Tuesday 15 August 2023, 04:00

Special ball spreads message of unity and inclusion on epic 21-country journey

  • More than 12,000 people have held and signed the football during its journey

  • Journey began in London on the site of the first-ever FA rules match

  • The project, under the name "One ball, One World", is run the Spirit of Football NGO and partly funded by the FIFA Foundation Community Programme.

Aside from the official match ball itself, there will another very special football at the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023™ final in Sydney/Gadigal. It will arrive at the Stadium Australia after an epic journey which started in London and took it through countries as diverse as the USA, Kenya, Vietnam, Fiji and Kiribati, and during which it has been held by more than 12,000 people.

During its travels, "The Ball", as it is simply known, has spread a message of unity, hope and gender equality through football in 21 countries Europe, North America, the Middle East, Asia and Oceania.

Young pupils hold "The Ball" on a visit by Spirit of Football in Auckland

The project, under the name "One ball, One World", is run the Spirit of Football NGO and partly funded by the FIFA Foundation Community Programme. The ball itself was ethically produced in Kenya using recycled leather by the UK Charity Alive and Kicking, a not-for-profit ball manufacturer. The journey began on 20 July 2022, exactly one year before the opening match of the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023, at London’s Battersea Park, which was the site of the first football match to be played under FA rules in 1864.

Spirit of Football representatives speak to pupils at Stanhope Road Primary School

Along the way, Spirit of Football has run education workshops in football clubs and schools. It's aim - in line with the Football Unites the World campaign at the FIFA Women's World Cup is - to unite people around football, engage in conversations about the impacts of climate change and gender inequity and look at ways in which everyone can make a difference. Whoever meets The Ball is invited to hold it, sign it and make a pledge to take action to make their communities stronger and take better care of the environment. "The 12,133 signatures and counting that have been added to The Ball en-route in the countries it has visited so far have come with a wide range of simple and sophisticated pledges from people of all backgrounds for a more equitable, sustainable and fair world," said Andrew Aris, founder of the Spirit of Football. “For those who add their names on top of all the signatures that have been written before, there is a sense of joining a world of collective small actions that can make a collective big difference."

Two young pupils sign "The Ball" at Spirit of Football visit to Stanhope Road Primary School

The Ball reached Australia at the end of July and has already featured at a number of workshops in Melbourne and Sydney. In line with FIFA's own philosophy, Andrew Aris spoke of football's ability to bring people together and have a positive social impact. "Our motivation came from the belief that football, as the world game, has a global language and is, in its simplicity, beautiful," he said. "All you need is a ball. If you don’t have one, you can make your own. We were further motivated by our belief in the power of grassroots football to connect people to teach important social messages and to celebrate diversity and fair play."