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Norway Cup gives girls from Harare a chance to triumph
HARARE, Zimbabwe, 26 July 2007 - With all the confidence of a world-class soccer star, Omega Mpini, 13, shrugs off the compliments of her teammates and runs back into position. All eyes are on the young girl leaping several feet in the air, volleying the ball across the pitch. As they say in these parts: Goal!
Omega’s nickname is ‘Mboma’, in honour of Patrick Mboma, the all-time top goal-scorer for the Cameroonian national team. She is the star player on the Glenview Queens, a local girl’s soccer team which has won the right to represent Zimbabwe at the 35th annual Norway Cup in Oslo.
“I love soccer,” says Omega. “I love everything about it.”
The Norway Cup is a week-long football tournament made up of 1,500 youth teams from around the world. The Glenview Queens will not only battle for the title and make new friends but they'll also learn about HIV prevention.
“The day we qualified for the Norway Cup was the greatest,” Omega says. “We had proven that we played good football, but winning also meant we had learned about life, including HIV and AIDS.”
This is a rare opportunity for Omega and her teammates who come from a poor suburb of Harare. Like many of her teammates, Omega lost her parents to AIDS at a very early age.
“Sport improves health and teaches important lessons about respect, leadership and equality regardless of gender or natural ability,” says UNICEF Representative in Zimbabwe Dr. Festo Kavishe. “Using sport to combat HIV is an added and important element."
Harare's girls football team is part of the UNICEF-supported YES (Youth Education through Sport) ‘Kick AIDS Out’ programme. UNICEF has provided supply kits for the team, so the girls will have everything they need when they showcase their football talent in Norway. The Glenview Queens is one of 20-30 teams from underpriviledged areas whose trips are being supported by the Norway Olympics Committee and the Confederation of Sport.
“I feel very proud of my self to be the ambassador of Zimbabwe,” Omega says with a laugh.
An estimated 1.7 million people are living with HIV in Zimbabwe with 1.1 million children having been orphaned by the disease. In response to this, the YES programme in Zimbabwe as well as several other countries decided to add an extra challenge to their already skilled players. The Glenview Queens are going to the Norway Cup not only because they excel at football, but also because of the work they do in their community to encourage HIV/AIDS education and prevention.
“Irrespective of how they perform in Norway, Omega and her friends have already won a great victory,” says Dr. Kavishe. “Their orphaned lives of much hardship have been replaced by a sense of triumph in their young hearts and minds.”
Kyria Abrahams contributed to this story from New York.