An FA delegation led by Fabio Capello last week travelled to Lesotho, where the Italian coach spent time with local schools, took part in coach education courses and visited a football festival.
On Tuesday, Capello observed a training session involving local school teachers and pupils in the capital Maseru. The next day he visited a festival run by Kick 4 Life, a charity that uses football to fight poverty and disease, most notably HIV and AIDS which affects so many people in Africa.
The visit formed part of The FA's International Relations programme which delivers developmental assistance around the world. Lesotho, along with Botswana and Malawi, is one of The FA's partners under the UEFA-CAF Meridian Project which brings together European national football associations with their counterparts in Africa.
As part of the scheme, the FA delivers a wide range of courses in each country, ranging from football administration, refereeing, youth coaching to women's football.
A warm welcome
Upon his arrival at the headquarters of the Lesotho FA in Maseru, Capello and the delegation were greeted by a song and dance routine from the locals. Once there, they watched a training session involving local teachers and pupils. On hand to assist were two English coaches, Geoff Pike and Peter Ford, who have been resident in the south African nation for several months.
"It is really good to be here and to see the children play and to see the English coaches train local coaches to do a job that will be very important and will bear fruits a bit further down the line," said Capello.
"Our trainers have been here for six months already, so it's a job in progress. "
The FA hopes that by the time the FIFA World Cup™ kicks off in 2010, hundreds of Lesotho's teachers will have taken The FA Level 1 Coaching Course and will be able to pass on good quality football coaching to local young people.
A testing time for all
The following day, Capello attended the Kick 4 Life football festival in order to promote the 'Test Your Team' campaign. There, he watched matches in a specially-arranged seven-a-side tournament for 12 local schools, which also included onsite HIV education and testing between games.
The school teams, made up of U-14 boys and girls, took part in the learning and testing activities. Points were awarded for their participation in the HIV education sessions and went towards the sides' final placings, with the Italian presenting the trophy to the winners at the end.
Kick 4 Life has been operational in Lesotho since March 2007 and has focused its efforts on implementing a series of 'Test Your Team' events. In a country with an HIV prevalence of 23 per cent, work like this is highly important. Less than 10 per cent of males and only 11 per cent of females know their HIV status and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare estimates that close to 18,000 children are HIV positive.
Capello actually sat in as a young boy was tested for HIV. After a counselling session with the doctor, and a nervous wait, the test came back negative, but it was an emotional experience for all.
"It was tense," said the England coach. "It was a few very long moments in that tent waiting for the outcome of the test. Fortunately the test was negative and everyone was very relieved.
"Football must be concerned with these things and must help. Football is a rich sport and has an obligation to put it's wealth at the service of the people who can help the poor and make a difference."