Berkeley soccer ball bound for South Africa

June 28, 2010 3:06:04 PM PDT
Next week, the World Cup in South Africa will see a new kind of soccer ball, one that was invented in Berkeley.

It's designed to be indestructible. It can survive barbed wire and bullets. It's a new kind of ball. It's called the "One World Futbol." Its developer hopes it will change the world.

A regulation ball like the one used in World Cup Competition costs $150. Even a replica sold in sporting goods stores is forty bucks. But, eventually, it will deflate and it can be punctured. The One World ball will last almost forever, and it costs half that, sort of.

Its creator, Tim Jahnigen of Berkeley, explains, "We are part of a growing trend of socially responsible companies that will be selling the ball commercially. So, for every one you buy, one will be given."

Buy one for $40 and a free one goes to someone in a part of the world where manicured fields like the ones in Oakland are just a dream. In Rwanda and Haiti, early players served as beta testers for Tim under conditions that would destroy a regular ball.

Desir? Toure plays in Oakland today, but is from Ivory Coast where he learned to play in impossible conditions.

"My first impression was, 'I wish we had this when I was growing up' because it took one nail or barbed wire and the game would be over right then and there."

"Those inflatable balls," says Jahnigen, "were not really meant to survive in... harsh, sharp-edged environments... metal shrapnel and broken glass. Some of these places are not pretty."

Humanitarian concern attracted a well-known musician to join the project and even name the ball "Sting."

"He told me that he had just invested some money in a soccer field in Gaza, because he knows how important it is for children in war zones and refugee camps to have some place to play," Jahnigen says.

The technology is closed-cell foam , a new kind that will not absorb water or degrade (like open-cell foam, which eventually turns to powder). It took five years to develop a special valve that enables the ball to re-inflate itself.

For a regular ball, nails and knives are death. They stop bouncing. For a One World Futbol, nails and a knife are child's play. It just keeps bouncing.

Tim Jahnigen flies from Berkeley this week to unveil the new ball at a news conference in South Africa.

For more information, e-mail Tim Jahnigen at tim@oneworldfutbol.com or info@oneworldfutbol.com.

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