Lonely journey to bring giant soccer shirt to SA

2010-07-02 14:03

What is believed to be the world’s biggest soccer shirt (20m long

and 15m wide) has arrived in South Africa – by bicycle from Norway.

Bjorn Heidenstrom began his journey from Oslo, Norway, in June last

year, collecting 621 signed soccer shirts from people including Sir Elton John,

Fifa president Sepp Blatter, President Jacob Zuma as well as Liverpool,

Manchester United, Barcelona, Arsenal and Bafana Bafana players.

They have been sewn together to create a giant soccer shirt, which

is being displayed at Brightwater Commons, Johannesburg, until the end of the

World Cup. The shirt is a symbol of “the standing together of the football

family” in support of refugees worldwide.

An ex-football player, Heidenstrom said with little money in his

bank account, this was a way he could give the world’s estimated 41 million

refugees attention and recognition. He chose to do the cycle without


“I was close to broke for the whole trip,” he said. He managed to

get by, sleeping in his tent, staying in hostels and camping sites, and with

soccer people.

Heidenstrom’s project was backed by Fifa, UEFA and the UNHCR/UN

Refugee Agency and he travelled through 35 countries.

Heidenstrom said he had always done six days of exercise per week

but a year-and-a-half before his journey started, he focused on cycling: “I

cycled with a trailer.” The 80kg trailer helped train his leg, arm and neck


But it was the loneliness, not the cycling, that was the hardest

part of the almost year-long journey.

He arrived in South Africa in May and said he has enjoyed resting:

“I’ve been doing a little bit of gym, beer and red wine.” He has also been to

three soccer matches so far and will be here until the end of the World


Heidenstrom plans to do a similar journey to raise awareness but he

said he would do it with a team.

Follow his blog

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