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Children with an Alive & Kicking ball

Tag: Teli

Fetishmen bless The Ball

We are invited into the home of a very respected local fetishman, a marabout of the animist tradition. A small mud building in the middle of Teli awaits out presence. We are welcomed and Phil presents The Ball to him.

Phil presents The Ball to the fetishmanPhil presents The Ball to the fetishman

Our Dogon guides translate as Phil explains about The Ball. The fetishman holds, examines and feels The Ball — then he cleans and places a mat onto the dusty floor in front of him. The plaited mat is like a map and, as he places it on the floor, he draws lines and symbols in the dusty ground around it.

Cowrie shells tell The Ball's fortuneThe fetishman throws down shells and interprets their meaning

He throws cowrie shells on to the mat and interprets their meaning based on where they come to rest. This mat and these shells form relationships beyond our comprehension. After several rounds of throws and much speaking to himself, he is ready to speak to us all.

“There will be a happy and a good end to the tour. It will finish well. You will make it to Johannesburg and it will be a happy time.”

The fetishman outside his homeStanding in front of his home, the fetishman wishes us well

Later, another animist, a local hunter, rolls The Ball up and down his ceremonial totem polls, lingering over the chest areas of each female statue – almost as if he is listening to them, perhaps using The Ball as a medium.

Animist hunter and The BallAnimist hunter and The Ball

“The Ball is special” he says.

“Fun” is part of “funeral”

Once the funeral ceremony that we witness in a small village on the road to Tely comes to a close, we have just enough time before we head onwards to organise a quick game of football in the street with some of the Dogon children.

Dogon children get a kick out of The BallDogon children get a kick out of The Ball

As is so often the case, it is the local children who warm most quickly to The Ball. We try and explain as best we can that The Ball is heading for the World Cup in South Africa — as usual, this brings big smiles to everyone’s faces.

A child kicks The Ball along the touchlineA child kicks The Ball along the “touchline”

Every kick takes The Ball a little further towards its goal. Every person who kicks it gives The Ball added momentum. And every place The Ball passes through receives some memory of that moment. This may be a game — but it is most definitely not a zero-sum game.

Andrew overwhelmed by childrenAndrew is overwhelmed by the children’s enthusiasm

A funeral ceremony in Djiguibombo

We jump in Moussa’s right-hand drive Toyota Landcruiser and head for Dogon Country. Our first stop is a real surprise and a real treat. Moussa leads us into a tiny village where we are fortunate enough to witness the funeral ceremony for the village’s much respected leader.

As cultural outsiders, we’re not sure what’s going on in the ceremony, so the best we can do is to show you some pictures and let them speak for themselves.

Start of the funeral paradeStart of the parade through the village
A vantage point for the localsVantage points for villagers to watch the ceremony
The Ball watches tooThe Ball watches on
Carlos Tevez spotted in the crowdCarlos Tevez contemplating why he left Man Utd for Man City
Ceremony comes to an endThe ceremony comes to an end

Football may indeed be a universal language, but it is times like this that make us wish we had a common spoken language to help us understand other cultures better than we do.

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.