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About The Ball

Battersea Park by Sophie Joyce

The Ball has been described as football’s equivalent to the Olympic Torch.

Every four years, The Ball kicks off from its “Mount Olympus”, Battersea Park in London, where the very first game of modern rules football took place in 1864. The Ball celebrates this moment – the birth of modern football – because it gave rise to a common set of rules which enable the whole world to play together. The Ball’s destination is the Opening Ceremony of the FIFA World Cup.

New Model Army’s “Beautiful Game”

What does The Ball do?

The Ball 2002 is kicked off to Korea & JapanInstead of being passed from hand to hand like the torch, The Ball is played with in as many kick–abouts and games of football as possible along the way to the host country.

It is more than just a symbol of fair play to be admired from afar — The Ball invites people from all walks of life to share in the joy of participation. It engages them directly in playing the game and indirectly by connecting them to the World Cup.

“It’s an honour to sign The Ball.”
— Pat Nevin, former Chelsea & Scotland captain, June 2002

On The Ball’s epic journey to the World Cup, it is played with in organised games of football, in kick–abouts and in juggling sessions. Anyone and everyone can engage with The Ball, sign it, kick it and help it along its way. The Ball becomes a representative of unity in a divided world. It enriches the World Cup with a symbol that matches the spirit of the Olympic Flame.

History of The Ball

In the summer of 1998, three friends (Phil Wake, Christian Wach and Richard Hamilton) went to the FIFA World Cup in France where they became fascinated by the songs and celebrations of supporters. They were captivated by the power that music had to bring rival fans together and discovered through kick–abouts that football truly is a global language. Infected by the World Cup bug, they began planning an overland trip to the next World Cup in Korea & Japan.

The Ball 2002

Realizing that their ball was in fact “The Ball” – football’s equivalent to the Olympic Torch – Phil and Christian set off from Battersea Park in London, the birthplace of modern rules football. They travelled 8,000 miles with a replica of the official adidas World Cup ball, going overland, on foot, by bus, or train (and very occasionally by plane) across Central and Eastern Europe into Asia to reach their final destination, the World Cup finals in Korea.

On the way they met and played football with grassroots fans from Tibetan Monks high in the mountains of China, to street urchins in the turbulent region of Kyrgyzstan. They wrote and produced one of the very first videoblogs en route. This epic journey was featured on the BBC, CNN, Sky as well as many national newspapers, and an hour–long documentary was also produced.

The Ball 2006

Four years later, they and their precious ball (as in 2002, a replica of the 2006 adidas World Cup ball) travelled from London to Munich. Along the way, they uncovered stories about fan culture and football history in Europe, posting videos to a blog on this site. During the World Cup, The Ball was the guest of honour at a 24–hour football against racism marathon and an EU Youth exchange that investigated fan culture in European football.

The Ball 2010

The Ball 2010 made a 16,000 mile pilgrimage to South Africa through West and East Africa. This journey was a grassroots celebration of the power and excitement that football brings to a myriad of wonderful cultures on the way to the world’s greatest sporting event.

After touring through Europe, The Ball headed for the African continent. It started in West Africa — Africa’s footballing heartland -— tracing a route down the west coast, then cutting inland through the Sahara before rejoining the coast in Cote d’Ivoire and following it to Cameroon. After a flight across to Kenya, The Ball rolled down the East Coast to South Africa.

Explore The Ball’s remarkable journey right here.

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.