Former New Zealand U-20 international Andrew Aris is using his passion for football to try to make the world a better place.
Germany-based, Aris is the founder and director of the non-profit football-for-good organisation Spirit of Football.
His current project is to lead a team who are bringing The Ball from London to New Zealand, visiting many countries on the way to spread their message.
Main photo: Andrew Aris bringing The Ball through Vietnam on its way to Auckland.
Aris has written this open letter to football enthusiasts in New Zealand, explaining what he’s doing … and inviting clubs, schools, and other organisations to get involved.
Dear friends …
My team and I are currently in Indonesia en route with The Ball — football’s Olympic Torch — to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in New Zealand.
We arrive in Auckland at the start of July, and I am asking you to get involved.
Feel free to reach out to me if you want to connect The Ball to your school, club or sustainable initiative.
Who am I?
Back in the day, I played football for Pakuranga, Howick, North Shore United and Fencibles United, as well as Auckland Grammar School.
I was lucky enough to represent New Zealand at U-20 level in Tahiti in 1996 before winning a scholarship to play football and to study in the United States.
Years later, in Germany, where I also sat on the bench in the German third division, I founded the non-profit football for good organization Spirit of Football.
Spirit of Football has been my life and passion ever since.
We use football as a social tool to connect people, to work with refugees and migrant communities, to fight against extremism and to integrate intellectually disadvantaged people.
We focus on fair play in schools and communities and even in the Azraq refugee camp in the middle east.
Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp has been our FairPlay Ambassador since 2014.
Our DNA project, since 2002, has been The Ball (or Football’s Olympic Torch) which travels from the birthplace of modern rules football in London to the FIFA World Cup every four years.
You see, The Ball is on a mission for gender equality and climate action.
New Zealand International Katie Rood kicked off The Ball last July in England as the hottest temperatures ever recorded in United Kingdom history were being recorded.
Since then, The Ball has been on an education and advocacy mission around the world.
We have run 50+ workshops in schools, NGOs, and even top clubs like Everton and Borussia Dortmund.
We have undertaken beach clean-ups and beach kickabouts with local partners; ran education sessions with kids living on an enormous rubbish dump in Cambodia; learned from indigenous people in the Philippines and even connected to k-pop climate action fan groups in Indonesia.
So far, almost 9,000 people in 16 countries have signed their names on The Ball and made pledges, including the US Women’s National Team who pledged for equal pay for equal play.
These pledges are commitments to behave more sustainability and to take action on climate change.
‘Everyone can make a difference’
I strongly believe that we need to act now, and we need to act collectively.
Football, as the world’s most popular sport, can play a huge role — and it needs to.
Our schedule in New Zealand has begun to fill up.
We will run workshops in several schools in the last two weeks of July in Auckland, Hamilton and Wellington.
Several clubs and regional associations have also expressed interest in hosting The Ball in the first weeks of July and the ABs might even spin it out wide on the eve of the South Africa test in Auckland.
How about you?
Would you like to get involved?
Would you like to bring The Ball into your community?
We could run a FairPlay session or make a presentation at your club, run a workshop in a school that your kids go to or find out about sustainable initiatives you are a part of already or how you are committed to gender equality at your club or in your community.
If you fancy hosting The Ball and our team, then please send me an e-mail: [email protected].