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Archive for the ‘United Against Malaria’ Category

Posted by Todd Jennings, MACEPA Communications Officer 

Pre-match greetings

Football (soccer) is a living, breathing force on this continent.  Mobile phones buzz with match day updates and the final whistle releases a rain of text messages on opposing fans.  From the playground to the pub, you can ignite a heated discussion by claiming the brilliance of Messi bests that of Rooney or Ronaldo.  In Zambia, the loudest political headlines is an analogy from the beautiful game: for example, a Catholic priest has begun a movement to show a red card to the government.  Just as a red card ejects a footballer from the pitch, this effort—which includes the now illegal act of flashing red cards during public rallies—encourages voters to remove the current government in the next election.

Zambian Minister of Health Simbao, wearing a World Malaria Day t-shirt

That’s why tapping a force like football makes so much sense.  The United Against Malaria campaign seeks to fight the fever of malaria with the fever of football.  Today we saw that in action as the Minister of Health, Kapembwa Simbao, captained a soccer team against a mighty opponent: former stars from the national team, the Chipolopolo Boys.  Zambia did not qualify for the World Cup in South Africa but Simbao rallied his squad, saying today’s match was “our World Cup”.  His halftime speech—to a team of business leaders, musicians and partners including USAID and UNICEF—was persuasive but it wasn’t enough to overcome quality football by the Chipolopolo Boys.  Minister Simbao did lead by example, however, converting a penalty kick with a cracking shot into the back of the net.  Why did the referee award a kick from the spot?  Because of a penalty that resulted in a red card.  

Little girls holding United Against Malaria soccer balls

A former star was sent off the pitch and while the crowd laughed at the connection to the political debate, it wasn’t hard to take the analogy one step further. From inspiring political leadership to inspiring families to make sure their children sleep under a bednet at night, Zambia is united against malaria—and the country is working together to show malaria a red card.

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