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Children with an Alive & Kicking ball

Tag: Football Club

The Ball at the San Siro

The Ball at the San SiroThe Ball at the San Siro

We were guests of Inter Milan with tickets on the half way line in the San Siro — one of the world’s great football cathedrals.

The San Siro - a cathedral of footballThe San Siro – a cathedral of football

The Ball got stuck in the turnstiles. Christian and I were inside. The bag and The Ball were outside. The fan behind me could have simply legged it with by backpack and The Ball. But he didn’t. The Ball squeezed in with the help of a nameless Inter fan whose name we wish we knew.

“WTF?” Christian screamed, “How did that not go in?”
“He’s like a cat”, Luigi, sitting in front of us, said, referring to Julio Cesar’s incredible reflexes.

The rest of the match was spent in conversation with Luigi and his friends. A lecture in football, Inter-style followed. Indeed, replays aren’t allowed in stadiums but luckily Luigi would call his cousin after any controversial scenes. Yes, we can confirm that Calgiari’s goal was offside. Of course it was offside: his cousin, a die hard Inter fan would never have said anything else.

Andrew show The Ball round the San SiroAndrew show The Ball round the San Siro

Inter 3 — Cagliari 0

After the match, Christian asked Luigi to describe who supports Inter and who supports AC. “Intelligent people support Inter, of course. And the other team in Milan is called AC Milan. The normal part is for Inter, the remaining part… I don’t want to use any rude words… is for Milan AC.”

We think we know what you mean Luigi. Sort of…

The Ball at Anderlecht

The Ball at the Belgian FAThe Ball at the Belgian FA

The Golf Ball made quick work of the journey from Brugge to Brussels and before we knew it we were meeting with the Belgian FA’s press spokesperson and finding out about Belgium’s colonial football links to Africa, the importance of African footballers in Belgium football and the Belgium and Holland’s joint World Cup bids for 2018 and 2022.

Andrew with The Ball at AnderlechtAndrew with The Ball at Anderlecht

Next stop was the working class suburb of Anderlecht and a visit to Royal Sports Club Anderlecht, Belgium’s most successful football club. We were fortunate enough to be granted an audience with the Anderlecht head coach, Ariel Jacobs, who gave us a wonderful insight into the Belgian football scene.

Andrew and The Ball with Ariel JacobsAndrew and The Ball with Ariel Jacobs

We found out about a 16-year-old local lad Romelu Lukaku, of Congolese descent, who is suddenly the biggest talent in Belgian football and wanted by top clubs across Europe (Chelsea, Arsenal, Real Madrid for example). The club makes sure he stays in school — they drive him to school every morning, pick him up every afternoon and offer private lessons to cover for any classes missed due to training or away game travel. The lad has his feet on the ground, has his friends around him and is kept away from some of the dangers that top young players across Europe face.

The Ball, in an exclusive interview, told us that it would like to see other big clubs following this youth policy. The Ball hopes to speak to the EU about this upon its return from South Africa in July.

During a quiet moment, we were shown into the stadium itself by brand manager Bert Van Der Auwera, where we had a kickabout on Anderlecht’s hallowed turf with none other than Mbark Boussoufa, the Moroccan international star.

Anderlecht's Mbark Boussouf with The BallAnderlecht’s Mbark Boussouf with The Ball

RSC Andelecht works on several innovative youth projects with the EU, including the Double Club initiative whereby youths from Belgium go to a school in London connected to Arsenal FC to learn a specifically designed football English language programme and vice-versa. The Ball thinks that football can be a hook for youngsters to learn other languages and about other cultures and people.

For this enlightened view of how to conduct the business of football — and also because of the unexpectedly warm welcome we received — both Sven and I became fans of Anderlecht.

Olé, Olé Olé Olé!

Dan Magness World Record, World Record, coming through…

“Nice one (mate), good on you son, watch out, be careful, wicked, brilliant, World Record, World Record, coming through, Dan Magness World Record attempt.”

In Erfurt, Germany, at a street football event in October 2009, Dan Magness and the Spirit of Football team hatched a cunning plan. The plan was that Dan Magness would try and break a world record by juggling The Ball 2010 to Dover from London at the start of our 10,000 mile journey to South Africa. That plan changed slightly. No Dover, but across London and stopping at every Premier League football stadium on the way. “No problem mate”, said Dan back then.

Unfortunately, a few days before the record attempt, we were informed that this would not be possible because The Ball 2010 (an Alive & Kicking ball) is not a FIFA-approved ball. If Dan used The Ball it could not be a world record. Not wanting to prevent Dan from getting a world record, we agreed that he use a FIFA-approved ball. We would accompany his world record with our ball, The Ball.

At every club, he would stop, take a rest, give interviews with and juggle The Ball 2010. His juggle would promote The Ball 2010 and its partners Alive & Kicking, Special Olympics as well as the Freestyle Football Federation, who planned and organized the journey. And so, Sven Soederberg and I made our way by tube and foot to Craven Cottage in West London, arriving at 7:40am. Our job, or so we had imagined, was to promote The Ball 2010. Instead we quickly became a part of Dan’s support team.

