do you quantify an experience that changes your life in so many ways? Where do
you even start when you try to explain to people what you and a band of
brothers, a so called modern family, have just been through over the past 9
months? How do you start talking about things you never expected to learn, places you never expected to see, people you
never expected to meet and that humanity is inherently in a much better place
than you ever thought?
Before shot of the Coca-Cola Team on the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour
say the last nine months opened my eyes is a vast underestimation of what this
journey was to me. The last nine months have been life changing to say the
least. There are so many highlights experienced on both a personal and professional
level that I would be remiss to try and articulate them all here – although I
would love to write my full memoirs of the tour, I will try and put it into a
précis version and give you a quick snapshot of what life on the tour was like.
The team created human pyramids on stage.
FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour is the largest and most ambitious experiential
marketing programme that I know of in the world today. This 152,000 kilometer
journey, circumventing the globe three and a half times with world sports most
prized icon; The FIFA World Cup Trophy, is no small undertaking. The amount of
planning, commitment, sacrifice and passion that it takes to pull something
like this off is no small feat. The only conceivable way we made this dream a
reality was through the amazing group of individuals, our very own dream team,
which we had on board to deliver this amazing programme. The old cliché says
‘it’s all about the people’ but this holds so true in this instance, and I was
humbled and privileged to work with such a great group of people, sharing
common values and reaching for common objectives that made the team what it
was. The friendships and memories shared with this crazy group will long live
on as a highlight and memory for me in the years to come.
were so many special experiences that we individually and collectively had
along the way.
Upon arrival, the team was received by his
Excellency, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, The President of Fiji.
of the first counties we visited was Fiji. Upon arrival, we were received by
his Excellency, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, The President of Fiji on behalf of the people of
Fiji. We were officially welcomed by taking part in a traditional Kava
Kava can be found in recreational and
social gatherings and drank as a form of welcome and peace for honored guests
to the country. The ceremony, with the various tribes and elders and the
President was spectacular and the hospitality and inclusion we felt during that
ceremony remained with us for the three days we spent in Fiji.
The Kava Ceremony in Fiji
One of the most
impressive gestures I personally witnessed on the tour came when we left the
county to move on to our next stop. It was a Sunday morning and our flight was
departing at 6:30 a.m. When we arrived at the airport to check in we were
greeted once again by the President of Fiji who came personally to say good bye
and to thank us for bringing the FIFA World Cup Trophy to the country of Fiji.
Needless to say we were all quite taken aback by his genuine humility and
graciousness – at that point we all really knew what it meant to be embarking
on this journey, the responsibility that vested with each and every one of us,
the opportunity that lay ahead and ultimately the impact and effect we could
make with this tour.
the tour we were honored to meet a total of 45 presidents, which in itself
was a pretty amazing experience. We truly felt like ambassadors for Coca-Cola
and FIFA as well as each of our respective countries that we came from – an
interesting fact is that we comprised of nineteen different countries. Although it was great to meet the heads of
state, this was not the intent of the tour. Our intention was to make this the
most inclusive and participatory FIFA World Cup ever and the most important
people we met, were the people themselves. The passion that exists for the
world’s game is palpable and this passion was evident in every single country
we visited, no matter where on the world rankings their respective football
team was seeded.
Special Olympics athletes visited the trophy in Costa Rica.
of these experiences that epitomized inclusion to the core was again in one of
the first countries we visited. On the first day of the fan experience in Costa
Rica, one of the first groups to visit the Trophy was a group from the Special
Olympics. These kids were so inspirational and brought so much happiness with
them that their spirit was infectious to all of us around them. We joined them
as they made their way through the full experience and watching them
participate in all the activities from art, to dancing and singing to having
their very own football game, to having their photo with Feuleco, to watching
the hologram and ultimately having their photo with the trophy gave me a great
sense of accomplishment and pride in the work we were doing. This is what the
tour was all about! Happiness, inclusion, and a sense of participation -
Beautiful! Click here to see the Special Olympics video from Costa Rica
FIFA World Cup Trophy stopped at an AIDS orphanage in South Africa.
from South Africa, I knew that taking the trophy back home was always going to
be an emotional moment for me on a personal level. We landed in South Africa on
December which is World Aids Day. The team in SA wanted to
honor the day and decided to take the trophy to St Mungos Kids Club in
Diepsloot, which provides afternoon care for kids who have been orphaned by
HIV/AIDS and linked to the Hope Worldwide organization. The Ubuntu spirit (which literally means "human-ness," and is often
used in a more philosophical sense to mean "the belief in a
universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity")
of South Africa was in full force that day. Taking the trophy to St
Mungos on that special day was without a doubt one of the highlights of the tour
for me. Interacting and spending time with these orphans, watching their eyes
glisten, and seeing them realize that they were important and thought of was
incredibly moving and special for all of us. I will never forget when a young orphan
was asked the question “now that Bafana Bafana (the National Football Team of
South Africa) have been knocked out of the FIFA World Cup, who will you be
supporting in Brazil?” He gave this some serious thought and then without
flinching answered “Kaizer Chiefs” (a local team that plays in the SA premier
league) to rapturous applause from the community gathered there.
