As part of her continuing stay in South Africa, Queen Sofia of Spain dropped in at the FIFA-sponsored Football for Hope Centre in the Cape Town township of Khayelitsha on Friday.
During her visit to the centre, the royal consort had the opportunity to meet and talk to youngsters taking part in the project and find out more about the "Find the Ball" game, a Grassroot Soccer initiative that promotes the social integration of HIV/AIDS sufferers and attempts to combat discrimination towards them.
After having the rules explained to her, Queen Sofia looked on as a group of youngsters showed her how the game is played. Sitting tightly in a line, one team passes a tennis ball, used to represent the illness, behind their backs. The other team then has to guess who has the ball, which is no easy task given the fact that, like HIV/AIDS, it cannot be seen, the idea being to encourage participants not to judge and discriminate against people.
After listening to the explanations of Gcina Mondi, assistant coordinator at the Grassroot Soccer Centre, Queen Sofia spoke to the rest of the GRS team and Donald Grant, the Minister of Education for Western Cape province, before having a chat with the youngsters themselves. She then plucked up the courage to take three penalty kicks at a goal defended by one of the students, converting two of them.
The Queen, who spent six years in Cape Town during the 1940s, said she was delighted to be back in the city and said that the centre represents "a goal for education" thanks to the work it carries out in the local community.
The Khayelitsha centre is promoted by FIFA and the provincial government of Western Cape. It forms part of the 20 Centres for 2010 network, an initiative supported by streetfootballworld, and which aims to create centres promoting public health, education and football in disadvantaged communities across Africa.