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Hlokomela: A Soccer Tournament South Africans Can Actually Afford

The basic contradiction of a World Cup is plain. All that heady populism—Davids taking on Goliaths in the sport everyone can afford to play—is undermined a bit when only the privileged actually get to go to games. In this year's host nation of South Africa, that irony is particularly stark. "Football (soccer) has traditionally been the sport of the black townships and rural areas," says Nick Vorono, a Peace Corps Volunteer who has been working with a project called Hlokomela, which supports commercial farm workers and migrants in the Hoedspruit area of Limpopo Province. Yet the workers in his community—who only earn an average of about $220 per month—can't even consider attending a match: "FIFA established some lower scale ticket prices for South Africans, but those were still out of reach for farm workers and many other South Africans," says Vorono.

Looking to give the community a way to participate, and to further Hlokomela's mission, Vorono came up with the idea of a soccer tournament for farm workers that would double as an educational event and HIV testing clinic. The tournament, which starts June 20, will feature local squads—"most of the farms in the area have teams," Vorono says—facing off at an area pitch, and women's netball matches will also be held. At the event, a speaker will address HIV and AIDS issues, condoms will be distributed, and counseling and testing will be available on-site. Hlokomela will also stage a "themed drama." For Vorono, who wonders if the Cup will actually bring lasting benefits to South Africa, the tournament is a way to guarantee that, for at least one community, soccer can help.

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