Fighting HIV through the power of Soccer

BIG NEWS!

Less than one year ago I made a decision to change the course of my life, to leave a prosperous business career behind in order to do what I really want. I moved to the south of Sweden to pursue studies in International Development and Management on master level. Soon, phase two of that change begins!

In the end of July this year, I will move further south on the journey towards finding meaning in my life and doing what I truly want. Over the course of 12 months, to begin with, I will live in Cape Town, South Africa. There, I will work together with the fantastic organization Grassroot Soccer to fight and prevent HIV/AIDS with the power of football.

The engagement with Grassroot Soccer is part of my master program and I will merge my academic tasks with the operations of the organization. Resulting in a set of reports tied to organizational development and management as well as a research project that will be the basis for my master thesis.

Grassroot Soccer takes active part in changing the lives of thousands of youth in southern Africa and in the process are re-shaping the field of development by using the power of sports as a catalyst for tackling development issues. This relatively new branch within development is called “Sports for Development and Peace” and has just recently been recognized as a field for research and as a method for development. To be part of and contribute to this movement is a true privilege for me. Merging my interest for sports, and football in particular, with development and helping people in need comes a very long way in fulfilling my personal requirements for “doing what you love”. Moving to Cape Town, what is said to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world does not make things worse!

A new chapter in my life is about to begin and I will share it with all of you. Here you can read all about my preparations before moving, and come with me to Cape Town and live the experience with me!

 

http://www.grassrootsoccer.org

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New position added on LinkedIn

Woop woop – when only two more days remains before I leave Sweden, first for Hanover NH for introduction/orientation, and then to Cape Town, I figured it was time to tell the professional world about my new engagement – “Combating the further spread of HIV/AIDS”.

About a week ago, I published an article on LinkedIn about why I believe telling the world what it is you do is more important than telling the world what your title is. Since then, I changed all my “titles” on LinkedIn to a short statement about what it is that I do/have done in the title field, moving the title to the summary instead. Here is my new position:

 

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Double tragedy as flight MH17 carried top HIV/AIDS researchers and activists

The downing of Malaysian Airlines number 17 last week was a sad day for HIV/AIDS researchers, public-health workers, activists, and society at large following the news that the flight was carrying 100 passengers traveling to the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia as reported by TIME today. Among the passengers were some of the world’s top researchers within the field of HIV/AIDS and the loss of their passion, drive, and knowledge about the topic cannot be given any numeric value because it was truly invaluable.

Although this tragedy have the potential to significantly affect and stall the progress within HIV/AIDS treatment we cannot become demoralized by it. We must continue and intensify our efforts to both stop the spread of HIV/AIDS and provide adequate support to those already affected to enable them to lead the lives they want and deserve. If anything, the circumstances in which this double tragedy of the plane crash itself and the consequences to the HIV/AIDS community came about should further unite us in this cause!

HIV/AIDS is a 100% preventable disease and no more people need be affected by it. Let’s stop the spread of this disease now and make it history. On July 30, my contribution to this cause begins, will you join me in doing something?

Self-Efficacy can be enhanced through Sports, leading to sustained behavioral change

Is the above statement true? And if so, how does sport work to enhance self-efficacy in individuals, what are the underlying mechanisms causing this change in behavior? These are some of the main questions of my research to be conducted in South Africa together with Grassroot Soccer (GRS). Tying this further to the the overall development imperative of a generation believing that they can achieve whatever they set out to do. Although GRS works towards the noble and very important cause of preventing HIV/AIDS infection in adolescents it does so by, in part, embedding social cognitive theory methods within their programs. The outcome, then, could have wider implications than preventing HIV/AIDS alone, but empowering a generation by making them believe in themselves, by enhancing their self-efficacy.

To get up to speed with the concepts of self-efficacy and social cognitive theory (SCT) I am currently reading a lot of the great works of Albert Bandura, the “father” of SCT. In parallel, I am also catching up on theories on Sport-in-Development and previous studies connecting Sports with public health issues, particularly HIV/AIDS prevention. There is not a whole lot written on this and particularly not from a social scientist’s perspective taking a different view on the issue, applying the lens of critical realism to the questions at hand. I am very excited about going ahead with this – in 18 days, my journey begins. But until then, more reading needs to be done coupled with the final preparations before my trip!

