Jubulani: How They Make The Ball To Hate

Posted by Scott

I’m not following the World Cup (sacrilege, I know!). Partly because I’m American and not much of a sports fan to begin with, and partly because I just can’t seem to muster the strength to pretend I like a sport every four years and then watch a bunch of guys roll around on the pitch holding their knee in agony only to pop up a few moments later and sprint around like a fucking gazelle (seriously, what’s the deal with that? I swear that’s the number one thing holding me back from appreciating football, this theater of feigned injury). I’ve honestly tried to like it, my friend Jorge Calleja took me to a FC Barcelona game while I was there a few summers back. I had a blast and Ronaldhino even scored a goal (which is apparently sort of rare these days). The crowd was amazing; every movement of the ball (even movements that, to my untrained eye, didn’t seem to have any kind of significance) was met with a rush of electricity that filled the entire stadium. Sadly, this feeling has yet to carry over to the TV viewing experience for me.

But I digress, this isn’t about sports, or football, or even pretending your leg has been amputated at the hip when a stiff breeze from the guy running by ruffles your jersey. This is about the fact that despite having watched exactly zero World Cup games, I somehow have an intimate knowledge of the ball used in them. This is because no one will stop talking about it (or those plastic horns for that matter). I found it rather intriguing that it’s being roundly panned by the players — both the winners and the losers. It made me think about all the R&D that must have gone into designing this ball only to have it be put on center stage and incessantly ridiculed. Designing high performance sports equipment has to be the most difficult gig in industrial design. It’s a sort of alchemy of engineering, physics, and craftsmanship that, to fulfill it’s intended purpose, must perform equally well for an extremely diverse range of end users. Just designing a jersey probably involves a few parts rocket science, so imagine designing the central element of play for a game, the results of which can make or break the hopes of entire countries. I don’t envy these designers.

So after hearing about this ball for the better part of a month, my interest was piqued when I came across this video detailing the ball’s construction on Abitare. I’m always a sucker for manufacturing videos and this one is exceptionally well done. I really enjoy the style and tones and it’s always amazing to see these giant, purpose-built machines doing such specific tasks. It always makes me wonder how mechanized manufacturing is ever cost effective.

So I know we have a pretty internationally diverse readership (hence the fact I haven’t used the word soccer once, until now), who are you rooting for? Also be sure to remind me of what a terrible human being I am for not liking soccer (yes, after the disclaimer earlier in this paragraph, via an obscure UN sanction, I am now legally entitled to call it soccer).

Also, the first year I moved to San Francisco some guy with a bus put up a gigantic LED screen (seriously, like stadium sized) in Dolores Park and played the World Cup on it. There were like 30,000 people at the park and it was completely awesome. If that guy comes back this year I will watch soccer.

52 Comments Leave A Comment


_ christian says:

June 15, 2010 at 11:29 pm

Italy! Though our team won’t be able to repeat 2006’s success.
Keep up the great work Scott, 100% pure daily inspiration.

_ christian


Alex says:

June 15, 2010 at 11:56 pm


And soccer is the best sport of all time! We had a debate today about its superiority over baseball (and other sports) and reasons were many. It is very very sad to me that soccer is not popular in America. (yet somehow it is the most popular sport to play as a kid in the US)



Scott says:

June 16, 2010 at 12:07 am

yeah, it’s weird, we all play it growing up (seriously, everyone. it must be mandatory or something) but then we never think about it again. I have to say though, everyone in San Francisco (albeit a very international city) seems to be way into it (well, the World Cup at least, I never hear about soccer but once every 4 years). It seems like everyone here is watching it.

Your debate was empirically flawed though, pretty much anything is better than baseball so using it as a benchmark would render any results meaningless.


Teddy says:

June 16, 2010 at 12:14 am

Simulation by players has become a horrible part of the game, trying to buy free kicks by diving, and something has to be done to make these guys stay on their own two feet. Its when the most popular players like Christiano Ronaldo have all the limelight on them and then publically flop and flip and make it an acceptable trait in the game.


nicholas says:

June 16, 2010 at 12:17 am

not sure if you have many readers from Iowa. Soccer has always been a true love of mine but seeing people belt out the National Anthem in a bar in the early afternoon and then proceed to chant, sing, cheer every buildup and go absolutely mad after Dempsey’s fluke goal was unlike any sports related experience in recent memory. US Soccer is alive and well.


if not the US then Go Denmark!


