From the Kenyan Premier League to the fishing communities of Lake Victoria in Uganda, few organisations use football for wider social change as far across Africa than English charity TackleAfrica. Alex Lawson takes a look at how it’s making a difference.
TackleAfrica has one central goal - to reduce the prevalence of HIV in Africa.
It was formed by a group of volunteers with teaching experience in Africa in 2002 who realised kids paid most attention during football. That fact was used productively as 20 touring UK footballers helped educate 10-18 year olds in 14 countries across the continent where a part of TackleAfrica’s first project was to hand out condoms.
Realising this was a difficult model to sustain, in early 2007 the charity began to look at the way that football is taught, and started to design unique football coaching drills that contain HIV information within them.
TackleAfrica’s core work involves partnering with local organisations who range in size from tiny community-based projects to multi-million pound international NGOs with a focus on three year-Africa led training programmes. The charity works in six African countries, training around 400 coaches a year and reaching over 10,000 young people.
In the UK, the charity is upping its presence to increase its volunteers through social networking and building relationships with large donors and corporate companies, gaining praise from England women’s football team manager Hope Powell in the process.
“Football in Africa has an incredible significance and huge potential to change lives,” said Tom Colborne, head of fundraising and development at the charity.
“TackleAfrica see the role as the football coach within this context as hugely valuable – coaches often end up playing a huge number of social roles that go far beyond football, including surrogate parenting, counselling, health education, teaching and many more.
“Most African coaches have very little access to formal training, so hugely enjoy working with us and learning about how to develop players and keep them safe from HIV.”
Women’s football is among the fastest growing sports in Africa and the organisation has harnessed this by gaining a 20 per cent female participation, TackleAfrica partners work in a wide range of environments from large urban slums such as Mathare in Nairobi to very isolated rural areas.
“Our aim is not to improve football skills, but to improve HIV knowledge and positive behaviour – however we realise than in order for our work to be credible, we need to equip coaches with the right skills to develop talent amongst footballers,” added Colborne.
TackleAfrica’s greatest strength comes from working in partnership with African charity partners – adding sustainable value to successful existing projects. One of their biggest partners, Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA), has developed from a small community youth league to running football programmes for 20,000 young people in one of Africa’s biggest slums, contributing teams that have won the Kenyan Premeir League.
TackleAfrica’s partnership enables MYSA coaches to add HIV education into their football coaching sessions.
It has also garnered widespread praise for its annual event, The Football Marathon which is a 12-hour footballing endurance event, where teams raise money to participate in a London super-tournament. The event, and its women’s equivalent, have grown year on year from very humble beginnings – in 2002 it raised £250 with three team and this year 500 players completed 788 games of football in a single day, raising £140,000 in the process.
Colborne believes the 500-strong volunteer network, headed by two full time and two part time UK staff, as well as three staff based in Africa, can be expanded and integrate their coaches’ teachings into curricula and government legislation across Africa.
“We want to establish a fully self sufficient network of coaches in Africa that deliver regular HIV education through football coaching to huge numbers of young people,” said Colborne. An ambitious target then, but the foundations are very firmly in place.
For more details about TackleAfrica go to www.tackleafrica.org/
Tags: Community, Community Matters, HIV AIDS Awareness, HIV education, Mathare Youth Sports Association, TackleAfrica, The Football Marathon