Jabulani – meaning ‘to Celebrate’ in the Zulu language – is the name of the new ball for the FIFA World Cup 2010™.
What’s different about this ball is that it’s made with only eight panels–down from 2006’s 14 panels–and it’s covered in tiny bumps and grooves that reportedly make it more stable in flight.
About The Ball
Made, as ever, by Adidas – a world renowned Football equipment manufacturer, the Jabulani ball builds on their years of scientific excellence. With their history of official FIFA World Cup balls – the balls have improved year on year, though not without attracting some controversy along the way.
Regular balls are made with 32 hexagonal panels. The Teamgeist for World Cup in Germany 2006 had only 14 panels. The Jabulani ball has an amazing 8 panels.
This is the eleventh Adidas World Cup ball, eleven different colours are used, although the main colours are white, black and yellow. These 11 colours represent the 11 players in football line-up, the 11 official languages of South Africa and the 11 South African communities. The diversity of all these 11 aspects is put together on one ball.
Four triangle-shaped design elements on a white background lend the ball a unique appearance in African spirit. And like the outer facade of Johannesburg’s Soccer City Stadium, individual design elements also capture the colourfulness of South Africa.
FIFA Standards / Jabulani Ball Stats Weight 420-445 440/td> Heavy
Circumference 68.5-69.5cm 69.0 +/- 0.2 Average
Roundness 1.5% Variance 1.0% Good
Water Absorption Max 10% 0% Amazing
Bounce Variance 10cm 6cm Good
Leakage 20% from 3 days 10% Excellent
This table shows that the moulding technique means the ball retains its shape, and the lack of seaming means there is essentially zero water retention, which will reduce sluggishness of the ball if South Africa defies the odds and rains throughout the World Cup.
The weight is interesting – being towards the higher end of the allowed scale means the flight will be truer and more predictable making keepers happy, but also rewarding accuracy for strikers. Eight 3-D spherically formed EVA and TPU panels are moulded together, resulting it is perfectly round for better on-pitch play.
Robot leg Analyses the flight of the ball and makes sure it is identical and remains consistent in each one that is produced. Consists of a standard football boot attached to a mechanical swinging lever which kicks each ball 2,000 times – the average number of times a ball is kicked during a match – at a speed of 50km an hour into a goal net as well as at a steel plate Nürnberg, from Germany, is immensely proud of a ball the sportswear manufacturer says is the roundest, truest and most accurate on the market.
Wind tunnel Every Jabulani is tested in a wind tunnel to ensure it has a similar and true flight. The ball is kept stationary and air is blown across it. How the air patterns change at different intensities are recorded with the intention of making them consistent. This test also checks how the ball reacts at high altitude, which is an issue in South Africa. Thinner air means each one is likely to increase in speed.
Dr Andy Harland, who developed the ball at Loughborough University’s Sports Technology Institute, said much of the criticism was due to the unfamiliar effects arising from teams playing at altitude as part of their pre-World Cup training. He regards a flurry of criticism about his brainchild’s supposedly capricious trajectory as an inevitable part of a natural adjustment period. “I am very confident about the design,” he says. “But players, goalkeepers especially, always take time to get used to new balls.”But
‘I’ve seen nothing that’s concerned me,’ he said. ‘This ball has been around since December and been used since then around the world with very few comments. ‘Teams have gone to altitude and you’ve seen comments come out in those circumstances.‘We’ve said all along it would affect the ball but whichever ball you play with at altitude will be affected.’
Harland, who said not one team had contacted him to discuss the ball, added: ‘There are no secrets about this ball. “The ball is designed to allow the very best players in the world to exhibit their skills.’ Goalkeepers can expect to find their task a little harder in South Africa but an increased difficulty in maintaining clean sheets will be down to playing at high altitude rather than Adidas’s controversial new World Cup football. Hans-Peter Nürnberg, senior development engineer in Adidas’s global innovation team, explains: “The goalies may find it a bit more difficult to cope because the ball will travel faster, possibly 5% faster, at altitude as the air is thinner and it will also ‘jump’ a bit higher.” There is good news for some players, though: “But attackers might be able to take advantage. I think Cristiano Ronaldo is going to love it. The good players have more opportunities to use their abilities to go for more extreme scenarios. It gives attackers greater confidence because there are more chances to score and that makes things more attractive for the spectator.”
David James is not alone in having launched a scathing attack on the Jabulani. Branding it “dreadful”, the England goalkeeper warned that some keepers would be made to look “daft” by its movement through the air but, in this instance, familiarity appears to breed content. Fabio Capello’s side have tried out the ball in training but England’s contract with Umbro means it has seen limited competitive use.
Elsewhere though the Jabulani has seen match action for some months across leagues including Germany’s Bundesliga and North America’s MLS.Players at clubs such as Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, who have sponsorship agreements with Adidas, are well accustomed to the ball’s idiosyncrasies after working frequently with it in training. Portugal’s opponents have reason to fear the results of Ronaldo’s fine-tuning of his dead-ball routines at Real. Similarly Holland’s Arjen Robben has enjoyed plenty of time to rehearse Jabulani deliveries with Bayern.
“Footballers with special technique like Cristiano Ronaldo love playing with the ball,” Nürnberg says. “It helps with fast, accurate passing and, due to its construction and added grip, attackers put can more spin and swerve on their deliveries. It should make football more enjoyable to watch.”
In the South African Bantu language of IsiZulu Jabulani means “to rejoice” and Nürnberg believes that, once rain starts falling on World Cup venues during this southern hemisphere winter, goalkeepers and strikers alike will join in hailing its new “grip and groove” technology. While the integrated grooves aid accurate flight, the Jabulani’s dimpled surface not only allows the application of greater spin but enhances grip and control in adverse weather.
“I think all players, goalkeepers as well, will find it better in the wet, they’ll have improved grip,” says Nürnberg who, aided by among others the Sports Technology Institute of Loughborough University, has spent three years creating a ball sufficiently groundbreaking for Africa’s first World Cup.
“I hope I enjoy watching the tournament,” says Nürnberg, who adds that the ball’s eight thermally bonded 3-D panels are, for the first time, spherically moulded, which makes the ball so perfectly proportionate that it retains a round outline even when deflated.
They are likely to be less enamoured by inevitable differences in the ball’s flight caused by playing at differing altitudes. Johannesburg, for instance, is 1,753m above sea level and Rustenburg 1,500m, while Cape Town is coastal. “The changing altitudes makes this World Cup a little challenging,” Nürnberg acknowledges. “Any ball will fly a little faster and jump more at higher levels but, apart from altering the ball’s inflation level, which won’t happen, there is nothing you can really do to make it behave exactly the same at different altitudes.