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The Ball is an ambassador

On the road again as the sun was going down in late afternoon we followed the coast into France. What a gorgeous drive.

“Shouldn’t we stop off in Monaco? It is another country, isn’t it?” said Christian. Depends who you talk to. In we went. An idea was born, maybe The Ball might be given a bed for the night in a luxury hotel. Monaco is a magnet for the wealth of Europe. In Africa one is more likely to find “poverty management”. In Monaco, there was plenty of advertising for “wealth management”. And wealth was on display everywhere we looked: luxury yachts, luxury cars, luxury stores and luxurious people with luxurious pets. And there we were with the most valuable asset around… The Ball, soon to cross the entire African continent.

The Ball in MonacoThe Ball in Monaco

Would the folk of Monaco realise the wealth of The Ball? Would it be welcome? We tried our luck at one of the top hotels, looking over the marina. “Can The Ball stay here?” I asked. “No. Monaco is too special” came the reply. “The Ball is very special too” we replied, and left.

Our plan wasn’t going to cut it on Monaco. But life is what happens when you don’t make plans. And we were having a lot of fun with The Ball. The Ball went to the casino — came rolling out empty-handed but high-spirited. Next up, the top hotel in town, the Hermitage. A friendly welcome. The Ball got a stamp from the concierge. An employee of the hotel was a former Monaco player. The concierge contacted him and told us he’d meet us outside the front of the hotel in 30 minutes. Brilliant.

The Ball gets stamped at The HermitageThe Ball gets stamped at The Hermitage

We decided to have a keepy-uppy session on the manicured lawn outside the lavish entrance to the hotel as we waited. We passed The Ball to passers by — high-heeled back heels, shiny-shoed toe-pokes returned it. The Ball got some first class treatment. Then a friendly looking fellow with a cigar in his mouth controlled The Ball. He wasn’t from around those parts. Turns out he wasn’t just anyone. An Iraqi Ambassador, Saddam’s Minister for Protocol, a famous author with an award-winning film made from of his award-winning book “In the Shadow of Saddam”.

Ambassador Haitham Rashid WihaibAmbassador Haitham Rashid Wihaib

“I wish you all the best in your effort. I fought against dictatorship all my life. I and a football team of my tribe were imprisoned in the time of Saddam Hussein because we refused to play on behalf of his criminal son Uday.”

We were stunned by what was unfolding.

“His son was the chairman of the Iraqi Committee of Football,” he continued. “I used to have a team of football with our tribe and he ordered us play with a team of his and we refused — and put us in prison and he tortured us. Yes. So as you can see these people are far away from the value of sport.”

“Sport is peace. Sport is love. Sport is humanity. And what you are doing now, you are missionaries or ambassadors of peace because sport is really a way to unite nations and this man wanted sport to be a way to divide the Iraqi nation. If you come to Iraq, we will protect you with our hearts and with our life.”

“You are ambassadors of peace and football. It is a very honourable mission.”

The former Monaco player never showed up.

With our hearts held high we headed onward to Carcassonne.


Written by on Saturday, February 13th, 2010

5 comments on this post

  1. Great story,so where did the ball leave its weary head ?

  2. Great stuff, cant wait for it to be in Zambia….its eyes on the BALL

  3. Great! love the originality of the idea,


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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.