Striking the Jo’bulani

OK, in my drab life, I love the sport of futbol (“soccer” in Americanglish).  I play in an over 40 league, usually underdressing in boy shorts – supportive, and it feels so comfortable, almost like going commando, but with support.  I assistant coach for a youth team, played summer league this year as well as spring and fall.  I have rediscovered my love for the game, now more pure, and in person, twenty-five years after ending my own youth career in the sport at the high school level, when I was 16.  I watched World Cup religiously this year, every morning at breakfast before work.  I became fascinated with the new ball that Adidas created for the event, the Jabalani, and the cream of that crop, the Jo’bulani — the gold accented ball intended for the final match.  The roundest soccer ball ever created, it is also tricked out with some surprising aerodynamic dimples covering the surface in several patterns – similar to the scatter of golf ball dimples, but in relief, rather than recessed.  I’m going to try to attach photo here:

Image courtesy Adidas

So I got on Ebay, found a vendor in China selling the ball for a fair price, and plunked down for two – one for me, and one as a gift for our player-coach in the Over-40s.  I’m sure they arrived by slow boat, it took about 3 1/2 weeks until I received the postal notice.  Well I picked them up at the PO today, and I took mine to the youth team soccer practice, where I could really play with it for 90 minutes.  I have not had so much fun with a soccer ball, well, ever.  I conducted drills, warmed up the coach’s HS aged daughter before her practice, and then stayed after practice was over for 30 minutes of striking at the goal from various positions on the field 25-40 yards from the endline.  I can say it is the most accurate, and workable ball I have ever played – it responds to finesse applied in ways I’ve never had a ball respond.  I am wearing Diadora Maracana RTX12 boots, and they are nice K-leather + synthetics, with an offset lace line that gives you a great feel for the ball on your instep.  I’ve played several matches in them now, and they are terrific.

Anyway, back to the Jo’bulani.  You can really strike this ball with amazing accuracy, and it is great for ball handling, even on a wet field.  But striking it at a tended goal is the most impressive time you can spend with the Jo’bulani – give it a full swing, as in taking a goal kick, and it launches skyward with ease.  You begin to understand why the World Cup contained so many high-and-wide misses on goal.

But you can line drive it just as easily by leaning over the ball for a hard strike, and it really seems to go exactly where you envisioned your target.  Left foot strikes, right foot strikes, I took a hard swing at the Jo’bulani with the outside instep on my right (dominant) foot and, as predicted (and as witnessed in the World Cup matches over and over) the ball “knuckled” (sails through the air with no spin, like a “knuckleball” in baseball), and flew at amazing velocity at head level into the back of the net.  The coach of the youth team, the kid in the goal, and I all stopped gape-mouthed at the shot – struck from probably 25 yards out.  Like a gun had gone off.  You begin to understand the seemingly impossible feats with the ball that were sprinkled throughout the 2010 World Cup, and see the potential for this ball to really advance your game.  My feeling after spending just this limited time with a new ball is that it could really become the standard for world level play on down to the high school leagues.  Strikers, midfielders, and defenders will need to learn how to use this ball – I use that term because I think the responsiveness of the Jo’bulani to your most nuanced touch makes it a tool for the player to work with.  Warming up by passing, trapping and juggling the ball with a talented teenage player demonstrates the feel of this ball that can also be put to use by the astute player – it is very tactile, without being sticky – ideal for building ball-handling skills.

I guess the long-term success of the Jo’bulani will remain to be seen, and it’s impact if any beyond World Cup 2010 is an open question.  Although as I attend youth team practice and games, all I see are Adidas jabalani-replica balls, without all the aerodynamics, and super-roundness, but sharing the same Jabulani tricked-out round-triangle paint scheme.  Ahh, the corrupting of our youth.  Where does it end?  But it’s a helluva proving ground for Adidas’ creation.  It may be the ball of the future, so natch, I had to have it.

I hope this was helpful, you can get them on Ebay for the best price, all the retailers have them too, if you want to buy local — but in either case, know what you are buying (there are a lot of lookalikes, and step-down models – this Jo’bulani is the FIFA approved certificated size 5 2010 World Cup Official Match Ball), and make sure you are getting the real deal.   :^)

Kisses, KM


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