Grant says:

June 16, 2010 at 12:32 am

your hurtful comments made me fall off my chair, in the process tweaking an old table tennis wrist injury, which lead to my mum bringing the stretcher in and carrying me to the next room where I managed to make a rapid recovery. phew.
I think you just have to play along with the fouls and dramatics. Its a sucky part of the game, however if you have played the game you know that ‘sometimes’ refs dont pick up (actual) fouls unless you end up on the ground, so most of the time when players look like a Kim Jong Il sniper has penetrated their chin they are really just trying to make sure the ref sees the offense.
It is very lame when players overdo it and fake fouls though, but when you see ronaldo smash it from 35 yards against the post its easily forgotten. Cmon Australia, just a goal would be nice.


Leo Utskot says:

June 16, 2010 at 12:50 am

North Korea of course!

It’s their first time in 44 years, they have the wierdest country on the planet with a crazy dictator, permanent war with South Korea (which they never name other than calling them the “traitors”). Yesterday they managed to hold Brazil to 2 goals and even scored one.

For you Americans, it’s as if a unknown mormon team almost beat the Celtics.


Joaquim Marquès Nielsen says:

June 16, 2010 at 1:07 am

First of all it’s called football (and no, I’m not talking about american football). Second: it’s the greatest sport ever no questions asked. Third: I’m gonna play football today with the guys after work. Life’s good.

As for the whole pretending to be hurt thing… Some players are faking it, yes, but I truly believe that in most cases they’re actually feeling pain after being tackled. I’ve tried it myself (maybe that’s why I believe it). Yes, it hurts like a b*tch right after you’ve been tackled, but you just have to get up and start moving around a bit and a couple of minutes later you’re good to go (or “sprint” if you will).

I agree with you on construction videos though. They’re awesome! ;)


Flo says:

June 16, 2010 at 2:15 am

No it’s called _Fußball_ and it’s awesome! ;-)

Though I have to say the WC matches I’ve seen so far (and I’ve seen all of them) are pretty subpar. Don’t really know why. Über-defensive chickenshit game tactics all around. Even Brazil seems to have forgotten how to score goals. And if that’s not enough there are those horrible Vuvuzelas and their constant RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR drowning most of the fan atmosphere. :-/

Imo the only team that really showed nice aggressive and entertaining foreward play so far was Germany, “my” team. So go go go Deutschland! Go for the 4th star! Schlaaaaaaaand!!! ;-)


Blake Barton says:

June 16, 2010 at 5:53 am

Such passion. That is the first time I’ve see the “F” word used in one of your posts. You are a warrior.


mp says:

June 16, 2010 at 8:27 am

Nigeria primarily, but all of the African teams. Same goes for any of the non-fashionable teams.


mp says:

June 16, 2010 at 8:28 am

I’m really just rooting for good play and people who don’t bitch, whine and flop all over the place. (here’s looking @ you Argentina, Italy, Portugal, etc.)


Calado says:

June 16, 2010 at 8:41 am

You have all the rights to unlike soccer, in the same way we hate baseball…


Chris Deutsch says:

June 16, 2010 at 10:38 am

Soccer was my first sport in HS (20 years ago ;) and I always laughed at the fools that fell to the ground crying at nothing at all. If they really want to make themselves look like complete pussies in the off chance that a foul is called, be my guest. That was then when I played. Now, watching games…it’s completely lame. I wonder if they know what they’re doing to the sport.

Additionally, I find other international athletes do this in other sports too. How about Manu Ginobili from the Spurs…that guy is the biggest tool in pro sports. He flops at anything. I know he’s recently actually taken some real hits that caused bleeding, but that’s how contact sports are played and that’s why you don’t cry wolf when it’s not a real “foul”.


spacerock joe says:

June 16, 2010 at 11:08 am

ok, i understand that the graphics on the balls should change every year, but i don’t understand why in the world they would change the construction/manufacturing process for it. to me that’s insane. could you imagine if every baseball season there was a different stitch pattern on the ball? that would destroy pitchers, as i imagine it’s really annoying shooters.

i don’t really care about soccer but i do appreciate it as a unifying sport. anybody can play it anywhere in the world and all you need is one ball. it’s a common language and that’s awesome. also, it requires every player to have a level of athleticism that is rare in the most popular sports in the states. so it’s refreshing to see even if i don’t seek it out.

that being said, hockey is the only sport i pay attention to. if you get caught diving on the ice, you’ll have hell to pay next time your out there. well-regulated violence keeps ’em honest!


