By Charles Tjatindi
In a move to raise awareness on HIV and AIDS, three former Namibian national team players last week undertook public HIV tests, becoming the first local soccer players to do so.
The three, midfield maestros Johannes Congo Hindjou, Sylvester Lolo Goraseb and ace goal minder Denzyl Bruwer, took their tests here last Friday, hoping to lure more soccer players and fans to testing centers to get tested.
The trio are ambassadors of the NawaSport programme, an initiative that aims to reach out to young men with information on HIV and AIDS prevention.
The programme, which is administered by the NawaLife Trust, a local NGO that focuses on HIV and AIDS prevention and mitigation, reaches young men through soccer and other life skills activities. These activities focus on imparting invaluable information on staying safe from HIV infection. It also tackles issues pertaining to peer pressure, abstinence and the risks of alcohol abuse, amongst others.
The NawaSport programme imparts vital skills pertaining to HIV and AIDS mitigation which include critical thinking, communication, self-esteem and decision-making. In addition to these skills, the programme involves and covers issues relating to stigma, living with HIV and treatment.
As ambassadors of the programme, the former Brave Warriors players tour the country to promote the programme through a NawaSport Street Tournament, or Street Squad as it is affectionately referred to.
This is an event that sees street soccer teams registering to play against each other on a round robin basis, utilizing basic rules of street soccer where the absence of a referee calls for complete fairness and camaraderie during games.
Decisions during matches therefore rely on the honesty and sense of fair play of the players concerned. It is at these tournaments that vital information on HIV and AIDS is disseminated to especially young people who flock to such events.
One such tournament was held last Saturday at Kuisebmond, Walvis Bay. This is the sixth presentation of such an event. The last one was held at Ondangwa in January.
Hindjou, who is best remembered for his attacking style of play in ‘center park’, noted that given the active life of a soccer player, exposure to HIV and AIDS is high, which requires regular testing.
“As a soccer player, you stay away from home for quite some time during international appearances. Sometimes, one is tempted to seek company and you never know what could happen,” he said.
He urged others to follow suit and get tested, saying it is always better to know one’s HIV status. His former club and Brave Warriors’ teammate, Bruwer, could not agree with him more.
“Soccer players are role models and fans, especially the young ones, would follow what we do. It is therefore better to portray a positive image so that they can learn only good things from you,” he said.
Goraseb feels that given the irresponsible life led by many young people, it is better to get tested for HIV. This will give them an insight into their lifestyles.
“You cannot t keep putting off an HIV test forever. Sooner or later, you would have to face it. It’s always better to know your status as it puts you in a better position to adjust your means of life to your test results,” he noted.
The Brave Warriors former teammates will be engaged to the NawaSport programme for at least a year, a period that will see them promote fair play on and off the field – the theme of the NawaSport programme.