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The Ball 2002 is kicked over the Great Wall of China on its way to Korea & Japan

Korea kicks off

Ole ole ole ole…

A fervour was whipped up after the opening game as a couple of hundred Red Devils – a posse of Korean supporters and their two drummers – chanted, danced and sang in the park outside the stadium.

click here or on the image above to download the MPEG clip of the Red Devils

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The Ball reaches its goal

Arrival at the Stadium
The Ball arrives at the stadium

The trans-continental odyssey reached its first point of closure with the Ball’s arrival at the World Cup stadium in Seoul. We had high hopes of getting inside as the opening ceremony started, since we had heard that there were still tickets for sale at the box office…

The Ball makes its final journey – to the Opening Ceremony, the place it has travelled 8000 miles to reach.

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The Ball on air

Pat Nevin signs the ball on air
Pat Nevin signs the ball on air

Chelsea fan Phil meets ex-Chelsea captain and Scotland international Pat Nevin during an appearance on Radio 5 Live just before the opening ceremony…

Some outtakes from our encounter with Nicky Campbell and Pat Nevin, who interviewed us just before the Opening Ceremony.

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The Ambassador’s Ball

The Ambassador's Ball
The Embassy teams

The day of the Opening Ceremony, the Ball was invited to the British ambassador’s residence for a little kickabout between Chris and Phil on one side, and the combined talents of the Foreign Office Minister, Dr. Dennis McShane and the ambassador himself on the other…

We just have time to stop off at the British Embassy for a cup of tea and a kick-about.

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From the Heart of Football to the Seoul of Football

Seoul welcomes the World
Seoul welcomes the World, and we welcome Seoul

After 7000 miles of being kicked and kissed across Europe and Asia, our Olympic Torch of a ball has made it. With one day to spare…

Our first stop in Seoul as we step off the bus and get our bearings.

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Weihai ahoy

After reassurances from the Korean Embassy in Beijing that we would have no trouble getting in to Korea, we decided to head for Weihai, ferry gateway to Incheon, Seoul’s port, and to the Opening Ceremony. Since the full story has already been told, I’ll just show the alternative that we contemplated.

A swim beckons
A dawn swim to the East beckons

Actually, more than just contemplated…

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Gotta get out of this prace

Chinese, er, eggs?
Some things just leave a bad taste in the mouth

With only 4 days to go ’til the Opening Ceremony of the World Cup 2002 Japan/Korea, the ball finally reaches the other side of this 7000 mile wide continent. Holy Smoke, the sea air is welcome since our last sniff of English Channel air, the recent soup of Beijing air, oh yeah, and the self inflicted tab smoking. I can hardly believe that Chris, the ball and I, have made it this far and with only a short ferry trip over the Yellow Sea to the start of a month of football heaven in Korea and Japan, to go. So flicking through the Weidong Ferry Co. brochure we decide to treat ourselves to a Royal Class cabin for the 17 hour ride. “Not so fast, oh World Cup travellers….

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Doing the Locomotion

Chinese Train

So how does the ball and the FLH team cover the huge distances they have travelled across mainland China? The answer is the excellent Chinese rail network and its fleet of sleeper carriages.

Buying a ticket at a Chinese train ticket office is initially a challenge. There is no Roman alphabet in sight and staff often speak little or no English. The first step is to find out the Chinese characters for your destination of choice…

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Mao Say Do

The Ball takes over the Square
The Ball takes over the Square

The Ball found a quick visit to Tianamen Square irresistable, though it seemed like a place in which it would not be made welcome, despite China’s qualification for the World Cup finals for the first time this year. It decided to head onwards very quickly…

The Ball bounces from Xian through Tiananmen Square to the Chinese coast and onwards to Korea.

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However, before it could roll onwards, the intrepid travellers conceded a goal to time in Beijing… the Forbidden City was forbidden by time-constraints as we struggled to arrange the final leg of our journey by surface, photocopying, typing letters, visiting embassies and writing emails. We got our trip description translated into Korean, and wondered what on earth it now says – it’s been “Chinese whispered” from English through Russian and Chinese into Korean. Well, here it is…

Korean Trip Description

The Ball is stolen and retrieved

Yes, we very nearly lost The Ball in Xian. Our worst nightmare narrowly avoided.

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Outside the Terracota Army near Xi’an (where I launched a beautiful free kick over a wall of imitation statues) there are many tourist-tat-traders / thieves. We were surrounded quickly, our pockets felt and as always the Ball received much attention. This warrior couldn’t resist a touch:

Click here to download the MPEG clip with warrior’s kick and celebration dance

Shortly afterwards, as our attentions were bombarded with diversions, I noticed the ball gone…

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The Ball 2018 left England on 25th March 2018 and travelled to the World Cup in Russia.

The Ball 2014 kicked off from England on 9th Jan 2014 and headed to the World Cup in Brazil.

The Ball 2010 left England on 24th Jan 2010 headed to the Opening Ceremony in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The Ball 2006 travelled from London to the Opening Ceremony in Munich, Germany.

The Ball 2002 was carried 7000 miles across Europe and Asia to the World Cup finals in Korea & Japan.