On global footballitis, odd balls and artful penmanship

The World Cup 2010 edition is now upon us, and a few random observation aside – such as on the erratic Jabulani ball itself – I dwell on why I enjoy the literary blog in Babelia, the cultural supplement of Spanish newspaper El País. This, mostly because their guest contributors, all distinguished writers, reflect on the World Cup, too.

It probably won’t surprise much that the Spanish newspaper El País is a fixture among the dailies I routinely seek out for news, background and assorted insight into current affairs. And given my earlier transgressions on this blog, it shouldn’t come as a surprise either that I am thoroughly enjoying the month ahead, chock full of footballmania. Rest assured, though: I won’t engage in match-by-match replays here. Just a quick reference of what I think are two most remarkable goals, so far: South Africa’s stunningly beautiful goal in their opening match against Mexico, scored when Siphiwe Tshabalala rushed to fire off his heat seeking missile after a furiously fast counter attack. And of course, there’s today’s hardly believable clanker goal, conceded when the remarkably aptly clad and named English goalkeeper Rob Green disastrously fumbled Clint Dempsey’s at best tentative shot on goal.

Those very different moments bracket one common, unwitting protagonist: the Adidas-designed Jabulani ball, which has received an ample share of criticism from players so far. Maybe that’s why the FIFA is giving them away, who knows. Still, it seems to me that those two goals exemplify how with hard, powerful drives that ball maintains its speed and trajectory much better, while lower powered shots give the ball a much more erratic and unpredictable behavior. I’m not sure it was such a good move to let Adidas come up with such a weirdly behaving ball. Football derives much of its charm from being maddeningly unpredictable enough because of the obvious human factor; I’m not so keen on adding technology induced mayhem and random snafu on top of that.

But let’s not get too far off track here.

El País has a wonderful literary and cultural supplement, which has its on-line pendant: Babelia. How else could they welcome the World Cup than through the eyes of respectable writers throughout the Spanish speaking world, each one supporting a different national team and writing about the usual anxieties, hopes and daily impressions of human beings, experiencing the Beautiful Game on different parts of this globe. It’s a great read; I very much recommend it for the endearing craftsmanship those accidental sports journalists display in their observations.

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