Michael Ballack at the Health4Men clinic
Retired international football star Michael Ballack visited Health4Men’s clinic for men who have sex with men (MSM) in Johannesburg on Friday.
The hunky 36-year-old visited the Yeoville clinic in his capacity as a UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador and was hosted by Health4Men Director Glenn De Swart and USAID’s Dr. Thapelo Maotoe.
The former German captain and Chelsea player met excited staff and patients and was informed about the clinic’s much-needed services.
De Swart explained to Ballack that the facility was among a handful of sexual health clinics in South Africa that specifically service MSM, pointing out that MSM are often excluded from mainstream health services due to discrimination or fear of being outed.
Ballack said that a clinic targeting gay men “is something new to me, even though I’ve been working with UNAIDS for six or seven years. It’s something unique. I will support it and take it to the world. These people look happy and well looked after.”
He also questioned, “Why are there not more of these kinds of clinics” in South Africa and Africa?
Speaking to Mambaonline about homophobia in football, Ballack admitted that “it is a big thing. It’s a tough sport, a macho sport and no-one wants to come out.
“The sport needs to become sensitised about the issue. Maybe the next step is for someone to come out,” he suggested.
Ballack meets staff at the Health4Men clinic
Ballack, who retired from the sport in 2011, is one of the top goal scorers in the history of his national team. He also played for Chelsea from 2006 to 2010.
De Swart commented that while visits by international figures such Ballack helped improve tolerance and awareness and were a strong show of support for Health4Men’s work it was a pity that local celebrities have been less supportive.
“Imagine if a Bafana Bafana team appeared here. The impact would be so much more powerful,” he said.
Health4Men offers sexual health services to MSM in clinics in Woodstock, Khayelitsha, Bellville, Soweto and Yeoville and is set to further expand its services in the coming months.