A new Médecins Sans Frontières documentary, is about a remarkable football team.
A group of HIV positive women in Epworth, one of the poorest townships in Zimbabwe, decided to form a football team. They were an unlikely group; like many places women in Zimbabwe don’t usually play football. In addition, HIV positive women in Zimbabwe also face severe stigma and many are afraid to disclose their status even to close family members. This documentary shows the women’s struggle to find strength within themselves and as a team as they face great odds.
The film The Positive Ladies Soccer Club is the story of their football team, the ARV Swallows (ARV stands for antiretroviral; the drugs used to treat HIV), and focuses on the lives of four players. The documentary allows viewers to hear their stories and follow them in their daily lives, in their visits to the clinic, to church, to practice and to the football games.
Initially, the idea of a women’s team is laughed at by the local population. The local men in particular are scornful of the idea and at their first training session it seems that they may be proven right – the Swallows are hopeless and their coach leaves the field in despair.
Attending regular football practice is not easy for Meria, one of the subjects of the documentry. Her HIV positive husband is suffering from TB and needs daily injections at the local clinic over a period of two months. The only way for him to get to the clinic is for Meria to push him there in a wheelbarrow. She then has to wheel him back, find firewood and can cook for her family. Finding the energy to go to soccer practice is a real struggle, but her teammates won’t let her give up and, with their help, she finds the strength to continue.
“Even though we have the HIV virus, we are not AIDS victims” (Annafields Phiri, team captain)
All the Swallows have overcome difficulties including a lack of skill with a football. The movie follows China who becomes so ill that she is near death. China’s dedication and strength shine through when she discovers her husband is promiscuous and she chases him away. Her position as the team striker has given her a sense of pride.
“I have to score a goal, I have to score a goal. Our team has to win. We will show the whole world. They will never look down on us again!” Annafields, tournament final while the score is 1-1.