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Controversy over World Cup ball won’t die

By Martin Rogers, jun 13, 13:31 EDT

POLOKWANE, South Africa - The infamous Jabulani World Cup ball has had goalkeepers in the tournament worrying, panicking and complaining for the past week. Now it has reduced one of them to tears.

Adidas claims that the Jabulani World Cup ball is the most accurate ever produced. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Algeria's Fawzi Chaouchi was the latest keeper to be impacted when he allowed a long-range strike from Slovenia's Robert Koren to evade his grasp and produce the only goal of a 1-0 loss at Peter Mokaba Stadium on Sunday.

Chaouchi could not control his emotions after the game. After striding through the interview zone without pausing to speak to reporters, he boarded the team bus and cried.

"You could see he had tears in his eyes and he could not help it," said Algeria fan Mohammed Dahbi. "It is sad for the country but it is not his fault. Anyone can make a mistake and unlucky things can happen with that ball."

That ball is the adidas Jabulani, and it already has sparked a storm of controversy. The manufacturer claims it is the most accurate ball ever made, but some weird plays on the field say otherwise.

Its unpredictability may have benefited the United States on Saturday night, when Clint Dempsey's tame effort worked its way past England's Robert Green. In truth, both Green and Algeria's Chaouchi should have made comfortable saves on the goals they conceded. Yet on both occasions, there was significant movement in the air once the ball had been kicked.

"For sure, it is the ball," said Algeria defender Madjid Bougherra. "You could see it moving, and once it bounced in front of him it just took off and gave a crazy bounce."

The goal came in the 79th minute. Algeria, playing with 10 men after substitute Abdelkader Ghezzal was sent off, was trying to hang on for a draw. But the game's only goal appeared to have more to do with the ball than the 11 vs. 10 situation. Just ask the scorer.

"Every player, if he is being honest, will tell you there is something strange about the ball," said Koren, the Slovenia captain. "It is different to what we are used to and it gives keepers a big problem - like we saw today."

Slovenia might be the only team in Group C without much of a problem. Certainly, there are nervous times ahead for the United States, England and Algeria.

And, surely, for a certain manufacturer whose signature product is coming under ever-increasing scrutiny. Adidas, however, defends the ball.

"This ball has been around since December and been used around the world with very few comments," Andy Harland, the developer of the ball, said in a recent interview with British television station Sky Sports News. "Teams have gone to altitude and you have seen comments in those situations."

A skeptical public - and 32 starting goalkeepers - might take a bit more convincing.

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