Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"Kom Manne!!! Kom By Die Soccer Veld!": World AIDS Day Hits Richmond

Today, 1 December, is World AIDS Day. Anna and I wanted to do something big for Grassroot Soccer's operations in Richmond, so we came up with the "World AIDS Day Richmond Dream-Team Match Up." The idea was based around a soccer match of 2 or 3 of the best soccer players drawn from each of Richmond's 9 men's teams. That would give us around 27 players, or enough for 2 full squads and reserves. We would give the players some cool Grassroot Soccer jerseys to play in and keep, and at halftime they would go through some GRS HIV education activities. Meanwhile, tons of fans would come to the event (lured by the prospect of the answer to the question: "What would happen if the best players from our town were all put on the same field and had a clash of the titans?" as well as a prize raffle involving bags of candy, soccer balls, and a World Cup 2010 t-shirt).

We did much of our event advertising by driving around every street in Richmond (not hard), blasting rap music, shouting at people with a megaphone borrowed from the local ANC office and having a bunch of coaches and kids wave the prizes around in the air. Shouts of "Kom! Kom Vandag By Die Soccer Veld!!!" could be heard from here to...a ways that way into the desert.

The "staging area" before the match. We had a dream of an English Premier League-style opening ceremony where the players walk out onto the field holding the hands of cute little kids dressed up in mini jerseys who get to have their dreams come true by holding some mega star's hand for 15 seconds. Johan the Policeman is no Wayne Rooney, but the effect was really cool and the crowd went wild.

These are the two "Dream Teams" lined up before the match. Saddam called out each player by name and acknowledged his normal team in town. Different cadres of fans who support each of Richmond's men's teams could be heard cheering for their favorite players. Pretty cool. You could see it meant a lot to the players to get such special celebrity treatment.

A picture we took with all the players, our (hand-made!) banner, and the massive crowd that showed up for the event.

The players doing GRS games at halftime. This is "Risk Field," a cone slalom relay race where each cone is labeled with a different risk factor for getting HIV/AIDS (e.g. unprotected sex, multiple sexual partners, drug/alcohol abuse). At the same time, we had the whole crowd doing a GRS classic called "Find the Ball." Somehow 400 people playing a modified version of the game made it so much better than ever before.

Overall, an amazing event and day in general. Pretty cool to see a huge portion of the town participate in the event, not to mention a lot of our soccer-playing friends on the various teams.

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