Adidas was growing increasingly frustrated with England last night over repeated suggestions that other nations had been given the advantage of a greater period of time to practise with the World Cup match ball. There is a feeling among some in the England camp that getting access to the Adidas Jabulani ball proved difficult back in the spring, and that the players had only the 15-day run-in to the World Cup to train with it, handing a distinct advantage to the Germans because of the ball's use in the Bundesliga since February.
But Adidas said last night that a consignment of between 20 and 30 balls was sent to Wembley after its introduction to international coaches at a symposium in South Africa in February, and Fifa reiterated that every international association was told at that event that the balls were available for them to use.
Adidas also suggested that England were the only nation who seem to have any complaints about the ball and indicated that Frank Lampard tested the ball as long ago as last November at Loughborough University, which was involved in the ball's development. An undated video on the university website, in which Lampard praises the ball, is believed to have been shot in November.
Adidas feels that England's lesser use of the ball has been exaggerated and it is certainly inaccurate to suggest that the entire Bundesliga used it. Only those clubs with commercial tie-ups with Adidas – including Bayern Munich, Schalke and Bayer Leverkusen – used the balls at their home games. Clubs with alternative commercial deals used different balls for their home games. Brazil, which is a Nike federation, and Italy are among those nations which did not use the ball in their respective leagues at all.
Players at this tournament are accustomed to different types of balls: the Champions League ball is Adidas and the Premier League uses Nike, for example. Some international sides have a Puma ball. Fifa has very tight stipulations on the weight, circumference and so on for balls but Adidas's criteria are even tighter. For example, Fifa says every ball must be between 420 and 445 grams. All Jabulani balls are 440 grams making them more consistent.
In April, Lampard suggested that complaints were a product of typical "player moaning". He said: "I think this ball... is quite true in its flight. There is obviously a lot of human error in football, on certain days you catch the ball wrong. As players we look to criticise the ball but I think, as I said before, all balls have advanced technology and all balls have the regulations that they have to be. So I think if players are moaning about the size or the weight, I think that is probably football players."
Asked whether the ball had affected his side, the New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert said after his side's 1-1 draw with Slovakia yesterday: "I don't think there are any complaints. There was no discussion at half-time about finding it difficult."
The Jabulani club
The Jabulani ball has been used in the German, Austrian, Swiss, Portuguese and American leagues over the past season while the France and Argentina national teams, who are sponsored by Adidas, have used the ball in their international fixtures. Players at clubs sponsored by Adidas, such as Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid and Arjen Robben at Bayern Munich, are well accustomed to the ball but the Premier League is prevented from using it because of a contractual obligation with Nike. England have their own agreement with Umbro.
Robinho, Brazil: "For sure the guy who designed this ball never played football. But we have to play with it."
Giampaolo Pazzini, Italy: "The balls are a disaster, both for goalkeepers and attackers. It moves so much and makes it difficult to control."
David James, England: "The ball is dreadful. It's horrible. But it's horrible for everyone."
... and a compliment
Alvaro Arbeloa, Spain: "It's round, like always."Reuse content