The Ball — football’s equivalent to the Olympic Torch — has arrived in Kiribati on its way to 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 a number of events planned for Kiribati, one of the countries most affected by climate change.
Project leader Andrew Aris said the visit provided an opportunity to galvanize national efforts towards a consolidated climate action plan based on Spirit of Football’s principles of fair play and teamwork.
“The focus is empowering local communities who are knowledgeable about the local climate challenges and how to address them.
“The concept of climate change custodians is not a new one, but in light of the increasing and widespread climate disasters the need to empower local custodians in a fun and innovative way is imperative.
“Spirit of Football will especially focus on women, who are often some of the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.”
As The Ball travels from London to Auckland, it’s being signed by supporters of the project.
Main photo: The Ball being signed by the U-19 Kulas, the Fiji national women’s team.
New Zealand activities
The Ball’s project team will be in New Zealand for a month and are keen to hear from groups, clubs or organisations who would be interested in hosting an event.
Here’s the project team’s diary for their latest travels …
The Ball will travel through Kiribati from June 22 till June 29.
Activities include workshops with the Kiribati Islands Football Federation (KIFF) and their partners, that foster discussion about fairplay, gender equality and climate change with women, youth and indigenous people to explore the role football is already playing and how it can increase its part to help make a positive social and sustainable difference in Kiribati society.
The Ball in Kiribati is supported by the German Embassy in Wellington, New Zealand.
German Special Envoy for the Pacific Island States, Ambassador Ms Beate Grzeski, is visiting Kiribati in late June to gain a better understanding of the current situation, expectations and challenges in Kiribati, especially regarding climate change action.
Ms Grzeski said: “I am delighted that my visit to Kiribati coincides with the One Ball, One World programme as it complements my mission to bring Germany and the Pacific Island States closer together to address the shared challenges we face, most notably climate change.
“Football is an excellent example of how we can bring diverse actors together to achieve common goals. We only have this one world, and by working as a team, we can make a difference!”
The Kiribati Ports Authority (KPA) also supports The Ball in Kiribati.
Chairman Betarim Rimon said: “We are supporting women in sports in Kiribati and to help Kiribati be seen in the global sport stage. This is one great opportunity to showcase to the world Kribati being in the frontline of the climate change calamity.”
As The Ball travels around the world, it gathers signatures of individuals who pledge support to advance gender equality and climate action.
Since 2002, more than 56,000 people in 56 countries have signed The Ball.
From 2022 to 2023, 57 partner organizations have organized more than 30 events and workshops that have encouraged action on climate change and gender equality amongst football enthusiasts.
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.