The Maori word Aroha means love, compassion, respect and empathy. The Ball represents all of these. And it was truly a kick-off of The Ball, its 6th, that did justice to all of these words.

The kick-off brought together partners form the football community, the football for good NGO world and sport for climate action (especially Cool Down – The Sport for Climate Action Network) to kick-off The Ball on its 6th journey to the FIFA World Cup. Fittingly enough NZ National Team player and climate activist Katie Rood kicked The Ball off and was the first to sign it because its destination, for the first time, is not the Men’s World Cup but the Women’s World Cup in 12 months time in New Zealand. This ball, and replicas will fight for climate action and gender equality all the way to New Zealand.

It was a game of at least 2 halves too.

Decorating the kick-off spot in Battersea Park

The first half was the sports part. It was played in 30+ degrees heat. The grass, brown from the sun. It didn’t have the English summer feel to it at all. The conditions were a fair indication that the globe is warming. There was the official kick-off and then games of original 1864 rules football (including twirly moustaches) followed by fair-play football where people from a variety of different organisations were randomly split up into teams.

The opening game was played in blazing heat in Battersea Park

The second half was the climate half. The Ball’s sixth journey is dedicated to showcasing and making visible the many pockets of climate action across the world with a focus of best practice examples coming from the football community – to show that if there is a will, it is not only the grass that is green in football. By doing so, the aim is to inspire even more climate action on both the individual and collective level. Signing The Ball comes with a pledge to commit to a behaviour that has a positive impact on our environment.

Andrew Simms from Cool Down Network compering for Climate Action

New Zealand International Katie Rood pledged to sign up for renewable energy when moving to her new home in Edinburgh, where she has signed to play for Hearts. Spirit of Football’s pledge, made by President Andrew Aris, is to make this journey of The Ball as climate friendly as possible. Many more signatures and pledges were and will continue to be collected over the course of a year until The Ball reaches its destination – Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand.

New Zealand International Katie Rood driblles The Ball at Kick-off on July 10 2022

Climate activist Ella Williams, together with her father Keller Williams performed the song Still Running which she wrote for this journey’s mission. It is a song about how we can change it around if we all work together now. A song of hope. A kick-off of hope and belief: Yes, together we can do it.

Beautiful poems, from partners across the entire world were read aloud. All hopeful, all full of love and passion, like the following Maori poem from our partner organisation from New Zealand, Earth Diverse, with which we would like to conclude for now and say thank you to everyone who was at Battersea Park in person or in spirit:

Kia hora te marino
Kia whakapapa pounamu te moana
Kia tere te ārohirohi
He waka eke noa.
Ngua te pae hamuti!

May peace be widespread,
may the sea glisten like greenstone,
and may the shimmer of light guide your travels
We are in this together.
Rise to the challenge!
One World, One Ball

Eva Bernabe
New Zealand
Maori and English – Earth Diverse

She dribbles, she scores … and Katie Rood starts The Ball’s 18,300km journey

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