The all-star Brazil football squad entered the 2010 FIFA World Cup as early favourites to make it to the finals and hope to lift the golden trophy. And similarly in Médecins Sans Frontieres / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) upcoming HALFTIME! tournament in South Africa sees a strong Zimbabwean team as one of the top contenders to take home the title five days before the kick-off here in Newtown Park, Johannesburg on 2 July.
The ARV Swallows, an all female football team from the Epworth township near Harare are coming to South Africa with an impressive track record – they have won the HIV women’s league championship in their home country and are motivated to take victory in on Friday as well. HALFTIME! and the tournament featuring people living with HIV and MSF staff from four countries in Southern Africa in an effort to raise awareness on the continued battle for funding to fight HIV/AIDS. The tournament sees six football teams playing matches to raise the alarm about the ongoing HIV/AIDS emergency.
The ARV Swallows formed in 2009 when a group of HIV positive women, all seeking treatment at an MSF clinic in Epworth decided to form a football team to take on two stereotypes: that HIV is a death sentence and that women cannot play football.
This year, the ARV Swallows find themselves taking on a different challenge – to spread the message that the HIV/AIDS emergency is not over and HIV treatment funding needs to be secured. In order to do this they have had to make some changes. They have reduced the team from 11 to five players and they have had to draft a man into their ranks, their coach Jonas Kapakasa, as an additional member to meet the mixed gender requirement for teams to participate in HALFTIME!
And China is also going to play in this Zimbabwean team, too... A multinational team? No, no, no… “China” is the nickname of Janet Mpalume, the ARV Swallows’ star striker!
It has been Janet’s dream to play football abroad and this week her dream comes true when she and her team mates take to the HALFTIME! pitch in Johannesburg along with five other teams.
“We are training as hard as we can and I believe that we are going to beat the other teams. Playing soccer makes me feel like I am alive. It allows me to feel like I am valued and that I am seen amongst other people,” Janet says.
They clearly have the guts and determination, but will they be able to fend off challenges by countrymen the OI Bombers, Swaziland’s HIV Conquerors, Mozambique’s lightning fast Mambinhas, and the South African hopefuls, Siyaphila and Fluconazole Pirates?
We’ll have to wait and see if the ARV Swallows team will be victorious again. Visit the tournament in Johannesburg on Friday, or if you can’t make it find out more about the teams and the tournament here www.msf-halftime.info.
For more information on ARV Swallows visit www.thepositiveladiessoccerclub.com
- PK Lee, MSF Communications Officer