It must be said that I had little faith that he could actually achieve his goal of juggling a ball for 13.5 hours, 30 miles across London; in winter; starting in the dark; ending in the dark; not being allowed to drop it; keeping it up with his head, his feet, his thighs, his shoulders and his substantial neck, but not with his hands or arms. “No chance. He must be daft.”

Dan Magness at Fulham's Craven CottageDan Magness at Fulham’s Craven Cottage

Time: 8.00 — 21.30 Tuesday 26th, January 2010
Location: Craven Cottage, Fulham, London, UK
Distance to be covered: more than 30 miles…

Just before we left, I asked him, “Dan, can you do it?”
“No problem mate, eaaaasy.”
Before I knew it, he had begun. The first 200 meters were a sign of things to come: journalists galore, a live TV interview as he juggled along the middle of the road. Before we knew it, we were at Stamford Bridge, home of Chelsea and he hadn’t dropped The Ball.

We reached Buckingham Palace where Dan put on a freestyle show for the crowd of Japanese tourists gathered there. “Very good, very good” said one to me as he nodded his head almost in disbelief at Dan’s amazing ball control. Police on horse-back clapped their approval as he sped along side St James’s Park. We arrived at London Bridge at midday. 4 hours into the world record attempt and he hadn’t dropped it, not once.

Dan Magness at Buckingham PalaceDan Magness at Buckingham Palace

The feeling amongst us privileged few in his entourage was that something special was happening. By this stage he was all over the news. Dan Wood from the Freestyle Football Federation, was constantly on the phone. His battery went dead. He had to use two other phones in the day. Media, media and more media the story was catching like wild fire.

Dan Magness does an interview en routeDan Magness does an interview en route

And Dan’s speed was phenomenal. Every time we stopped (to buy a sandwich or a drink, to give an interview, to have someone sign The Ball or have their picture taken with it), albeit each time only for a matter of seconds, Dan Magness was long gone.

Where is he? Where did he go? There he is.

Then off again, running after him. As the day went on the entourage started to complain of aches and pains. Blisters were appearing, the chatter of the morning turned into long stretches of silence. Dan on the other hand was positive, bright and nearly always upbeat.

Dan Magness in a crowded streetDan Magness in a crowded street

As we headed east, more and more people were on the streets. London’s ethnicities began to show themselves, it isn’t called the most diverse city in the world for nothing. The smells of all kinds of Asian foods wafted by, but stopping for a meal was out of the question. “Dan, what would you like to eat.” “Big steak mate, with lots of chips” came the reply.

Ethnicities passed by: English, German, French, Spanish, Polish, Russian, Indian, Pakistani, Turkish, Bangladeshi, Chinese, Afro-American, South African, Nigerian, Cameroonian, Egyptian..

In the late afternoon we reached Upton Park, the home of West Ham United. Kids had poured out of schools, the streets started to fill up with more and more people. People from passing cars and busses and waiting at bus stops urged support. Dan was feeling fine. He had nearly dropped The Ball on the way to West Ham. After a long stretch of juggling only with his feet he flicked the ball up to knee and a bit of fatigue set in. He just salvaged it. A close call. But now he was awake again and ready to continue.

Dan Magness passes along a suburban streetDan Magness passes along a suburban street

The planned route was not possible to follow due to 2012 Olympics construction in East London. We met a dead-end and had to back track. Frustration set in. Doubt surfaced.

The new route was about 4 miles longer than the old. It was obvious that we were not going to make the Tottenham game, where the highlight of the cross-London journey awaited us: We (Dan Magness and I) were going to be introduced to the crowd at half-time. Disaster.

The question was, should Dan Magness stop at Arsenal, having already broken the record (27 miles had been covered) due to the detour? An option was that he could have driven the final 4 miles to Tottenham and been introduced to the crowd (a live international TV Audience of millions) as the man who had just broken a world record. Or should he continue, in the dark, and try to reach his goal of every Premier League club… alone, tired shattered, by now with aching muscles, coated in sweat?

I secretly and selfishly hoped that he would decide to go to Tottenham. To his immense credit, Dan made the bold decision not to give up. “I’ve come this far. There is no effing way I am giving up now. I said every club and I meant it.” In this moment, I could not have had more respect for Dan Magness. This was the sign of a true champion. Despite those around him suggesting he leg it to Tottenham, despite his tiredness, despite the cold and the dark he continued.

Dan Magness at ArsenalDan Magness at Arsenal

And he did it! He proved me wrong — he actually did it! I was right about one thing though: he’s absolutely barking mad.

We arrived over 1 hour later and as the final whistle blew at White Hart Lane his world record was complete… more than 30 miles juggling across London, through crowds, under subway walkways, over horse poo, through narrow walkways, lengthy construction sites, from the relative darkness of a London winters morning through to a cold, crisp dark evening. He did it. And we were there to help him and to bear witness to what he was doing.

Dan Magness with the ball on his headDan Magness with the ball on his head

Nice one Dan. You are a true legend. And your signature on The Ball, which came at the very end of your journey, is the most endearing story of the spirit of football thus far.

