The Ball Unites Us

Jerome Thelia:

As soon as I saw a photograph of an African soccer ball, stitched together from old rags in the geometric patterns so familiar to us, I wanted to tell its story.

And so last July my filmmaking crew traveled to a village outside of Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where we shot this Op-Doc. Although the country did not qualify for the World Cup, people there – as in most of Africa – are mad about soccer. They play it everywhere. And because soccer balls like the ones common on American fields are a rarity in much of Africa, the sport is often played with homemade balls, like the one in this video.

The country has lost more than five million people to an intractable conflict that has terrorized the region for nearly two decades. Despite living through one of the world’s most brutal wars, children there still play with passion and joy – regardless of what kind of ball they are using.

We are now preparing to head to the World Cup in Brazil, where we’ll film a very different ball in a very different setting. Yet the joy of playing the game is universal.

Full disclosure: This clip comes from a new documentary, ‘Bounce: How the Ball Taught the World to Play’ that my co-worker, John Fox, is putting together. It’s based on his book, ‘The Ball: Discovering the Object of the Game‘.

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