The following is an excerpt from the article Elton John: ‘So many love this game, yet it is being taken from them’ published in The Independent on Dec. 1st, 2010.  Read the full article here.

Grace Lungu is 23-years-old and lives in Lusaka in Zambia. Like many people her age, she is passionate about football and loved watching the World Cup in the summer. She is also worried about HIV in her country, where half of all new infections come from people in her age group or younger. An organisation called Grassroot Soccer (GRS), offered her the chance to use her love of sport to do something about HIV prevention and gender equality.

GRS uses the power of football to provide young people, especially girls, with the knowledge, skills, and support to live HIV free. By using the dynamics of football – team spirit, relying on one another, trusting and following a coach – GRS builds trust and understanding that enables kids and their families to know their HIV status.

“I became a coach with Grassroot Soccer and this year I’ve started a girl’s soccer team in Lusaka, called Goal Girl Goal, with young women from the Chikumbuso Women and Orphans project, women who are especially vulnerable to HIV,” said Grace. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to make a unique contribution to the fight against HIV/Aids in Zambia.”

Grassroot Soccer uses the power of the game to educate, inspire, and mobilise communities to stop the spread of HIV. Over 350,000 young people in Africa have graduated from their HIV prevention programmes. In 2010 alone, GRS has enabled 10,000 young people to know their HIV status. Its goal is to educate a million on HIV between the 2010 and 2014 World Cup tournaments. The Elton John AIDS Foundation is helping it reach that goal.

The Grassroot Soccer programme also uses a video featuring Thierry Henry and Emmanual Adebayor that encourages kids to get tested for HIV.

“When I was asked by the Elton John AIDS Foundation to appear in a short film to encourage kids to get tested for HIV, I was only too delighted to help,’ says Henry. The Foundation and their partners, including GRS have helped to test thousands of young people in South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia and I am proud to support such a worthwhile cause.”