Thursday, June 24, 2010

Song of the Jabulani

I really have to speak out on behalf of the Jabulani. It's wonderful that Adidas' pursuit of perfection - the perfectly round football - has so fundamentally changed the way the game must be played. For the most part, the reaction from outfield players and goalkeepers (generally not under contract to the German apparel company) alike has been, in the words of "El Niño" Torres:

"We need to practice a bit more with this Jabulani because we are having a bit of bother with it" (

Yeah, it's more than a bit of a bother to any European team, other than the Germans. Mysteriously enough, Die Mannschaft and the Bundesliga have been rolling the Jabulani around for some time (Adidas). And it shows. The Germans seem to be among the few European teams who've actually unlocked this thing.

The Jabulani strikes at the heart of the muscular European style of England and Italy. There's no Beckham and no bending. Collapsing in a writhing heap 30 yards outside the goal, after slight contact, only grants your side the opportunity to fly another Jabulani free kick well over the crossbar. Change-of-field passes flying 60 yards or more bounce harmlessly out of reach of the attacking wingers. Sides have to keep the ball on the pitch and work their passes to decipher the defense.

The Jabulani gets powerful assistance from lowered aerodynamic effects at altitude and firm, perfect South African pitches. The groundskeepers should be given lifetime engagements at Wembley when this is all done. I can't remember balls running on the pitch so fast and true in international competition. It's not surprising, then, that the Latin American sides have seen great success through the group phase. The ball simply favors incessant passing on the turf and attacking creativity.

I think this is good for the game. I don't mind if fewer goals are scored from set pieces, corner kicks or 35-yard banana rockets. Or, that players have less incentive to roll-around on the pitch because they've been knocked in the shins. Let's see the quick low passes and shots that created the beautiful USA goal against Algeria. Love the Jabulani.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Love, Fútbol & Africa

This is less a meaningful blog entry than my own shameful ode to the iPad.
I've tried not to become a Fan Boy. Ardently (check my prior posts for some meaningful Apple bashing, literally). I'm in the airport lounge typing away a rare blog entry. This is the first time this device has left my bag. No laptop-into-the-bin-through-security struggle. I'm rather Clooney-esque as I zip through the security line. Grumbling at the laptop-wielding cretins who held me up was entirely satisfying. How great is this thing? Great. Sorry.

That's not the point of this entry. I'm on my way to the mother continent to soak in a few days of futbol. Right here I'd like to insert some Roots-y reference to transcending 400 years of slavery to return to the homeland in its moment of glory. It's not true. My great-grandfather was a rabid Pan-Africanist, who shuttled back and forth to the continent. I'm always puzzled that he never lived out his convictions by actually moving to Liberia or something. Last man standing?

That's not the point of this entry either. This is mainly a response to the somewhat quizzical lemon-face that is a common response to futbol-fandom in the US. The lemon-face tightens on the mention of South Africa, along the lines of telling your folks you were moving to New York in the 80s. Why suffer hooligans, car-jackings and terrorist threats to watch a sport played mainly by small children and foreigners? If the egregious ball kick-and-chase isn't yet illegal in Arizona, it soon will be.

It's basically this: I speak one other language poorly (that's English) and three others barely enough to utter a few common phrases (or, in the case of Spanish, just enough to decipher the clever metaphorical insults of my in-laws, I think). My verbal expression is constipated. Futbol is the language I speak fluently. Most of the folks on the planet understand it. It's my own little Mandarin.

It leads to peace at home, for the most part. My entire fandom can generally be resolved between the hours on 5 am and 10 am on the weekends, leaving me free to my pursuit of ideal parenting and spousing. Cheerfully attending brunches and family dinners without score-check fumbling with my smartphone under the table or fighting for the seat facing the TV over the bar. No conflicts with Fantasy on Ice or other forms of men in sequins and feathers (except that the esteemed Martin Rogers, fútbol writer of the highest calibre,
inexplicably turns to figure skating every four years: Beats me). Mexico playing the US does not lead to household harmony. Glad that doesn't happen so often.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Post Way, Los Angeles, United States