National News

Soccer for health education

2010-06-30 20:08
Children playing football
Children playing football
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Johannesburg - Football will be used to boost health education in Africa through a programme developed by FIFA, its medical assessment and research centre chairperson Professor Jiri Dvorak said on Wednesday

The "Eleven for Health" programme would disseminate key health information, including the HIV/Aids prevention message, in a football setting, Dvorak said.

He said studies had shown it was possible to implement football-based health messages.

The programme emphasised exercising by practising football skills at least three times a week.

It used football to send value-based messages such as respect for girls and women and attached famous footballers such as Thierry Henry to each message to reach the largest number of children.

Other messages also included avoiding drugs and alcohol, preventing malaria, hygiene, promoting a balanced diet and playing fair.

Dvorak said African Union chairperson Bingu wa Mutharika, the President of Malawi, would visit FIFA president Sepp Blatter in coming weeks to discuss the possibility of implementing the programme in African countries.

The Mauritian government planned to implement the programme next year.

Lasting legacy

The health programme was the cornerstone of FIFA's "Win in Africa with Africa" initiative.

The $70m initiative was aimed at leaving a lasting legacy in Africa after the first World Cup held on the continent.

FIFA director of member associations and development division Thierry Regenass said it was important that the World Cup in South Africa benefited the whole continent and that its legacy included football development.

There were about 50 million football players on the continent, of which three million were registered. The continent also had "huge talents", with the best often exported to European sides.

Problems on the continent were a lack of proper infrastructure and management.

The initiative would develop infrastructure and build the capacity of local football associations.

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