Solar & Football: A Perfect Match

By in Markets, Soccer, Sponsorships
Painting by Chinese artist Su Hanchen (苏汉臣 circa 1130–1160 AD)

We get asked all the time: why does Yingli Solar sponsor so many football events (like U.S. Soccer, FC Bayern Munich, and the FIFA World CupTM)? I mean really: what’s the connection between solar and football?  It isn’t always immediately obvious. While they may seem different on the surface, there are deep affinities between the world’s most popular game and the world’s most abundant energy resource.

One of the reasons why football is the most commonly played sport in the world is that it’s so simple: all you need is a (relatively) round ball. To enjoy the game, you don’t need expensive infrastructure or equipment, and you don’t have to be wealthy or own a great deal of land. Back-alley matches can be every bit as fun – and competitive! – as the FIFA World CupTM.

Jerome Valcke, Secretary General of FIFA, attributes the world popularity of football to how naturally people across the world are able to pick it up. Humans can kick a ball as early as age two (I’m teaching my daughter now!). It’s an incredibly natural movement that can be performed on any surface: from a field, to a floor, to the cracked pavement of an old country road.  It’s the simplicity of football that brings people together everywhere, across nations, cultures, communities and families.

Origins of the Beautiful Game

Football is one of the first and oldest games in human civilization. According to FIFA, the earliest record of a game similar to present-day football comes from China. A Chinese military manual from the 2nd and 3rd centuries BC details a team exercise called cuju, where participants tried to kick a ball through a net and, importantly, were not allowed to use their hands.  As the first Chinese company to sponsor the FIFA World CupTM, we take great pride in serving as a bridge between the international football community and the country whose ancestors were (at least partially) responsible for the great game’s development and proliferation.

Of course, China isn’t the only country with a claim to football’s heritage. In the 4th Century, the Greek playwright Antiphanes referenced a ball game called Episkyros, believed to have more closely resembled Rugby because players would throw and catch the ball. Countless other tribes, cultures, and communities have developed their own ball games similar to football, from mob football in Medieval Europe to the Aztec game Ulama

Ancient Greek Football Player

Ancient Greek Football Player

A Global Star

Like football, solar energy has also been around basically forever. The sun has been central to human life, culture, religion, and philosophy since the dawn of civilization, as a shared global resource that transcends man-made boundaries. It’s no wonder that the Summer Solstice is observed around the world, with religious and cultural events like St. John’s Day, Tiregan and Kupala Night. (Random aside: here’s a sort time-lapse video of the Summer Solstice sunrise from our San Francisco office.)

And like football, solar energy is remarkably simple and accessible. As far back as the 7th century B.C., humans began using glass to magnify and concentrate the sun’s energy to light fires. Even today, with advanced solar technology, it’s never been easier to harness our shared global resource and to turn your house into a power plant.

Just ask U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Legend Mia Hamm, who with her husband, champion baseball star Nomar Garciaparra, recently decided to go solar. She explains: “As parents and athletes, Nomar and I are especially proud to promote solar energy because we believe a healthy environment is the most important legacy we can leave to future generations. Our hope is that sharing insights from our own incredibly easy and rewarding solar installation will encourage families in the football community and beyond to go solar, too.”

All Under One Sun

Another interesting characteristic about football is its ability to bring together adversaries. During World War 1, English and German soldiers spontaneously declared a truce to come together and celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Day – the latter holiday, of course, celebrates our planet’s revolution about the sun. At one battlefield, on New Year’s Eve, opposing troops faced-off in a friendly football match, as recalled 70 years later by Ernie Williams of the British Cheshire regiment:

“[A] ball appeared from somewhere, I don’t know where, but it came from their side… They made up some goals and one fellow went in goal and then it was just a general kickabout. I should think there were a couple of hundred taking part. I had a go at the ball. I was pretty good then, at 19. Everybody seemed to be enjoying themselves. There was no sort of ill-will between us.”

Perhaps it’s not that solar and football are so similar, but rather that they both remind us of our commonalities. “For in the final analysis,” as U.S. President John F. Kennedy once said, “our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”

Our company’s goal is to make solar energy affordable for all, and doing that requires transcending traditional political, social, cultural, and economic boundaries. It also requires the support of leaders like Mia Hamm who are taking a stand for our planet and our shared future. If, as an industry, we continue to accelerate, solar technology will soon be every bit as prevalent as back-yard football matches. Hopefully, our participation in events like the FIFA World CupTM will help raise awareness for solar technology and the global imperative to tackle climate change. And hopefully we will never forget that we’re all in this together: all under one sun.

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