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June 23, 2010

A Night Game

By Cynara Vetch

Tonight we drove out from Salima in the dark through miles of long yellow grass and villages. There was no electricity off the main road, the kiosks were lit up by little oil lamps and fires glowed outside the huts.

We followed our partners from the Society for Women and AIDS in Malawi (SWAM) and the Salima AIDS Support Organisation (SASO). They had piled huge speakers into the back of their pick up and pumped out music, encouraging people to come and join the screening with their megaphone.

When we swept onto the village pitch crowds of children followed us and danced in the beam of the headlights, kicking up swirls of dust around them. However as soon as the screen was up and the projector on they crowded round in rapt attention. Solomon from SWAM and Chiyembekezo of SASO led the HIV activities playing a One Love video about infidelity in relationships and then quizzed the crowd about what they’d learnt.

As the activities carried on more and more people arrived. Bikes were stacked in long rows behind the audience and some children set up a mandazi stand at the back.

Hassan Juda had cycled an hour and a half to get to the screening after he heard SWAM and SASO’s announcements. He’s a welder working in South Africa but left due to the xenophobic violence last year. He told me “I have come to learn something and watch the game. People are dying like cockroaches here. I love to beach around, I have girlfriends in Nigeria, Malawi and South Africa but I always protect myself.” Hassan’s father died of AIDS when he was 12 and he had to leave school to look after his 9 brothers and sisters he said “I was young but to them I was a man, I went and I searched for work.” He’s now 26 and his mother has married again leaving him free to support himself and follow football.

There was bright moon, which lit up the field and we settled down to a fantastic match with lots of chances for both Ghana and Germany. Germany scored in the first five minutes of the second and then things got very exciting as Ghana desperately tried to get one more goal and get back on an even footing.

We were sad that Ghana didn’t manage a goal but they will go through to the next round with Germany, so we have at least one African team still in the tournament. SASO announced this as we were packing up and the crowd and a excited and noisy crowd scattered into the night.

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