Laura says:

June 16, 2010 at 11:52 am

It’s called FOOTBALL!!!!! and I don’t like it either (even though I’m Argentinian) come on! ain’t that sport pretty boring??
And to Chris Deutsch: Ginobili does not cry wolf!


Chris Deutsch says:

June 16, 2010 at 3:10 pm

Laura, I’m sorry but Ginobili is the biggest pussy I have ever seen play basketball…I don’t care for teh soccer-esq acting that he’s brought to the sport. It’s shameful really. He should play volleyball, tennis or some other sport where you’re divided by a net from your opponent. And all this being said, I love Argentina…amazingly beautiful place and the people are great.


Mary says:

June 16, 2010 at 3:35 pm

I have to go ahead and quote some of David Letterman’s Top 10 Reasons Americans Don’t Like Soccer here: 7) No theme song asking if we are ready for some soccer. 8) Not enough ‘roids. 3) Doesn’t have the heart pounding action of a 5-hour baseball game…ha. So true, unfortunately, because football really is a fantastic game if you give it a chance. I do agree with you Scott on the sincere lack of envy for those responsible for designing and engineering sporting equipment featured on an international stage. It is hard to please a couple billion rabid football hooligans.


NAVIS says:

June 16, 2010 at 4:39 pm

I taught some Mongolian kids how to play American football last summer in Mongolia. They were hooked. Now that that seed is planted… it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the world is hooked. bwuahaha.

Skol Vikings!

I love the screen printing sounds starting at 1:36. I could listen to that for a solid 10 minutes and have such an intense focus I could probably get 3 hours worth of work done.

But if you had to ask me what the worst sport in the world is, I’d have to say cricket. That shit lasts for 5 days and no one can really explain to me how to play it. Even people who play it have a tough time explaining how to play it.


nevsum says:

June 16, 2010 at 10:58 pm

I found this funny. Even Waves is jumping on the world cup marketing band wagon. Maybe this will make watching the game on TV a little more appealing, or not…

“In response to the widely publicized complaints from TV viewers and broadcasters of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Waves is proud to unveil a solution which dramatically reduces the problematic sound of the omnipresent Vuvuzela trumpet favored by South African soccer fans.

Working in conjunction with a major television outlet, we’ve precision-crafted a preset processing chain for broadcasters which drastically decreases Vuvuzela noise: The WNS Waves Noise Suppressor and the Q10 Paragraphic Equalizer. Together, they not only minimize Vuvuzela noise, they increase the intelligibility of the game announcers’ play-by-play action and color commentary.

The processing chain for Vuvuzela noise reduction is now available as load-and-use sessions for Pro Tools, Waves MultiRack, and Cubase.”


David says:

June 17, 2010 at 1:20 am

I am South African and am obviously supporting my home country. It is truly a fantastic honour to have so many international visitors in my beautiful country all enjoying the sights and the games. I’ve been to a few games and will be going to a few more still and the sound of the Vuvuzela’s is really not that bad. A cheap set of foam earplugs reduces the impact quite substantially. As for the incessant diving, I find that far more annoying and it needs to be rooted out.

Thanks for the great site and the wonderfully diverse nature of your postings!


Jacob says:

June 17, 2010 at 5:22 am

Getting kicked in the shins (knees, whatever) hurts like a mother. Then it goes away. Especially at the speeds these guys are going and how hard they’re kicking.

I’m sure you can relate, even without playing football. Or would it be better if they wore 100 lbs of protective gear?



Jefta says:

June 17, 2010 at 8:29 am

The Netherlands.

but besides that, i totally feel you Scott, when you talk about the faking, what we famously call “schwalbes”. Football always tries to sell itself (or the FIFA, for that matter) as a ‘fair play’ game, while mostly its not. I know this can apply for every sport, but i have yet to find a sport that causes greater irritation than a football player throwing a schwalbe, making the other player receive the red card en win the game, and still smile.

one of the most famous schwalbes of all time comes from Rivaldo as you can see here:


mg33 says:

June 17, 2010 at 1:36 pm

“watch a bunch of guys roll around on the pitch holding their knee in agony only to pop up a few moments later and sprint around like a fucking gazelle”

Ahhhh, LOL Scott!!! I am not a soccer fan either but I think the fake injury stuff is hilarious. They act like they just got stabbed and are nearly lifeless, then they’re carried off on a stretcher, and like you said “they pop up a few moments later and sprint around like a fucking gazelle.” PERFECT!


