On 2 February Grassroot Soccer (GRS) Soweto hosted a delegation of visitors from ONE, the campaigning and advocacy organization cofounded by U2’s Bono to help reduce extreme poverty and preventable disease. The delegation included Shane Bigelow and Paul Gorman from AllianceBernstein, JR Kerr and Charlie Stone of Frequency540, Jennifer Zammuto from The Caterpillar Foundation, and ONE staff members Tyler Denton, Lindsay Keller, and Tamira Gunzburg. The Nike Football Centre was bustling with a training event and it was a perfect day to tour the facility and participate in Grassroot Soccer’s soccer-themed HIV prevention activities.
On the field the delegates were as enthusiastic as our Coaches, trained facilitators who teach youth about HIV & AIDS prevention and life skills through soccer drills and other activities. Half of the group played “Find the Ball,” an activity where participants stand shoulder-to-shoulder, facing the other team and passing a ball behind their backs. The ball represents HIV, and when the players freeze they have to try to identify who on the other team has the ball behind his or her back. It is quite challenging to guess who has the ball—or HIV—just by looking, which leads to discussion about stigma and discrimination, myths about HIV, and the importance of knowing one’s status.
The other half dribbled through the “Risk Field,” passing around cones labeled with risky behaviors that are the major contributors to the spread of HIV. Participants learn how HIV affects them personally and as a community, performing jumping jacks or pushups when a “risky behavior” cone is bumped by a teammate. Afterwards, Coaches and delegates showed some TLC (Tell it, Label it, Celebrate it), one of GRS’s central types of praise for participants. ONE delegate Shane Bigelow returned the love by demonstrating a walking, behind-the-back-high-five. The Coaches and staff have been exclusively using this high-five ever since!
After a quick shoot-out on the Nike pitches, the group held a roundtable discussion about Coach Development. While rehydrating, delegates learned about how GRS equips its Coaches with the skills needed to enter the workforce or pursue higher education after their 2-year contract with GRS has ended. ONE delegates asked probing questions about everything from leadership roles for youth in townships to how GRS measures outcomes, and the Coaches spoke passionately about the work they do with GRS and how it’s changed their lives for the better.
GRS was excited and humbled to have ONE visit and spend a couple hours learning about how we are using the universal game of soccer to make a real impact in stopping the spread of HIV. Thanks for making it a great day, ONE!