Teenagers trade par­ty­ing shoes for soc­cer boots

Sunday News (Zimbabwe) - - Soccer Rugby Sport - Nh­lal­wenhle Ng­wenya

DUR­ING school hol­i­days when­ever teenagers get ex­cess free time they re­sort to Vuzu par­ties that ex­pose them to drugs, abuse and even STIs, but this is all set to change as Grass­root Soc­cer Zim­babwe has come up with ini­tia­tives to keep teenagers busy dur­ing hol­i­days through sport­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.

The hol­i­day cam­paign pro­gramme cur­rently has 200 boys and girls tak­ing part in the com­pe­ti­tion. Adopt­ing a two-thronged ap­proach dur­ing the matches and tour­na­ments that are held, par­tic­i­pants in the pro­gramme go through coun­selling, HIV test­ing and ed­u­ca­tion on drugs and sub­stance abuse.

The soc­cer train­ing progamme sets off on Mon­day to Fri­day where even some renowned foot­ball role mod­els come in to in­spire the teenagers to keep them en­gaged on the pro­gramme and they also get chances to do HIV quiz and friendly matches.

Through the aid of Na­tional Aids Coun­cil (Nac,) Grass­roots Soc­cer man­aged to keep the teenagers off the streets and at the same time giv­ing them a plat­form were they cre­ate aware­ness on sev­eral is­sues in­volv­ing HIV and reck­less be­hav­iour that leads to STIs trans­mis­sion.

Di­rec­tor of Grass­root Soc­cer Bekimpilo Moyo said that soc­cer was one of the best medi­ums to en­gage teenagers, es­pe­cially the girl child.

“We use soc­cer to cre­ate aware­ness and at the same time con­duct HIV test­ing and coun­selling dur­ing the matches. We also take that time to en­gage peo­ple who would have come to watch the games. The plat­form also of­fers the girl child a chance to play soc­cer,” said Moyo.

Moyo added that they de­cided to of­fer ado­les­cents this plat­form for HIV test­ing af­ter dis­cov­er­ing that teenagers shun hos­pi­tals due to stigma.

“Most teenagers avoid go­ing for HIV test­ing at hos­pi­tals and other test­ing points. As a re­sult we give them a plat­form with a friend­lier en­vi­ron­ment for them to come for HIV coun­selling and test­ing. Af­ter the matches those who would have de­cided to go for test­ing, do so as we have part­nered with Nac and also fam­ily plan­ning,” he said.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cer for Grass­roots soc­cer, Nom­pumelelo Bhebhe said they had a few chal­lenges but due to some of the statu­tory in­stru­ments pro­hib­ited teenagers from mak­ing their own de­ci­sions to test for HIV and hence they have to con­sult the par­ents for con­sent.

“The only prob­lem we face is that we can’t test teenagers be­low the age of 16 with­out the con­sent of their par­ents. As a re­sult they have to get the con­sent of their par­ents. This be­comes prob­lem­atic in a sit­u­a­tion whereby par­ents would have lied to their chil­dren and told them that they are tak­ing tablets for a cer­tain con­di­tion while they know that it’s for HIV,” she said.

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