PRotect The Goal, a football–based HIV/AIDS prevention programme that aims to help tackle the risk of transmission among young people, received overwhelming support throughout Southeast Asia, culminating in grand fashion at the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup Final recently.
With the objective of harnessing the power of football to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS among youngsters, the one-of-a-kind campaign garnered tremendous support, reaching new milestones.
First launched at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, it largely contributes to the progress of reducing the rate of new HIV infections, which is critical to reversing the epidemic globally.
In Southeast Asia, the Protect the Goal campaign scaled new heights within a short span of time thanks to the joint initiative and efforts of the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Asian Football Confederation (AFC), Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Asean Football Federation (AFF).
Following the groundbreaking at the AFC headquarters in Kuala Lumpur in May last year, AFC deputy general secretary Datuk Windsor Paul John announced the explicit support of all its Southeast Asian affiliates in promoting the campaign, namely in the Philippines, Myanmar, Cambodia and Malaysia.
The campaign builds upon the commitment such as the Millennium Development Goals and the 10 targets endorsed at the United Nations General Assembly 2011 political declaration on HIV/AIDS; as well as the vision of obtaining zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.
In Malaysia, the campaign kicked off in August last year with a football coaching clinic at the Kuala Lumpur Johan Cruyff Court in Brickfields, spreading its wings around schools in the city and the Klang Valley.
Malaysian national team and Armed Forces defender, K. Reuben, has been leading the campaign by giving talks on HIV prevention to youngsters between the ages of 10 and14 during these sessions.
An estimated 1,500 children gained knowledge in the 12 Protect the Goal campaigns held in Malaysia.
The programme also received support from the Malaysian AIDS Council and AFC, who were actively involved in all the coaching clinics.
“Overall, I feel this campaign is important to everyone in the community regardless of age, gender and race,” said Reuben.
“It is really great to see so many schoolchildren involved in Protect the Goal campaign with football coaching clinics as a form of platform to educate our youngsters on HIV/AIDS.
“Their love and passion for football inspires me to do what I do best. Parents and teachers must also work hand-in-hand to ensure that the lessons learnt in each session are also practiced at home and at school,” he added.
Parents and teachers were also present at the respective venues to support the campaign.
Sri Utama International School principal Neil Creek lauded the campaign for its approach – intertwining HIV/AIDS awareness with football.
“The interesting thing about ‘Protect the Goal’ is the way it is approached. Kids need to know the perils of HIV/AIDS. To see Reuben here, promoting a healthy lifestyle, the importance of staying fit and using football as a vehicle to get this message across, it really sets a good example for our students here,” said Creek.
Echoing Creek’s thoughts was SK (L) Jalan Batu Parent-Teacher Association chairman Mohd Rashdan Abd Rashid, who was just too pleased to watch secondary students, both boys and girls, learning from the experience here.
“This is something new and I am very excited with ‘Protect the Goal’ campaign. It’s an educational programme which coincides with the football coaching clinic. Our kids get the best of both,” said Rashdan.