Lighter, faster, stronger: New ball torments goaliesThe World Cup could be a high scoring affair, as the new official soccer ball, called “Teamgeist,” has been described by goalkeepers as unpredictable and hard to catch.
Manufactured by Adidas, Teamgeist is the first stitchless ball ever produced. Using a gluing and heating process to create a watertight seal, Adidas said the ball’s 14-panel configuration, compared to the previous 32, has reduced number of places where panels touch each other. That, Adidas claims, makes the ball react three times more accurately when kicked.
Goalies hate it. The ball, which was introduced in December, is “not goalkeeper friendly,” American goalie Kasey Keller told Fox Sports over the weekend.
Pointing out that the ball is very light and travels fast, the Keller said, “It moves quicker in the air, so it arrives on you a fraction of a second faster than you would normally expect. It has a wobble, so it moves slightly in both directions.”
The same complaints were launched earlier by England keeper Paul Robinson, who practiced with the new ball prior to the World Cup.
Soccer experts have also said the ball is giving players a chance to use a new kicking technique, similar to a knuckleball in baseball.
Because the ball has fewer panels, if a player kicks it with little or no spin, it can flutter on an unpredictable path, like a knuckleball. A baseball has only two panels.
The ball’s plastic-coated surface makes it also harder to catch in wet conditions. In addition, people are saying the ball goes farther and faster on kicks.
When the World Cup is done, the data will be scrutinized by experts to confirm these claims. Through the first five matches, 12 goals have been scored this year. That is fewer than the 16 goals in the first five matches of 2002―but that game included Germany’s 8-0 whitewashing of Saudi Arabia.
Regardless, Keller thinks he has seen enough. Referring to the opening match this year between Costa Rica and Germany, he said, “When you look back at the last World Cup, there were hardly any spectacular long-range goals. We had two in the first game yesterday, so something is obviously going on.”
In that game, Torsten Frings, a German midfielder shot a thrilling 35-yard shot into the top right-hand corner of the goalie’s net, helping his team to a 4-2 win.
by Brian Lee