wonderful highlight in South Africa came when we flew with the trophy to
Tzaneen to surprise some gogos (grannies) with the trophy. These grannies have
started their own football league and the only rule to play is that you have
to be 50 years and older to participate. We were so inspired by their story,
their love for the game and their zest for life that we knew we had to take the
trophy to visit them. Watching their reaction to the trophy and how grateful
they were to have it there made the trip from Johannesburg to Tzaneen so
worthwhile. Here's a video on Granny's Grannies
part of our mission, we wanted to take the trophy to countries that had also
never had the opportunity yet to host the trophy on their soil. We were able to
take the trophy to fifty two new countries that had never had the chance to
host the trophy. It is in these countries where we saw so many inspiring
stories and experienced so many things we could never have imagined. Haiti,
Myanmar, so many of the Caribbean countries, The Middle East, Pacific Islands, parts of
Europe and Asia all provided such an amazing backdrop as first time hosts of
remember discussing the idea of taking the trophy to Israel and Palestine under
the banner of inclusivity. What was initially a far-fetched idea ended up
becoming a reality as we were able to visit both countries and break boundaries by
showing that some things truly unite us more than separate us. See here for
more about this historic day
and click here
to see the Palestine video
The FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour team spent time with the King of Bhutan.
also discussed the possibility of visiting the Kingdom of Bhutan, a country
that does not measure its wealth by the Gross National Product but rather by
the Happiness Index. Landing in Bhutan required a special pilot as the approach
and landing in Paro is not for the feint hearted. With surrounding peaks as high as 18,000 feet, it is
considered one of the world's most challenging airports. There are only eight
pilots in the world certified to land at
the airport under visual
meteorological conditions only, and as such are restricted to daylight hours from sunrise
to sunset. We knew the challenges and constraints that lay ahead of us to visit
Bhutan but once again, the dream team pulled through and our aviation partners
and specialists made this a reality. The flight into Bhutan was so worth it. We
had the opportunity to meet His Majesty, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck the King of Bhutan upon our arrival
to the country. He seems to have been cut from the same cloth as the President
of Fiji as his graciousness far exceeded any of our expectations.
We spent time with him discussing various topics and how appreciative he was to
be hosting the trophy in Bhutan for a day. His humility and leadership was not
only evident through his words as later we learned that although he had a whole
palace at his disposal he did not live in the palace but rather in a small
house outside the palace because he believed that he should live as his people
live. On parting his palace he also gestured that he would have loved to spend
more time with us, but it was important to bring the trophy to the people and
give them the opportunity as well. I have very rarely seen servant leadership
in action, but that day I saw it first hand and it had a profound impact on my
understanding of what being a leader is all about.
Spending Christmas in Myanmar was also one of those
occasions I will never forget. As tough as it was to be away from our families
on this occasion, we had each other and enjoyed spending a modern family
Christmas together on the road. (Click here to read about it) This epitomized
the tour for me in more ways than one. On the one hand, we always had
somewhere to go with the local team who often went out of their way to make our
stay so amazing in their country. On the other hand, we always had each other
and even when we were home sick, feeling down or just mentally and physically
drained from the demands of the tour there was something there to pick you up
and give you the strength to carry on.
I remember working on the route with our team in the
Middle East and discussing the time of year to visit the region as well as the
countries to visit. Jordan was one such
country that we wanted to visit. We took the trophy to the village of Madaba,
about an hour outside of Amman. There were a group of young kids there who
played the game of football on the dusty streets and who aptly dubbed their
football field as the ‘Maracana of Madaba.' There are no pitches, no refs, no
lines and no red cards. Their story is one of dreams and the visit of the
trophy to the village of Madaba, amongst the goats and the pure love for the
game was one of my favorite memories of the tour. Click here to read the full
Celebrating a day of happiness in Japan
There were also those countries we visited where the
trophy represented hope and inspiration. Our second to last country we visited was
The highlight of
the visit to Japan was the visit to Rikuzen Takada, in Tohoku. Three years ago
during the great Japan Earthquake the Tsunami destroyed this coastal town. The
pupils at the high school approached Coca-Cola
Japan to bring the trophy to
their town for the day. What followed was 6 months of conceptualizing, planning
and ultimately executing a wonderful day of Happiness in Rikuzen Takada, one
that will be remembered by the community and all of us visiting there for a
long time to come. The visit of the trophy meant a lot to the community as
well, testament to this was when the elders performed the traditional Chao Chao
dance, a celebratory dance that has not been performed since 2011.
After shot of the Coca-Cola Team on the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour
is so much more I could write, so much more I could say, so many more memories
to explain but I hope this has given you a taste of what it was like to be part
of this amazing journey. I am beyond grateful to have had the opportunity to lead
this once in a lifetime experience. I am so proud of the team and all they
achieved to make this come to life in the way it did. I am so thankful for the
learnings and experiences I have had by interacting with thousands of people
from different backgrounds, religions, and cultures. Some of my best moments
came from those places I least expected them to and some of the most important
things I learned came from people I least expected them to come from. I now
know the meaning of true leadership, of true humility, of true appreciation and
graciousness. I now know how lucky I have been in life to have been afforded
the opportunities I have.
have seen so many, with far less, and how actualized and complete their lives
are – this is Inspiration.
have seen humanity put aside their differences and come together to celebrate,
to reflect and to appreciate something that brings us together – this is hope!
have seen people give of themselves, their time, their money and their emotions
- this is kindness!
have seen a group of individuals, with different backgrounds and outlooks, come
together to deliver this project in a way I could have only wished at the
beginning of the journey – this is team!
have seen people come to each other’s side, rally around when the times were
tough and stand by each other through good and bad – this is family!
2013/2014 FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour visited 90 countries and gave almost one
million people the opportunity to be part of the FIFA World Cup. I believe that
together, as a team, we have made the 2014 FIFA World Cup the World’s Cup. We
created memories and moments of happiness for hundreds of thousands and we are
collectively proud to have done work that matters.