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Grassroot Soccer – ‘Educate, inspire and mobilize to stop the spread of HIV’

Every day, more than 7000 people become infected with HIV. Young people are those hardest hit by AIDS, yet they are also the greatest force of change! Grassroot Soccer, which is active in more than 20 countries all over the world, has understood this.  By linking soccer with prevention of HIV, this organization helps boys and girls to do life-saving decisions. Buntu Kwanina, Community Project Coordinator of the Cape Town branch, transmits us his passion for Grassroot Soccer and helps us to understand how it works. 

Interview conducted in February 2014. 

 Buntu Kwinana, Community Project Coordinator of Grassroot Soccer

Buntu Kwinana, Community Project Coordinator of Grassroot Soccer

SparkTour Africa:  Which problems Grassroot Soccer wants to solve?

Buntu Kwinana, Community Project Coordinator of Grassroot Soccer: Grassroot Soccer has a focus which is HIV and AIDS, using the soccer as a tool. However, it is a diverse organization which focuses also on eliminating all the social issues that affect the young: gender-based violence, alcohol abuse, lack of sporting activities, lack of education and activities which inspire youth.


Why using soccer as a tool for social change?

In Africa and mostly in South Africa, everyone knows soccer! For most of the youth, it is their number one sport in which they feel related to. It is quite easy to introduce soccer because everyone will join as they know and understand it, and we found an opportunity to educate them about all these issues that affect them.

‘In Africa and mostly in South Africa, everyone knows soccer!’


How does the organization works?

We work in different ways. One of them is primary schools and high schools where we have a tailor-made curriculum specific on sport initiative. We also have program for girls, called the ‘Skillz street program’, facilitated by our feminine facilitators. So, we have a range of those programs and most of them are operated in schools all around Western Cape and South Africa.

… and you also organize HIV tournaments?

Yes! It is one of our initiatives to raise awareness about HIV testing. It is a one day tournament where we invite teams from all around the community of Khayelitsha (note: the biggest township of Cape Town). Each team gains points when it wins a game, and also when one member of team goes to the HIV test! It might sound tricky, but it is for their own benefit. We also invite testing partners and government stakeholders into the community during these events.

‘[During HIV tournaments], each team gains points when it wins a game, and also when one member of team goes to the HIV test!’


Grassroot Soccer was created in 2002; it arrived in Cape Town in 2008. What are the main results that you are proud of?

I am proud of Grassroot Soccer being able to see a gap in Khayelitsha. I mean being able to assess the community and find out social issues or challenges for these people. Grassroot Soccer was able to reach out to many organizations, many funders, and many trusting partners. Thanks to that this beautiful center was created to facilitate the work of our programs.


Could you give three words to define the spirit of Grassroot Soccer?

Educate, inspire and mobilize to stop the spread of HIV!


Personally, why did you decide to become a community project coordinator in Cape Town?

Going back from the days when I was a coach in 2010 before joining Grassroot Soccer, immediately I felt in love with this organization. I always wanted to be at a more leadership level where I can be able to see the talent in the community, and be able to shape up the talent… and then let them out there to spread the world! I always saw myself as one of those people who train the others and make sure that they really find their purpose in life. Joining Grassroot Soccer is a fulfillment in life. Now I know, this is where is want to be.

‘Joining Grassroot Soccer is a fulfillment in life.’

A lot of South African young people want to embark on an entrepreneurial adventure to help society. Could you give them one advice?

It is the right direction that they are going towards. If they have entrepreneurship and realize that there is a need in their community, they will be able to turn a business into saving lives! I think that is a great initiative they want to embark on. My advice would be: believe in what you want to achieve, and always have at the back of your mind that everything is possible. That is entrepreneurship.

‘Always have at the back of your mind that everything is possible.’


How do you see Grassroot Soccer in 10 years?

Apart from being a great organization, I have a feel that in Cape Town, Grassroot Soccer could be able to open up other sites as well. For example, the community of Ghuguletu where I come from doesn’t have such a center and all these programs. I would love to see Grassroot Soccer taking that direction in the next ten years.


A last word?

Hopefully, within the next 10 years, we might meet again, and it will be a different story, how the changes that I have wanted to see would have happen!

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