Brazuca: Dicking About With Balls

Though to be fair that should be 'brazuca' with a small 'b' or @brazuca with a sodding Twitter account. Rise seas. Fall skies. For this is where civilisation ends...

Last Updated: 04/12/13 at 16:47 Post Comment

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They will gather in the smoking remains of our once-great civilisations, the few that survive. They will cower in the shadows of shattered cathedrals, cringing at the hot winds that scourge their skin, coughing at the smoke that fills their lungs. They will huddle together for warmth and what comfort there is to be found, and as they wait for the human race to slip from existence, they will argue. When did it all go wrong? What was the moment that we knew it was over? When did we force the vengeful universe to turn against us?

Tuesday, December 3. That was the day that the official football of the 2014 World Cup got its own verified Twitter account and started talking to the world.

For those of you wise enough to have nothing to do with Twitter, verification is a little blue tick bestowed by the company that says, basically, this person/company is who they claim to be, as opposed to somebody simply pretending. It's just one of many reasons why a modern re-telling of Spartacus is doomed to failure. But while it makes a certain amount of sense for, say, Barack Obama to be authenticated thusly, it's a mystery quite why the ostentatiously down-capped adidas brazuca, currently retailing at $160 in the USA, is so honoured.

There are two possibilities. The first is that the BRAzuca has attained sentience and is desperate to celebrate being the first conscious, thinking object in the history of the world by dispensing such wisdom as 'Mr President! Let's get this show on the road!' and 'Join me on my journey!' There are logistical problems here, of course. How can a football use a keyboard? Even if it were to bounce with great precision, how could it hold down the shift key? But such piffling issues are of no matter to the mighty BRAZUCA, which in addition to having just six heat-moulded panels and SOMETHINGELSE is blessed with a considerable secretarial staff.

The second, and perhaps more likely, is that @brazuca isn't actually a football at all, and it's all just another cynical ploy by FIFA to make you like FIFA, and by Adidas to make you like Adidas. Fortunately, the internet is populated entirely by intelligent and discerning individuals and nobody has been stupid enough to follow it. Oh, wait, no. At the time of writing, 25,000 people have been stupid enough to follow it.

It does seem, at times, as though football spends an inordinate amount of time playing with its balls. To point out that there is no need for another new football seems almost rude, like standing up at a convention of matchstick-model makers and asking if their boat could make it across the Atlantic. Necessity isn't the point. For all that the press releases (and the churnalistic regurgitations of the press releases) blather on about thermal bonding and the Brazilian tradition of wish bracelets, the fact remains that footballs work, that they have done for many years, and the only possible reason to be reinventing the ball is that Adidas pay FIFA a staggering amount of money for the privilege of slapping their name all over the World Cup, and are going to make damn sure they extract every conceivable return by innovating furiously whether they have to or not.

But innovation for innovation's sake can be reduced to an even shorter, simpler phrase: dicking about. And as Confucius once said, he who dicks about with that which does not require any dicking must take care, lest he breaks that thing with which he sought to dick. Last World Cup, Adidas managed to produce a football that actively made the game worse; this time, the planet waits agog to see what new mischief their restlessness has brought. Will it explode? Will it expand? Will it weep salt tears of pain as it flies hopelessly into the night sky and over the bar?

This isn't just an Adidas thing, of course. Another consequence of the endless churn of product after product after product after product is the increasingly desperate scramble for names, as the sports apparel industry runs into the same problems that face car manufacturers. All the good names have gone, and so have most of the stupid ones. What's left is...well, here is a list of the Premier League ball names since Nike took over their manufacture in 2000: Geo Merlin; Aerow; Aerow II; Omni; Ascente; Tracer; Seitero; Incyte. (All of those bar the first should have 'Total 90' in front of them, but no.)

In an effort to understand what, if anything, that collection of achingly focus-grouped and super-arousing syllables might mean, we turn to Google. And we learn that Aerow appears to be a French recruitment consultancy, Ascente are 'a team of seasoned professionals leveraging decades of combined development experience', and Incyte is 'a provider of integrated platforms of genomic technologies designed to aid in the understanding of the molecular basis of disease'. The Omni is the 'first virtual reality interface for moving freely and naturally in your favorite game', which sounds faintly terrifying if you're a fan of spillikins. Seitero, meanwhile, appears to be a Japanese forename, while Tracer is presumably supposed to imply 'bullet' rather than 'man with pencil and see-through paper'.

Compared with that lot, bRaZuCa at least has the advantage of at least being a word, though it's a tragedy that the Brazilian public didn't vote for Bossa Nova. Balls named after dances are always the best, as anybody that remembers Gola's 180X Mashed Potato will tell you. Still, it's hard to feel anything other than chronically put out by the whole business. The brAzucA, like so much of the over-priced under-purposed tat that football sloughs into the universe, is not a thing to make the game better and not a thing to make your life better. It is simply a thing that exists to promote itself and the name of the people that make it. A product with no purpose beyond being a product. A self-fulfilling transaction.

And look! It's being winsome on the internet! It's friends with Clarence Seedorf! What a terrifically shabby business it all is. Rise seas. Fall skies.

Andi Thomas - you can follow him on Twitter, you know, and you can read more of his work at SBNation

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