The Footballers Union of Zimbabwe (FUZ) in partnership with the President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) commemorated World AIDS Day with a soccer tournament in Mhondoro on Saturday 30 November 2013. A total of six schools participated at the tournament – St Michael’s Mhondoro, Kaponda Secondary School, DondoShava Secondary School, Chinove Secondary School and the hosts, St Oswald’s Zimhindi Secondary School. FUZ members officiated and commissioned the tournament. These were HardlifeZvirekwi, Maxwell Nyamupangedengu, Marvel Samaneka, Ashley Rambanapasi, Evans Gwekwerere, Lawrence Mapuya and PartsonJaure.
The teams were divided into two pools with Pool A comprising St Oswald’s, Kaponda and DondoShava, while Pool B had Nyika, St Michael’s and Chinove. Games were played on a round robin basis with the two top teams from each group qualifying for the semi-finals. Pool A sent Kaponda and St Oswald’s to meet with St Michael’s and Nyika from Pool B respectively.
Having won the semi-finals, St Oswald’s battled for honours against a determined St Michael’s Mhondoro. The final was nothing less than intriguing as both teams kept each other on their toes with a brilliant showcase of football. The game ended 1 all and headed straight to a penalty shootout which was won by St Michael’s 10-9.
THE PREMIER SOCCER PLAYERS
The Premier Soccer League footballers took this time out to interact with young footballers from Mhondoro district. They took off their playing boots and took charge of the proceedings as referees and match commissioners throughout the tournament. During half time of each game, the PSL players gathered the playing teams and conducted quizzes on HIV/AIDS and presented prizes to those who gave correct answers. They also shared information about the pandemic which the youngsters were not aware of and added to the knowledge that they already had whilst also answering to various questions.
The presence of the players served as an inspiration to the participants and also as a time for joy for the fans who had never seen their football idols in person. The players made use of their celebrity status to act as role models to the community and their presence in Mhondoro ensured that a huge crowd attended the tournament to watch the proceedings and to also have a chance to chat with and have autographs signed by the PSL players.
Maxwell Nyamupangedengu from Harare City FC had this to say, “It is always great to meet with kids in the rural areas and I am sure our presence inspired them to work hard at soccer and grow up to be like established players. HIV/AIDS is a global crisis and I am proud to be one of the players who ispart of this project as it not only benefits me as an individual but the youngsters I interact with. I have realised that information is limited in rural areas and we need to keep spreading the message to the marignalised parts of our country. I feel a sense of responsibility to the younger generation and it makes me proud to be an HIV ambassador through Footballers Union of Zimbabwe.”
PartsonJaure from Dynamos FC said that he was happy to have met football fans in Mhondoro and to see how high the passion for football is in the rural area. “I have seen that soccer is a universal sport although it hurt me to see that most of the participants played the game barefooted despite their clear passion for the game. It was very inspiring to talk to youngsters about HIV and AIDS, and there was no better way to reach out to them except through sport.”
Marvel Samaneka conceded that he had a great day and said that it was encouraging that kids learnt a lot about HIV while at the same time displayed their talent during the tournament. Evans Gwekwerere described the day as wonderful citing that the HIV program is marvellous as it has helped to reach out to Zimbabweans through soccer. He added that he was quite happy and impressed by the fact that the youngsters were attentive during the discussions.
Caps United right back and 2013 soccer star of the year finalist, HardlifeZvirekwi, mentioned that the tournament took him back many years when he was young and had no idea that one day he would be among the best players in Zimbabwe. He felt overwhelmed that the participant saw him as an idol as they were eager to speak to him during the day and paid attention to him as he officiated their games and when he shared information about HIV and AIDS with them.
The Half Time Talk Tournament in Mhondoro was the fourth that FUZ has held in partnership with PEPFAR. Previous tournaments were held at Prince Edward School in March 2012, Highfield and Chitungwiza in September 2012. 2013 saw the tournaments being moved outside the Harare metropolitan area as one was held in Sakubva, Mutare, in October 2013 with the Mhondoro tournament marking the 2013 World AIDS Day commemorations on the 30th of November.
The 2013 theme for World AIDS Day – “Shared Responsibility: Strengthening Results for an AIDS-Free Generation,” was befitting the tournament with prominent footballers taking time to go into a rural community to interact with players and fans through sport while sharing vital information concerning the pandemic.