Cologne, 28 August 2020 – Kia Motors Corporation and UEFA are pleased to announce the successful transformation of the Official Match Ball Carrier (OMBC) into a virtual experience at the 2019/20 UEFA Europa League Final in Cologne, Germany.
Like last year, Kia Motors had planned to select one child from the host country as the OMBC for the Final, giving them a once-in-a-lifetime experience of carrying the match ball onto the pitch alongside the two teams and match officials in front of thousands of football fans. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Kia Motors came up with an alternative solution ensuring that a child was still able to play an important role.
Using the latest technology, Kia Motors created a unique experience for one lucky child by virtually carrying the match ball onto the pitch inside the stadium. This was enabled via 360-degree camera to the child, who watched through a VR headset and simultaneously carried their own match ball to a plinth in the comfort of their own home.
The child selected as Virtual Official Match Ball Carrier (VOMBC) was 10-year-old football fan Justus, who lives in Rietberg and suffers from Asperger and Tourette syndrome. In keeping with Kia’s vision of ‘Empowering Fans’, especially during such difficult and unprecedented times, Justus was hand-picked from the Deutsches Kinderhilfswerk charity in cooperation with Kia Motors Deutschland GmbH. He also got to greet the players and match officials as they arrived at the stadium via video call and was accompaniedvirtually throughout the day by legendary German footballer Michael Ballack.
For over 45 years, the German Children’s Fund (Deutsches Kinderhilfswerk) has been supporting Germany’s children. The focus is on children’s rights according to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Its dissemination and application in society and politics are the starting points for their work. In addition, the German Children’s Fund are committed to democratic education through participation, sufficient opportunities to play, cultural education, competent media handling and overcoming child poverty in Germany.
Ballack, who played in the UEFA Europa League with Bundesliga club Bayer Leverkusen between 2010-2012, guided Justus throughout the activation, informing him what was in store and when to put on the VR headset to fully embrace his role as the Virtual Official Match Ball Carrier for the Final.
“It was an honour to help Justus become the first ever Virtual Official Match Ball Carrier for the UEFA Europa League Final,” said Ballack. “Watching him virtually carry the match ball and say hello to the players and match officials was amazing and reminded me of what it’s like to be a young football fan. I didn’t think it would be possible to have this experience in the Final, but I’m so happy that we found a way to make it happen.”
Through Kia Motors’ UEFA Europa League sponsorship – which is currently in its second season –the company has stayed committed to its vision of ‘Empowering Fans’ and bringing the Official Match Ball Carrier experience to Justus, despite the disruption that Covid-19 has and continues to cause.
Artur Martins, Head of the Global Customer Experience Division at Kia Motors Corporation, said: “Four months ago there was huge uncertainty over whether it would be possible to finish the 2019/20 UEFA Europa League campaign due to Covid-19. Fast forward to now and not only has the Final been played, but we made one child’s dream come true by introducing the first Virtual Official Match Ball Carrier. I feel very proud that we were able to make the impossible, possible, and I hope that Justus feels empowered by the experience. Thank you to everyone who had a part to play.”