The FIFA World Cup came to an end on Sunday with Spain’s victory over the Netherlands in a very physical and hard-fought final game. After four weeks of constant football excitement – as much as three matches a day in the first round! – suddenly, millions of football (or soccer, fútbol, Fußball, calcio, ...) fans are finding themselves with a lot of free time on their hands. So what could be better than to use this time to look back at some of the more colorful “side events” that seem to accompany every World Cup and make it unique?
The biggest star that has emerged over the duration of the tournament (judging by the way it has captured media attention and the world’s imagination) is Paul, the clairvoyant octopus, who seemingly had several of his eight arms in everything. German TV stations interrupted their regular programming to broadcast live from Oberhausen’s Sealife aquarium, where Paul correctly predicted the outcome of every game Germany played in the tournament plus Spain as the winner in the final. After being presented by two clear containers, each adorned with national flags, he “made” his prediction by grabbing a mussel from one of the containers.
It’s not always nice to have such a good track record, however. After predicting Argentina’s defeat in the quarter final, “the oracle of Oberhausen” reportedly received death threats (in the form of octopus recipes). German fans were very upset when he predicted Spain’s win over Germany in the semi-final and even accused him of jinxing the “Mannschaft.” This went as far as Spain offering him asylum “so the Germans don’t eat him.” The Dutch were not amused, either. So it is probably a good thing that it has been announced that Paul is going to retire; at the ripe age of 2 1/2 years, he really is a pensioner in octopus years.
Paul was not the only animal around the world that was used as an oracle for World Cup games (another one was Mani, the Singaporean parakeet); after all, if you only “ask” enough of them, one is statistically bound to get it right. Even more about them can be found in 133.89 Animal magnetism, hypnosis, extrasensory perception of animals, aura, where animals with “psychic powers” are classed.
Another topic that was on everyone’s mind (and in everyone’s ears) was the vuvuzela, a plastic blowing horn that was a ubiquitous accessory at this years’ World Cup. Some found it an insufferable noise-maker (with a sound pressure of around 120 dB at close range) that drowned out the stadium atmosphere even on TV; others said it is an integral part of a South African football experience. Because vuvuzelas technically only produce one note, a B-flat at a frequency of about 230 Hz, the sound can be (and was) filtered out to some degree by broadcasters. But for those who couldn’t get enough, Youtube added a “vuvuzela button” to its video player! Some, like these musicians at the Konzerthaus Berlin, took it even more seriously than others, and were able to unearth and perform the little-known vuvuzela solo that Maurice Ravel wrote for his “Boléro.”
Works about vuvuzelas are classed at 788.99 Other brass instruments, where vuvuzelas as instruments are implicitly in standing room. (Even though they are not made of metal, they qualify for inclusion under 788.9 because they are lip-reed instruments.)
Finally, an old classic came up as topic for controversy once again: the ball itself. As the official match balls for the 1970 World Cup, Adidas created what would become the perhaps most iconic ball of all: the Telstar with its familiar 12 black pentagons and 20 white hexagons. Geometrically, such a ball represents a truncated icosahedron, and, as such, is not perfectly round. Recently, manufacturers have embarked on a quest to construct a “rounder” ball with fewer seams, which should perform more consistently regardless where it is hit. While the 2006 World Cup saw the Adidas Teamgeist made out of 14 curved panels, the construction of this year’s Jabulani has been further reduced to eight spherically-molded panels.
While many players seem to like it, it has gotten a lot of criticism. Some players have called it a “supermarket ball” or a “beach ball.” Even NASA has weighed in with an opinion on the aerodynamics of the Jabulani!
Works about the construction and performance of soccer balls are classed at 688.76334, built with 688.76 Equipment for outdoor sports and games plus 334 [from 796.334 Soccer (Association football)]. Since balls do not approximate the whole of equipment for association football, standard subdivisions may not be added; thus another hotly debated topic like the integration of computer chips into the ball to determine automatically when it has passed the goal line is also classed in 688.76334, not in 688.763340285.