One ball's journey to the World Cup
Spirit of Football
Alive & Kicking's 250,000th ball continues its journey with the Spirit of Football team to the World Cup opening ceremony in Johannesburg.
Pah! The moment I was dropkicked off the boat onto Moroccan soil the clouds opened up and it hasn’t stopped raining since. It was freezing when we set off from London in January. Then snow, sub-zero temperatures and rain plagued our journey through Europe. Now here we are in Africa - and this!
Yet rain doesn’t stop us from getting a game on. Within hours of our arrival, Andrew and Christian from Spirit of Football - and what seems like a thousand local children - are charging through the streets, kicking me. It is ACE!
I’m flying through the air, bouncing off of walls and into puddles and then whoops - a wicked bobble and off someone’s shin I go, through an open door and into someone’s home.
Andrew asks the old lady who appears at the doorway if he can have me back, but she is claiming me as her own, saying I am a gift for her grandson. My God, I think, I’ve been kidnapped, or ballnapped, or whatever the correct term is.
Andrew distracts the old lady by pointing in the air and when she comes forward to look up he drops his shoulder and like a young Ryan Giggs sidesteps her, sprints into the room to retrieve me and runs back out again to the cheers of all the waiting kids (and a worried looking Christian).
We are staying in the Hotel Barcelona, a hotel dedicated to Barcelona Football Club. To all travelling balls coming to Morocco I recommend it as an excellent place to stay. The manager of Hotel Barcelona, Mohammed, is fantastic.
However, later when he is asking the Spirit of Football fellas about me, which leads to general football talk, the conversation takes a surreal turn as he takes us into his confidence and explains that he hates his job.
He goes on to say his ideal job would be manager of Hotel Real Madrid, but that hotel doesn’t exist, and so he survives each day working at Hotel Barcelona by wearing a Real Madrid shirt underneath his other clothes. Weird.
Yet not as weird as seeing a video of the day you were made, which is exactly what happened to me whilst we were staying at the Hotel Barcelona.
Alive & Kicking balls are generally donated to children in Africa so kids have something to play with, and if you wish to make a group of children happy by giving them a ball like me you can do so through the Alive & Kicking website.
However, I’m the 250,000th ball made by Alive & Kicking and so my destiny lay with Spirit of Football as a symbol of their journey to the World Cup as a device for them to use to bring people together, and so the historic event of my making was filmed.
The short film had been emailed through to Spirit of Football, so they could show people how I came into being. Andrew started playing the clip on his laptop and even though it was good to see Bernard again (the man who made me), the sight of my innards and all that stitching made me feel dizzy, so I looked away and started wondering if Mohammed ever gets too hot wearing his Real Madrid shirt under his other clothes?
The Moroccans are mad for their football and when they hear about my recent exploits with Moroccan football star Mbark Boussouffa, the tricksy midfield creator who plays in Belgium for Anderlecht, they begin offering Andrew and Christian sums of money for me.
That man is worshipped here and they all want the ball he played with. Andrew thanks the Moroccans but tells them I’m priceless and not for sale, which I immediately suspect is because he’s getting into the Moroccan spirit and haggling for the best price. But Andrew reiterates and I felt safe again.
Phew. I’ve come this far and I want to be there in Johannesburg for the opening ceremony and South Africa against Mexico, which should be a cracker.
Next stop Senegal for visas.
Part 1: From Battersea
to Belgium en route to AfricaPart
2: Lost in translation with Julio CesarPart 3: In Iraq, football is tortureBalls to Africa home
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