The Ball — football’s equivalent to the Olympic Torch — is on track to reach Auckland in time for the opening game of the FIFA Women’s World Cup on July 20.
The project — which aims to raise awareness of climate change and gender equality — has travelled through Vietnam and Cambodia over the past fortnight.
In Cambodia, the US Embassy and partner organisations Indochina Starfish Foundation, Compost City and COMPED helped The Ball team run a two-day educational workshop, and share its methods on sustainability, gender equality and fair play.
Here’s the project team’s diary of their latest travels …
“Twenty hours overnight train to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and six hours by bus to Cambodia.
“Rather than taking a 2-hour flight, we decided to reduce our carbon footprint and take the 20-hour overnight sleeper train from Da Nang to Saigon.
“Arriving in Saigon Train Station at just before 6am, our tired team enjoyed a morning coffee outside the station before a quickfire moped tour of the city, with ball in hand, before boarding a bus and heading off on a 6-hour bus journey to Cambodia.
Main photo: New Zealander Andrew Aris takes The Ball on a moped tour.
“Our very international travel team consists of Valeree (Philippines), Sophia (Germany), Andrew (New Zealand) and Joaquin (Argentina). Valeree didn’t need a visa to enter either Vietnam or Cambodia. Sophia and Andrew (travelling with his British Passport) got an automatic 15-day visa for free and Joaquin got in a spot of trouble.
“It is all rather complicated. Because we were officially working in Vietnam, Joaquin needed a working visa which was only granted until the 17th of March and only after a touch-and-go operation upon arrival at the airport.
“As we had already booked our further travel to Cambodia (bus) and gotten Cambodian visas for Joaquin, Sophia and Andrew (Valeree again was exempt), which were valid from the 19th of March, we decided to try our luck and cross into Cambodia.
“We are in Cambodia – hooray.
“After overstaying his visa by two days, Joaquin entered into a game of cat and mouse with a Vietnamese border official. Joaquin’s “fine” was negotiated down after our team opened our empty wallets to show just how little $US we had on us.
“We concluded that immigration officials on both sides of this border collaborate on such issues
“And so The Ball and our team of four made it into Cambodia, exhausted after being on the road for about 38 hours from Hoi An to Da Nang (Taxi), to Saigon (train), to the border, to Phnom Penh (bus), and finally a ferry ride to our accommodation on the Island of Koh dach, Kandal – a picturesque island located on the banks of Mekong River, on the upstream of Phnom Penh, known for its traditional silk weaving.
“It is perfect for two days of communication, planning, recovery and a bit of sightseeing before a series of visits, workshops and travel and even more workshops and events in the coming several weeks in both Cambodia and Thailand.”
Next stop … Thailand.
Where it all started
The first person to sign The Ball on its 12-month global climate action and advocacy mission was Football Fern Katie Rood, who plays for Hearts in Scotland, and who kicked off The Ball’s journey in London.
“Everyone loves the World Cup, but if we are to be able to continue playing it in the future, we need collective and urgent climate action. The journey of The Ball across land and sea from London to New Zealand is an opportunity for football to get its environmental act in order. I am going to take action. Are you?”
Spirit of Football’s Ambassador and Liverpool FC manager Jürgen Klopp is also supporting The Ball: “It is a ball for us all. Be part of our team. Everyone can play. Respect your teammates, your opponents and the environment. One Ball, One World.”
How you can help
Do you want to be involved in the project? Follow The Ball’s journey and make your own pledge.