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International News

South Africa: Harnessing World Cup to Change Children's Lives

November 4, 2009

Alongside next year's World Cup, the "Football for Hope" festival will be training children and teens in South Africa how to play soccer, and how to avoid HIV/AIDS. More than 30 organizations chosen for their success in addressing social issues will take part in FFH, which was launched by soccer's ruling body FIFA and streetfootballworld, a non-governmental organization.

"It uses the fact that kids are motivated, engaged, and inspired by the power of football to teach them these very important education messages," said Mike Geddes, FFH's communications manager.

In Alexandra Township, more than 100 boys and girls belong to Play Soccer, one of FFH's 80-odd member groups. One of the games played is "Risk Field," in which children dribble between cones that represent risks such as unsafe sex and multiple partners. If a cone is hit, the player must do pushups, and hitting one a second time means the whole team joins the player.

"This teaches them that their actions have consequences not just for them but for other people," said Geddes. "Using these games really brings it alive for these children and makes the education messages that much stronger."

During the second half of the month-long World Cup, FFH will feature one week of dialogue followed by a tournament between teams composed equally of girls and boys ages 15-18. There will be no referees, so the players will have to resolve any dispute with persuasion, a method Geddes said he has seen work.

"These kids will play soccer until there is no light on the streets, and we figure let's provide a safe environment for them to do exactly that but teach a thing or two in the process that will help them for life," said Sibu Sibaka, Play Soccer's director.

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
More on HIV Prevention in South Africa