Monday, July 12, 2010
Craig Johnston's Martydom: Issues Open Letter About Jabulani
A few hours ago I finished watching the movie Pelham 123, which stars Denzel Washington and John Travlota. It was a thrilling storyline where Garber (Denzel makes a dangerous choice to pursue Ryder (Travolta).
Former Liverpool player and inventor of the highest selling soccer boot of all times (Predator), Craig Johnston is engaging in his own Pelham 123. Johnston believes that the horribly perfect Jabulani ball must be destroyed, and he is willing to risk reputation and FIFA blacklisting, if it can preserve the beautiful game. Take a read of his open letter to President Blatter which was distributed via Leaders In Football:
"OPEN LETTER TO BLATTER ON JABULANI BALL"
4:37pm Thursday, 8th July 2010
Dear Mr Blatter,
If a sponsor came into your office before the World Cup and said. ' We are going to give you a new, perfectly round match ball...the players wont like it at all...and there will be more mistakes made than in any other World Cup...'
'There will be less goals scored...less free kicks scored...less passes complete...less control by players....and roughly 70% of crosses and shots on goal will miss wide and go way over the crossbar...'
What would you say to them..?
My name is Craig Johnston. I am risking my reputation and goodwill within certain football circles by writing this open letter to yourself and anybody else who is interested in the Jabulani ball issue and why its endorsement by FIFA could ruin the game as we now know it.
I am however not only writing with the problem, but also an easy solution to the problem...
I am a former football player with Liverpool Football Club in England, and I am also known for inventing the adidas Predator football boot, the adidas Traxion sole system...and the research and testing done on previous World Cup footballs.
I am a big supporter of the FIFA Goal initiatives, and we have met many times over the years, on various football issues. I have also presented to you, the executive committee and the FIFA Technical team many innovations in football and specifically youth development over the years.
I am therefore writing to you as a friend of football, a friend of FIFA. I am also writing to you as someone who actually knows what they are talking about when it comes to World Cup footballs and their flight characteristics.
A lot of things have been said and written about the new Jabulani Ball...but the word disaster is on a lot of players and managers lips...
Pazzini -Italy "The Balls are a disaster, both for goalkeepers and for attackers."
David James-England " Dreadful and Horrible..."
Fabio Capello-Manager England " The worst Ball I have ever seen."
It is very alarming that the best players and teams in the world are struggling to control this ball to their own satisfaction.
What is even more alarming than the players' assessment of the 'bad ball', however, are the statistics of ' bad play'.
What this means to the quality of this tournament in South Africa is quite shocking.
The statistics are showing that it is the worst passing, shooting and controlling of the ball of any World Cup in history of the competition.
That cannot be ignored...and it cannot be fixed up later..as we are being told..
The problems with this ball will not go away and they need to be understood by the FIFA Technical department and addressed immediately...before there are any more on field disasters.
I know you and FIFA are under pressure at the moment. The issues such as Goal Line Technology and poor refereeing decisions are not as important compared to the Jabulani Ball issue and the poor quality of play that it is causing.
There was a furious global public reaction to Frank Lampard's goal against Germany that was denied by the officials...
By my calculations we have been denied at least 10 more goals that were not scored in this World Cup so far, because of the erratic and unstable flight of the Jabulani football..but nobody is jumping up and down...yet...!
Who is taking responsibility for denying us these goals and bits of magic?
To get a goalmouth call wrong and make a mistake happens once or twice a year.
To get the actual football itself wrong, affects every single touch, pass or shot that a player makes, in every single game.
And there are an awful lot of mistakes happening at this showcase tournament.
Daniel Agger-Denmark- Dead Ball expert "It makes world Class players look like drunken sailors"
The erratic behavior of this ball is ruining the flow of the game and downgrading the quality of play.
This is an absolute disaster for the purists...and it cannot continue in this manner.
Just listen to the players ....just look at the statistics...they are very very damning of this ball.
Robinho-Brazil "The guy who designed this never played Football."
The fact is that the Jabulani ball with its new materials and new construction methods simply does not behave in the same predictable aerodynamic manner as the old ball we have all been using perfectly well for 40 years previously...
The players are all saying that the Jubalani has a mind of its own...
I have a trained eye and have been watching these things for years. If you watch carefully, and know what you're looking for, you can see it move erratically, even on television...
I have seen hundreds of basic trajectory miscalculations so far in this World Cup where the ball usually ends up going out of play. Surprisingly, nobody has made a big deal out of it yet...but football people who really watch for the art and craft are starting to notice...like the players...like the managers...like the purists...like the statisticians...its all starting to add up.
I have outlined the more scientific reasons for the balls unpredictable behavior in a separate section below...please read it and you will understand the problem immediately....then count the on-field mistakes...
In short, the new ball does not translate a lot of the backspin, topspin or sidespin...all of the special language that a player normally applies to a ball to make it behave properly in the air.
