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HindustanTimes Sun,21 Sep 2014

Football

Brazuca feels like a mini basketball: Bhutia
Govindan Kishwar , Hindustan Times
New Delhi, March 06, 2014
First Published: 00:23 IST(6/3/2014)
Last Updated: 00:27 IST(6/3/2014)

Once you get to the garden like opening on way to the Jail Number 1 ground at Tihar, it's easy to forget that if the entry stamp on your forearm rubs off, there is no getting out before a lot of questions are answered.

On Wednesday, the risk was worth taking because Bhaichung Bhutia was there for some football. More importantly, so was the Brazuca, the official match ball for the 2014 World Cup finals, which HT had arranged.

Packed with inmates cheering a Tihar XI pitted against a team Bhutia coached and played for, the place was buzzing with energy. Bhutia's team won 3-0 with the former India skipper scoring the second goal.

No love at first sight
Game over, Bhutia's first comment on the ball was, well, it didn't quite feel like one. "It's too colourful, too busy. It didn't feel like a football. It felt like a mini basketball because of the dots on it," he said.

Not love at first sight, things improved as Bhutia got more familiar with the Brazuca. That the ball's outer layer has six inter-locking panels — the fewest ever — is something he liked. "It has good grip, a good feel to it," said Bhutia. "I like it how the ball has no stitches, I don't know how they have done it but it's good, it has a nice feel."

Those who prefer playing with the ball at their feet — think Lionel Messi, think Cristiano Ronaldo or Neymar — will love this ball, said Bhutia who felt that Germany and Spain are favourites for the title this year with Belgium the dark horses. "I don't think a player like Messi who usually doesn't shoot from 40 yards will have trouble with it."

And though it does swerve a lot in the air, it isn't as bad as the Jabulani, the ball that rocked the 2010 World Cup, meaning goalkeepers could breathe a lot easier, said Bhutia. The Jabulani was panned by players with Nasa even conducting a study to find out why it was so predictably unpredictable. Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar compared it to a supermarket ball that favoured strikers. His compatriot and outfield star Robinho wasn't so sure, saying "for sure the guy who designed this ball never played football".

Bhutia though was iffy about how the ball would behave if the pitch were on the drier side. It wasn't preferred by the Nigerians in the Tihar inmates' XI.  "I could see that they didn't like it because it was dry here," he said. But the fact that the ball has almost negligible water absorption means it would be suit Indian conditions well. "It is an ideal ball for India where a lot of football is played during the rains."


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