Every year thousands of soccer balls are donated to the developing world by relief agencies. However, there is one problem with these soccer balls: they go flat — often within 24 hours.
In 2006 Tim Jahnigen, Founder of the One World Futbol Campaign, saw a documentary about Children in Darfur who were playing with soccer balls made out of garbage and string. He felt inspired to do something about it. He says, "It was explained that play was the only therapy that worked. Suddenly like a thunderbolt it just hit me that I already knew about this material that was incredibly durable."
The durable material he remembered was PopFoam, a substance made of ethylene-vinyl acetate. It's similar to the material used to make Crocs. In regards to the foam, Mr. Jahnigen said, “I met the people who developed the material and the shoe that later became Crocs, so it was an older version and a much more durable version… I had worn them for many years on many vacations, on hiking treks and walking tours in the jungle and these things never gave up. I was always fascinated with this material.”
Yet In order to realize his vision he had to consult with engineers and gather funding. Luckily for Mr. Jahnigen, his experience as a lyricist and music producer provided him with some excellent, well-funded connections who he could ask for support. One of the people willing to help see his vision through was Sting.
Lisa Tarver, the co-founder of The One World Fútbol Campaign, said of Sting's involvement: "We were invited to breakfast one morning a few years ago and we were just talking about the world and children… He mentioned that a friend was building soccer fields in Gaza for children to be able to play and Tim said, 'Oh I have an idea for a soccer ball for these children that will never go flat' and we continued talking and Sting said, 'wait a minute do you know how to do this?' and we said, 'Yes it's possible, maybe sometime in the future. We don't have the funds to this now.' and [Sting] said, 'No, no, no this is too important. You need to do this now and I'll help you do it. I'll help with the research and development.' Which he did."
With the help of some research and development funding from Sting, Mr. Jahnigen consulted engineers in the hopes of finding a way that the material could be shaped into a ball but never wear out or need a pump. Finally, ahead of schedule and coming in well under budget, the One World Fútbol was born.
Mr. Jahnigen says, "[Watching children play with the One World Futbol] is one of the most rewarding and extraordinary things to witness… When you drop a ball on the ground and you step back… When you see them they are craving it you see a joy that is unleashed that is just indescribable. It is the most rewarding thing and it is just transcendent… It is just our great privilege for us to be able to support this fundamental human need that is important as food, medicine and shelter."
To date about 33,000 of the balls have been produced and have reached all 50 states as well as 150 countries throughout the world.