Tag Archives: soccer/football

New study says football is an effective teaching tool for AIDS and HIV prevention programs

Normally I keep the nerdiest research material to myself, but something really exciting and thought-provoking just happened in the world of sports and international development: Coxswain Social Investment has released a new study called “Using Football for HIV/AIDS Prevention in Africa”, and it indicates that football-based AIDS and HIV-prevention programs are highly and uniquely successful.

I’m not surprised by this, but the 55-page report written up all academic-like (the Table of Contents presents no fewer than 15 “findings”) is like a professional reference for the game I love. There’s been a study, there’ve been findings, and they’ve proven what players and fans have known all along: that this people’s game that can be played anywhere in the world with nothing more than a ball is much more than a diversion – it’s a viable delivery model for life-saving messages.

OK, so here’s the thought that provoked me:

3.2 Gender Inequality
The spread of HIV has much to do with gender inequality. HIV is prevalent much more among women than men, and about two thirds of newly-infected young people aged 15-19 years in sub-Saharan Africa are female. Grassroot Soccer stresses the importance of girls benefiting from  prevention efforts by making sure that half its participants are female. In Grassroot Soccer’s Street Skillz Sessions…, football game rules are designed to involve girls as much as possible, for example by counting each goal scored by a girl as two points.
– “Using Football for HIV/AIDS Prevention in Africa”

For some context, Grassroot Soccer is the organization co-founded by former professional soccer player and (TV show) Survivor Ethan Zohn. It’s an organization with a mission I support (“… to provide African youth with the knowledge, skills and support to live HIV-free”) but I’m put off by the practice of handicapping by gender. Ensuring that half of the program participants are female is an obvious and justified mandate, but how does a differential point system play into this? I just don’t get it. [Note: Check out Zak from GRS’ response in the comments. It would appear that this rule in the Street Skillz program is no longer in use, and was never aimed at the AIDS and HIV-prevention aspect of the program. Rather, it was an attempt to facilitate girls’ inclusion by encouraging passing to them.]

I don’t want to take a perfect cause for celebration (yet another example of soccer saving the world) and diminish it by focusing on a single aspect of program delivery. Instead let me present this thought, provoked: Does counting girls’ goals as more than boys’ goals somehow ensure that girls benefit from prevention efforts, whether by encouraging participation in the program or by diminishing gender inequality? If so, how?

For more soccer-related provocation and celebration, download the report here (I found it via Play the Game, which “aims to strengthen the basic ethical values of sport and encourage democracy, transparency and freedom of expression in world sport” – highly recommended reading for the sports development geek.)



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World Film Collective facilitates youth film making

More from the social innovation files: World Film Collective “…teaches filmmaking to disadvantaged young people around the globe, using equipment that is sustainable, accessible and affordable, providing them a rare chance to be forerunners of the current digital communications revolution.”

The group offers workshops to young (10 – 25 year-old) participants in their communities and at no cost. The entire programme takes three years to complete. Films are distributed using social media channels, the web site, and are entered into film festivals.

What do I have in common with kids? Soccer! It took me all of 27 seconds to find “Township Tournament”, 2:08 minutes on an alternative World Cup competition that took place in the townships around Cape Town.

“I felt like I was in front of God.”
– Answer to the question “How did you feel when you scored those goals?”, asked of a participant in the tournament, “Township Tournament“, World Film Collective

Highly recommended, but beware: it’s dead simple to lose hours on their YouTube channel.

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First Japanese woman to compete in US men’s professional baseball, and some updates (Semenya and the Iranian girls’ football team)

According to kickitout.org, baseball pitcher Eri Yoshida is making history for being the first Japanese female to play baseball in the US male professional league.

Eri Yoshida, from kickitout.org

Eri Yoshida, from kickitout.org

Yoshida’s maverick balling began in Japan when at 16 she was drafted to Kobe Cruise 9 in the minor Kansai Independent League, making her the first female to play professionally in that country. Now, playing for the Chico Outlaws, she’s the third woman ever (and first Japanese woman) to play in the US men’s professional league.

“There are probably ladies who think they might be able to compete at a high level, but maybe don’t have the confidence. This will give them the confidence. This will open doors.”
– Chico manager Gerry Templeton

Elsewhere in the sport and gender universe, Caster Semenya is competing again, but news reports are still consistently muddied by rumors of official wrong-doing related to the six months of “gender testing” forced on the runner. At this point, I really haven’t the foggiest idea what the official line is, but it’s clear that Semenya’s name will be associated more with a gender panic than with her astonishing athletic contributions for some time. Pity.

And finally, the Iranian girls’ football team is competing at the Youth Olympics in Singarpore. You’ll recall that the team was originally banned from participating in hijab and removed from eligibility.  Then, a modified uniform was presented that met Youth Olympic guidelines for sport safety, but prompted Marzieh Akbarabadi (who’s in charge of women’s sports in Iran) to protest, calling the outfit “inappropriate”. It would appear that a compromise has been reached, because the team is in Singapore competing.

Photo from The Ledger Independent, (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Photo from The Ledger Independent, (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

FIFA president Sepp Blatter was on hand to watch the Iranian girls’ game, and offered this:

“It’s very important,” Blatter said. “It’s very important for football, that football be played by and in all cultures. Especially at this level of the youths, and the Olympic idea, I think it’s very important.”
– Sepp Blatter, “Headscarf issue solved, Iran girls focus on soccer

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Soccer and social innovation

I recently became aware of a social innovation* organization called Changemakers, “a community of action where we all collaborate on solutions.” The site hosts, among other things,  contests designed to feature and fund worthy programs, and the one that’s caught my eye is the “Changing Lives Through Football” competition.

Finally, the event is in the voting phase which goes until August 18, 2010. Finalists are eligible to win prize money totaling $90,000 USD to foster real change in the world. I voted for Soccer 4 Hope (and you can, too, here) because they’re operating out of Cape Town and focus specifically on the empowerment of girls and women through soccer.

And in soccer-changes-the-world news from much closer to home (like, Lamport Stadium), I’m only three days away from participating in the Rock the Pitch Charity Soccer Tournament. That’s only three more days of fund raising, the proceeds of which will go to Athletes for Africa’s partner organizations in northern Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and southern Sudan. If you think this is a worthwhile and effective example of social innovation, sponsor me at www.myathletesforafrica.com/ksenett. EVERY donation get a tax receipt.

*Interested in learning more about social innovation? Check out these organizations currently on my radar: the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto and Open IDEO, an online crowd sourcing platform.

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Photo stream from Sport and Development Flickr group

An evocative collection of photos that speaks volumes about the role that sport plays in reaching development objectives like education, health promotion, gender equity, and peace-building.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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Getting ready to Rock the Pitch

Do-gooding organization alert: Athletes for Africa “is a nonprofit organization that uses the power and profile of sport to promote global citizenship and empower the next generation of youth in Africa.”*

A4A is the organization behind Rock the Pitch, a charity soccer tournament taking place at Lamport Stadium on August 14. Participants include commoners like me and local celebrities, and everybody raises money to send to A4A’s partner organizations in Africa.

I’d like to direct all readers to my team’s fund raising page:

Click, give a little, and then come out to Lamport on the 14th to watch us compete. The first celebrity signings were confirmed yesterday and include former Toronto FC captain and Canadian national team member Jimmy Brennan. (This is going to be so embarrassing.)

*A4A organizes charity sporting events to raise money that goes towards assisting their partner organizations:

– Canadian Physicians for Aid and Relief (Uganda)
– War Child Canada (Democratic Republic of Congo)
– African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF) Canada (Southern Sudan)

More details available on the A4A Programs page.

P.S. Safe travels and good luck to all my friends currently converging on Cologne for the Gay Games 2010.

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Updates: Caster Semenya, Iranian girls’ team, and Grannies Grannies

When I come across additional information or small updates to a story I have been following, I typically add it at the bottom of the original post in an “update” box. The problem with this is that nobody gets a notification, so unless you’re a new (or obsessive) reader you’re not going to see it. I’m going to try something new today: a “roundup”.

Here’s what’s going on in my world:

1) Caster Semenya has (finally) been cleared to race “as a woman”.
You all know what I think about this (for those just joining us, go here), but I do want to add that the IAAF is not disclosing any details. Their statement was brief (or “terse”, according to Barry Petchesky, author of
Explaining The Caster Semenya Decision, Because The IAAF Won’t,” published on Deadspin), which makes a wrap-up difficult. Suffice to say that I still see this as a sad chapter, and one we will regret.

2) Iranian girls team may be banned from youth tournament… again.
You will remember that back in April 2010, FIFA banned the Iranian girls’ team from competing in the Youth Olympic Football Tournament based on the fact that the players were beholden by their religion to wear hijab (head scarves). Cue (righteous) outrage. By early May FIFA had about-faced and allowed the girls to play in a game-modified uniform.

A month passes.

Iran may not send its girls’ football team to the Youth Olympics in Singapore next month because of a dispute over the players’ Islamic attire, Iranian media reported on Thursday. The deputy head of Iran’s physical education department, Marzieh Akbarabadi, was quoted by newspapers, including Khabar Varzeshi, or Sport News, as saying the newly designed dress was “inappropriate.” [The uniform] was unveiled during a practice session on Wednesday, which Akbarabadi, who is in charge of all women’s sports in Iran, left in protest.
– Nasser Karimi, “Iran girls’ football team may miss Singapore event,” Associated Press (July 8, 2010)

You know what? I said this before and I say it again, and this time with feeling: Let them play! These girls are athletes. They’ve trained (despite mighty opposition) to become good enough to qualify, yet all around are powers-that-be lining up to play Daddy to them.

I am not qualified to comment on the rightness or wrongness of hijab, but I can tell you with utter certainty that these players should be accommodated. No person should be forced to cast aside one love (football) for another (one’s religion).

3) Grannies Grannies find a way
Way back on the first day of the World Cup I wrote about Vakhegula Vakhegula (Grannies Grannies), a South African soccer team comprised of women between the ages of 49 and 84. A month ago they were hoping to inspire South African president Jacob Zuma to provide the finances to send the team to compete at the Veteran’s Cup, a tournament for teams with players of 30 years and older that takes place in Lancaster, Massachusetts (Source: “For the Love of Soccer and a Lasting Sisterhood“, New York Times, June 6, 2010). Apparently Zuma left their exhibition game without seeing their victory (8-0, defeating the Waterfall Grannie Soccer team).

Yesterday Herbalife (Yes, that Herbalife) issued a press release:

Herbalife Ltd. has teamed up with the United States Adult Soccer Association…, the Massachusetts Adult State Soccer Association (MASS), the Veterans Cup committee… and the Lexpressas women’s soccer team to help the Vakhegula-Vakhegula soccer team come to America to compete in the annual Veteran’s Cup tournament this week.
– “Soccer Grannies to Compete in Veteran’s Cup,” Marketwatch, July 13, 2010

Apparently, in return the players will play in jerseys sporting the Herbalife logo. Zuma missed a brilliant opportunity. He could have been the dream-maker. It’s a shame but it’s his loss. Grannies Grannies found a way despite his indifference.

Who’s up for a road trip to Lancaster? I hear there’s some world-class soccer going on.

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