With excitement surrounding FIFA’s glittering 2010 World Cup in South Africa reaching fever pitch, it is easy to forget that this year’s host nation currently boasts the highest rate of HIV on the planet: an estimated 5.4 million people accounting for one fifth of all cases globally.
Taking full advantage of the passion and energy stirred up by the biggest football tournament on the planet, a coalition of grass root organisations including Christian Aid partner PACSA (Pietermaritzburg Agency for Christian Social Awareness), TackleAfrica and Alive & Kicking, are supporting a unique five-day youth football tournament to promote positive social education about HIV prevention and treatment amongst young people at high risk.
The tournament dubbed ‘Bopha Siyakshona’ – meaning build the nation, one youth at a time, will take place between 5 -10 April 2010 in the KwaZulu-Natal province, located near Durban where a new stadium is under construction for the World Cup, and will link 300 British, German and South African youths, all from hugely diverse social, cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds.
With football’s potential to unite and influence, the key aims of the football tournament are to reduce HIV transmission and increase HIV testing, to fight stigma and discrimination, to promote youth leadership and development, and to help break down social barriers by exposing youth of different backgrounds, people, peers and situations.
Rachel Baggaley, the Head of Christian Aid’s HIV Team says South Africa desperately needs more funding for HIV prevention and care.
Baggaley says about 39% of the population in KwaZulu-Natal province is HIV-positive.
The Head of Christian aid says they hope that the tournament will not only galvanise and prioritise the South African economy but also its HIV programmes.
Baggaley explains that the Fair Trade footballs to be used in the tournament have been sourced from Alive & Kicking, with youth-friendly educative health messages relating to HIV and TB printed on the balls.
Will Prochaska, the Director of Alive & Kicking says that this tournament is an excellent example of a programme that is maximising its impact in Africa through sourcing balls that are made and designed by previously unemployed workers across Africa, 55% of whom had never been in formal employment.
Prochaska says each participant of the tournament will also have the opportunity to take home one of the balls, helping to further spread positive health messages across their community and family networks.
“We are delighted to be involved with The Footballs for Life Project in South Africa and can’t wait to get started,” adds Ben Maitland, the chairperson of Tackle Africa, a UK-based organisation that uses football as a vehicle to increase young people’s understanding of HIV in their communities.