I just wanted to post a clarification to my previous post on the historic weight of the official football.
The Jabulani ball’s dry weight is 440g. That’s 15.52 oz. (Typo corrected – Thanks to @darcysarto)
You’ll recall that since 1937, Law 2 has specified the dry weight of the ball. It has to be between 14 and 16 oz. Thus, in terms of the dry weight of the ball, the Jabulani is at the high end of what’s permitted.
This is not to deny two things:
- Issues about the flight of the Jabulani ball and how easy it is to predict that flight. Clearly the new ball is different in terms of aerodynamics from the balls of 10, 20, 30 or 70 years ago. But most commentary on the matter seems to assume that the primary difference with this ball from its predecessors is its weight. It isn’t. The flight of the ball is all to do with shape. Don’t forget that most of the complaints are comparing the Jabulani ball with other recent modern balls that were subject to the same complaints in their turn.
- Previous balls taking on weight from accumulated moisture. Modern balls are better at staying dry. This means that on a wet pitch, a 1937 ball was very likely to finish 90 minutes heavier than it began. Furthermore, the 1937 ball would most likely stay on the pitch for the whole game – something that cheap, reliable football production has rendered unnecessary. Pace Dearieme, not every football match in the black-and-white era took place on a mud pudding. More Mitchell and Kenyon films show dry, dusty, grassless surfaces than soaked ones, and in such circumstances, the weight of the ball would be the same – or even lighter – than it is now.
How much drier is a Jabulani ball compared to, say, the balls at France 1998? For a size 5 ball, FIFA requires that it not take on more than 10% of its dry weight during official water absorption testing. The Jabulani ball, so the test results claim, takes on no extra weight at all. (FIFA’s actual criteria are slightly more complicated than I’ve described, but that’s the gist). But every World Cup ball from the Adidas Etrusco Unico of 1990 on has been completely water resistant. It’s not weight: it’s aerodynamics. And old men forget: former players, now commentators, talking about “new lighter balls” are giving people the wrong idea.
Given that many of the matches at the 2010 World Cup have taken place in torrential rain, it’s interesting to speculate just how much would have been different had traditional materials been used for balls, boots and shirts. You can find out for yourselves: get your shirts here, and your ball here. I’ll be Holland, and you can be Uruguay.