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Black Stars in a ‘Fight’ Against Malaria

The Ghana’s Black Stars on Sunday used their last World Cup qualifying duel against the Eagles of Mali to accentuate the need for a malaria-free society, urging the use of Insecticide Treated Mosquito Nets (ITNs) by Ghanaians.

Invoking an imagery of conquest with the use of the words ‘net’ and ‘kick’, the Stars advocated a replication of their highly successful world cup bid in the fight against malaria.

They promoted the idea that just as the team’s successive victories in the world cup campaign came by way of ‘kicking’ goals into a net, the yearn for a malaria-free Ghana will be won by knocking-off mosquito vectors with the ‘kick’ of treated mosquito ‘nets’.

In soccer parlance, the art of ‘netting’ and ‘kicking’ largely denote triumph, and by invoking that imagery, the senior national soccer team was drawing similarities between the world of sports to that of the efforts that must be made in tackling the malaria scourge.

The Kumasi Baba Yara stadium, where the match was played, saw various advocacy actions by the Stars in a bid to dramatize the havoc being wrought on the citizenry as a result of mosquito bites and the need for resolute actions to rein in the grim situation.

In particular, fans were treated with apt messages on the score board that dilate on the dreadful disease, with prompting as to the measures that can be adopted to eliminate it, akin to the tactics employed by the Stars in topping Africa zone Group D, to qualify for the 2010 world cup berth, to be staged in South Africa.

Some of the messages were noticeably suggestive because they gave stern warning as to what will happen if the nation slackens in its anti-malaria endeavors.

“Malaria kills, let us kick it”, the theme message admonished, with a call on Ghanaians to get involved in the match to kick malaria out of the country.
The message it carries proceeds from the premise that just as the Black Stars’ qualification was a collective effort, the ‘kicking out’ of malaria from Ghana

should be seen as a concerted event requiring the support of all rather than the sole responsibility of any single player or individual.
The ‘kick’ imagery can be best appreciated when a ball hits the net during the run of play, resulting in a goal.

The resultant goal often elicits national celebrations, as evident in the two Mali Eagles goals and Ghana Black Stars two equalizing ones during the match.
As stated by Mr. Kwesi Nyantakyi, President of the Ghana Football Authority (GFA), “every goal scored in the match should be a goal against malaria”.

In the same way, sleeping in mosquito nets, especially by under fives and pregnant women who are said to be the most vulnerable, protects them from dangerous ‘kicks’ or mosquito bites that kill more than 20, 000 such children every year in Ghana.

The ‘United Against Malaria’ (UAM) partnership in Ghana is being spearheaded by the National Sports Council (NSC), the National Malaria Control Program (NMCP), the GFA, the John Hopkins University Centre for Communication Programs (JHU/CCP) ‘Voices for Malaria-free Future’ project, Vestergaard and others.

The UAM employs the world’s most popular sport, football, to fight the age-old foe, malaria. By using the soccer-laden symbols of ‘kick’ and ‘net’, which beamed across the media on Sunday, the Blacks Stars wanted to demonstrate with the two metaphors how Ghana can successfully grapple with the deadly mosquito infections and eventually get rid of them by widely promoting the use of the net.

This is because nets ‘kick’ vectors by killing them on contact. Other messages that beamed on the score board were ‘victory is in the net’; ‘sleep in treated nets every night’; and ‘protect your goal – pregnant woman, take and complete your three dose sulphadoxine pyrimethamine (SP)’.

Certainly, the goal of making a healthy and malaria-free baby is dear to the heart of every family and this quest is made a sure bet when pregnant women take their intermittent presumptive treatment (IPT) seriously and complete their three doses of SP as recommended by the health authorities.

The Black Stars team went beyond beaming messages on score boards by signing the special UAM ball and trooping to the stadium for the warm-up in UAM T-shirts.

Indeed, the stadium roared when skipper Stephen Appiah, joined by other stalwarts of the team including Chelsea-star Michael Essien, threw their UAM T-shirts into the stands and walked bare-chested into the dressing room to signify their proud support for the anti-malaria campaign.

The significance of those animated actions was to buoy-up the fans to internalize the coordinated messages that also included hoisting of nets at the entrances of the arena and displaying UAM anti-malaria banners across the stadium.

It must be emphasized that the match was not just a soccer event. It was also an opportunity for the team to get into the soul of the nation about the one disease that no compatriot has been able to escape.

Earlier in the year, Mr. Kwesi Nyantakyi, the GFA President, and Mr. Worlanyo Agra, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NSC, announced the readiness of their outfits to serve as advocates for Malaria-free Future, Ghana, in conjunction with the NMCP, JHU/CCP and other stakeholders.

These sports authorities saw football as a potent tool in rousing Ghanaians to appreciate the severity of the disease, pledging to make the Black Stars available for the campaign.

In the words of Mr. Nyantakyi, the National Premier League, Division One League, Women Football Teams, as well as the various supporters’ groups in the country, will all be deployed to support the fight against malaria.

According to Mr. Emmanuel Fiagbey, Country Director of the JHU/CCP Voices for Malaria-free Future who is coordinating the campaign, “whilst the nation sets its sights on qualifying and winning the World Cup, his organization, on the other hand, is determined to use the 2010 World Cup a springboard in the fight against malaria in the country.

Source: Modernghana

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