LONDON -- Adidas hit back Monday at criticism that the World Cup ball is difficult to control and a nightmare for goalkeepers, stressing that it was widely tested and approved long ago.
Company spokesman Thomas van Schaik said he was surprised to hear the critical comments, made by top goalkeepers such as Spain's Iker Casillas and Brazil's Julio Cesar, because the "Jabulani" balls had been used for months without any complaints.
"We started using it in December in a wide variety of leagues," he told The Associated Press. "All the response we have had has been positive.
"On top of that, we have distributed it to all the finalists so that they have been able to get used to the ball. Apparently they have not taken advantage of that if we are only hearing this criticism now. I am quite surprised in these circumstances."
Brazil has been in South Africa since Thursday and Cesar described the World Cup balls as "terrible," comparing them with cheap ones bought in a supermarket. Casillas said the balls were "in an appalling condition."
Field players have been critical, too. Brazil striker Luis Fabiano described the ball as "weird" and suddenly changing trajectory and Italy's Giampaolo Pazzini said it was "a disaster."
"It moves so much and makes it difficult to control," the Italian striker said. "You jump up to head a cross and suddenly the ball will move and you miss it."
In contrast, several German players have said they were happy with the new ball, although some of them or their clubs have adidas sponsorship.
Mario Gomez, who scored with the ball for Bayern Munich, said he found it "a little harder."
"It hurts a little, but if you hit it right, it flies," he said.
Asked why the ball behaved differently at altitude, where many of the games will be played in South Africa, Van Schaik said that applied to all balls.
"It does what every ball does [at altitude] and that really doesn't have anything to do with it," he said. "The different air pressure at altitude does make the ball move faster. We did have extensive testing with regard to altitude."
Van Schaik also said he thinks the criticism will taper off once the games start.
"If you look back in history there have always been criticisms about the ball before the World Cup but not so much afterwards after you've seen great goals or great saves," he said.
"The ball is much more accurate, making the best players in the world even better. If they kick the ball they want it to go where they are aiming for and even the goalkeepers get a better idea of where the ball is going."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press