Friday, June 11, 2010

It's always the ball, not the players kicking it

So the XIXth World Cup of Soccer begins today in South Africa.   Games will be held at two stadia in Johannesburg, the host city, and in eight other cities around the country.

One subject that keeps coming up, as it does at every soccer championship -- whether it's the worlds, the continental playoffs or the Olympics -- is the design of the ball.    We're 40 years removed from the famous Telstar, the truncated icosahedron or "bucky-ball" shaped sphere, deliberately designed so it would be visible to television viewers as the 1970 championships were the first to be broadcast via satellite.   Today's game balls are designed to withstand a whole bunch of elements as well as elevations -- the game sites this year are anywhere from sea level to over a mile above.

This year's edition, called the Jabulani or "jubliee" is a synthetic marvel that is driving players crazy.    They say it's going places it shouldn't -- in other words, the ball bends before the players have a chance to bend it the way they want it to go.

It's not like they didn't know this was coming.   There may be an argument that Adidas, the manufacturer, should have released it a few months before it was to give the 32 qualifiers a chance to get more practice with it; but these are the same players who don't mind cussing in so many different languages that the refs this year have had to take extra lessons so they can have the red card handy.

Just play ball, for heaven's sake.   Fans want to see action, not petulant players.

This year's lineup of teams could create more surprises than usual.   For what it's worth, I'm currently residing out of the Little Portugal section of Hamilton ... it's going to be a madhouse every time they win a game.   But I don't mind the lack of sleep.   Not that I've been getting much lately anyway.

Game on.   Like my dad's fond of saying, the ball is round.

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