Football being used as an instrument for the benefit of Mumbai's youth
Sports often becomes a unifier and a leveller, across different social fabric and strata. Even as cricket remains India's national obsession, in Mumbai, at the grassroots level, football is being used as an instrument by a few individuals and organisations to help the youth kick aside their hurdles, and realise their potential. Soma Das goes on a goal hunt
Growing up in Cuffe Parade’s Ambedkar Nagar slum, Ashok Rathod had experienced first-hand how early marriage and dropping out of school to earn a livelihood marred many a future. To help the youth in his area to utilise their skills, positively, he began to train children in football (he was familiar with the sport, and it was inexpensive). Thus, OSCAR Foundation was born in 2006. The Foundation uses football to ensure that children and youth are taught positive values, life skills, a healthy lifestyle and to stay away from labour and drug abuse. They are told to compulsorily attend class if they wish to get trained. Some of their recent campaigns included a newspaper and magazine collection drive to raise funds for renewing sports equipment. On World Peace Day (September 21), they will organise a 5-a-side Ring Football Tournament for Under-16 youth at Colaba Woods, Cuffe Parade. “The objective of this programme is to bring communities and religions on the same platform, to play for peace,” he adds. They have plans to set up a community computer and education centre in Ambedkar Nagar, to be supported by volunteers. The foundation also conducts a year-long social football education programme to educate young women and men, who can then work with marginalised children around Mumbai. Some of their challenges include getting a ground for practice and a room to continue teaching sessions. “We use public playgrounds but these are occupied by cricket players. Funding is a hurdle too. It’s also tough to convince parents to send their small children away from home as they fear for their safety.”
Log on to: www.oscarfoundation.co
“We see a challenge in people accepting the use of sport as a development approach, despite strong evidence to back up its efficacy as a cost-effective, scalable model of bringing about development,” says Pratik Kumar, CEO of Magic Bus. The 14-year old organisation has been mentoring children using a sports-based curriculum and has succeeded in helping them make the right choices to ensure a better livelihood as adults. Magic Bus trains and guides local, community-based, mentors to deliver a long-term programme that focuses on education, health and gender equity. Over a long period, mentors give constant feedback, and monitor children’s behaviour. This brings about proven behaviour change, shares Kumar. Every participant is offered a livelihood programme titled Connect, which gives them a chance to enroll in higher studies or job placements. Magic Bus ensures that the 2,50,000 children and 7,000 youth they work with have access to life skills, mentorship and guidance. They participate in events like India Giving Challenge events to raise funds to expand their outreach to 1 million children and youth. Their tie-up for the Sunburn Festival is set to create a buzz.
Log on to: www.magicbus.org
The Ball Project
Started in 2009, The Ball Project (TBP) has been conducting weekend sports and team game sessions with a small community who make a living by segregating garbage. Through sports and games they impart life skills aka psycho-social abilities for adaptive and positive behaviour that enables them to deal with the challenges of everyday life. Their training helps develop cognitive, personal and inter-personal skills. Rohit D’Souza, founder member, TBP says, “We believe that sports empowers all, irrespective of caste, creed, economic status, gender, education, region, religion or language. It cuts across all stereotypes. Children and youth from the community have a lot of potential and we, along with the children, are investing our time, and sports experience to nurture that potential.” While they don’t have a planned schedule, D’Souza shares that they’ve never missed a single week of sessions since 2009. They also screen movies and conduct annual Sports Day activities. “Families in the community migrate from city to the village and back -- this is a challenge that leads to a disconnect for those who attend sessions,” admits D’Souza. TBP is a three-member team, including architect and basketball player Rupali Shedge Warang, architect Prajakt Patil and D’Souza, who is also a photographer.
Log on to: www.facebook.com/pages/The-Ball-Project/171774946205070
Ronnie D’Souza (in striped T-shirt)
For Orlem boy Ronnie D’Souza (38), football was life. Being a part of the Under-13 team (city level), in 1988, he recalls how there were difficulties in even sourcing a pair of shoes. “Nowadays, the youth have access to numerous options,” he admits. Over the years, D’Souza realised that the sport didn’t get its due and needed exposure. He started the eatery Uncle’s Kitchen, and inspired by his father Jerome D’Souza, who was keen on social causes, he began to promote the sport. Soon, he realised there were several issues at hand: the players needed to win if they wanted any exemption from attending lectures or extra marks. Also, they barely had any allowance, especially if they weren’t playing for bigger clubs. The situation often led them to quit football and take up studies or make a living. Two years ago, he started his own team, titled UK United (Uncle’s Kitchen United) to offer a platform for city players. They have managed to win several local tournaments at Bandra, Kalina and Andheri. D’Souza also helps with paying their entry fee and offers the players with a daily allowance. “When cash prizes are won, we ensure that it is distributed among players to help provide for their sports paraphernalia. The idea is to build, mould and develop a team from the grassroots,” maintains D’Souza. At present, the team has 12 boys (18-21 years) on their roster. D’Souza has also sponsored the entry fees for the Kalina Village Boys (KVB) team this year and plans to start a small academy to support football.
Joe Miranda (in centre with trophy)
Joe Miranda (41) played the sport for several years before he realised that he couldn’t keep up with the demands. He decided to use his talents to motivate players. He took over the IC Extension team and rechristened it as the MYJ IC team (Mighty Young Joe IC team). Formed three years ago, the team today boasts of 15 players in the age group of 15-25. The team is on the verge of getting recognised by the Mumbai District Football Association (MDFA). “The aim is to make the team a training ground for youth all over Mumbai, including Borivali, Malad, Andheri and Kurla. The boys train on Fridays and whenever we have access to a ground,” says Miranda. He pays the entry fee for the teams and the winnings are distributed among the players. He recently also paid for the jerseys of a Dadar-based team. Miranda admits that the major problems are the infrastructural facilities (booking a ground for a day can cost as much as `20,000). Miranda admits that he does it out of sheer passion. To fund the team, he turns to his day job and his earnings as VicePresident at Andromeda Sales and Distribution.