Football’s magnificence lies in it simplicity. The rules, the tactics, the culture have adopted their own complexities over the years, but boots, nets, linesmen, banners and songs all become luxuries when we acknowledge the lovers of the game would play in the mud in bare feet if they had to. Pick two kids anywhere on the planet, give ’em a football and kick ’em out of the house for a few hours and those tykes’ll make a game of it. Rocks and sticks become goal posts. Any patch of open space makes a pitch and a round ball is all you need. That’s why it’s the world’s best loved sport.
So it baffles me when a football governing body introduces a “new ball” as UEFA did for the champions league final. Frivolous new technology in a sport of beautiful simplicity. Okay, UEFA: what have we got here?
The Adidas Finale Rome utilizes PSC-Texture™ which entails a series of bumps on the surface of the ball which is supposed to create a better grip for the players’ boots, thus making it easier to play with in inclement weather conditions.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not opposed to progress. I just hate when it interferes with the purity of the game.
If you can make goal-line technology work: fine. Put a sensor in the ball so we know when it crosses the line, etc.. If the change doesn’t affect the movement of the ball, it’s no problem. If it helps us clarify dubious goals and such without stopping the match for video replay, that’s a reasonable technological innovation. But if the weight of the sensor, say, somehow stunts the speed of the ball as it moves across the pitch or if it drastically alters its trajectory from a free-kick or corner, then I have a problem with it.
Watching the players try and get their feet around the Rome Finale ball was painful at times. The movement from freekicks and corners was markedly different, and the ball’s track across the pitch seemed stuttered and inconsistent. The technology interfered with play. Anyone could see it.
From kick-off, the difference was blatant . Barca gave up a quick free throw in dangerous territory because what should have been a simple pass from Valdes missed its man and went out to touch. Almost the same thing happened to United after Eto’o scored. A routine pass to van der Sar went well wide and Barca earned a corner kick.
As with the ball used in the 2006 World Cup, change has altered the path of the ball and forces the players to change how they play. In 2006, fewer seams altered the spin of the lighter ‘Teamgiest’ ball and gave it an unpredictable trajectory. Keepers had their hands full (or not) keeping tabs on where the ball was going.
At least FIFA used the Teamgeist for the entire World Cup, though. UEFA waited until the Champions League final to introduce the Finale Rome. Yes, the name of the ball presaged that move. But perhaps we could have been using an Adidas Groupstage Rome with the same technology at the start of the competition so the players could get used to it.
While any of the United and Barca players who represented their country in last summer’s Euro have already been exposed to PSC-Texture™ in the form of the ‘EUROPASS‘ ball, the thing still seemed an alien concept on the day as players were clearly not used to the ball’s movement.
But the issue ultimately goes back to the concept of simplicity.
We don’t need this ball.
Playing in bad weather is as important a tradition for football as anything. And its the same soaked pitch for both sides. Until Ronaldo or Messi develops webbed feet and gills, it’s not as if one has advantage over the other. The ball’s goosebumps, dimples, pimples, whatever they are: not needed. “They are scientifically proved to allow better control in all weather conditions.” Yeah? Well, they invoked poor control on a sunny day at Wembley.
It didn’t change the outcome, as both sides had to struggle with the thing equally. But it forced them to change how they played and adjust to a new ball with little preparation.
Embrace simplicity, UEFA. The ball is round. You kick it. You can even do this without a high-tech nuclear powered boot designed by NASA. I promise.
We don’t need more whistles and bells on our football. I say, don’t &%#!@ with perfection™.
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