Skip to Content
Children with an Alive & Kicking ball

Tag: Windhoek

Crystal Balls

Dov Weintraub, diamond cutter extraordinaire, simply has to sign The Ball and have his picture taken with it. He’s completely mad about football. He’s got tickets to the Opening Ceremony of the World Cup.

Dov Weintraub watches as his son signs The BallDov Weintraub watches as his son signs The Ball

Here in Windhoek, Dov runs Almod Diamonds of Namibia and invites us over to look at a special diamond that they’ve been cutting. “Have you ever seen a diamond that looks like a football?” he asks us. “No, but we’d like to,” Christian replies.

Two balls, one pricy, one pricelessTwo balls, one pricy, one priceless

Dov shows us a diamond weighing six carats that he reckons looks like a football. We pass him a football that we reckon is a peerless gem.

The Ball looks flawless even under scrutinyThe Ball looks flawless even under scrutiny

Every diamond has a value attached to it — and usually an eye-wateringly high one. We’ve been offered money for The Ball countless times en route. But even if we were offered an obscene amount of money for it we’d have to refuse. The Ball is not for sale. It is priceless.

The Ball is Dead

We arrive at the school with The Ball and a giant replica. Alarmingly for us, the teachers are nowhere to be seen. Andrew talks to the kids about The Ball, but struggles to make himself heard above the cacophony of chatter.

Mayhem and cacophony greets The BallMayhem and cacophony greets The Ball

The children crowd around to sign both balls. And game on… The Ball is kicked around the school-yard in an unruly fashion harking back to the days of village football in England or even the Wall Game at Eton. A huge punt by one young lad and The Ball’s on a classroom roof.

Where's The Ball? Mob football in WindhoekWhere’s The Ball? Mob football in Windhoek

But what’s that? Oh no. The Ball meets a spike on the roof head-on and flops back to earth limp, lifeless and deflated. It needs urgent repairing. We’re a long way from an Alive & Kicking stitching centre and even further from The Ball doctor in Douala. What to do?

We’re recommended a cobbler and that seems like the sensible solution until we hear about a technique for fixing bike punctures. The answer is simple — pump a white sticky substance into The Ball with a syringe.

Injecting the white sticky stuffInjecting the white sticky stuff

Shake The Ball about, pump it up, bounce it around. And hey, presto, it rolls again…

The sticky stuff finds the hole and seals itThe sticky stuff finds the hole and seals it

The Ball was dead. Long live The Ball.

My Kiwi Mate

We bump into New Zealand’s best ever footballer — 1982 World Cup legend Winton Rufer and ask him about the Spirit of Football. His response:

Winton Rufer, Frankie Fredericks and The BallWinton Rufer, Frankie Fredericks and The Ball

“Well, we saw a little bit of it today in Windhoek, Namibia with the game Global United against African Allstars. It’s a celebration of the world’s game. The people turn out. Lots of colour. Lots of action. Having a really good time. Lots of goals as well. It can’t be better.”

Andrew legitimately meets Winton after the gameAndrew legitimately meets Winton after the game

“How will New Zealand do at the World Cup?” asks fellow Kiwi Andrew.

“New Zealand will get through, and lose the semi-final to Brazil”, replies the now grey-haired and still thick-accented Winton, with a grin.

Wouldn’t that be fab, thinks Andrew as Winton generously provides him with ten autograph cards.

“Here we have my personal signed signature cards for my Kiwi mate Andrew. So that when he goes to South Africa, he can give a few more away to show that we were legitimately together in Windhoek, Namibia.”

Overcome by Winton’s foresight and generosity, Andrew is left speechless.

Global United

We stop by Independence Stadum in Windhoek for a game of football with a difference. Winton Rufer, from as far away as New Zealand, has travelled over 24 hours to arrive in time for kick-off. Other former stars, like 2002 World Cup Finalist Jens Novotny, have jetted in from Germany. Former Danish National Team player and regular at Bolton Wanderers, Stig Tofting, arrives from England. African legends have come in, thanks to Air Namibia, from all over Africa. Global FC have jetted in from all over the world to raise awareness for the very important global issue: climate change.

Global FC line up in the Independence StadiumGlobal FC line up in the Independence Stadium

After the match, we have a chance to talk to German legend Mario Basler about the Spirit of Football.

Mario Basler on The BallMario Basler on The Ball

“Football is a team game. Everybody can take part in this game. If you are rich if you are poor. It doesn’t matter, you can play football. On the beach. On the streets… everywhere. That is why football is sport number one in the world.”

“Yesterday, we went to a township with one ball. I asked the kids if they would like to play football with us. And there was no question for them to say yes and to play football with us. This is the spirit of football.”

Special Olympics Namibia

Could anything else other than football have brought this motley crew together? Desert Wolves bikers with a Police escort lead the cavalcade with an Olympic Torch burning brightly. Followed closely by four bright yellow DHL vehicles. The Ball held aloft on an open-top double-decker bus surrounded by the Special Olympics family, athletes, coaches and supporters.

The Torch and The Ball aboard The BusThe Torch and The Ball aboard The Bus

The sound system on the bus blares out K’naan’s official World Cup anthem — on repeat and at the highest possible volume. We dance. We sing. We wave to people in their front yards. Children rush out of their homes, wave back enthusiastically, dance in the streets.

The Special Olympics family and The BallThe Special Olympics family and The Ball
Desert Wolves gather at Katatura marketDesert Wolves gather at Katatura market

A pause in the suburb of Katatura, the so-called “place where we don’t want to be” to where the black population was forcibly relocated from central Windhoek. A tough-looking Desert Wolves biker performs a doughnut on his bike — front wheel staying on the spot, rear wheel leaving a circle of rubber on the street and acrid smoke in the air. Leaflets advertising the Special Olympics event are scattered to the crowd.

Burnt rubber: a biker leaves his markBurnt rubber: a biker leaves his mark
DHL vehicles follow the bus through WindhoekDHL vehicles follow the bus through Windhoek

Then onwards to the Sam Nujoma Stadium where the event is happening. A crowd has already gathered and football is already underway. The Ball is thrown into an inflatable football arena where children are battling it out in four-a-side competition. Football fever, World Cup fever, is here for the day.

Christian signs a giant replica of The BallChristian signs a giant replica of The Ball

Around 2 o’clock, everyone migrates into the stadium itself for the main event of the day — a match between parliamentarians and ambassadors, both of whom, it seems, have been training hard for today’s game. Fitness levels are sky-high and play is fast and furious, diplomatic skills on full display. That’s the offical story.

The trophy that diplomats and parliamentarians compete forThe trophy that diplomats and parliamentarians compete for
Andrew defects to the diplomats for the team photoAndrew defects to the diplomats for the team photo

In truth, the game is footballing hilarity of the highest order. Diplomats fall like flies to injuries sustained in bizarre ways, while parliamentarians are making ultimate use of the tag-substitute system, more used to running the corridors of power than the length of the football field.

The game ends a 6-1 victory for the diplomats, with brave talk of a rematch from both sides. It is even proposed that future games should become regular fund-raising fixtures for Special Olympics.

The trophy's inscriptionThe trophy’s inscription and the fixture could be permanent

We salute both teams for their courage in getting out there on the field for Special Olympics and for showing beyond any shadow of doubt that absolutely anyone can play the beautiful game.

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.