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The Team

A who’s who of the team behind The Ball.


Spirit of Football is delighted to be working with:

“This ball is a fantastic icon for the current situation. How simple things would be if we could all just orientate ourselves around The Ball. Whoever sees my signature [on The Ball] can feel a little better for a moment because he knows that he is surrounded by friends, and when he too signs it he becomes a member of our team. I would be happy if you too would join our team.”
— Jürgen Klopp

Please get in touch if, as Jürgen says, you too would like to join our team.

Andrew Aris

Appearances: 2002 World Cup (based in Korea), 2006 (living in Germany), 2010, 2014, 2018 on The Ball with The Ball. I’m already in training for my first Women’s World Cup in Australasia in 2023.

Goals: Jacinda Ardern dribbles The Ball into the Opening Ceremony at Eden Park, Auckland in July 2023, and the World Cup can begin!

On the pitch: Having begun as a goalscoring centre forward with more nous than skill I’ve become a midfielder on and off the pitch: where I like to connect people. I enjoy developing education methods for SoF and am particularly fond of coaching roles, where I can train up other trainers.

Teams: New Zealand U-20 (1997), University of Notre Dame, USA (1996 – 2000), Rot Weiß Erfurt, Germany – expert Bench-Warmer (2006), Pakuranga Town, North Shore United, Fencibles (New Zealand), FC Borntal, Spirit and Friends (Germany), Team Dads (Captain) in Dads versus Sons.

Achievements: Founding and setting up SoF Germany in 2005. Making myself President of SoF (I always wanted to be President of something). Taking The Ball all the way from London to Johannesburg (through 32 countries in 2010) and London to Sao Paolo (through 25 countries in 2014). Being responsible for developing and then taking SoF’s humanitarian programme into refugee camps and urban areas in the Middle East, Turkey and soon to be Greece. Being a Dad to Paul.

Erin Blankenship

Appearances: FIFA World Cups: Germany 2006, South Africa 2010, Brazil 2014, Russia 2018, France 2019.

Goals: For equality, integrity and sustainability in sport to go from being taglines to being fundamental.

On the pitch: I have spent most of my playing career as a holding centre mid, outside winger, or left back. I’m left and right footed, run a lot, and at just under 6 ft am useful in the air. I like an open passing-oriented game and worship the hard working, selfless playmakers with vision and grit. Finally, if you are an egotistical diver I will make it my mission to ruin your game.

Teams: Arsenal has been my team since Bergkamp owned that midfield, and it earned my respect again when it started running their girls academy the same way they approached their boys teams. But having played for West Ham and Crystal Palace, I will also always have a soft spot for them. Whenever any of these aren’t on the pitch, then my vote goes to the team that puts in the best performance to deserve the win, with a lean towards the underdogs when they come out to remind us all of why we love this game so much.

Achievements: Playing in 2 NCAA Final Four tournaments, walking on to the UK Women’s Premiership to play 3 seasons during grad school studying war, being the first woman to play in Hong Kong’s Yau Yee Men’s football league, keeping up with competitive/professional teams from/in 7 countries, supporting/coaching teams for girls and women in warzones, and setting 5 Guinness World Records in football with my NGO Equal Playing Field, especially our first game at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Richard Hamilton

Appearances: 2 Men’s World Cups: France 98, South Africa 2010; Men’s World Cup Qualifier Asia 2004: North Korea v Thailand (Pyongyang DPRK); The Ball Journey’s substitute: South Korea/Japan 2002, South Africa 2010, Brazil 2014, Russia 2018

Goals: A fair planet

On the pitch: Always fancied himself as a bit of a striker however best positioned in the midfield looking at the big picture and keeping the ball rolling

Teams: SOF and Pompey

Achievements: 20 years a humanitarian aid worker during which time he has played against some of the more difficult players on the pitch such as the Hutu, Tutsi, Taliban, Janjaweed, Tamil Tigers, YPG, ISIS, Peshmerga, Houthi and the North Korean Communist Party. He does like to point out however that by the time of the final whistle, fair play always wins. My youth team – Nicholas, Sasha, Joy and Jacob.

Katie Cross

Appearances: Whitehawk FC, Bristol City, Bristol City Women’s, Huddersfield Town Supporters’ Association, Birmingham FA and of course Bristol’s Misfits WFC

Goals: For football fans to save the planet. I’m not joking.

On the pitch: I am a centre midfielder who is often told to ‘stay in my channel’. A bit of an enthusiastic terrier is one way I have been described. I have, however, also been compared to Makelele, Didier Deschamps and Ngolo Kante.

Teams: Obviously all those that make up the Pledgeball family – positions are available. And the Misfits WFC.

Achievements: Captaining the Misfits Electrics to what would have been a league win if the pandemic had not stopped play. Scoring off a header in said season (I am 4 ft 10). Persuading my family and friends to help me develop Pledgeball with no pay other than the promise of (very!) regular phone calls.

