot, head of Fifa's media. "It has been tested and it has been proven."

Disputes over balls are not only confined to football.

In December 2006, NBA commissioner David Stern authorised a switch back to old leather basketballs after controversial new synthetic balls were criticised by discontented players after three months of use.

"Our players' response to this particular composite ball has been consistently negative and we are acting accordingly," said Stern in a statement at the time.

"Although testing [by Spalding] demonstrated the new composite basketball was more consistent than leather and statistically there has been an improvement in shooting, scoring and ball-related turnovers, the most important statistic is the view of our players."

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