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August 25, 2020

By Connect4Climate

(A World Bank Group's Program)

Few fields of activity have the power to bridge social and cultural divides like sport does. For players and fans alike, sport fosters passion, bonding, and general positivity. In addition to being healthy for you, participating in sport can be inspiring, filling you with confidence in the idea that, working as a team, anything is possible. This mentality is key if we’re to successfully take on the global climate crisis, which is why we at Connect4Climate have long recognized the value of #Sport4Climate in spreading messages of sustainability and hope for a greener future.

Often, it takes an innovative newcomer to reshape an industry, and that’s just what our partners at Fireball Extreme Challenge (FXC) are looking to do for international sport. Built from the ground up on the values of inclusivity, camaraderie, nonviolence and sustainability, FXC aims to capture the best sport can offer and bring it to as wide an audience as possible.  Founded in 1994 by Max Bartoli and Roberto Ciccoli, FXC has blossomed from a training regimen into a full sport in its own right. From 2017 to the present, thousands of international athletes have formally registered to be a part of FXC, and four tournaments have been held in Italy and Mexico. Plans are in place to expand on the sport’s current reach across Europe and South America and push deeper into Asia and the Middle East as well. The accessibility of the game means people everywhere are eager to learn.

"We will participate in cleaning public places, in planting trees, and several other things, not only involving a sustainable lifestyle, but to support society." —Jaime Gotoo

What exactly is FXC? At its core, it’s simple. All you need to play is two teams, a spherical ball, and a rectangular surface to play on. Tournament matches use a 22x14m court, but the beauty of FXC is that you can really play anywhere—a park, your backyard, wherever you like. This opens it up to people of all socioeconomic strata and geographical regions and minimizes its carbon footprint. The game’s core tenets are constant motion and teamwork: you must pass the ball to a teammate every 2 seconds to maintain possession for your team, so constant coordination is a necessity and showboating is off the table.

From its inception, FXC has prided itself on gender inclusivity. It is enshrined in the rules that all teams must be coed, and the nature of the game demands constant, respectful cooperation across gender lines. This sets it apart from essentially all existing professional athletics (save for niche events like mixed-doubles tennis or ice dancing) and promotes a culture of gender equality. Coed play coupled with an openness to players of all body types means FXC can be a unifying force for families and communities. Racial and cultural diversity are also encouraged. And FXC’s emphasis on movement and passing allows it to be completely nonviolent—a bit of accidental physical contact is fine, but deliberate aggression towards other players is not tolerated at any level.

"I invite my fellow athletes and the general public to join in these small efforts every day in order to have our home, our planet Earth, in optimal condition."—Ilse Denisse Zarate Cervantes

Beyond respecting people, FXC has taken care at every step to respect the planet. “There’s practically zero impact on the environment,” Bartoli explains. “You just need a ball.” And what little equipment there is was designed with sustainability in mind. All official FXC balls are made using recyclable plastics, and regulation courts are 95% recyclable in their materials. FXC is looking to expand its commitment to sustainability into the realm of sportswear as well.

FXC matches were put on hold amid the COVID-19 outbreak but recently resumed with a full suite of safety measures in place to protect both athletes and officials. Goggles, facemasks, and gloves are required on the court at all times. Referees and coaches wear full faceplates. Players entering and exiting the court must sanitize their hands, and the game ball is regularly disinfected as well. Regulation matches do not proceed unless each team has a medical professional supervising their operations. Across the board, FXC is taking COVID seriously and prioritizing the safety of all involved.

As we push beyond COVID and begin the process of sustainable recovery, Fireball Extreme Challenge offers a prime example of how sport can bring people together around issues like climate change, stoking their passion and impressing upon them the amazing power of all-inclusive teamwork in pursuit of a common goal. “We’re using sports to bridge conflicts in line with the UN’s strategy,” Bartoli says. “And we’re making it accessible to everybody.”



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