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World Cup: FIFA finally realizes that gripes about the Jabulani soccer ball aren't just hollow complaints

You have to hand it to the people at FIFA. Nothing slips by those guys.

So after listening to the rest of the soccer world complain about the World Cup match ball for the better part of two months, the sport's ruling body boldly stepped forward Saturday to admit that the rest of the world may be right.

"We're not deaf," said Jerome Valcke, FIFA's secretary general. "FIFA is not unreceptive about what has been said about the ball."

Valcke said FIFA would discuss the matter with coaches and teams after the World Cup, then meet with Adidas, manufacturer of the high-tech Jabulani ball.

"There are rules for size and weight. ... But the ball has to be perfect," he added.

Goalkeepers have complained about the ball at every recent World Cup, although this time forwards and even coaches have added their laments. Most said the ball reacts unpredictably and moves in strange ways. This week researchers at Cal Tech tested the ball in a wind tunnel and found the complaints to have merit.

Brazil coach Dunga got into a verbal spat with Valcke over the Jabulani before the tournament, challenging the FIFA executive to come out onto the pitch and attempt to control it.

Denmark defender Daniel Agger said the ball made some outfielders look like "drunken sailors."

The Jabulani could create even more problems in the knockout phase beginning Saturday, when games could be decided by penalty kick shootouts.

"The balls have changed over the last couple of years. They have become a lot faster, and in addition to that, in Johannesburg we are playing at altitude, which makes the ball even faster," former Germany goalkeeper Oliver Kahn said. "Thus the goalkeepers work even harder."

Adidas has made the World Cup ball since 1970 and is contracted through 2014. The German company has defended the Jabulani, saying it doesn't know what the fuss is about because all the qualified teams were given the ball before the tournament to test it.

"There's a lot of talk about stadiums, infrastructure and TV, and that's nice and all, but first we've got to worry about balls, spikes and jerseys," Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon said. "I don't see why we can't just go back to the old black-and-white checkered version we all played with as kids."

-- Kevin Baxter reporting from Rustenburg, South Africa

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 
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