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What's it like to play sport without clean water?

Whether you're boxing, cycling or kung fu fighting, safe water is essential for any successful sportsperson. But around the globe, not every budding athlete can take it for granted.

1 Aug 2016

Discipline, drive and determination have always been the most important qualities in a sports star. Today, the best athletes also rely on energy gels, perfect gym regimens and diets where every calorie counts to gain an edge on their competitors.

But amateur or Olympian, there’s one vital part of every sportsperson’s performance: a supply of safe water.

Roland - Ankazobe, Madagascar

Portrait of Roland Ratojofanambinana, football player. Fenoarivo village, Analamanga region, Madagascar.

As an attacking midfielder for his local team, the Black Star, Roland explains why water is so vital for his success on the pitch. "I sweat a lot when I run because it’s often hot here," he says. "So naturally your body is asking you to drink." 

If you've ever played so much as a kickabout on a sunny day, you'll know how quickly dehydration can set in.

For Roland, this isn't the only drawback of not having access to clean water. "[After a match], I really want to have a shower because I usually smell, especially with this synthetic football jersey."

And the worst part of not being able to freshen up as a single, young man? "You know what, it doesn’t work at all with girls when you stink."

A WaterAid project recently brought clean water to Roland's community, including a well near to the community's football pitch which he and his team fill up plastic bottles from before training.

Now he can stay hydrated, Roland is focussing on becoming Ankazobe's own Lionel Messi – and hopefully he'll have a bit more luck with the ladies.

Fitness freaks The Lean Machines and Carly Rowena travelled to Zambia to discover what it's like staying in shape without safe water. Follow their story >