Saturday, November 17, 2012

This Ball is Always Round

Sometime back I mentioned in a post that one of my all-time favorite books about soccer is The Ball is Round. Unfortunately though, for many who play the game, the ball isn't always round. Or even much of a ball.

An article in The New York Times (which I first saw linked on Rachel Maddow's Facebook page) last week highlights an obvious fact: kids in the poorest countries not only do not play with balls that are round, they often play with balls that are not even balls but rather rough spheres fashioned from trash or debris. Efforts by relief organizations to provide them with "real" soccer balls often fail because the balls are quickly torn or otherwise deflated by the rocky conditions on which the children play their games.

Cue Tim Jahnigen and his quest to bring durable soccer balls to kids in the poorest countries in the world. The article recounts Jahnigen seeing a documentary about children in Darfur who found joy in playing soccer, even though the balls were made out of garbage and string.

Something of a renaissance man, Jahnigen has held a variety of jobs and engaged in a number of pursuits before turning his efforts to inventing an indestructible ball. You don't need me to recount the entire Times article (linked in the second paragraph) but it's an interesting story that involves, among other things, Crocs and Sting.

The balls are expensive, at least in part because it costs so much to ship them where they are needed (they are not only indestructible, they're also not deflatable). Still, if you're looking to make a charitable donation this holiday season, why not give a kid somewhere a ball that will always be there for him or her? You can buy a ball, or make a donation, here.

Lest it be completely lost on us, there is also a certain beauty to make-shift balls.  As I was writing this post, my friend Michael sent me a link to this series of pictures by Jessica Hilltout that she has taken of cobbled together balls. 

"Domingo's Ball, Mozambique."

These balls, or at least their photographs, certainly are artful. But those who play with them I'm sure would rather play with one that rolls true and stays round.

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