A soccer ball is more than just the centerpiece of a popular sport. Perhaps more than any other object in the world, a soccer ball has the ability to bring people together, regardless of race, gender religion or politics. In the new documentary film This Is Not a Ball, Brazilian artist Vik Muniz explores the significance of the ball from an artistic perspective, and as a tool for social change.
The documentary, which was produced by Televisa and Fusion's parent company Univision, follows Muniz as he prepares to create a massive art installation made of 10,000 soccer balls in Mexico City's Estadio Azteca. Muniz is well known for creating works of art out of unexpected objects; in the past, he has used everything from sugar, dust, chocolate and garbage in his work.
In preparation for his soccer ball installation, Muniz explored the role of soccer in communities around the world, talking with a variety of subjects ranging from children in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro to Pakistani ball stitchers to astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Here's what we learned:
1. Soccer is even more popular than you thought
We all know that soccer is a global sport, but it's hard to understate just how popular it is worldwide. To put it into perspective: mMre than 700 million people watched the 2010 World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands.
Compare that to the 100 million who watched the Superbowl that same year.
2. Pakistan makes a ton of soccer balls
Each year, 50 million soccer balls are produced worldwide, and 40 percent of those balls are produced in a small town called Sialkot in Pakistan. Ironically, no one plays soccer in Sialkot; it's all about cricket.
Sumaira Bibi hand-stitches a soccer ball; her mother also stitched balls for a living, as does her husband Amir
3. Neil deGrasse Tyson would drop 10,000 soccer balls from an airplane
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson
As he's preparing to create his installation, Muniz asks astrophysicist (and host of Cosmos) Neil deGrasse Tyson what he'd do with 10,000 soccer balls. Tyson's answer? Drop them out of an airplane, of course.
Balls dropped from the sky would have up to 10 times more energy when they collide with each other than they would if they hit the ground
4. Anyone can get a piece of Muniz's soccer ball art installation.
Literally. A major part of Muniz's artistic endeavor deals with social change. Donors who support the #passtheball movement will receive one of the actual soccer balls used in Muniz's art installation. All proceeds go to Streetfootballworld, an organization committed to using soccer to address social issues like HIV/AIDS, education, peace building, employability and gender equality.
One of the 10,000 balls Muniz used in his installation. It can be yours!
This Is Not a Ball is streaming now on Netflix.
Alexandra DiPalma is a producer for Fusion Lightworks, Fusion’s In-house Branded Content Agency.