Other facts

  • Weather: 3-6 degress and sunny
  • Number of photos taken: 5000

Stadium checklist

  • Football clubs Craven Cottage (Fulham)
  • Stamford Bridge (Chelsea)
  • Upton Park (West Ham)
  • Emirates Stadium (Arsenal)
  • White Hart Lane (Tottenham)

The Ball checklist

  • 150 more signatures
  • 4 freestyle sessions with Dan Magness
  • 10 Interviews with people met on the streets
  • 500 photos taken by SOF team
  • 95 minutes of video footage recorded

Famous buildings/sights

  • Buckingham Palace, The Queen didn’t sign The Ball
  • Trafalgar Square — South Africa’s High Commission sent a representative out to sign The Ball and give us vuvuzelas… they provided cheer as we bobbed along thereafter
  • Olympic Stadium in construction — created a HUGE detour

Interesting occurrences

  • Posh English car driver yelled out of his car window while we were crossing an intersection in Chelsea (a posh suburb of London): “If you are going to cross the road. Then for goodness sake stop playing ball games.”
  • Horse poo juggle: a police horse provided a mountainous obstacle… Dan skipped over it.
  • He juggled through puddles, dust, dirt and gravel.
  • He gave interviews via telephone while he continued his juggle marathon
  • He drank coffee at 10am whilst balancing his ball on his head
  • Dan stopped to talk to a homeless man, put on a freestyle show for the man, which included using the man’s hat in his routine. The man was very grateful.
  • One man refused to sign the witness paper (one lady on the F3 team carried a clipboard asking passers by to sign that they had witnessed his record attempt…. Saying “go away with your silly promotion”
  • Dan juggled the ball under the underground walk way then up the other side which included about 100 steps
  • Dan put on a show especially for the kids who had gathered to meet him in front of West Ham’s stadium, a particularly difficult trip
  • Dan ran into a street bin in the dark a few minutes before arriving at White Heart Lane in Tottenham
  • We heard people all day saying things like: he’s the guy from the tv, from the news, from the radio. Etc… he was the talk of London
  • Took his pants off in the late morning when he was getting very hot
  • Dan stretched his right leg while the ball was on his head
  • Kids ran up to him near Emirates stadium and knocked the ball off of his knee and down to the ground… and ran away laughing
  • Dan juggled the ball through an enormous road construction area
  • On West Ham Rd a man wanted that Dan pass him the ball and got very annoyed — he had to be restrained by the security entourage — when Dan didn’t.

Most used words and phrases of the day

  • Nice one (mate), good on you son, watch out, be careful, wicked, brilliant, World Record, coming through, Dan Magness World Record attempt.

Dan Magness songs (invented and sung by his entourage)

  • We love Magness, we do, We love Magness we do, oooohhhhhhh Magness we love you!
  • Ole ole, Dan Magness, Ole, ole Dan Magness, Dan Magness Ole
  • When I say Dan, you say Magness, Dan. Magness
  • When I say World, you say Record, World, Record, World Record
  • When I say Spirit you say Football, Spirit of Football, Spirit of Football
  • Every year a Dan, every year a Dan UHHHH Uhhhhh, until he is 96 (Hannover 96 fan song)
  • Walking along, singing a song, walking in a Magness wonderland
  • Sha la la laa lala la laa — Dan Magness

Discusions with Dan Magness

  • What happens when you need to pee, poo
  • Being a fan of Liverpool FC
  • His family
  • How he was feeling, if he needed anything

Crossed roads

  • 200 roads crossed
  • 50 red lights passed through
  • More than 50,000 cars passed by — up to 500 car hoots
  • Motorway on ramp crossed
  • Juggled over bridges
  • 15 lamp posts only just avoided

Freestyle style checklist

  • He touched the ball over 100,000 times with
  • Head, shoulders, thighs, back, neck, shins, feet
  • He used his head to balance the ball at intersections
  • He gave freestyle performances at each club and historic sight…

The Team

  • Qfor Security company (4 people)
  • Dan Wood (Dan’s agent and Director of F3)
  • Phil Wake, Sven Soederberg, Andrew Aris (SOF)
  • Lee Johnson (Director of New Media) volunteers (Kick Fair)
  • Zakir Adam (Streets United)
  • Preeti Shetty — “the Indian girl whose not really from Dubai”  from Kick 4 Life
  • Journalists stopping and asking questions

How they helped him

  • Made a path for him through crowds
  • Informed people he was coming through
  • Helped him on his way, held his hand when he juggled in the dark
  • Help a flash light and shone it on the ball as the darkness crept in
  • Gave him drinks and food: energy bars, gum to chew, sweets to suck on, bananas, tissues, a jacket when it got cold
  • Encouraged him to keep on going, informed him of distances to go and described obstacles coming up
  • Big drop, steep rise, narrow part, stop at intersection, number of stairs, height of steps
  • Guided journalists

Before today there was a world record for juggling a football continuously. After today that record was shattered. The Ball went along for the ride that took everyone from Fulham FC to every EPL ground in London ending at White Hart Lane, it included a unforeseen 4 mile detour because of road construction! The featured track is DJ Menza “Coup de tete de Zidane” from Akwaaba Music. Pick up the song on Amazon.

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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.