US ambassador Patrick Murphy signed “The Ball” – soccer’s equivalent to the Olympic Torch – during a fair play soccer match at Central Park Sports Complex, highlighting the United States’ longstanding commitment to address the climate crisis.

A March 23 embassy press release said The Ball is an initiative of Spirit of Football, a nonprofit that uses soccer as a tool to tackle global challenges.

The US embassy and the NGO Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF) are hosting The Ball’s journey through Phnom Penh from March 23 to March 25, while NGO Spirit of Football will conduct a two-day workshop on March 23 and 24 to share its educational methods on sustainability with participants from partner organisations. The Ball will then travel to Siem Reap and Battambang.

“Soccer, the beautiful game, is a fun and creative way to come together and champion global issues that impact all of humanity,” said Murphy.

“We are proud to work with partners like Spirit of Football to combat climate change and encourage Cambodia’s young people especially, to commit to protecting the environment,” he added.

The release said The Ball is traveling from the site of the world’s first official game of soccer in 1864 in Battersea Park, London to Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand, the site of the kick-off game of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup on July 20.

As The Ball travels around the world, it is gathering signatures of individuals who pledge support to advance gender equality and climate action. Since 2002, more than 55,000 people in 55 countries have signed The Ball, the release said.

“Sports diplomacy is a key component of the United States’ public diplomacy efforts and supports broader US foreign policy strategy by addressing key issues and engaging marginalized communities including youth, women, girls, and persons with disabilities,” it said.

It added that Cambodian and US sports diplomacy programming has strengthened people-to-people ties between Cambodian and Cambodian-American athletes, enhanced the personal and professional development of youth and adults in rural Cambodia, and championed key global issues including climate change and gender equality.