Tuesday, December 8, 2009

2010 FIFA World Cup Match Ball Review



With an estimated worldwide television audience of 200 million, the 32 national teams finally discovered their fate in the Final Draw for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, making the world’s biggest sport spectacle finally seem within reach – only 184 days to go.

Dusting off their country’s flags from the 2006 Cup, fans across the world are preparing themselves for the 19th FIFA World Cup taking place in South Africa.

Along with the eight groups decided on Friday, Dec. 4, the official World Cup match ball was announced. After much anticipation, Adidas released the newly innovated ball, “Jabulani” – meaning “to celebrate” in isiZulu. It features 11 different colors representing the 11 players in every team, the 11 official languages of South Africa and the 11 South African tribes. The new ball is also the eleventh Adidas World Cup Match Ball.

The commonly-known traditional black and white football has 32 panels. But with a little engineering, the ball can be altered in its air travel predictability and how it feels on the foot.

By thermally bonding the panels together, having three-dimensional outer panels (versus bending flat panels into a spherical shape) and eliminating possible inconsistencies of stitching, the 2006 Adidas “Teamgeist” ball only had 12 panels and achieved better accuracy for players.

However, controversy arose with the Teamgeist when players and football fans alike questioned the makers objective when crafting the ball. The ball was said to favor strikers because of its lack of rotation in the air – making its flight difficult to judge by opponents. Not only did this benefit the strikers, but it made it extremely difficult and unfair for goalkeepers.

Jabulani is said to have easily exceeded the 2006 Adidas Teamgeist.

To avoid conflict this time, Adidas gave the new Jabulani ball “aero grooves” – long that indentations run along the panels in a specific pattern to help give the ball consistent trajectory. Also, condensing the panel size even more, there are only eight panels (made of EVA and TPU), with fewer seams – providing a 70 percent larger striking surface. Furthermore, small, raised “microtexture” grooves also allow the players to have more foot control.

With wind tunnel testing and internal robotic kicking testing at Loughborough University in England, Jabulani is considered the roundest, most accurate ball ever. Pricing at $150 a ball, let’s hope this ball lives up to its maker’s hype.

To celebrate the ball and the World Cup draw, Adidas hosted celebrations not only in South Africa, but all over the world. In the United States, U.S. National Team players Jimmy Conrad and Sacha Kljestan were joined by Adidas North America President Patrik Nilsson at the Union Station in Washington, D.C., while U.S. National Team player Stuart Holden and Major League Soccer’s all-time leading goal scorer Jamie Moreno of D.C. United were joined by South African Ambassador to the U.S. Welile Nhlapo at the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, Calif. to present and unveil Jabulani.

Every four years, teams fielded by the best football nations around the globe meet to battle it out on the pitch for the title “World’s Greatest” – it’s no wonder so much is put into showcasing the World’s most-popular sport.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Speaking Out

“I’ve been playing soccer for 15 years and it’s been a huge part of my life, so realizing that I’ve played in my last home game was definitely difficult for me to handle,” Peek said. “But it was a celebration as well. I had my family, friends and teammates there to support me and celebrate with me, so it was a sad but great day.” -Augustana Mirror, Nov. 6, 2009

“I was going to play soccer in college – that was my goal,” Peek said.

Peek’s family came from Fort Collins, Colo. for her last game. “My mom is a soccer mom, by all means, so having her and my dad see me play for the last time was a struggle for everyone,” Peek said.

As she says this, the emotion of the situation can be heard in her voice. She’s struggling to explain how she feels about the end of the soccer season because she just hasn’t dealt with it yet – the words aren’t there. -Augustana Mirror, Nov. 20, 2009

Four weeks ago a huge chapter of my life ended.

I have been asked by numerous people – family, friends, journalists – within these past few weeks to describe the feeling; to express my emotions; to “paint a picture” for others to understand how I feel about being done playing competitive soccer.
Every time I try explaining the feeling, the words never come out right; I struggle to truly express how I feel because honestly, I don’t know how to describe the feeling.

Soccer isn’t just a huge part of my life it is my life. No one forced it on me – I was not one of those kids that had their parents dictate everything for them and constantly force them into various extracurricular activities. I played because I love it. I am obsessed with the game.

The struggles and life-changing events I have faced to get to this place in my life today are incredible. And I didn’t even realize the true impact the game has had on me until my parents gave me a five pound scrapbook over-filled with memories of my journey.

Sitting in between my parents on the couch, the tears began to fall as I flipped through the memories.

