The Ball has started its 18,300km journey from London to Auckland, using football to mobilise climate action and gender equality.
It is the football equivalent of the Olympic torch and will arrive in New Zealand ahead of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Project manager Andrew Aris keeps Friends of Football readers updated with The Ball’s progress …
By Andrew Aris
Founder and President of Spirit of Football
The Maori word aroha means love, compassion, respect and empathy. The Ball represents all of these.
And it was truly a kick-off of The Ball, its 6th journey to a World Cup, that did justice to all these words.
The kick-off brought together partners from the football community, the football for good NGO world and sport for climate action (especially Cool Down -— The Sport for Climate Action Network) to kick-off The Ball on its latest journey to the FIFA World Cup.
Fittingly, New Zealand international player and climate activist Katie Rood kicked The Ball off and was the first to sign it because its destination, for the first time, is not the men’s World Cup but the women’s World Cup in 12 months time in New Zealand.
This ball, and replicas, will fight for climate action and gender equality all the way to New Zealand.
The launch day was held at London’s Battersea Park, where the first-ever official game of football was held.
Our day became a game of at least two halves too.
Watch The Ball start its journey and hear why its supporters believe in the project:
The first half — sport
The first half was the sport part. It was played in 30+ degrees heat. The grass was brown from the sun.
It didn’t have the English summer feel to it at all. The conditions were a fair indication that the globe is warming.
There was the official kick-off and then games of original 1864 rules football (including twirly moustaches) followed by fairplay football where people from a variety of different organisations were randomly split into teams.
The second half — climate action
The second half was the climate half. The Ball’s sixth journey is dedicated to showcasing and making visible the many pockets of climate action across the world with a focus of best practice examples coming from the football community — to show that if there is a will, it is not only the grass that is green in football.
By doing so, the aim is to inspire even more climate action on both the individual and collective level.
Signing The Ball comes with a pledge to commit to a behaviour that has a positive impact on our environment.
New Zealand International Katie Rood pledged to sign up for renewable energy when moving to her new home in Edinburgh, where she has signed to play for Hearts.
Spirit of Football’s pledge is to make this journey of The Ball as climate-friendly as possible.
Many more signatures and pledges were and will continue to be collected over the course of a year until The Ball reaches its destination — Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand.
Songs, poems and hope for the future
Climate activist Ella Williams, with her father Keller Williams, performed the song Still Running which she wrote for this journey’s mission.
It is a song about how we can change it around if we all work together now. A song of hope. A kick-off of hope and belief: Yes, together we can do it.
Beautiful poems, from partners across the world were read aloud. All hopeful, all full of love and passion, like the following Maori poem from our partner organization from New Zealand, Earth Diverse:
Kia hora te marino
Kia whakapapa pounamu te moana
Kia tere te ārohirohi
He waka eke noa.
Ngua te pae hamuti!
May peace be widespread,
may the sea glisten like greenstone,
and may the shimmer of light guide your travels
We are in this together.
Rise to the challenge!
One World, One Ball
(Maori and English)
Andrew Aris is a former New Zealand U-20 international who is currently based in Germany. He is the founder and president of Spirit of Football, an education and advocacy not-for-profit organisation that has taken balls around the planet to five World Cups.
How to contact
If you want to be involved when The Ball arrives in New Zealand, you can contact Andrew Aris by email here >>>>