Not even Diego Forlan knows how he tamed the Jabulani back in 2010.
He didn’t just tame it. He made it sing.
You only have to look back at how the Uruguyan’s five World Cup goals swerved, dipped and swung into the top corner. Even his penalty against South Africa was struck with enough venom to outshine any regular goal scored in-play.
The ball – while visually brilliant – became one of the biggest stories in a tumultuous tournament which saw ghost goals, vuvuzelas and who can forget the French?
Issues with the ball stemmed from its lack of hexagonal panels.
In contrast to its predecessors, which had as many as 32, the Jabulani was created with only eight as a means of making the ball rounder.
It did not take long for players and fans to notice its unpredictability, with England’s Rob Green certainly finding out the hard way, while others described it as ‘unplayable’, a ‘disgrace’ and something one would find in a supermarket.
All except Forlan.
”I felt really comfortable with the ball so I only have good things to say about the Jabulani,’’ he told a group of Australian media on Friday.
At the peak of his powers and after failing to qualify in 2006, Forlan rose to the big occasion in the way only legends can.
The forward joined esteemed company after the tournament when he was awarded the Golden Ball – joining the likes of Diego Maradona and Zinedene Zidane – while also being the tournament’s joint top-scorer with five goals alongside Thomas Muller, David Villa and Wesley Sneijder.
South African goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune could only stand bewildered as Forlan’s 30-yard screamer changed direction mid-air and crashed into the right-hand side of the net.
This was only the beginning of the highlight reel to come, with the forward curling home the emphatic equaliser in the infamous tie against Ghana, before adding to the package with strikes against both Netherlands and Germany.
”The goal against Germany was voted as the best goal of the World Cup. I really liked that one,’’ Forlan said.
”But the goal I scored against South Africa which was outside of the box [was my favourite].’’
While Uruguary bowed out in the semi-finals of the World Cup to the Netherlands, Forlan would only have to wait 12 months to get his hands on silverware.
Forlan would lift the 2011 Copa America – scoring a brace in a 3-0 win against Paraguary in the final and becoming the third member of his family to lift the continent’s most prestigious prize.
”When we arrived in the final I knew I could make history,’’ Forlan said.
”My grandfather, my mother’s-father won it twice and my father won it once so we now have four Copa America’s across three generations which is something no other family has achieved.’’
Forlan scored 36 goals in 112 appearances for Uruguary, with successful stints at club level with Manchester United, Villareal and Atletico de Madrid.