Just about everyone has gone a little soccer-crazy right now with the World Cup in full swing, but many kids around the world are psyched about soccer all year long, even when they don't have a ball to play with.
Children who come from impoverished and poor families around the world want to play soccer just as much as any other kid, but often can't afford a soccer ball. They end up making "rag balls," using whatever material they can find to turn it into a roughly round object.
Tim and Lisa Jahnigen realized how many kids worldwide were eager for the chance to play with a real soccer ball, and it inspired them to start the One World Futbol project, a charity that seeks to give a soccer ball to a child who can't afford one whenever a ball is purchased.
Since the Jahnigens started the project four years ago, they've garnered worldwide attention, including support from musician and philanthropist Sting. But more importantly, they've managed to get their specially-designed soccer balls out to thousands of children around the world. In fact, they've shipped 850,000 balls since the last World Cup, and estimate more than 30,000,000 kids have played with them.
What makes the balls unique is how indestructible they are. Made of a special closed-cell foam (similar to materials used to make the Crocs shoes), the ball can't get crushed, even when run over. It never loses its shape if it gets punctured, and never needs to be inflated. Once the children have one of the balls, they can use them for an incredibly long time.
With the World Cup happening in Brazil this year, One World Futbol had made a special effort to bring soccer to more kids in that country. Through a partnership with love.fútbol, another charitable soccer organization, they have helped build a new soccer field, and supplied the balls so the kids can play on it.
"For many of these children, being able to play with a football is one of the only outlets they may have for a moment of joy and hope to imagine something better for themselves," Mônica Panachão, Brazil Director of One World Futbol Project, said in a press release. "We believe that play is a necessity of life—children need to play to learn and grow. Together with love.fútbol, we envision a world where every child will have an opportunity to play."
About 15,000 balls have been sent to Brazil in the last four years as part of the project. And there's a good chance that the future football stars of this country will have learned the beautiful game by playing with one of them.
(Photo courtesy IANS)