Rob Williams has given the gift of footballs donated by the Ipswich Jets Rugby League Club to kids around the world. Lovina Beach, Bali, Indonesia.
Rob Williams has given the gift of footballs donated by the Ipswich Jets Rugby League Club to kids around the world. Lovina Beach, Bali, Indonesia. Rob Williams

Why kids across Asia are playing with Jets' footballs

IN 2016, I was sitting in a small town a few hours south of Hanoi.

I was by a local watering hole and enjoying some of the finest amber fluid Vietnam can provide.

Across the road was a dusty volleyball court and a row of motor scooters.

A group of children near the court were laughing and kicking around what appeared like a scrunched-up ball of sticky tape that didn't bounce.

They were playing a game with what would be considered nothing more than rubbish back in Australia.

And they were having the time of their lives.

In that moment I realised something.

Play has no boundaries, neither geographically or socio-economically.

Rob Williams has given the gift of footballs donated by the Ipswich Jets Rugby League Club to kids around the world. Kids play with a football in their village on Cabuli Island, Palawan, The Philippines.
Rob Williams has given the gift of footballs donated by the Ipswich Jets Rugby League Club to kids around the world. Kids play with a football in their village on Cabuli Island, Palawan, The Philippines. Charisse Farr

Children want to kick or throw a ball. If they don't have one, they will make something and have fun with that.

While these kids were happy enough with their makeshift piece of equipment, I couldn't help thinking there was something I could do make playtime a bit more fun.

Maybe it was the beer talking, but I was going to get these kids some footballs.

When I came home from that trip, I contacted the Ipswich Jets to see if they would be willing to donate some footballs to the cause, and they have been more than willing on multiple occasions.

 

Three years on and I have given away 20 footballs in Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia.

Of course, they are just footballs that won't change lives. And they are of no real economic value in those countries

The balls won't even make the kids happier, because most of them are really happy anyway.

Even though some of them live a life that most of us can't even fathom.

On my trip to the Philippines, we stopped over at some tiny island villages that could quite simply be described as slums, with families living in nothing more than a 3mx3m bamboo shack with no electricity or clean drinking water.

I mentioned that the gift of a new football wouldn't make them happier, but the smiles on their faces when they realised they could actually keep the balls I handed to them told me that it meant more to them than I could have imagined.

As I walked away from these encounters with the kids, I could hear the sound of a proper ball bouncing around, along with the familiar sound of laughter. And that was the greatest gift of all.



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