Project diary: The Ball has a busy tour of the UK as our journey gets underway

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This is the second diary update as The Ball continues 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

Since Football Fern Katie Rood kicked off The Ball at London’s Battersea Park in mid-July, our project team has been busy making visits throughout the UK to raise awareness of our year-long mission.

We’ve been thrilled with the level of support we’re getting in the UK and elsewhere, as we take The Ball for people to head, pass, kick and sign wherever we go.

Here are some examples of where The Ball has been since my last diary update:

Football matches

Of course, we love our football and we’ll take every opportunity to take in a game.

Already, The Ball has been to an international match, a pre-season non-league game, to street football games, walking football and a match between refugees.

The Ball went to Brentford for the Euro’s match between Germany and France, where we admired one tournament sponsor’s banner: Not Women’s Football. It is Football.

Peckham Town FC hosted our group at a pre-season friendly against Enfield Borough. They’re really supportive of our efforts to mobilise action on climate change and to promote gender equity.

Main photo: Peckham supporters get behind The Ball at their pre-season match. Credit: Brixton Buzz.

The coach of their men’s first team is former England international Mary Phillip, the first black player to captain an English international team.

Her message of support: “The Ball is putting a statement out there. The way the women’s game is growing and is continuing to grow and that The Ball is going to the Women’s World Cup is also recognition of how far the women’s game is being recognised on a level playing field.”

Peckham Town are encouraging fans to travel to and from games by bike, rather than by car. Credit: Brixton Buzz.

Peckham Town’s Duncan Hart says the football community can help fight climate change in simple ways: “As a football club, we want to encourage more and more people to cycle to games and leave their cars at home.”

In London, Street Soccer London invited us to the Black Prince Community Trust facility in Lambeth where to participated in their morning walking football session and their afternoon game for homeless players.

These players are hoping to make the Street Soccer team for the Homeless Home Nations Championship coming up later this year and are mostly refugees, living in London, who come from places like Kenya, Kurdistan and Afghanistan.

One participant, from Kenya, said: “I love the idea of The Ball and I wish I could also travel the world with it.”

Football clubs and their community trusts

We’re being contacted all the time by community-focussed trusts that work with well-known football clubs.

We helped run a workshop with our climate action partner Pledgeball and our education partner Football for Future at the Leyton Orient Trust — the workshop was useful in helping us develop the ways we will engage with people during our journey across the world, seeking their climate pledges.

Wolverhampton Wanderers helped us participate at the Birmingham County FA’s Grassroots Football Awards where we presented a Sustainability in Football award.

The winners were Cradley Town DC who were early adopters of the Save Today, Play Tomorrow programme that includes switching to reusable bottles to eliminate plastic waste from training and on matchdays.

The runners up were Attleborough Sports JFC who run a boot recycling scheme and now standardise their playing strip across their age groups so shirts can be exchanged and re-used as players grow.

Jenny Wilkes, chair of Wolves’ Women’s FC, is passionate about the role of football: “It isn’t women’s football. It is football. It is football for everyone: girls, women, whatever age you are, whatever ability, whatever ethnicity. It is brilliant that this ball is going all around the world spreading the word about football for everyone. One Ball, One World.”

Liverpool rivalries put aside

They’re passionate about their clubs in Liverpool but the city’s three biggest club foundations — Liverpool FC Foundation, Everton Football in the Community and Tranmere Rovers Football in the Community — came together to help us.

With Street League Liverpool, the foundations welcomed The Ball to the famous Albert Docks where we promoted our efforts to use football to improve our planet.

Sport & Communities Programme Manager of the LFC Foundation Dawn Georgeson, who gave away 250 reusable drink bottles, pledged: “I am here today to pledge what we are going to do this summer which is more sustainability, more climate action across all of our programmes. For me personally climate action and sustainability is important. We are giving away bottles to eradicate plastic so that people reuse and recycle them to limit the amount of single use plastics. One Ball, One Football, Spirit of Football.”

Liam French from Tranmere Rovers in the Community: “We endorse climate action, fair play and gender equality. Our pledge is to empower women through the various football sessions that we put on and to build strength in women’s football.”

The trip to Liverpool was inspiring and we’ve always appreciated the city’s support, especially as our Fair Play Ambassador is Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp.

A final thought to ponder

Our journey brings us into contact with amazing people who can inspire us.

An example comes from our United States’ Spirit of Football Ambassador Karli Stenger who, with her three children, met Eva Schloss, who is 93, a Holocaust survivor and step sister to Anne Frank.

Karli Stenger says: “She spoke to my children about the importance of inclusion and love for all. She spoke to them about teen depression and told them to enjoy every day of their beautiful young lives, as she lost her brother and all of her loved ones when she was their age. She spoke about kindness and equality and told them that money and ‘things’ are not important. It is the enjoyment of life and human connection that truly makes one happy.”

Follow our journey

The Ball has its own website and you can follow our journey for the next year through its pages.

Click here to see the site >>>>

READ MORE: Click here to read Andrew’s previous diary update >>>>

Andrew Aris

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 >>>>

More information

Follow The Ball on twitter @the_ball.

Click here for more about The Ball project >>>>

Click here to learn more about Spirit of Football >>>>

Counting down to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup

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