“When I have problems at work. When my boss gets on my case. When I need peace. I go outside and I listen to the falls. It totally relaxes me. I love it.”
— anonymous Zambian Mosi crew member
Rainy season was very rainy this year. Zambia suffered from flooding. Crops were ruined. People were displaced from their homes. When the rains are hard, the falls become torrential.
When you visit Victoria Falls in May, like we are doing, you don’t get to see much else other than huge amounts of water cannoning down 110 metres and a cloud of upside-down rain bouncing back up — half a mile high in the air. This cloud can be seen from Livingstone, 12 kilometres away.
The falls are thunderous, magnificent, powerful — and we need to protect The Ball. One false kick, flick, or back-heel trick would be the end of The Ball 2010. Andrew is very nervous as we get ready to do a “head-on”. You see, we film The Ball being kicked or headed on in a variety of situations and settings all the way to each and every World Cup. Victoria Falls is a backdrop that we want to film.
Elijah throws The Ball from out of screen and Christian is waiting in shot. The throw is on the money — well, Christian’s forehead to be exact. What a header! Christian directs The Ball out of frame and away, thankfully, from the falls. Andrew, soaking wet, is very relieved to collect The Ball… The Ball is safe.
“No one can imagine the beauty of the view from anything witnessed in England. It had never been seen before by European eyes, but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight”
— David Livingstone, 1857
Togo is safe, almost too safe. There is a police escort, ready to take me and The Ball to every event and there is a minder, sitting outside of my hotel room ready to protect The Ball from would-be thieves.
The Togolese government has got heavily involved in the Ball’s journey; we have met top dignitaries including the Prime Minister, and everyone is very concerned to make sure that The Ball doesn’t go missing in Togo. I imagine that the concern stems from the African championships in Angola in February and the machine-gunning of the buses carrying the Togolese football team. That issue is still a hot one in Togo and very politicized.
Losing The Ball in Togo on Togolese watch is not in their interests. Our philosophy is that The Ball must be played with as often as possible and by as many people as possible. The spirit of The Ball is about trust. Sure, the playing of The Ball to a stranger contains an element of risk. Yes, someone could try and steal The Ball but that is very unlikely. It is more likely that the person receiving The Ball will smile and play. The interactions we are having are overwhelmingly positive. These random encounters are what The Ball is all about.
Against the best intended advice I take The Ball to the Coca Cola sponsored event at the beach. A man on horseback rides The Ball up and down the beach.
Acrobats on stilts perform with The Ball
A woman carries The Ball in a basket on her head
The Ball is juggled in a Coca-Cola sponsored competition on a stage with a crowd in excess of 2000 people watching on.
During the juggling competition The Ball ends up in the crowd. Where is it? Panic sets in. Ohhhh, there it is…
And as the sun goes down young men and women dance freestyle with The Ball.
Put your hands up for The Ball
Just as they said they would be, Tarik and the lads from UFM were there to meet us at Rabat train station. They had a plan for The Ball. The parliament building, the medina, the beach: all with The Ball and all freestyle. And so it was.
The freestylers rapped about The Ball in Moroccan Arabic, they juggled The Ball and they took us to the beach where we met many young Moroccans who gave us our first taste of beach football.
Here are a couple of the embeddable videos that we’ve found of Dan’s world record breaking keepie-uppie marathon, which he completed on Tuesday 26th January 2010. If you know of any more, please let us know and we’ll show them here.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Many congratulations to Dan Magness for breaking the world record for the longest distance covered whilst continuously keeping the ball off the ground. 35 miles across London visiting every Premiership football ground in the process is a truly astonishing feat of endurance and concentration.
I’m not going to lie about this — Dan’s record attempt was meant to be done with The Ball itself, but, at the last minute, the Guinness people informed Dan that the ball would have to be a FIFA-approved ball or the record wouldn’t count. So what happened was that Dan did the record with an adidas Jabulani, whilst promoting The Ball and Alive & Kicking in interviews.
Big respect to Dan for the way he stuck to the story — and stuck to the task. What a legend!
Andrew and Sven walked the entire route with Dan, joined later in the day by Phil. They brought The Ball with them and tried to engage onlookers and passers-by with it. I spoke briefly to Andrew today and both the and Sven are suffering… blisters and aching limbs will be a reminder of an amazing day.
After the kick-off, The Ball 2010 will leave Battersea Park and travel through Europe and 17 African countries (Morocco, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana and South Africa) to the World Cup Opening Ceremony.
But before it leaves England, on Tuesday January 26th, four times Guinness World Record Holder Dan Magness will attempt to break a world record, by juggling The Ball thirty miles across London, visiting all Premier League football stadiums in London in the process. The current world record stands at 26.1 miles. To successfully beat it, Dan Magness must keep the ball under control at all times using all parts of his body (except his hands) and keeping the ball off the ground.
At each football stadium — Craven Cottage, Stamford Bridge, Upton Park, Emirates and White Hart Lane — Dan will change shirts and reveal the football shirt of that particular Premier League team. Dan’s journey will begin at Craven Cottage, the home of Fulham FC and finish just before kick-off on the pitch at Tottenham Hotspur FC. Tottenham will be playing against Fulham in the Barclays Premier League at 7:45pm.
And so two epic journeys begin with the same ball. Come along to the park and celebrate the kick-off with us…