Among the fans cheering their favourite team at Wankhede last evening were 10,000 children. As part of Mumbai Indians’ initiative, Education For All (EFA), team owner Nita Ambani had extended this invitation to students from various schools in Mumbai and Pune.
Interestingly, out of the 10,000 children, 8,000 came from an underprivileged background. “Most of these kids here are watching a live match for the first time. We are making sure they enjoy the experience,” said Tushar Pania, spokesperson, Reliance Industries Limited. To add to the fun, the children received Mumbai Indians t-shirts, caps, flags and goodies. “Their transport has also been taken care of,” he added.
The atmosphere in the stadium was like a carnival. The children cheered at every four and six, and jumped and danced as they saw Pune Warriors fall of wickets. One child among the group was 10-year-old Rafiq Qureshi from Siddharth Nagar Municipal School, Goregaon. Qureshi, whose father is a rickshaw driver, aspires to be a cricketer like Sachin Tendulkar. “I am here to cheer the Mumbai Indians.
This is the first time I am in a cricket stadium. I want to see Sachin play. I will go home and tell everybody that I saw a match in a stadium,” he said excitedly. Another kid, Shreeji Shukla from Umedbhai Patel English School, said, “I am not much of a cricket fan but I love Sachin,” said 10-year-old Patel.
EFA, which was launched in 2010, has touched the lives of 15,000 children through not just monetary support but also through various awareness programmes.
Nita Ambani said, “All children have equal right to education. And its not just about right to education, its also about the right education. Through EFA we are trying to lift the standards of education so that every child gets equal opportunity.” Talking about the excitement in the stands, she said, “This match is dedicated to these 10,000 children. And it is good to see that they are having a ball of a time.”