Football as a tool of empowerment

Resurging Game

Even though 15-year-old Sachin Kumar shares his name with an Indian cricketing legend, the teenager has no love lost for the game of cricket. “Many of my classmates talk about Sachin, Sehwag and Kohli but not me. I love football.

I like Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo,” says Kumar adding that cricket is an expensive game and not meant for everyone.

“Here all we need is a ball and a ground,” Kumar said before leaping into the field where he would practise for the ongoing Delhi Youth League (DYL), a football series wherein children from different local clubs of Delhi aged six to 19 years old compete with same players belonging to same age group. The league features teams representing various localities of Delhi.

Kumar’s team is however unique in a sense because the team members, mainly comprising 15-year-olds, belong to underprivileged and economically weaker sections of society. While the social background of his team contrasts with that of the football clubs belonging to posh localities of the Capital, Kumar and his comrades are considered a far superior team when it comes to playing the sport. At least according to Rajveer Singh, who coaches the Jaguar Club of Defence Colony.

Singh, who graduated in Sports and Science from United Kingdom, witnessed the team for the first time in a game against his club. “These guys beat the hell out of us. It left me surprised and I was forced to come and see them coach. I wanted to find out what differentiates their team from ours and what I found was truly inspirational,” Singh told Metrolife.

He said the moment he saw these kids training he knew they were born to win. “Their team has this sense of togetherness. They love each other and care for each other. That’s their strength and when it combines with a desire to win and achieve, it’s lethal,” Singh added.

While talking to some of the team members of the young team, it emerges that for them; the DYL is not about football alone but also an instrument of assertion. Their coach, 21-year-old Hero Chand, himself serves as a perfect example. Currently
residing in Nangloi, Chand drags himself all the way to Junior Model School in
Khan Market to coach the young team.

“I myself started playing sports at a very early age and I wanted to coach younger children so that they can have a chance at professional sports and also to give them some moments of happiness which are not abundant for the economically weak,” said Chand, adding that he had himself tried to coach the younger ones of his locality in a local ground but police chased them away. Now a coach for a team, which is supported by Kutumb Foundation (KF), a local NGO, Chand is a satisfied man but expressed his concerns about the funding issues his organisation faces.

While talking to Metrolife, Austin Mobley, programme coordinator of the KF, said the participation of children belonging to economically weaker sections of society is an embedded approach of their organisation to attract them towards education, theatre and other things.

“If a child participates in football he will come and start studying and so on. The ultimate goal is to educate and what better way is there than making them play football. It’s the workers game,” said Mobley.

Running around in their shorts on a cold winter evening chasing the ball, the children, however,  seemed to be far away from the ‘ultimate goals’ planned out for them. Far away from economic deprivation they face every day.

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