Last weekend hundreds of players, coaches and supporters gathered in Komarock, in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, for the second TackleAfrica MYSA football tournament as part of the DREAMS programme, funded by PEPFAR and managed by JSI.
It was a fantastic day of football coupled with HIV information, HIV testing, information on medical male circumcision, health testing, and dancing by the Haba na Haba dance troupe. Before the prize-giving, DREAMS coaches and staff played an exhibition match, with the staff edging a win by penalty shootout following a tense 0-0 draw. For the young players after a tense day of round robin 7 a side matches, the winners Makau’s team from Pumwani zone emerged victorious having scored points not just for goals, but also for fair play and HIV knowledge.
We were fortunate to also have been visited by JSI, the funds manager, with Susan taking to the field at left back and Judy commenting”I have never seen so many young people together learning about HIV prevention. Normally, with this age group, we struggle to engage them with sexual health. But with football, they just come!” Judy highlights exactly how our model works. It can sound strange and you have to see it to believe it. Young people love playing football, so rather than trying to get them to visit intimidating sexual health clinics, we bring information and clinical services to them, where they are and where they feel comfortable. We deliver this information through fun football sessions and youth-friendly pitchside clinicians. It’s why 110 young people voluntarily got tested for HIV that day, and why 40 young boys returned the next day to undergo Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision, a key component in the fight against HIV in sub-Saharan Africa.
We thank everyone involved in this amazing tournament, from players and coaches who wowed us with their skills, to the backroom staff and the cooks who kept us fed and watered throughout the day, the DJs and dancers who kept us entertained and to all the supporters who cheered on the touchlines. Together we played our part in the fight against HIV – by playing football!
If you’re interested in getting involved with our work in Africa, visit www.tackleafrica.org/get-involved for details.