Players Complain About Adidas' World Cup Ball

JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- Player complaints about the Jabulani World Cup ball show no signs of abating, and Mexico is even using American footballs to sharpen their goalkeepers' reactions to unpredictable bounces.

At Monday's practice at Waterstone College, Mexico goalkeeping coach Alberto Aguilar kicked bouncing "pigskins," as the oblong-shaped American footballs are called, to his three charges -- starter Oscar Perez and substitutes Guillermo Ochoa and Luis Michel.

The drill comes after a couple of goalkeeper blunders on seemingly easy shots during the first weekend of the World Cup in South Africa. England's Robert Green allowed a cheap equalizer against the United States for a 1-1 draw, and Algeria's Fawzi Chaouchi misjudged a long-distance shot and allowed it to bounce into the net off his arm for a late winner in Sunday's 1-0 loss against Slovenia.

Gripes about the Jabulani ball are not new and none of the 32 teams at the World Cup has made an official complaint to FIFA.

"The ball has been produced by Adidas, which is a long-standing partner of FIFA and very experienced in this field," said Nicolas Maingot, head of FIFA's media department. "It has been tested and it has been proven."

Players, however, are still presenting arguments to the contrary.

Gianluigi Buffon, closing in on Dino Zoff's Italian record of 112 international appearances as a goalkeeper, said Monday it was possible to "hear some deep breaths from the tribune" whenever the Jabulani took flight.

"This ball goes and goes and goes. I hope the goalkeepers go, go, go, too," Buffon said, while American keeper Marcus Hahnemann said the Jabulani was too light and allowed too much spin.

Other top goalkeepers, including Spain's Iker Casillas and Brazil's Julio Cesar, have also raised concerns about the ball, as have Brazil striker Luis Fabiano and Denmark's Daniel Agger, who had a Jabulani bounce off his back and into the wrong net after a header by teammate Simon Poulsen, gifting their Dutch rivals the first goal of their 2-0 victory on Monday.

Italy striker Giampaolo Pazzini has called the ball a "disaster" and Agger's teammate Jesper Gronkjaer described the Jabulani as a "lousy football."

Of course, football players have a habit of complaining about every new development when it comes to tournament balls.

The Teimgeist ball used at the 2006 World Cup in Germany was called the "flying ball" and the "helium ball" because of its perceived extended flight time, while the Fevernova ball from the 2002 World Cup co-hosted by Japan and South Korea was deemed too light and too bouncy.

Adidas has been manufacturing the official World Cup balls since 1970 -- first from leather and later from synthetic materials -- and the current tournament is its 11th world championship in a row.

As expected, the German firm has defended the Jabulani, with company spokesman Thomas van Schaik saying last month that "all the response we have had has been positive" and that the World Cup teams had been given the ball ahead of time so they could get used to it.

Associated Press writers Rob Harris, Karl Ritter, Graham Dunbar, Robert Millward and Bradley Klapper in South Africa contributed to this report.

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