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The Jabulani balls: World Cup nightmare?

June 22, 2010 12:30 IST
France native Claude Arpi, who has lived in India for 36 years, captures the fan's passion for football in an ongoing e-mail exchange with Ivan Crasto,'s Sports Editor.

Read Claude's first e-mail here
You can find his second e-mail here
And his third here
And his fourth here
And his 5th: Revolution is a French sport

Dear Ivan,

It was fun watching Portugal-North Korea last evening. At least we saw some goals.

I wished the North Koreans had scored a goal in the first half; they came close a couple of times. They had the merit of continuing to attack even after taking goal after goal.

I wonder what is going to happen to the coach when they return to Pyongyang. He had declared at the first press conference that they owe everything to their Dear Leader (North Korean ruler Kim Jong-Il) who had even instructed them about the tactics to adopt.

Well, Mr Kim seems to not have fully grasped the Art of Defence. He should perhaps visit Switzerland, though the Helvetians have been caught at their own game.

The Chile-Switzerland match turned out to be like the Spain-Switzerland encounter, but this time with the Swiss playing 10 versus 11 (after a tough expulsion of Behrami by the Saudi referee).

Though I recognise that the Swiss have one of the best defences, I don't like this type of defending football (though more and more European teams are becoming adept at this style). Chile merited their victory even if Parades who crossed over to Gonsalez was really off-side (where was the line referee?).

Good that Spain is slowing recovering its true place amongst the top teams. It is a pity that David Villa missed the hat-trick when he shot a penalty just outside the post.

The Spaniards have to adjust their shots if they want to go further in the competition; they missed too many occasions.

I told you yesterday that I wanted to give you my opinion about the Chinese balls.

Did you watch how the balls were made? Watch this video!

The entire process seems perfect, but I regret the old Pakistani balls. For one, there were certainly more goals, but also it meant that Adidas employed tens of thousands people in our neighbouring country.

Having shifted the production to China will perhaps make the FIFA slightly wealthier (do they need it?), but what about those people in Pakistan? What will they do? It will undoubtedly a create fertile recruitment field for the Lashkar and other groups who bank on the unemployed, frustrated youth to enroll new terrorists.

But multinationals don't think or care, they just earn money.

Now Rabi Mehta, a desi engineer at the NASA Ames Research Centre in Moffett Field, California, has found that the problem of the jabulani balls was the altitude. He told that at high altitude 'the air pressure is lower, and so are aerodynamic effects such as drag and lift, ultimately causing balls to travel faster and straighter than they would at lower altitude.'

The problem is that you invariably have no time to make complicated mathematical calculations when you face the goalkeeper of the opposing team. In any case, footballers are not intellectuals or scientists.

I regret one thing: We have not yet seen any goal powerfully shot from 30 to 35 metres or even a 'banana' free kick during which the trajectory of the ball follows the shape of a banana to pass by the players' wall and end in the top corner of the posts.

The jabulani balls usually fly wide over the transversal bar, like a rugby conversion. It seems that 'jabulani' means 'enjoy' in Zulu (the sound to me is like the Indian sweet), so let us enjoy tonight the Pride of Bafanas Bafanas vs the Pride of France.

The loser can always accuse the referee.

With jabulanis and vuvuzelas


Image: Have the jabulani balls taken the fun out of this World Cup? Photograph: Jerry Lampen/Reuters