Few celebrating official World Cup ball

The official World Cup ball is called the Jabulani, from the Zulu word meaning "to celebrate," but few goalkeepers will be throwing a party for it.

The official World Cup ball is called the Jabulani, from the Zulu word meaning "to celebrate," but few goalkeepers will be throwing a party for it.  

United States 'keeper Marcus Hahnemann was the latest to criticize the Adidas invention on Thursday when he called it a "nightmare."  

Italy's Gianluigi Buffon said the Jabulani was unpredictable at best. Brazil's Julio Cesar compared it with a ball you'd buy at a grocery store and just about the entire Denmark squad are unhappy with it.  

It's now caused a row between Brazil coach Dunga and FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke.   Valcke suggested Brazil may be preparing to use the ball as an excuse for a poor performance at the World Cup.  

"It's months now since the ball has been put into the market by Adidas," Valcke said, questioning the timing of the complaints from the five-time World Cup winner. "Is it Brazil that says that because they are afraid that they will not make it?"  

Dunga hit back from Brazil's camp in Johannesburg on Thursday.  

"He [Valcke] is a guy who never got on the field. I want him to be here in our practice and we will give him the ball to see if he can control it."

Cesar first to sound off

It all started with Cesar, the Inter Milan and Brazil goalkeeper, who likened the Jabulani to a cheap supermarket ball. Light, floaty and utterly unpredictable.

Spain goalie Iker Casillas said it was "in an appalling condition," and England's David James thinks it's "dreadful" and "horrible."

Buffon, Italy's 2006 World Cup-winning 'keeper, said "every touch comes with the unknown."

Former England goalkeeper Gordon Banks, who pulled off one of the saves of the century from Brazil's Pele at the 1970 World Cup, said it was killing the art of goalkeeping.

"It's too light, it moves around in the air, up and down, side to side. It doesn't give the goalkeeper a chance," Banks said.

The Jabulani, or "Joke-ball-lani," as some fans in South Africa are dubbing it, is the 11th Adidas version of the official World Cup ball.

According to Adidas' website it has eight thermally bonded panels and a futuristic texture giving players full control over the ball under all weather conditions. Adidas also says on its website the ball is perfectly round and even more accurate than ever before.

'Keeper's nightmare

It's lighter, too. Rounder and lighter and with less air resistance in the high altitude of many of South Africa's World Cup venues and it points to a tough time for goalkeepers over the next month.

"There is a chance that it will affect goalkeepers," conceded Andy Harland, who developed the ball. "The ball will undoubtedly fly faster. It should be said that whatever ball you play with at altitude is going to be affected."

Harland worked on the Jabulani at Loughborough University's Sports Technology Institute and Adidas says it features "groundbreaking technology."

Hahnemann feels technology is not always the answer.

"Scientists came up with the atom bomb," he said. "Doesn't mean we should have invented it."

Buffon thinks football has to go back to basics sometimes.

"There's a lot of talk about stadiums, infrastructure and TV and that's nice and all, but first we've got to worry about balls, spikes and jerseys," he said.

The consensus from many of the players, not just goalkeepers, is that the ball is bad, no matter what FIFA or Adidas say.

The theory is that balls that are tougher to save for goalies means the World Cup produces more goals and more excitement.

The plan may have backfired.

"You can see how many forwards there are … guys just running into the box and missing the ball by two feet," Hahnemann said. "So it not only moves for us, but also guys attacking the ball on crosses."

"It's very weird," Brazil striker Luis Fabiano said. "All of a sudden it changes trajectory on you. It's like it doesn't want to be kicked. I think it's supernatural."

Denmark's Daniel Agger said it made some outfielders look like "drunken sailors" and teammate Jesper Gronkjaer told the Danish website, "It really is a lousy football."