red logoWith the eyes of the global soccer community fixed on Khayelitsha, South Africa, the December 5 Football for Hope Centre opening was prime opportunity for debuting Grassroot Soccer’s exciting new programming concept and communications initiative for 2010, the Red Card campaign. On the eve of the World Cup in South Africa, the campaign endeavors to make the infamous symbol for poor behavior on the pitch a powerful, unifying signifier for zero tolerance for the risky behaviors that lead to HIV.

As part of Grassroot Soccer’s HIV prevention curriculum, the Red Card is a reaffirmation of the organization’s commitment to finding new ways to connect with young people and combat the spread of HIV. During the activity “Risk Field,” which was demonstrated at the Football for Hope Centre opening for an audience of soccer and political dignitaries, the local community, and international press, the Red Card reinforced the theme of the activity — knowing and averting the leading risk factors for HIV transmission, like multiple partners and cross-generational sex. Each time a cone representing a risk factor was dribbled into, the Red Card was shown and the participant did a push-up. While fun and engaging, the Red Card and an activity like Risk Field are proven and powerful tools for driving home the severity of the threat of HIV. In the early phases of the campaign, Grassroot Soccer will integrate the Red Card into other curriculum activities focused on both boys and girls.

A skillz participant wears one of our new "Give HIV the Red Card" t-shirts and hats.

A SKILLZ participant wears some of our new "Give HIV the Red Card" apparel.

As Grassroot Soccer co-founder and Managing Director Kirk Friedrich explains, “With all the great events happening in South Africa, I can’t imagine a better time to mobilize the nation behind the Red Card as a means to inspire dialogue and discussion about this difficult topic. We believe the Red Card can become an enduring symbol of the fight against HIV and help change behaviors and save lives.”

As a communications platform, the campaign is a call to the like-minded to join in Grassroot Soccer’s goal to educate 1 million youth through its programming by 2014. As an organization whose impact on over 300,000 lives in 13 African countries is owed to partnerships and collaboration, Grassroot Soccer will open up the campaign to key strategic partners in order to expand the campaign’s reach and impact. Through such collaborations, the Red Card will be increasingly visible as the World Cup 2010 draws nearer.