Why is this so important...?
This language is the real art and craft of the footballer and of the game..
This is what we really pay all of our money to see. This is what makes these guys so different from us...this special language is the genius.
Asking players to Shoot or pass with this new Jabulani ball is like asking Picasso to paint a picture without bristles on his brush...to paint without the usual texture and without all of the feeling...
I have spent 3 weeks in South Africa at the World Cup and I have seen the Jabulani ball move more than 2 feet in the air in some instances when it is not supposed to move in the air. I have also seen the ball go absolutely straight at other times when clearly the player has tried to put a bend on it of 2 feet or more.
Luis Fabiano-Brazil "All of a sudden it changes trajectory on you...I think it is Supernatural.."
Unfortunately the ball is also very nervous and jumpy to the touch when controlling it close to the body and when dribbling it.
Julio Cesar- Goalkeeper Brazil "A Ball you would buy in a Supermarket..."
So the ball is a disaster... and because of it there have been many mistakes...more than any World Cup ever...I really believe that FIFA cannot continue to endorse this ball...
Because by endorsing this ball, FIFA are endorsing every mistake that that has been made by the players using it during this World Cup...
By endorsing this ball, FIFA are endorsing the removal of the players' art and craft at the very top end.
The most frightening thing however is that by endorsing this ball, FIFA are allowing a sponsor to alter the very dynamics of how the game is played... and for the worse. Not just in this competition, but going forward...into schools and youth leagues the world over..
Players are very clever and are adapting already technically and tactically to the balls idiosyncrasies...
The German team knew exactly what they were doing when their goalkeeper kicked the ball deep into the edge of the England Penalty box, up and over the English defense for an unchallenged 1st goal. No other ball could ever have traveled that far...
That is also called Route One Football and soon everyone will be doing it because the ball is encouraging it...
To change the dynamics and the craft of the game like this is not a call that a vested interest sponsor should be allowed to make...they have got it horribly wrong already...
Mr. Blatter, I know you are horrified about the poor play because I know you are a football man. We have heard the excuses from FIFA but who is really making these critical footballing decisions about the players craft..?
The governing body of a sport needs to be independent from the sponsors products. FIFA should have been far more diligent in their own tests....and should have binned the Jabulani ball before the competition..
This is what a very respected goalkeeper said a week before the competition started.
Tim Howard-USA Goalkeeper "It's tragic that you're going to see good players look foolish. Defenders are having a tough time judging it, strikers are having a tough time judging crosses as well and for goalkeepers it's murder so what can we do?''
"I think you're going to see some really weird and unfortunate goals.''
From day one I have been saying that there is a simple solution and back up plan for this World Cup. You can easily apply exactly the same Jubalani ball graphics onto the traditional construction of your sponsor's previous Buckminster construction World Cup balls.
Two of the best footballs ever made were made by your sponsors...The Fevernova and the Tricolor Ball from the Asian World Cup and French World Cup's respectively...
The normal Buckminster construction has given us every glorious moment of football we can ever recall...
As players and as fans...it set the standard for the very craft and soul of the game...it has proven reliable, predictable...dependable...
This new Jabulani ball is unnatural, unpredictable, unreliable ... and it is totally unacceptable how this ball has been endorsed by FIFA for this tournament and going forward..
The sponsors and FIFA marketing seem to be the tail that has been wagging the FIFA dog...and so far they have got away with it...
The only people that can make the call to radically change the dynamics of the ball and therefore the game itself.... are the players....
And no....not the players that are already being paid by the sponsors...!
For me, probably the post prophetically damning statement about the Jabulani ball comes from the English midfielder Joe Cole.
"It took a bit of skill out of the game...but it's the same for everybody."
Wow...what an unbelievably sad statement...
I am not employed by anyone...and I am not looking for a job...I also know I won't make any new friends at FIFA, in-fact, I will probably be blacklisted, but it's a price I am willing to pay.
I owe it to the game to speak up...so does anyone that believes in skill and craft as the ultimate attributes for a footballer.
Mr Blatter, and FIFA...this has been a fabulous World Cup in many many ways, and you all need to be congratulated.
I am sure that the ball designers, manufacturers, sponsors and testers of the Jabulani ball will not have been as honest and straight with you as I have in this letter....and that is the big problem.
But why would they...?
They are making hundreds of millions of dollars already out of this perfectly round football..
So, having had the benefit of understanding the problem, I will ask you the simple question one more time...
If a sponsor came into your office before the World Cup and said... 'We are going to give you a new, perfectly round match ball...the players wont like it at all....and there will be more mistakes made than in any other World Cup...'
'There will be less goals scored...less free kicks scored.....less passes complete....less control by players....and roughly 70% of crosses and shots on goal will miss wide and over the crossbar...'
What would you say to them..?
Craig Johnston, Ex Footballer with Middlesbrough FC and Liverpool FC England