If unkempt, unwashed looking slum kids dressed in rags ‘infiltrate’ into a posh neighborhood’s play area to use the facilities they are usually shooed away, right?
About fifteen years ago when a PT Professor of Hislop college Prof Barse, saw two slum kids playing ‘kick’ with a broken metal bucket he had a different reaction. He invited them, and other children of the slum, to the College football ground, which is right next to the slums but which had been out of bounds for them, where he gave them a football lesson with a real football. Out of that event was born “jhopadpatti football” which was later named “Slum Soccer.” Slum Soccer is played not just all over India, but in 44 NATIONS of the world.
In Nagpur itself, the Krida Vikas Sanstha & the Shakti Girls (formed by Barse and his associates) teaches football to girls and boys at 35 centers in Nagpur today. The coaching camps are held in schools of various slums, orphanages, and even in a modern but socially conscious institute like Chitanavis Centre.
Their motto is to ‘Change lives with Football’. And they sure have.
After fourteen continuous years of Slum Soccer many of the slum kids are official football coaches invited all over the world, some are holding good jobs in Railways and other institutions – one thing being common: they all come back to the slums of Nagpur to teach and inspire other kids regularly.
Today, I also met a duo from Kashmir Umar and Zaheed who has travelled all the way to Nagpur to learn how to begin such an enterprise in the troubled Kashmir Valley. The Nagpur organizations have promised to not only help but assist financially too till the idea doesn’t take off among the local patrons there.
The hierarchy of the teams is such – after boys and girls have played football for 4- 5 years they are made coaches, when they become adults they are called ‘young leaders’ There are more than 100 young leaders in Nagpur alone today.
One such youngster, Homkant Surandase, is from a farming family of Yeotmal District. He recollects that when he was a school going boy, 4 farmers of his village committed suicide (Yeotmal unfortunately sees the largest number of farmer suicides in Vidarbha ). He was so insecure about his future that he ran away from it all – his family, his home, his village. He lived homeless on the streets of Nagpur till he was spotted by someone from Krida Vikas Sanstha and re instituted. Today he is a renowned Coach, is a self confident young man with a pleasing personality and has travelled abroad often for football.
Akhilesh Paul, who was brought into national limelight by Amir Khan in Satyamev Jayte recently, was a dreaded gangster of Ajni. He was almost killed thrice in gang wars which forced him to reform. Slum Soccer showed him the way – today he runs a shop selling footwear and is back with his family who had earlier disowned him.
As Abhijeet Barse explained to me ” We couple football coaching with Social Skills training. The slum and village kids are also made aware of subjects like nutrition, healthy and hygienic habits, Sex education and HIV, Communication skills and team work”.
Another city youngster Sarang Chitale, grandson of city Doyen Leelatai Chitale who is also very involved with the SS project emphasized that slum girls are equally benefiting from this. “The zeal and the fire they play the game with is so awe inspiring”. Counsellors also make the girls aware about how to deal with attempts at sexual exploitation and are told to confide in their mothers or grandmothers if they find ANY man’s actions suspicious.
Today’s football tournament was held between 12 city teams the main invitees being kids from the “Platform school”. This is another very laudable institute run by Mr. Shrikant Aglave who rescues homeless kids found begging on Railway platforms and educates them in his school.
The whole event was organized by Snehal Kuchankar who is an event Manager running her own Company Jagentertainment , Kshitij Ingle and his NGO Arranya Environmental Organization & Sarang Chitale.