New Euro 2004 ball under fire from players
LISBON: As the kick-off date for the Euro 2004 finals approaches, the new seamless ball which will be used during the three-week tournament is being panned by a growing number of players.
“The ball is strange. We have all discussed it and we all feel the same way,” Greek midfielder Vassilis Tsartas told reporters at the team’s training camp.
He complained it was impossible to hit a target with a long pass. Czech Republic coach Karel Bruckner echoed his concerns. “This ball could be good just for the players of Real Madrid who play with short passes. But our players have problems controlling it with long passes,” he says. “We will have to learn new habits and we will probably have to change our playing system.”
German sports goods maker adidas has supplied more than 2,300 balls for matches and training sessions during the 16-nation championship which begins Saturday and ends on July 4. The company claims the silver ball, named the “Roteiro” after the diaries of Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama, is faster because of its stitchless surface.
It is not the first time that a ball designed for a major tournmanent has come under fire by players. At the 2002 World Cup held in Japan and South Korea, many players, especially keepers, blasted the Fevernova, the official adidas ball, as being too light and swerving too much.
Players also faulted the balls designed and provided by adidas for the World Cup in 1998 and 1994. Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon however insists the Roteiro ball is “worse” than the one used during the 2002 World Cup. “The effects are very strange and it reacts in unexpected ways. It even has a stange colour,” he said.
The Italian squad is among one of the sharpest critics of the ball. Italian midfielder Andrea Pirlo said it reminded him of plastic balls used by children.
Star striker Francesco Totti added: “It is very hard and despite what some people say, it does not benefit attackers.”
But the ball counts as fans some of the world’s best players, including England’s David Beckham and France’s Zinedine Zidane. “The most important thing for me is to know that I can rely on the ball to go exactly where I want it to go,” said Beckham after the ball was launched earlier this year. “I think it is great to kick and it’s going to be a great ball to play with. Keepers are going to have a very tough time,” the Real Madrid star, who has a sponsorship deal with adidas, added.
Portugal winger Cristiano Ronaldo, who plays for Manchester United, said he is unfazed by the new ball. “It is faster than other balls and curves more, but I believe it is a matter of getting used to it. For me any ball will do,” he said. afp