Stay tuned – this blog will become more and more alive in the upcoming weeks and once I am in South Africa, it will be one of the main channels through where I express my thoughts and experiences!

Albert Bandura

albert-bandura

 

WC Special #2 – The Spanish Meltdown in Salvador

Already two days into the World Cup the finalists from South Africa 2010 were set for a rerun game. Was Spain to prove their worth and win once more against Holland, or would the dutch get their revenge? Well – revenge they got, and what a revenge!

The first half ended in equal scoring but with Spain looking slightly stronger having more ball possession and opportunities than their opponents. But the late (but fantastic) equalizer by Van Persie in the first half marked the rise of the “Orangie” and the fall of the “Rioja”. Second half was all about Holland – ALL! 5-1 could have been more, it was… humiliation!

The question is, will Spain be able to recover from this and still advance from the group? Suddenly – Chile looks like a very difficult task for a scarred Spanish team. And the harmony between the Barcelona midfielders and Diego Costa does not seem to be there, yet. Will Casillas rise after yesterday’s fatal mistakes? Many questions are asked, but no answers provided. Being Vincente Del Bosque, the Spanish coach, today is probably not an easy task. Who knows, maybe this marked the end of a fantastic era for the Spanish national team, or maybe they will rise above the task and show they still got what it takes to go far in the WC. Time will tell – very soon!

Here are some of the headlines from Spanish press – the words are not very friendly:

El Pais – “A Global Meltdown”

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El Mundo – “Ridiculed” 

Skärmavbild 2014-06-13 kl. 23.57.42

 

La Vanguardia – “Netherlands humiliating revenge”

Skärmavbild 2014-06-14 kl. 09.59.24

ABC – “Robben annihilates Spain”

Skärmavbild 2014-06-14 kl. 10.00.13

WC Special #1 – The Opening Game

This is the first post of a series of posts about the FIFA World Cup 2014 games alternated with development issues related to the World Cup!


THE greatest party of this year kicked-off in São Paolo, Brazil yesterday. The host nation stood against Croatia in the opening game that turned out to have a bit of everything in a stadium not fully completed yet. Expectations on the Brazilian team were of course massive and one could feel the importance of this game right through the television when Thiago Silva stood in tears before marching in to the arena for the national anthems. And what a rush the national anthem was, the whole team singing like there was no tomorrow and later the whole arena exploded as the music was stopped but the singing went on. WOW!

The first half started as expected with Brazil fiercely attacking the Croatians in the opening minutes. But the Croatians were dangerous as well as they were counter attacking, playing a straightforward and fast game. And soon, that play was rewarded as the Croatian team took the lead after Marcello scoring in his own goal behind goalkeeper Julio Cesar. What a shock that  was – twitter went crazy! Was the pressure to high for the Brazilians to handle? What would happen to the whole World Cup if the home team lost the opening game? Fans favoring Croatia didn’t think so much of that though – they were happy!

After the chocking start, the Brazilians were still able to keep their cool and focus continuing playing their game and creating opportunities. And sure enough, 30 minutes into the game, the brightest star introduced himself. Neymar Jr. advanced on his own and hit the ball beating the Croatian goalkeeper of the post to equalize. Happiness had no limits, the arena exploded, 1-1!! The pressure on the Croatian team was still on for the whole remainder of the first half, with Brazil creating opportunities to take the lead. But the score remained equal as the referee signaled for half-time.

I was exhausted after the first half, thrilled by what I’d seen, that the World Cup had begun, and after engaging in the social media debate. Looking forward to the continuance of the match.

In the second half, however, the game was changed! The Brazilians lost their rhythm and focus, letting the Croatians control much of what was going on. Many of the players in Brazil looked frustrated and there was quite a lot of complaining going on. Perhaps this is was a sign of the immense pressure that has been put on the team to win the whole tournament. At that point, the only exception was Oscar who played one of his best games this year in the yellow shirt. It was Oscar who delivered the pass to Fred in the penalty area leading to the highly doubtful penalty awarded to Brazil. Personally, I strongly believe that was not a penalty but the referee had made his decision. Neymar Jr. from 11 meters, 2-1 was a fact but the goalkeeper nearly had it! Neymar Jr. had scored 2 goals in the opening game, what a dream start for the young man carrying a whole nation on his shoulders!

