A former New Zealand U-20 international is leading an ambitious global project that uses football to change the way people view the world.
Andrew Aris, based in Germany, is the founder of an international non-profit organisation called Spirit of Football and its work has won support from world leaders and football luminaries including Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp who is their Fair Play ambassador.
Main photo: Klopp (left) and Aris at Liverpool FC.
Spirit of Football’s latest project is The Ball — a plan to carry a football from London’s Battersea Park (where the world’s first football match took place) to Auckland for the opening of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The Ball’s journey: London to Auckland
It’s football’s answer to the Olympic torch, except the journey of The Ball is more inclusive, giving everyone the chance to help it along its way.
The Ball will be kicked, headed, caressed and signed by thousands of people across the planet.
Since 2002, SoF (an education and advocacy not-for-profit organisation) has taken balls around the world to five World Cups.
The ball leaves the UK after a kick-off festival at Battersea Park on Sunday July 10 and its journey will be used to promote gender equality and climate action.
In line with SoF’s values and the aims of The Ball project, their team plans to use balls (about 2,000 are used) made from recycled leather and wear apparel and footwear made from sustainable materials.
The project is supported by the Swedish Postcode Foundation.
United Nations support
SoF presented The Ball project plan to the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November. The UN has since asked SoF to take The Ball to Antarctica (led by a famous arctic explorer), Finland, the Philippines, the South Pacific, Vietnam, Armenia, Turkey, Scotland, Argentina, Bangladesh and the UN wants The Ball to play a bigger role at COP27 in Egypt in November 2022.
There’s every likelihood that SoF will soon have a US-based organisation to join its existing groups in Germany, Brazil and the UK.
Aims of the project
The Ball and thousands of replicas will gather signatures and pledges from governing bodies, clubs, players, personalities and fans. Each signature, from street to stadium will be a commitment to gender equality and climate action.
The journey has three core areas of focus:
1. Fair Play – the idea that anyone, anywhere can play The Game irrespective of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, intellectual capacity or talent
2. Women’s Engagement: Thousands of girls and women will play, grow, and inspire others on The Ball’s first journey to the Women’s World Cup.
3. Climate Action: The planet will survive us. We, the global football community, need to take action now. The Ball is a call to action. The Ball is at your feet, what are you going to do?
SoF’s education remit for the project will include making and sharing climate action resources so The Ball’s journey can combine awareness with educational opportunities.
Andrew Aris sees The Ball as a chance to mobilize the football public for taking climate action, showing football can play a vital part in finding solutions to climate change.
The Ball 2014
Here’s how The Ball made a difference in 2014:
How to get involved when The Ball arrives in New Zealand
Andrew Aris is coming to New Zealand with The Ball from July to August 2023.
He is keen to hear from those in the New Zealand football community who see opportunities to be part of The Ball’s journey — by taking it to New Zealanders, hosting workshops at clubs or by helping spread its messages.
Rather than suggest specific ways the community can get involved, Aris poses the challenge:
“We always say: ‘Imagine The Ball is at your feet; what are you going to do with it?'”
He can be reached by email here >>>>
Photo gallery – The Ball
Here are some images from past journeys of The Ball: