Lunga Sidzumo , co-founder of Ragball International, poses with a handmade ragball.

As a young leader in the fight against HIV and AIDS, Grassroot Soccer South Africa Coach Lunga Sidzumo, from Khayelitsha, was recently awarded a prestigious MAC AIDS Leadership Initiative Fellowship. Through a year-long training and development program, the fellowship supports leaders who have made significant contributions to reducing the spread and impact of HIV and AIDS

“It is my goal to use my experience in the MAC AIDS Leadership Initiative to further promote HIV education and gender awareness in my community,” says Lunga, whose work as a MAC AIDS Fellow will focus on continued delivery of the Skillz curriculum in schools and at the Khayelitsha Football For Hope Centre.

A member of the Grassroot Soccer (GRS) team since February 2009, 23 year old Lunga was initially involved as a Coach for the F-MARC funded “11 For Health” pilot program, addressing the eleven most serious health problems in South Africa.  As an 11 For Health Coach, Lunga’s drive and natural leadership qualities stood out. He was named Coach Coordinator, responsible for direct oversight of the entire 11 For Health team.  Following the pilot, Lunga was trained as a Skillz Coach to deliver GRS’ HIV prevention curriculum to youth.

“As a Grassroot Soccer and 11 For Health Coach, I can see the power of these programmes, yet we are only scratching the surface,” says Lunga.  “I hope to gain an even greater understanding of the pandemic and interact with other young people who are making a difference in their communities.”

In 2009, Lunga co-founded Ragball International with several members of the GRS team.  Through the production and sale of handmade soccer balls, Ragball International aims to empower young people from developing countries with income-generation opportunities and basic entrepreneurial skills.  Now serving as Country Director, Lunga oversees a local production team of school-going youth who benefit directly from the sale of the ragballs and was recently featured as a Changemaker on Ashoka’s Changemakers website for his work.  Visit or click here to learn more about this project.

“To be part of MAC makes me feel so special and more confident about myself.  I never thought on the first day I joined Grassroot Soccer that I’d have this opportunity.  I’d like to thank Grassroot Soccer Coaches and staff for being true family and friends and supporting me with passion, hard work, and commitment.”

MAC AIDS Leadership Initiative

In order to meet the urgent need for new leaders in HIV prevention, the M·A·C AIDS Fund has invited two of the world’s leading educational institutions – Columbia University and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) – to join South Africa’s Human Sciences Research Council in creating the M·A·C Leadership Initiative. For the first two months of the program, the Fellows are immersed in a daily, intensive, in-residence training in South Africa where they explore “what works” in HIV prevention at the international, national, and local levels and develop skills needed to carry out unique HIV prevention projects during the year with pilot funds and ongoing support from the program.