Olivier says:

June 17, 2010 at 5:25 pm

New Zealand all the way! Unlikely but hey first ever world cup point scored is good….better than the ozzies, haha!

The thing about football for me is all the little plays and displays of awesome ball skills – it’s not all about the goal. And getting up and running is a good way to take your mind off pain (not that some of them don’t love trying out their acting skillz!)


Guido says:

June 18, 2010 at 4:30 pm

Stick to doing design stuff…your opening comments about soccer sound like a kid who probably got beat up by jerk jocks and therefore forever has a taste of sports hate in his mouth. Since you self admit that you know little about the sport but comment on those of us who love the game (and P.S. the FIFA World Cup is every 4 years, but the game is huge year round in cups (tournaments) around the world except in America where I also am from) – Its not “fake injury” is attempting to draw a call out of a ref for your advantage – same as in i dont know car accidents, fake that your in pain, you can sue for a million bucks and a lifetime of roxies….lol…who wouldn’t!?


Chris Deutsch says:

June 18, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Hey Guido — Your comment sucked. I could go into excruciating detail as to why, but I think those readers on this blog that have any sense whatsoever recognize the reasons, so I’ll just let you stew in your discontent. Enjoy.


Guido says:

June 18, 2010 at 5:29 pm

Chris, thanks. hope you feel better! Sorry your feelings got hurt, the suckers are on the way….



Clint says:

June 19, 2010 at 3:12 am

buy sex drugs and cocoa puffs by chuck klosterman. in it is the most brilliant and well executed roasts of soccer known to the english language.


Andrew D. says:

June 19, 2010 at 7:17 am

This video was really interesting. Especially as a casual soccer watcher. I shared your sentiments about watching soccer on TV for the first game against England; but by myself I was able to enjoy something more about the Slovenia game. There was the simple drama of, “We must overcome and win! Seriously… who the f is Slovenia..!?!” Which, like you said, makes unimportant passes or tackles into a pouring of effort to put your entire energy and life into fighting for you country and honor. (Which in the end becomes unimportant after time passes.)

It’s weird to me that I pay so little attention, but DID hear about this ball. I really like the first image you highlight that shows the ball in a blue machine looking like an evil drone space warrior. I also like seeing what is done by hand, and what they decide to do by machine. It’s interesting what requires mechanical exactness — because it seems like some things that should, don’t get it. But maybe they just couldn’t afford the machine that does that particular thing?

I used to do video work for a lacrosse manufacturing company, and it was always curious to me the discrepancy between how awesome they thought their equipment was – and all the technologically advanced engineering they put into their gear. And then some stoner lacrosse player comes along like, “Dude, this sucks.” or even legitimate complaints like, “You made this very light, but now it breaks very easily.” And all the effort is in the trash can.


Chris Deutsch says:

June 21, 2010 at 10:17 am

Andrew — That’s interesting…what lacrosse company was it? I’ve been pretty deep in the lacrosse industry for a number of years (now really just playing men’s club as I’m not actively on the business side of things, but still well connected in the community).


Jacques says:

July 9, 2010 at 11:11 am

Yes, that vid detailing the whole production process got me going as well. Definitely something about big weird cold machines creating something that’s cherished to such a high degree. I was also surprised by the amount of “actual” hands involved in the process.

Also hailing from the lovely sunny South Africa, i can assure you that those $3 plastic horns a.k.a Vuvuzela’s add something insanely electric to any football match (or soccer for that matter), truly something to experience in multitude. One = annoyance. 94 000 = Nostalgia inducing joy. Buuut for those who cant seem to stand the noise, go into your sets EQ and dial that 300 (or closest neighbors) right down and boost the rest. Vuvuzela drone dissapears by like 50%



sean says:

August 29, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Wow, that is just insane. I’ve seen manufacturing videos, but all that for a soccer ball. Makes you think…