Picture, if you will, a meeting that took place some months ago to review progress with the preparations for the World Cup in South Africa. Sid Flatter is quizzing the overall Director, Bert Van Slipup. With lunch beckoning Sid is happy to tick the boxes to Bert’s dictation. Stadia building on target, security lined up, media coverage negotiated, referees appointed. Bert droned on and Sid suggested an adjournment lest the six-course meal grow cold. As they stroll away, aglow with success, Sid asks about the trivia. Last of all comes the balls. ‘No idea’ says Bert, ‘I’ll get the bloke with the paper shop down the road to sort something’.
Back to real life! But it has to be said to be incredible that after spending millions of both pounds and sleepless nights planning this momentous event no one thought to check out with the various competitors the actual object of all that they will be aiming to do. And aiming is a good word to use since, according to virtually everyone, the ball chosen does not head in the direction at which it is aimed.
Fabio Capello says that the trajectory of the new ball is impossible to predict. It is, he adds, the worst ball that he has ever seen in his life. For the players it is terrible. It is good when you play short passes but when you switch the ball with long passes it is difficult to understand the trajectory. As if to ram his point home Fabio goes on to declare that ‘sometimes this ball is impossible to control’. So now we know why even the megastars tend to hit the third tier rather than the crossbar!
Our once beloved Sven-Goran Eriksson isn’t too happy either. He has called for a summit of players and coaches to discuss the ball and has urged Fifa to listen to their concerns (he always was a dreamer). According to Sven the Jabulani is making life difficult for goalkeepers. And he has a lot of support. David James choose the adjective dreadful and Gianluigi Buffon and Mark Schwarzer were even more cutting. Sven feels that the goalkeepers lot will not be a happy one given that it is impossible to work out what the ball will do next. One imagines that Rob Green might well agree!
The chosen manufacturers are Adidas. They claim that the fault lies with the teams who did not take up the offer to use the new ball in practice. The England camp refute this and claim that their attempts to get hold of samples were ‘thwarted’. According to Adidas 20 to 30 balls were sent to Wembley in February. Since the team only received a supply some fifteen days before the big day one can only assume that there are a lot of very happy small boys down Wembley Way.
It really is an extraordinary, er, balls-up. And to rub salt in the collective wounds it transpires, according to Wayne Rooney, that the five Adidas-sponsored clubs in the German Bundesliga league used this very ball th roughout last year. They, it seems, have worked out the formula. Throw in the taunts aimed at the England squad by Franz Beckenbauer and you can imagine that the probable eventual clash between the two countries may be somewhat spicy!
But having focussed my diminishing grey matter on this fiasco I have decided that the whole affair will play to England’s advantage. Fact 1; Wayne Rooney was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth and almost certainly acquired his skills in street games using coats for goals and old beach balls. Fact 2; He reports that having practised diligently for 3 weeks he has established a plan based on concentration focussed on movement in the air. Fact 3; Rooney is without doubt the most lethal striker in world football.
So if my reasoning has any validity a Rooney-led England will go all the way leaving behind them a load of less hard-working superstars who spent the entire competition firng blanks. So come on Wayne, we ferret-breeders are behind you and you are one of us!
Mind you it would still have been better for the authorities to address the question of what is to be kicked before the whole shebang started!