Two goals, one game
Senior Haseeb Goheer started the first collegiate chapter of an international soccer organization to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS.
It was a Friday night in the dead of winter, and inside the confines of a small gym on Temple’s campus, about 20 Temple students made two parallel lines facing one another.
“Move in closer,” Haseeb Goheer said, before instructing the teams to stealthily pass the soccer ball to each other behind their backs.
It was a noticeably curious exercise for a sport played with feet, not hands—and the facial expressions of some students showed as much. Nevertheless, the teams quietly and playfully handed off the soccer ball behind their backs until Goheer told them to stop. He then asked each team to guess who in the opposite line possessed the ball. No one guessed correctly.
Then came the point.
“When someone’s living with HIV, you can’t guess it,” Goheer, a senior honors biology major and public health minor, said.
Soccer might seem an odd forum in which to talk about HIV and AIDS—but Goheer believes it’s exactly the right way to talk about it.
Four years ago, Goheer came to Temple from Glenside, Pennsylvania, and noticed the absence of an organization committed specifically to HIV and AIDS education. So he started his own.
Grassroot Soccer at Temple University became the first collegiate chapter of the international nonprofit, which leverages the unifying power of soccer to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS.
A former high school soccer player who bounced from position to position—“except goalkeeper,” he noted—Goheer realized the sport’s potential for powerful connections at an early age.
“What I realized in soccer is that I was getting a more complete experience,” Goheer recalled. “That experience came from the diversity on the team. It was a sport where you didn’t have to speak the same language. You got on the same field (and) you could just play. All you needed was a soccer ball.”
Goheer discovered his passion for soccer around the same time he first encountered Grassroot Soccer through a friend. By the end of his high school career, he was helping to raise money for the organization.
Bringing awareness about HIV and AIDS to campus and the city has complemented his experience studying in the classroom, assisting in Temple’s Center for Biodiversity, and serving as a youth representative on the U.N. Economic and Social Council, where he has discussed global healthcare disparities.
All that work has fueled his aspirations. “I hope to pursue a career in global health, advocating for equitable healthcare in the world,” he said.
In its four years, Temple Grassroot Soccer has hosted pickup soccer events and lecturers to discuss HIV and AIDs (one speaker included chemist Jim Guare, ’77, ’83); raised money for local HIV and AIDS awareness organizations; and served more than 2,000 volunteer hours, including at needle exchanges. Other colleges have since started similar collegiate chapters, too.
“Our goal is to educate as many people as we can,” Goheer said. “We want to break down the stigma around the medical ailment.”
In a world without Temple, the global fight toward that goal would be down one passionate player.