David Goldblatt

Appearances: 3 Men’s World Cup : Germany 2006, South Africa 2010; Women’s world Cup France 2019

Goals: For football’s commitment to decarbonisation to help make it the common sense norm of all global politics. Massive increase in quality and quantity of hummus and falafel at football.

On the pitch: I know you are only as young as you feel, but I’m feeling that football is a young person’s game, and in any case it is the younger generation of this world that are going to have to truly lead the way in making and living in a carbon zero society….so at best I’m a specialist coach with a taste for analytics.
Teams First Love, Tottenham Hotspurs….life long partner Bristol Rovers

Achievements: In 2006 the Ball is Round a global history of football, followed by Futebol Nation: A footballing History of Brazil, The Game of Our Lives: The making and Meaning of English football, The Games; A Global History of the Olympics and in 2019 The Age of Football : The Global Game in the Twenty First Century. In 2015 the Game of Our Lives was awarded the Williams Hill Sports Book of the Year. He is sometimes a Visiting Professor at Pitzer College, Los Angeles.

Shamim Meraj

Appearances: 2018 Bundesliga Dortmund vs Mainz ( Dortmund) 2019 Manchester United vs Barcelona ( Old Trafford). These games gave me an insight into how important the beautiful game is to the human race.

Goals: One day to have two big European Clubs play a match in Kashmir. However I would swap this wish for a futuristic football centre in Kashmir where we just don’t teach kids football but also use football to spread infectious joy for life.

On the pitch: An attacking midfielder who would like to quickly turn defense into offence with impossible passes. Using football to bring people closer together continues to be a life goal. I am a fan of community rooted clubs, as I believe they offer tremendous pride and joy to many people.

Teams: Tyndale Biscoe School, Delhi Public School Vasant Kunj, St.Stephens College, Delhi, YMCA and Real Kashmir FC. I played as a goalkeeper, defender, midfielder and a forward. I even scored a few and also kept the bench reasonably warm!

Achievements: Co-Founder of Real Kashmir FC, one of world football’s most fascinating stories. I am looking forward to being a part of The Ball’s journey from London to New Zealand via my hometown Kashmir. I believe that The Ball’s journey can offer immense hope and joy: Showing that even though we may all be diverse, a simple ball can connect us like nothing else.

Backroom Staff

Phil Wake

Appearances: 2002 World Cup, 2006 World Cup, 2010 World Cup.

Teams: Spirit of Football and Chelsea.

Achievements: Convinced of the unique power that football has to connect people throughout the world, Phil co–founded Spirit of Football. When he’s not restoring furniture, Phil can be found developing musicianship on drums, playing acoustic guitar and singing. Phil is also skilled in circus arts, including juggling, acrobatics and sleight–of–hand magic.

Christian Wach

Appearances: 2002 World Cup, 2006 World Cup, 2010 World Cup.

Goals: Helping to create the legend of The Ball.

Teams: Spirit of Football, West Ham and Forest Green Rovers.

Achievements: Christian travelled to more than 50 countries following his passion for street theatre, programme–making and storytelling. He has worked in Asia, Australasia, Polynesia and America. His travels included an audience with the Dalai Lama, experiencing the reunification of Germany, escaping unharmed from the Thai mafia and living with tribal people in the rainforests of Sumatra.

Sven Söderberg

Appearances: 2010 (till Germany), 2014 (till Portugal), 2018 (Germany to Greece)

Teams: Spirit of Football, FC Rot-Weiß Erfurt.

Achievements: Born and raised in the green heart of Germany, Sven’s journeys have taken him throughout Europe. “Football is more than a 1:0, it is a common layer of global society.” Sven is a “groundhopper” — everywhere he goes, he visits the local stadium. He graduated in Media, Business and Journalism and finished his Masters in European Studies in 2012. After working as an online editor he travelled to New Zealand. Now back in Erfurt, Germany he is working for the non–profit association Spirit of Football e.V and rides his bike every day at work.

Jenny Amann

Appearances: The newest signing on the team; occasional appearances during FIFA World Cup 2006

Teams: Team Pledgeball, on loan to Spirit of Football, the one and only Werder Bremen

Achievements: Having become part of The Ball’s journey thanks to an incredibly great virtual research internship, through which I also met Pledgeball founder Katie and many other inspiring people; and submitted a Master’s thesis on Pledgeball and engaging football fans on climate change, resulting in the successful completion of a Master’s degree in Global Studies from the University of Gothenburg.

Goals: To create the most inclusive global platform for exchange to learn from each other and jointly tackle climate change and other societal issues, thereby turning the passion for football into a passion for the planet and all its species.

On the pitch: In my very short playing career, I play defence – thinking out loud supportive but critical tactical ideas throughout the game – regardless if people want to hear them or not.

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.