Why was More than a Game created? More Than a Game was created in 2010 as a platform to help generate and share awareness about 'The Shirt' project. The Shirt was an initiative created by Bjørn Heidenstrøm. Bjørn set himself the seemingly impossible task of cycling from Norway to South Africa for the 2010 FIFA World Cup...and...while doing this, he wished to collect football shirts from all over the world and - by sewing them all together - creating the world's biggest football shirt. Bjørn used the world wide attention gained from his mammoth journey and the creation of the world's largest football shirt to generate greater awareness of the refugee crisis facing the world in 2010. This was done largely by drawing attention to the work of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR)
How did More Than a Game become involved with The Shirt project? In 2009 Bjørn Heidenstrøm cycled through the Baltics as part of his incredible journey from Norway to South Africa. More Than a Game founder Justin Walley met Bjørn in Riga, Latvia and was absolutely amazed by what the Norwegian was doing. Justin had hoped to create his own charity project travelling from Europe to the 2010 World Cup but had failed to do so. And so when Justin met Bjørn he was excited at the prospect of helping support the Norwegian in realising his dream. In autumn 2009, Justin began helping Bjørn Heidenstrøm create more awareness of his project, particularly in the United Kingdom.
Why did Justin Walley join Bjørn Heidenstrøm in Africa? In 2010, Justin asked Bjørn Heidenstrøm if he could join him on his journey to South Africa. Justin was excited by the prospect of an African adventure, helping Bjørn create the world's largest football shirt, and creating greater awareness of the world's refugee crisis. Bjørn had been alone on the road for many months and was on the final leg of his European journey in Turkey. Bjørn welcomed the idea of Justin joining him in Africa and Justin agreed to fly out to Africa and begin accompanying the Norwegian.
What happened next? Due to logistical problems related to visas and flights, Justin was unable to join Bjørn Heidenstrøm in either Sudan or Ethiopia. Instead, Justin flew into Nairobi, Kenya in spring 2010 and began hitchbiking with his friend from Kenya to South Africa. More Than a Game was created to help Justin tell his own story of this experience and to independently generate awareness of The Shirt project.
Did the Shirt project succeed? Yes, it did. Bjørn Heidenstrøm completed his epic journey from Norway to South Africa in time for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. He succeeded in creating the World's biggest football shirt, which was unveiled in front of 70,000 people at the South African Cup Final, just prior to the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Hundreds of millions of people around the world became aware of The Shirt project and in doing so also became aware of the work of the NRC and the UNHCR.
Did More Than a Game succeed? Justin Walley accompanied Bjørn Heidenstrøm from Kenya to South Africa. This was done by 'hitchbiking' - cycling and hitching lifts - with the Norwegian for several weeks from Mombasa to Johannesburg. Justin's contribution to the project was featured on Match of the Day, Channel 5 News, the BBC World News and in a number of national UK newspapers, including the Daily Mirror, the Star and Metro; spreading word about The Shirt project to tens of millions of people.
Why did More Than a Game continue after 2010? During the 2010 road trip from Kenya to South Africa, Justin discovered many small (fantastic) grassroots projects which he highlighted through the More Than a Game project. Justin decided to continue the More Than a Game project after the South Africa World Cup.
More Than a Game after 2010 More Than a Game travelled to Argentina in 2011 for the Copa America. Grassroots projects in Buenos Aires were highlighted and a detailed blog told the story of the 2011 Copa America and of Justin Walley's road trip journey through Argentina.
Volunteering in Sierra Leone In 2013, Justin Walley joined the Craig Bellamy Foundation and the Collective by volunteering in Sierra Leone. The More Than a Game blog was used to highlight the work of the Craig Bellamy Foundation, the Collective and other grassroots projects in Sierra Leone. A detailed blog was written about Justin's experiences in Sierra Leone and the awareness created was used to raise £1000 for 40 boys from Sektars Football Club, based in Makeni, to go to school for one year and also provide them with football coaching and matches for the same period.
Tackle Africa 2017 In 2017, Justin Walley joined Tackle Africa and that summer used the More Than a Game platform to help his team raise thousands of pounds for Tackle Africa's work using the power and popularity of football to deliver HIV and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights information and services to young people on football pitches across the African continent. Justin created More Than a Game Football FC, which played at the London football marathon in June 2017, playing football non stop for 12 hours.
Matabeleland 2018 In 2018, Justin became the National Team manager of Matabeleland. He took his team from Zimbabwe to the CONIFA World Football Cup in London. Due to time constraints, Justin was unable to use the More Than a Game blog, concentrating instead on using the power of social media to help raise much of the $30,000 needed to get the team to London.
One Football, No Nets 2019 One Football, No Nets is Justin's first book and was published in 2019. It tells of Justin Walley's experiences as the manager of Matabeleland, managing the team in Zimbabwe over two separate periods of time, and then taking them to the CONIFA World Football Cup in London. During this adventure, Justin experienced first hand the military coup and removal from power after four decades in power of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. Justin also recruited Liverpool legend Bruce Grobbelaar as his goalkeeper coach and brand ambassador, was accused of being a Kremlin spy, and saw his team from the streets of Bulawayo beat a country at the CONIFA World Cup in London.
More Than a Game 2019 In October 2019, More Than a Game returns with blog posts and updates about Justin Walley's football and travel adventure.