From day one I had the mind-set of a forward. I had the confidence, the drive and the desire to score and assist. I had Mia Hamm posters plastered to my bedroom walls and I dreamed of playing for the UNC Tar Heels. I spent hours in the backyard, outside of practices, juggling and perfecting my rainbow kick. I learned how to bend a ball and constantly practiced so I, too, could be known for my corner kicks and free kicks like David Beckham. (Yes, he does have skill besides just being a gorgeous Englishman).

I traveled across the nation and the world:

I played in Washington, D.C. and toured our nation’s capital.

I played in California and Florida where I saw both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans for the first time.

From the high elevation of the Rocky Mountains to the hot, dry desert in the south, I played in an array of weather conditions.

I went across seas and guest-played in a tournament with a Connecticut team in Germany when I was sixteen.

I played on the Colorado Olympic Development Program (ODP)state team and had the incredible privilege of making it to the ODP Region IV Camp in Idaho, where I got the opportunity to try out for the western regional team.

I played intercollegiate soccer.

This is in no way me trying to brag about my accomplishments – it is a reflection; it is what helps me continually try to describe the feelings of being done with such a huge part of my life.

The last game of my career, my team lost in double-overtime in the pouring rain in Duluth, Minn. When that final whistle blew I walked out to the middle of the field and broke down. I was completely by myself, soaking wet, freezing and crying on the field.

I don’t remember how long I was out there, but it wasn’t until my coach came over by me that I realized my teammates had taken off their gear, cleared the field and went to shower before the long seven hour bus ride home. Frustrated and helpless, my coach looked at me and said the same thing he has said since the day he recruited me – “You’re a good woman.”

If it weren’t obvious already by my reaction, I am an emotional person – so the loved ones in my life had been preparing themselves all season long for emotional outbreaks, endless tears and constant reassurance that “it’s going to be okay.” But no one was prepared for how I actually responded.

I stopped crying as soon as I left the field. I didn’t speak.

I showered and got on the bus without talking to anyone. My phone had missed calls and text messages from family and friends assuring me that they were available to talk whenever I was ready.

iPod blasting in my ears, I sat on the bus in silence for four hours before I decided to pick up my frantically distressed phone.

I apologized for being M.I.A. and then the inevitable question that I have been asked constantly since that day four weeks ago – “How do you feel?”

A quick and easy breakdown of the past four weeks – I repressed my feelings, I tried to explain them and I took unexpected and unnecessary anger out on the people I care about the most. And then I created a new outlook.

I have discovered that I am not going to be able to express how I truly feel about the end of part of my life, but I have also learned that I cannot stifle those feelings. When it comes to the overall outlook on life, I have been known to constantly be positive. So I got out of my wallowing pity party and stopped taking suppressed, sudden anger out on people and turned it into a positive.

I loved playing soccer. I made incredible connections, saw incredible things and created unforgettable relationships, but all I can do from here is move forward – take what I have learned, embrace it and turn it into more, new positives.

Soccer will forever be a part of my life and I know I don’t have to stop playing – and I don’t intend to – but a serious chapter of my life has been completed. But from here I can focus on the next chapter of my life – whatever it may hold.



**Note: some links will direct you to soccer tournaments in places discussed, NOT info about the state or place itself.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Boot Review – Total90




Introduced in 2007, Nike launched the Total90 football (soccer) cleat that drastically changed how cleat manufacturers have designed and enhanced football footwear.

The first obvious difference between the classic leather boot and the “new and improved” Nike Total90 is the concentric rubber rings (shot-shield) on the top of the cleat. Being the main feature, this material is claimed to improve accuracy, swerve and power when striking a ball. The cleat also boasts an “e-Vent” membrane over the supposed “tongue” of the boot – increasing breathability, while blocking absorption.

Numerous Nike-endorsed players – such as Carles Puyol, Diego, Fabio Cannavaro, Wayne Rooney, Rafael Márquez and Fernando Torres – all had the privilege of testing the Total90 cleat at some point throughout its six generations of revisions. The latest version – the Total90 Laser II – features a refined “sweet spot” and reduces the area of exposed laces.

I had the pleasure of testing a pair of Total90 cleats myself. Sadly, I couldn’t afford the nearly $200 pair of Total90 Laser II, but my $85 pair of Total90 Strike held up perfectly for two full years. My touch was impeccably better, comfort and breathability were perfect, and in two years, I never had a blister – that says a lot for a cleat, especially for the cheaper version.

