In the past couple of weeks multiple news outlets covered the story about an all HIV-positive woman’s soccer team in Zimbabwe. They are using the sport as a unifying force given their circumstances (most are unemployed and/or are caring for children in addition to their health status).
The story of the ARV Swallows has been captured in the documentary, The Positive Ladies Soccer Club. You can find more information about the documentary at http://www.thepositiveladiessoccerclub.com.
The organization behind the documentary, Medecins Sans Frontieres, offers the following article about the team and the documentary. You can find the full article at http://www.msf.org/msfinternational/invoke.cfm?objectid=10906D09-15C5-F00A-251436BAAB76C651&component=toolkit.article&method=full_html, with an excerpt below.
You can find additional coverage at http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/11/19/positive.ladies.football.zimbabwe/index.html and at http://tinyurl.com/ydhyszu.
The Positive Ladies Soccer Club – An MSF documentary
A group of HIV ladies in one of the poorest township’s of Zimbabwe, Epworth, decide to form a football team. Women in Zimbabwe don’t usually play football and HIVpositive women are stigmatized so much that they are afraid to disclose their status even to close family members. This group of women has to overcome all this and find strength within themselves against great odds.
The film is about their football team, the ARV Swallows and focuses on the lives of four players. We hear their stories; follow them in their daily lives, in their visits to the clinic, to church, to practice and to the football games.
“They thought we were just playing games. They would laugh at us and say, ‘How can women play football? Will you be good at it? How can you sick people play soccer?’ “Meria Kabudura, winger.
The idea of an all-female team is laughed at by the local population. Men especially are very scornful at the idea of women playing football. And the first training sessions seem to prove that the men are right – the Swallows are hopeless and the coach walks off the training grounds in despair.
Team captain, Annafields is determined that ARV Swallows will be a success. She gives the team a pep talk which motivates the ladies and they start to training intensely even at their homes by themselves, with other team mates or even with their children. We follow their training regime and how they fit exercise and practice around all their other daily responsibilities.
But attending regular football practice is not easy for Meria. Her HIV positive husband is suffering from tuberculosis and needs daily injections over a period of two months at the local clinic. The only way for him to get to the clinic is for Meria to push him there in a wheelbarrow. Then she has to wheel him back from the clinic, find enough firewood so she can cook a meal for her family and take care of the children. After that, finding the energy to go to soccer practice is a real struggle, but her teammates won’t let her give up and, through their help, finds the strength to continue.
Defender Nyarai describes her HIV diagnosis as the saddest time in her life. Her neighbors advised her that it would be better if she took poison and killed herself. Being part of the team has provided her with support and given her a place to talk about her problems and seek comfort and advice.
“Even though we have the HIV virus, we are not AIDS victims Annafields Phiri,” team captain.
The women confront their situation with tenacity, determination and above all, joy. Despite their difficulties they sing, dance and cheer.
(The article continues at http://www.msf.org/msfinternational/invoke.cfm?objectid=10906D09-15C5-F00A-251436BAAB76C651&component=toolkit.article&method=full_html)