Fabio Capello last night declared that the Jabulani ball used in the World Cup was "the worst ball that I have seen in my life," insisting that the trajectory is "impossible" for goalkeepers to judge.
Though the manufacturer Adidas has said its ball meets conditions more stringent than Fifa's for weight and bounce, the England manager said: "It is terrible for the keepers because it is impossible to deal with the trajectory. It's good when you play short passes but when you try to switch the ball with long passes it is really difficult to understand the trajectory. But the really big problem is that sometimes this ball is just impossible to control. Impossible. And when you shoot at the goal, you can see it's difficult. When you play on the floor, it's good. When you play the ball longer, it's more difficult."
Capello was also indignant about Franz Beckenbauer's suggestion that the English game has "gone backwards into the bad old times of kick and rush" on the basis of Saturday's 1-1 draw with the US, though he did not resist the German legend's claim. "When you speak about someone you have to respect his teams. It's easy to speak about teams when you stay in the stands. The players could not play the style we normally play because the pressure of the US was really, really strong and we had to play longer balls to come forward and to win," Capello said.
Beckenbauer's comments have caused consternation among some in the England camp, with Wayne Rooney declaring yesterday a preference to play Germany in the next round of the World Cup because "it would be nice to beat them," he said.
The German midfielder Sami Khedira said yesterday that Beckenbauer was entitled to criticise England. "It's not our job to judge how good other teams are but he is entitled to say what he wants," Khedira said, though both he and team-mate Holger Badstuber were reluctant to fuel the debate further. "We know they have excellent players who play at the highest level. Any match against England is always difficult," defender Badstuber said. Beckenbauer's views have been met with scepticism in Germany. "Everyone knows him as a bit of an entertainer as well, which makes him interesting to listen to," one commentator said.
But complaints about the ball are becoming increasingly loud. Adidas has insisted that between 20 to 30 balls were sent to Wembley in February, but the terms of the FA's contract with Umbro stipulate that the squad were not even able to train with the Jabulani until the start of their pre-tournament training camp in Austria. Umbro, the FA and the England management met in March to discuss how soon England might use the ball and the agreement reached meant that the ball could not be used by Capello and his coaches until 17 May – when they reached Austria. A clause was written into that agreement, stipulating that England must revert to an Umbro ball for the first pre-World Cup friendly against Mexico at Wembley on 24 May.
Both Umbro, England's sponsor, and Nike, provider of the Premier League ball, said there was no way they could have allowed the Jabulani to be used earlier in the interest of the national team.
"It seems strange to question other leagues and federations on which ball they should use and question their commercial arrangements, instead of simply expecting a ball that the players are satisfied with for the World Cup," a Nike spokesman said. The Premier League said that to change the ball used, after the Jabulani became available in February, would have compromised the integrity of the league as well as violated the league's commercial deal with Nike.
Capello unexpectedly went back on his declaration that the England players would only be allowed to visit their families on the day after games, yesterday, by allowing Matthew Upson to leave the training complex to visit his family in Sun City, a 20-minute drive from the squad's Royal Bafokeng complex. This was because his family will not be on the flight to Cape Town this morning.