The Positive Ladies Soccer Club

A group of HIV ladies in one of the poorest township’s of Zimbabwe, Epworth, decide to form a football team. Women in Zimbabwe don’t usually play football and HIV-positive women are stigmatized so much that they are afraid to disclose their status even to close family members. This group of women has to overcome all this and find strength within themselves against great odds.

The film is about their football team, the ARV Swallows and focuses on the lives of four players. We hear their stories; follow them in their daily lives, in their visits to the clinic, to church, to practice and to the football games.

They would laugh at us and say, ‘How can women play football? Will you be good at it? How can you sick people play soccer?' Meria Kabudura, winger

The idea of an all-female team is laughed at by the local population. Men especially are very scornful at the idea of women playing football. And the first training sessions seem to prove that the men are right – the Swallows are hopeless and the coach walks off the training grounds in despair.

Team captain, Annafields is determined that ARV Swallows will be a success. She gives the team a pep talk which motivates the ladies and they start to training intensely even at their homes by themselves, with other team mates or even with their children. We follow their training regime and how they fit exercise and practice around all their other daily responsibilities.

But attending regular football practice is not easy for Meria. Her HIV positive husband is suffering from tuberculosis and needs daily injections over a period of two months at the local clinic. The only way for him to get to the clinic is for Meria to push him there in a wheelbarrow. Then she has to wheel him back from the clinic, find enough firewood so she can cook a meal for her family and take care of the children. After that, finding the energy to go to soccer practice is a real struggle, but her teammates won’t let her give up and, through their help, finds the strength to continue.

Defender Nyarai describes her HIV diagnosis as the saddest time in her life. Her neighbors advised her that it would be better if she took poison and killed herself. Being part of the team has provided her with support and given her a place to talk about her problems and seek comfort and advice.

Even though we have the HIV virus, we are not AIDS victims Annafields Phiri, team captain

The women confront their situation with tenacity, determination and above all, joy. Despite their difficulties they sing, dance and cheer.

All the Swallows have overcome difficulties in their lives and a lack of football skills is just one of them. China became so ill that she had a near death experience. She was revived by her son and sought treatment after being tested positive for HIV. She now makes a living selling firewood she collects with her son. On days when there is not enough money for food, they light a fire so that the neighbors think they are cooking, yet they go to bed on empty stomachs. China has a strong character and upon discovering her husband is promiscuous she chases him away. Her position as the team striker has given her a sense of pride.

HIV positive women are so stigmatized in Zimbabwe that many are afraid to tell close family members about their status. Many HIV patients suffer from depression and discrimination. When Annafields discovered that she had HIV her landlady laughed at her, yelling at her “Annafields, come see others like you, they are dying.” Ironically, the landlady herself becomes HIV infected and Annafields helps her to see that this disease does not have to be a death sentence.

"'I have to score a goal, I have to score a goal', thinks Annafields during the final as the game hangs in the balance 1-1. Our team has to win. We will show the whole world. They will never look down on us again!