A coalition of grass roots organisations is supporting a unique five-day youth football tournament to promote positive social education about HIV prevention and treatment amongst young people at high risk, ahead of the 2010 World Cup.
The groups including Christian Aid partner PACSA (Pietermaritzburg Agency for Christian Social Awareness), TackleAfrica and Alive & Kicking, point out that the host nation has the highest rate of HIV on the planet; an estimated 5.4 million people accounting for one fifth of all cases globally.
Named Bopha Siyakshona - meaning ‘build the nation, one youth at a time’ – the pioneering football tournament will take place between 5 - 10 April in the KwaZulu-Natal province, strategically located near Durban where a new stadium is under construction.
It will link 300 British, German and South African youths, 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 to different backgrounds, people, peers and situations,” explained Rachel Baggaley, Head of Christian Aid’s HIV Team.
“South Africa desperately needs more funding for HIV prevention and care, and in the KwaZulu-Natal province alone 39% of the population are HIV-positive, so we hope that the tournament will not only galvanise and prioritise the South African economy but also its HIV programmes.”
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.
“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,” said Will Prochaska, director of Alive & Kicking.
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!” said Ben Maitland, chairman of TackleAfrica, a UK-based organisation that uses football as a vehicle to increase young people's understanding of HIV in their communities.