In Maputo, Mozambique’s capital, a field of 20 agile aspiring footballers from HIV programmes run by Medecins Sans Frontieres / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) did their best in recent weeks to impress selectors and secure their participation in the HALFTIME five-a-side tournament in Johannesburg in neighbouring South Africa on July 2.
The Mambinhas soccer team. Photo: MSF
But only six have earned the right to call themselves “Mambinhas”. These three men and three women have taken their inspiration from the lightning fast venomous tree-dwelling mamba snake from which the Mozambican national football squad, the Mambas, also derives its name.
Mambinha’s team captain, Joaquim Mutola, was diagnosed HIV positive in 2007. He says that MSF’s HALFTIME is an opportunity to give a voice to people living with HIV in Southern African region, and should inspire those who are afraid to live openly with their HIV positive status while reminding the world that the fight against HIV is not over.
“The main motivation is to show that HIV positive people can do what HIV negative people do in life thanks to ARV treatment,’’ says Joaquim.
Joaquim and the Mambinah’s are ready to show the world what they can do. Every Saturday the Mambinahs meet to train together to improve their football skills because they want to win all the games during HALFTIMEwhen will play alongside five other teams from Southern Africa!
“All the players are very motivated and we aim to score three goals against HIV and AIDS in each game we play,” says Florência Tamele, Mambinha player and spokesperson. Florência was confirmed HIV positive in 2008. She has been married for 13 years.
“Joining HALFTIME is our contribution to break the silence about HIV,” says Florência.
Joaquim says the team feel it’s a big responsibility to represent Mozambican people living with HIV through participating in HALFTIME: “With this opportunity we will tell the world that Mozambique also suffers from HIV and AIDS and that more needs to be done to fight the epidemic.”
- Abilio Cossa MSF Information, Education and Communication Officer Maputo, Mozambique