Southern Times (Southern Africa) (01.25.13)
Ten years ago, former Highlanders player Tommy Clark and former Zimbabwe team captain Methembe Ndlovu launched Grassroot Soccer (GRS), an HIV/AIDS initiative that uses football/soccer to fight HIV/AIDS. The organization, headquartered in Cape Town, South Africa, now has an annual budget of approximately US $4.2 million and partners with organizations like the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
Clark, who spent many formative years living and playing soccer in Africa, decided to use the influence of African soccer players—who are heroes in their communities—as a way to break the silence surrounding HIV. He and Ndlovu met with community leaders, headmasters, and focus groups of children and teachers in Bulawayo and planned a pilot project that was launched in January 2003. They worked with a consultant to develop a culturally appropriate soccer-based curriculum and recruited and trained 14 professional men and women soccer players as HIV educators. Clark noted that his idea of GRS has grown from using professional African soccer players as HIV educators to mobilizing the global soccer community to fight the spread of HIV in many ways through a variety of partnerships and programs.
In 2007, GRS launched several community-based football-for-development programs across South Africa. Also, FIFA World Cup 2010 presented an opportunity for sport-for-development organizations like GRS to highlight soccer as an educational tool and raise the world’s awareness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. GRS has been successful using the sport as a tool for social development and has become a member of the street football world network and a strong contributor to the Football for Hope movement. GRS has managed the FIFA 20 Centres for 2010 Football for Hope Centre in Khayelitsha since December 2009, and in 2013 the organization will manage the newest Football for Hope Centre in Alexandra when it is completed.
FIFA has spent more than R59 million in projects, including the Football for Hope Centre, as part of the FIFA 2010 World Cup Legacy Trust, and has donated approximately R450 million to the FIFA 2010 World Cup Legacy Trust accounts. According to FIFA Secretary-General Jerome Valcke, “The trust was set up so that South African football and [nongovernmental organizations] dealing with community development through football can continue to be recipients of the FIFA World Cup’s financial reward on a long-term basis.” The trust provided funds for health and 24 projects to support basic and higher education studies, and to build capacity of current and future football administrators in South Africa. The board of the FIFA 2010 World Cup Legacy Trust has revealed that it has approved the first 973 beneficiaries.