Stud Rating: 5 out of 5 Studs

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Passion for a Team

“Uniiiited! Uniiiited!” The chant still rings in my head.

Swarms of people were chanting while entering their home-away-from-home. Older men hugged and shook hands as if they hadn’t seen each other for years before they analyzed the awaited match. Streams of red, black and yellow flooded the streets around the lit-up old stadium. The high energy was contagious.

The rapid British-English dialect, mixed with multiple conversations fighting for importance over one another, created chaos between the hordes of people. It was overwhelming. But in this energetic atmosphere, a connection was made through one word – United

A group of twenty to twenty-five year old men, faces painted in intimidating red and black, progressively grew in booming unison…

“Uniiiited!, Uniiiited!, Uniiiiiited!!”

The chant continued to grow. Conversations stopped as Old Trafford’s corridor echoed from the shouts of the fans…

“UNIIIIITED!!, UNIIIITED!!!”

…it ended with a roar of cheers, claps from everyone and the group of men that started the chant exchanging successful “high-fives.” They had achieved their goal – they created passionate unity.

We searched for our section and climbed the small flight of stairs. First blinded by the bright lights towering over the pitch, I stood paralyzed by the sight of a perfectly cut field, the smell of meat pies and beer, and the sound of an array of chants. I was in a world of my own.

I was at a Manchester United football match.

I was living my dream, and because it had been my dream for so long it didn’t feel real, even though I was physically standing there. I was in a place where people understood how I felt about the game of soccer – football – and specifically Manchester United.

So what is passion for a team?

Love.

The passion for a team gives a person something to always look forward to, or fall back on, or confidently converse about with equally passionate people. If you’re passionate about a team you undeniably love the team and display this love through your knowledge of the team and the game.

That night at Old Trafford I felt connected to the fans through the incapability to describe the emotional bond to the game and to the team. When Dimitri Berbatov wound up and struck the ball into the upper left corner to make the game 1 – nil, the volume of cheers rose so high the city of Manchester could hear the celebration. The celebration of the team, Berbatov congregating back with Wayne Rooney, Gary Neville, Paul Scholes, and other Man U members, truly choked me up inside. Looking behind me at the crowd, the celebration on the field resembled the celebration of the fans as people hugged and “high-fived,” regardless if they knew each other. Through the endless smiles and cheers, the passion was inevitably present.

This love, this passion I have is similar to the millions of others that have a passion for a sports team, a movie, an actor/actress, a food, etc., and I am proud to say I am obsessed because no matter what happens I will love MY team. Win or lose, I will be a Man U fan.

Forever the chants will gladly be embedded in my head as I reminisce in my experience and continue to support the mighty reds…

“Take me home, United road, to a place that I belong, to Old Trafford, to see United, take me home, United road…”
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Thursday, November 12, 2009

True Greatness


Full name: Wayne Mark Rooney
Date of Birth: 24 October 1985 (age 24)
Height: 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
Club: Manchester United
Playing position: Forward
Number: 10
National Team: England

The name speaks for itself – Wayne Rooney. Are words really needed?

No.

If you’d like a few hundred words on why Barcelona footballer Lionel Messi is an arrogant child that doesn’t truly appreciate the gift he is given, then yeah, I could say something. But when illustrating why Rooney exceeds other footballers, it’s truly difficult to do in words and not justifiable when attempted.

But I’ll make a valid effort to help the uninformed understand.

When the great German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche stated that “God is dead” it’s because he knew that the true Lord – yes, the real God Almighty himself – had yet to be born.

Rooney is God.

He may not have his name on the list of “most this” and “most that,” but true greatness isn’t measured merely by how many goals are scored. It’s measured by personality, desire, work ethic and, most importantly, by your love for your team and the love for the game. Wayne Rooney is the definition of all those attributes. He’s the playmaker, he’s the leader and he’s the essence of the greatest team to walk onto the pitch, Manchester United. He is the “glue” of the team and the reason we love the game.

Unlike his former teammate, Cristiano Ronaldo (who I sadly admit standing up for when everyone said he only played for money – sucks to be wrong sometimes), Rooney is dedicated to a team. His dream as a child was to one day play for the Reds and he didn’t stop until it was accomplished. He debuted in the striking red uniform on Sept. 28 2004; he accomplished his dream and now he continues to live that dream. Why leave your dream once you’re living it? That’s a great question to ask pretty boys Ronaldo and David Beckham.