Only minutes after the penalty the Croatians once more were unlucky with the referee decision as Julio Cesar was charged and dropped the ball creating a scoring opportunity for Croatia to equalize. But the referee had already signaled for free-kick in favor of Cesar. Questionable, I agree, but in 9 out of 10 times the referees vote in favor of the goalkeeper in situations like that, not as controversial as the penalty given earlier. 2-1 was still a fact. The Croatians kept pressing but in a counter offense Oscar was able to finish the score to 3-1 after a very strange save by Cesar leading to the opportunity to counter attack. The game was over, Brazil had stood up against the pressure in this opening game that had quality, controversy, anxiety, and happiness! The World Cup has begun!


Today – I’m looking forward to following all the games but perhaps most of all the rerun of the 2010 WC final from Johannesburg, South Africa, between reining champions Spain and last WC runner up Holland.

Champions League Final: Poor Management vs. Great Sports?

Last night the spotlights turned to Lisbon as two giants met on the football field for the final match of this year’s UEFA Champions League. But just two days before the final of Champions League had already been played, a couple of kilometers from Benfica’s stadium in Lisbon, by women.

Wolfsburg (Germany) defeated Tyresö FF (Sweden) in a game where the focus regrettably shifted from the relative performance of the teams involved and the match itself, to a vast discussion about the financial and managerial crisis of one of the teams involved – Tyresö FF. In Sweden so as to the degree that journalists were calling the team a fraudulent “jerry-building” explicitly hoping for the win of the opponents, who they on the other hand call a role model. In their words the game was not between Wolfsburg and Tyresö FF, but between a role model and a fraud.

In a poll made by a major Swedish newspaper (Aftonbladet) only a slight majority (52%) of the votes did support the Swedish team prior to the match, with a remarkably high share (48%) of votes hoping for a victorious german team.

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To me this is a remarkable and very interesting observation. Before I continue I would like to stress the importance of football clubs maintaining a sound and sustainable financial situation built on realistic but visionary goals and ambitions. The board of directors and the management team of Tyresö FF have clearly failed in matching those requirements. Having perhaps one of the most ambitious development plans for a football club based on highly unrealistic financial planning resulted in reconstruction of the club. One day in the final of Champions League, the other risking delegation to the second division in Sweden. All due to the utter incompetence in the board of directors (consisting of four men and one woman, just to stress the point).

Fairness is most likely one dynamic involved in the observation that so many people did not want to see Tyresö FF as winners. But what is fair? The players of Tyresö FF had rightly earned the place in the Champions League final by first winning the Swedish League, and then defeating every opponent on the way towards the final. In my view, the players were equally worthy of a victory as Wolfsburg prior to the game. But due to a series of poor management decisions the public and the media turned against them. Sports became confused with management, and great sports achievements was not powerful enough to trump poor governance.

On careful analysis I think this case could shed more light on the vast inequalities existing between women’s and men’s teams in football which is not as substantial in other sports (tennis for instance). Yesterday, a team buying players for € hundreds of millions defeated a team with significantly less availability of resources, three days ago a team buying players of star quality lost. In both cases, the public rejoiced. In both cases, the public deemed the outcome fair.

What about development? Tyresö FF star players Marta (ambassador for the United Nations Development Program) and Christen Press (ambassador for Grassroot Soccer) are clearly engaged in the development agenda being great role models for young girls while at the same time actively working for development! And Tyresö FF cooperate with UN Women to help spread awareness to end violence against women.

Finally – I would like to congratulate Wolfsburg for the Champions League title, and I wish all of the Tyresö FF players the best of luck in their future careers! You are all great people.

 

Congratulations to Real Madrid, my regards to Atlético Madrid!

Te UEFA Champions League final is now over with Real Madrid as winners, they have my congratulations. But my regards to Atlético Madrid for a fantastic season – in my opinion, they were worthy winners of the Champions League as well. But a devastating header from Ramos in the 93rd minute changed everything. That’s football, that’s why I love it – anything can happen, and usually does.

The football frenzy continues with a very interesting period of national team games before the FIFA 2014 World Cup, starting in just 19 days. Looking forward to this summer, full of football!