Four years after the last Ball Journey, the moment for the Kick-off 2018 had come on March 25th! Spirit of Football has started its fifth journey, which will take The Ball through 15 countries to the World Cup in Russia. The official opening began with a fair-play football game, during which children and adults from London and Erfurt experienced the “Spirit of the Beautiful Game” themselves. As in every such game, the six fair play-rules were adhered to and creative team names, including team choreographies, were invented – a fun activity, which was enhanced by fake moustaches and verbose accompanying commentaries by The Terrible Sven.
Much applause was received by the Choir of the Sacred Heart & St Mary’s RC primary schools, which followed an English tradition, where the church hymn “Abide with me” is sung before every important game. After this historical tuning-into things, official speeches were held. The representatives of Spirit of Football in Brazil, the UK and Germany presented the four balls from past journeys. The main ball carrier for 2018, Benni Grünewald, held the fifth, “The Ball 2018”. After Frank Albers (representative of the Robert Bosch Foundation) und Nicole Zeuner (Friedrich Ebert Foundation) had emphasised the socio-political importance of the Journey of the Ball through the EU and neighbouring countries in their speeches the players started the first official game with “The Ball 2018”.
In 2010 The Ball was kicked off by Andrew Aris, in 2014 this was the privilege of Fernando Godoy. This year it was Sven Söderberg, who propelled The Ball 2018 on its way with a forceful instep kick. Infused with this energy, “Football’s Olympic Torch” will meet many people of different backgrounds within the next months and allow them to experience the connective power of the sport. Overcoming limits; setting up room for encounters; celebrating diversity – this is the magic which “The Ball” creates wherever it goes.
The first game, played according to the Football Association rules of 1864, ended 3:4. It was not easy for the participants to stick to the unfamiliar rules of dribbling forwards and passing backwards, doing without a crossbar on the goal, the first player touching the ball throwing it in at right angles with the boundary line, changing sides after every goal. Nevertheless, all players were happy after this first game and all the smiling faces (moustaches included) made The Ball very excited about the first of several thousand signatures.