Over at The Soccer Weblog, Daryl asks ‘Is The New Ball a FIFA Conspiracy?‘ I’d have to say no, but agree with Daryl that higher scoring is a good thing. Thanks to ESPN’s numerous available camera angles, most of the shots I saw were long bending shots. I didn’t see the ball bobbing. That’s not to say that a non rotational shot from some of the worlds better players won’t jump around like crazy, but I expect that’ll be the exception, not the rule. Let’s not forget that the main accomplishments of Bayer and adidas were to not just meet FIFA’s standards, but in some cases far exceed them. Of course anytime you have something ‘new’ people will be upset about it, in this case the keepers (and Dave @ Footballs Are Round). When I originally wrote about Teamgeist, I included the stats that the folks at SoccerBallWorld had put together. They were impressive:
Circumference: The FIFA Approved Standard: 68.5 cm – 69.5 cm. The adidas +Teamgeist: 69.0 cm – 69.25 cm
Diameter: FIFA Approved Standard: max. 1.5% difference The adidas +Teamgeist: max. 1.0% difference
Water Absorption: FIFA Approved Standard: no more than 10% weight increase. The adidas +Teamgeist: Water absorption: no more than 0,1 % weight increase
Weight: FIFA Approved Standard: Weight between 420 and 445 grams The adidas +Teamgeist: Weight between 441 and 444 grams
Shape and Size Retention: FIFA Approved Standard: 2,000 cycles at 50 km per hour. The adidas +Teamgeist: 3,500 cycles at 50 km per hour.
First, let’s dispel a common myth.
Teamgeist is not a ‘light’ ball. As you can see, it falls within the high end of FIFA’s standards. It is rounder than most balls, with a max diameter variance of < 1%. The biggest advantage is the ability to not absorb water (mostly due to the panels being glued instead of stitched) But once you go past the specifications, the big question is, does the lack of stitching and reduction in the number of panels drastically affect the air flight of the ball? You’d think it would have to with less turbulence along the surface of the ball. As adidas noted in their research, the bigger panels gave kickers a better ‘flat’ area or sweet spot to hit with less interference from the stitch bumps and dips common on most balls. The ability to hold its shape under intense rotation also means it stays spherical as it spins towards the goal.
I’d say only time will tell, but if the first day is any indication, the new ball did very well. Yes, the keepers are concerned that the slicker surface (designed to reduce abrasion and protect the designs on the ball surface) makes it harder to catch. That is probably true as adidas own marketing materials say:
An aliphatic polyurethane (PU) topcoat formulated with raw materials from Bayer MaterialScience AG essentially places it and the printed design "under glass," making the cover extremely resistant to abrasion.
But I’m not sure I’m ready to say this is a bad thing, since it impacts both keepers, not just one. Yes, there is a historical pull to a supple hand stitched leather ball, but there can be no doubt that the Teamgeist ball is a leap ahead in ball technology and if we see mostly high scoring matches this time around, it will earn a permanent place in worldwide tournament play.
I’d be curious to hear what you all think as the matches progress – is the new ball a major factor in the results and goal totals of the matches?
UPDATE: The WorldCupBlog joins in with some thoughts on the ball. I have to agree that in terms of the slicker surface, not too many shots were even close to a keeper’s hands when they went in!