The 28th November 2009 was an exciting day for the under thirteen Union Deportivo Ronda football team as they were treated to a visit by Bjorn Heidenstrom, former Norwegian International and first division football player who is cycling from Norway to South Africa collecting signed football shirts, and raising awareness for the world’s 45 million refugees.
Bjorn has been cycling for six months already, and arrived in Ronda at 10am after a grueling cycle up the San Pedro highway from Marbella. He certainly lived up the nickname “Crazy Norwegian”. His day in Ronda is part of an extended trip that sees him cycle to Córdoba, then Madrid, and Barcelona before catching a ferry to Italy, the Balkan nations, Greece, Turkey, and Syria.
A decision then needs to be made on the route Bjorn will take cycling to Egypt before cyclng to Cape Town via Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, and the Southern African countries. Bjorn is hoping to be in Johannesburg in May. Then he and some volunteers will stitch all of the shirts collected together into a single large flag that FIFA and the South African Football Association have agreed will be flown at the opening game of the Soccer World Cup in June 2010.
Football shirts collected from CD Ronda and UD Ronda will be amongst the other many hundreds of signed football shirts, including those from FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, FC Valencia, Manchester United, Liverpool FC, Dynamo Moscow, and many more top teams yet to be visited.
Refugees are one of the world’s greatest tragedies, and are a group of people with the least ability to represent themselves, with the overwhelming majority forced into camps for displaced people, or taken into care by charitable groups. Refugees don’t have the ability to work to make a living, they aren’t able to provide for their families, and they exist in a sort of half legal half outcast situation.
Ronda Today is proud to be one of the many supporters and sponsors of Bjorn Heidenstrom as he cycles from Norway to South Africa to give the world’s many refugees a voice. His approach is proving successful, over 50 million people have watched Bjorn’s travels on television or in his YouTube channel, and sponsors are lining up to offer funds to the Refugee Council and UNHCR.
With Bjorn’s enthusiasm and our support we can make a difference, and we can put the plight of refugees firmly where it belongs, in the news and in front of prime ministers and presidents of the world’s family of nations.
Bjorn would like to thank Carlos Mirasol García, councillor for sport for his active encouragement and allowing Bjorn to meet the future football stars of Ronda, Hotel Ronda for providing Bjorn with a room and hot shower for the night, Bar La Bola on Carrera Espinel for graciously providing Bjorn with lunch, Restaurant El Predicatorio for graciously providing Bjorn with breakfast. Charlotte Wilmot and Alonso Jiménez González were invaluable friends who worked tirelessly to ensure Bjorn’s trip to Ronda was a success. Thank you all.
So, what happens now? Bjorn is on his way, and the plight of refugees could be forgotten now that we’ve had our fun. But Ronda Today cannot let this happen. We’ll be following Bjorn’s travels as he makes his way to South Africa, and we’ll be helping to organise workshops and fund raising activities to let Bjorn and the Refugee Council know that Rondeños want to help make a difference. Please join us. Send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and tell us if you can help Bjorn collect signed football shirts, or if you’d like write Bjorn a message of support.
We’re not asking for money, we’ll find sponsors for that, what we are asking for is your good wishes. You can read about Bjorn’s travels directly on his website, theshirt2010.net, or follow him on Twitter, @heidenstrom.
Here’s a selection of photos taken of Bjorn in Ronda.
Canal Charry Interview with Bjorn in Ronda