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World Cup: Jabulani is put to the test

Scientists at the California Institute of Technology tested the controversial Jabuluani to see if it behaves differently than other soccer balls.

By Matt Bonesteel  |  June 24, 2010; 11:16 AM ET
Categories:  2010 World Cup  
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Next: World Cup Group F: Italy stumbles out vs. Slovakia, Paraguay takes first


so....test inconclusive? "So we just have to learn how this ball behaves." Uh....isn't that what the test was for? Didn't we already know that it's smoother?

Posted by: nairbsod | June 24, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

For those of us who read you on the Flashless iPhone, can you just tell us what the conclusions were?

Posted by: Shortpump | June 24, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Anyone who's watched the last 20 or so games should be able to tell it behaves very differently. All you have to do is look at the free kicks, 95% of which seem to do nothing but keep rising. Not to mention the unusual number of crosses and corners sailing over everyone.

Posted by: edgeonyou | June 24, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

@edgeonyou - yeah, but some players are figuring it out. that strike from Oetzil (sp?) shows what adidas intended when they created the jabulani.

Posted by: VTUnited | June 24, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

the altitude at some of the venues is playing a role, but the fact that there's still not a single goal scored from a free kick tells me that the ball is very hard to get "up and down" to borrow a golf term. you can't get underneath it and allow it to get any backspin, otherwise it's flying into Row R.

Torres' free kick against Slovenia was close, but he was able to go around the wall rather than trying to go over it.

Posted by: dimesmakedollars | June 24, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Cal tech getting some free publicity on this. Not much else.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | June 24, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Blah, blah. Haven't they been using the same exact ball in a different *color way* in MLS this season? Maybe this explains Perkins generally sucky start to the season? LOL

Posted by: DadRyan | June 24, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

edgeonyou...I think it has been the lack of free kicks. There seem to be very few fouls called in a dangerous position so far.

Posted by: Reignking | June 24, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

This isn't even a reasonable test. Balls move the way they do because of how they're struck. A wind tunnel will only tell you how it flies with no spin, which makes this test useless.

I haven't been able to kick or feel a Jabulani, but my suspicion is that the surface coating is part of the issue. Players aren't getting as much spin on the ball, and one factor could be the amount of friction they can generate. With many of today's shoes featuring rubber or silicon coatings to promote more friction, you'd think balls would be spinning more, giving more control. Either players worldwide have suddenly become inept at bending the ball, or something's happening on the surface of the ball.

Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | June 24, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Since the players have been given plenty of time to practice with the new ball, there should be little complaining about it. The rules, equipment, and other aspects of sport on all levels change all of the time and must be adapted to. I understand that the players have been used to playing with a certain type of ball, but they need to learn to adjust just like everyone else. I think the team who best demonstrates their ability to adjust to the new ball will certainly be a factor in the outcome of the World Cup.

Posted by: erichuggins | June 24, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

How often do you see free kicks scored in day to day league matches? Because I watch way too much soccer, and what I normally see is what I've seen in this world cup... a majority miss, some come close, and, rarely, a free kick makes it in.

I could see how the physics of the ball might be different, but did Portugal have a problem passing with it or scoring? Has anyone complained about the ball aside from the italians and the english?

Posted by: me_ahogo | June 24, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse


I played with the ball indoor a few weeks ago. It's definitely "stickier" than previous balls but also seemed much livelier. The ball just shot off my foot without much effort. It felt like there was some kind of material just under the cover that provided the springiness to it. The problem is with more friction I think it makes it harder to control spin. Like you said shoes today have silicon and rubber to help increase friction but with too much, I can see it making the ball much more unpredictable, especially on longer passes, crosses and free kicks. Since I played with it indoor there wasn't as much room for much over 25 yard passes but it definitely did some odd things on shots. I also noticed during some of the WC games the ball getting stuck underfoot a little more than usual, which could be attributed to the extra friction. I wonder if using genuine leather shoes would compensate for this extra friction. I'll have to pull out an old pair of Copa's and see how it feels.

Posted by: owendylan | June 24, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

What dimesmakedollars and Chest said.


So if FIFA changed the ball to an 8lb. medicine ball and gave everybody a year to practice with it that'd be just hunky-dory? Right. Some equipment changes make the game better. Some don't.

The only thing that gives me pause in saying that this ball has been a colossal brain fart is the plausibility that altitude is the primary or contributing factor. But three of the ten venues are coastal, and I haven't noticed any real difference in the flight of the ball at matches in lower elevations.

Posted by: benonthehill | June 24, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Japan with two free kick goals so far today.

Posted by: davemcl | June 24, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Japan has figured out the Jabulani!

Posted by: tailwagger | June 24, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

The testers appeared not to have taken into account that the Jabulani is 53 grams lighter than the traditional soccer balls used in previous World Cups. I don't think that altitude is a factor in South Africa as it would be in several cities located in Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia where altitude is higher than 6000 feet over sea-level.

Posted by: daleleon42 | June 24, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

again, has anyone in MLS been complaining?

Posted by: DadRyan | June 24, 2010 5:23 PM | Report abuse

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