What does the glue that holds Post-It notes together, Listerine, and the Adidas Jabulani have in common?
Though it sounds like a QI question, the answer is quite straightforward – they are all products that failed in their intended use, but found a better use elsewhere.
While Post-It notes glue was designed as a super-strong adhesive, and Listerine was initially intended for the treatment of gonorrhea (genuinely), the much maligned Adidas Jabulani, the ball used for the 2010 World Cup, looked like it was destined for the great inventions scrap heap.
Until now. Because what many football fans will not be aware of is the Jabulani, and its later iteration, the Adidas Speedcell, are now some of the most sought after balls in the world, thanks to the sport of FootGolf.
It would be very reasonable to ask why this is the case.
After all, the Jabulani received a barrage of criticism in its original use as the official matchball of South Africa’s World Cup seven years ago.
Goalkeepers hated the synthetic, plasticky feel of the ball, with the unpredictable movement in the air causing players problems throughout the tournament.
Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar likened it to a ‘supermarket ball’, Gianluigi Buffon called it ‘absolutely inadequate’ and ‘shameful’, while Joe Hart seemingly predicted his future in Torino by saying of the ball: ‘it’s been doing all sorts, other than staying in my gloves.’.
But with one set of football fans, the Jabulani and Speedcell is the Holy Grail.
FootGolf is now serious business, and for those playing in the Jansen Cup (the Ryder Cup equivalent for FootGolf), you’ll discover many of the players have forked out north of £300 to get their hands on a ball from the Jabulani family.
“What makes them unique is that it seems you don’t have to swing as hard to hit a good shot, it rolls further which is good for FootGolf, and they’re built differently – there’s no leather on them, it’s fused with heat so there’s no stitching,” former San Jose Earthquakes and
Houston Dynamo turned FootGolf player Julian Nash tells Dream Team at the Jansen Cup in California.
The ex-MLS star continues: “The economics of how much the balls cost is simple supply and demand – they don’t make them anymore, and I think appeals have been made to Adidas to bring them back.
“They have manufacturers that could just turn a switch and make them again, but they don’t want to go backward – annoyingly, while it’s huge for us [FootGolf players], it’s not huge to them.”
It is a view echoed by Gavin Craig, Scotland’s number one FootGolf player.
“I saw that all the top players in the UK were using either the Jabulani or the Speedcell. The Jabulani can roll up to 30 yards further in short grass than ordinary balls because of the grooves in the ball.
He continues: “They are expensive, I paid £200 for mine, but when you strike it it seems to go straighter. The only problem with it is they don’t curve as much as you would perhaps want on a dogleg hole.
“Adidas should definitely be looking into making more for FootGolfers, it’s one of the fastest growing sports in the world and will continue to grow. Adidas would make so much money out of it.”
The Jabulani and Speedcell are ‘like gold dust’ as another player told Dream Team, and are increasingly hard to find – unsurprising, as demand from the wider football audience has not been forthcoming in the past few years.
But as FootGolf grows and becomes more popular and players almost universally opt for the once-hated Adidas ball, there may yet be a way back into the mainstream for the Jabulani family.
To find out more about FootGolf, click here.