THE Royal Norwegian Embassy has sponsored a football tournament for Ndola-based children's teams to coincide with the international friendly match between the Chipolopolo and Norway set for the weekend at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola.
The football tournament will be held in partnership with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and local sports NGO, Sport In Action (SIA).
According to a statement released in Lusaka yesterday by the UNICEF Zambia communications officer, the football tournament will target boys and girls aged between 12 and 15 in Chifubu, Nkwazi, Twapia and Kabushi townships of Ndola under the theme 'Sports for Lifestyle Project'.
The participating teams will also receive sensitisation on HIV prevention and lifestyles prior to the games which will be staged in the four communities except for the final which is scheduled for Ndola Wanderers Grounds on Friday 11 January, 2012 at 11:00hrs.
SIA executive director Frankson Mushindu expressed happiness with the initiative which will benefit children in under developed communities.
"As SIA, we are working with UNICEF to give lifeskills to more than 1,000 pupils in schools. Sport plays a critical role in helping youth prevent being infected with HIV. Sport is also very important in promoting a healthy lifestyle, so we thank the Norwegian Embassy for helping children in Ndola," Mushindu said.
Royal Norwegian Embassy Counsellor Jan-Erik Studsrød said the game between the African champions and Norway is a great opportunity to direct focus to the next generation Zambian football players.
"This initiative is to support young Zambian football talents. The goal is to bring attention to important causes such as HIV prevention, and to gather football interested children in a fun event that also brings focus to the many years of friendship and cooperation between Norway and Zambia," Studsrød said.
The Norwegian team, popularly known as the Drillos, has participated three times in the FIFA World Cup in 1938, 1994 and 1998, and once in the European Championship in 2000. The team is ranked 24th in the world.
And UNICEF Representative in Zambia, Iyorlumun Uhaa said that there was need to pay attention to young people in order to reduce new HIV infections in the country.
"Youth HIV risk is greatly increased when they have limited comprehensive HIV knowledge, and are ill-equipped with life skills to delay sexual debut, resist peer-pressure, negotiate safer sex, reduce number of sexual partners, demand for an HIV test, and access other high impact HIV prevention services such as male circumcision, condoms and antiretroviral drugs all of which contribute to HIV infections," said Dr Uhaa.
"This partnership, in which UNICEF will play the role of coordinator and link between the Norwegian Embassy and Sport In Action is highly commendable," he added.
The Norwegian Embassy also supports production of footballs made in Zambia by the organisation Alive and Kicking which creates sustainable employment through the manufacture of sports balls.
Two hundred footballs have been designed especially for the children's tournament, to be distributed to the teams and elsewhere on the Copperbelt.