The buzz of children milling about the grounds, parents cheering vociferously, ecstatic ‘dab’ celebrations, smiles, laughter and an irresistible sense of camaraderie – all brought together because of the opportunity to play good, competitive football in a safe environment. That’s what the Tata Tiago School Football Championship (SFC) has made possible over the past two years for children across India.
On May 15th, 2016, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) celebrated a very successful Grassroots Football Day. A number of member associations joined in the festivities, and India was not to be left out. Over the course of the day, numerous football festivals were held across the country, and impacted well over 10,000 young children. From New Delhi to Anantapur, and Manipur to Punjab, over 100 districts celebrated the joys of grassroots football.
Signing Up for AFC Grassroots Football Day Source: ASA
Nothing much happened in the village of Merpur on the outskirts of Udaipur, Rajasthan. It was a quiet hamlet where school boys would play during lunch breaks while the girls wandered about. Worse still, the girls were extremely diffident, hesitant to speak and low on confidence. Rather than talking about studies and sports, girls as young as 14 would discuss marriage and some of their friends who were getting pregnant. That was until Padmini V, recipient of a 13-month SBI Youth for India Fellowship, showed up in town.
With the help of Laduram, the village sarpanch and Rohit Pandya, a physical trainer from Udaipur, Padmini has begun to use football to break gender stereotypes, give the girls an outlet to express themselves constructively, get fit and, most importantly, develop a sense of self-belief, confidence and direction.
Introducing Merpur Girls to Football Source: Youth Ki Awaaz
If you haven’t been living in a cave for the past 3 years, you’ll know full well about the terror and trauma that Syria and its people have suffered. But you probably haven’t heard what it is for a child to live in the war-ravaged country. UNICEF posted this haunting video about Saja, a 12-year-old girl, who lives in Aleppo, Syria.
In the video, Saja talks about how she has lost friends and a leg to the war. She speaks about her difficulty in making the long walk to school everyday, how she has no one to explain her schoolwork to her when she doesn’t understand things too well and her love for football. She says:
“I love playing football. When I play football, I don’t feel like I’ve lost anything at all.”
All Saja wants is something the majority of us have the privilege of enjoying for most of our lives – a bit of peace so that she doesn’t have to worry about family and friends coming back whenever they step out of their homes, a relaxed game of football to forget her worries, and a job as a gymnastics coach when she’s older.
“My wish for Syria’s future is that it goes back to the way it was. No more war. I hope that we can go out and know that we will come back safely, not go out and never return home, to live like we used to.”
Do you walk back home after a long day at work and often wonder why there aren’t a big group of kids playing in your neighbourhood anymore? Really. Where are they? We remember playing outdoors every day in school at recess and after school with nearby friends until our parents had to literally drag us back home to get homework done (ugh) and eat dinner.
Turns out our observations are true. A recent study of 12,000 parents across 10 countries with kids between the ages of 5 and 12 years revealed that 50% of the children play outside for 1 hour or less while one-third of them spend 30 minutes or less outdoors. The irony – there are prisoners at Wabash Valley Correctional Facility in Indiana, USA who are promised 2 hours in the open every day. The sad truth – prisoners are better off than our kids when it comes to play time outdoors.
When one of the prisoners was told how little time kids spend outdoors, here’s what he said:
“Wow, that is depressing. That really is.”
We’re compelled to agree. Here’s an eye-opening video for you:
Based in Vasco in football-crazy Goa, Salgaocar FC has been around since 1956. The club was founded by Vasudev Salgaocar, the founder and President of the V M Salgaocar Group of Companies. Passionate about the sport, Mr. Salgaocar decided to form the club to give local youth a platform where they could showcase their talents. After Goa’s independence from Portugal in 1961, Salgaocar was the first Goan team invited to participate in the prestigious Durand Cup in 1962. Although they did not win, they performed so well that the then Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, felicitated the team at his residence.
Salgaocar FC’s First Team Source: Salgaocar Football Club Facebook Page
In the 1990s, the team went from strength to strength, winning everything from the National League to the Federation Cup. Although, they didn’t perform as well in the early 2000s, they made a hugely successful comeback in the 2010-2011 season by winning the I-League once again. This season, their U-15 team ended the zonal round of the U15 Youth League at the top of the table. They were the only team in the group to end with a positive goal difference, finishing 5 points clear of the runners-up. And they managed all of this by making sure they invested well in their grassroots programme.
We’re always marvelling at footballers who are blessed with immense talent like Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Ronaldo, and feel there’s no way we could achieve those levels of excellence. True, there may only ever be one Messi or Cristiano, but that doesn’t mean we, as coaches, parents and players, should settle for less.
Talent definitely helps, but as is widely documented, achieving excellence is a lot about discipline, dedication and persistence. In this pursuit, here are 10 tips, which if followed resolutely, can take all of us a very, very long way in life. And guess what? None of them need any ‘talent’!
In the Indian state of West Bengal, and in Kolkata especially, fans are as passionate about football as they are about cricket. This year, a few individuals in the city became proud owners of football teams participating in the Padatik Football League. While the team owners may not be famous Bollywood actors or the league as glamorous as the Indian Super League, the Padatik Football League is a one-of-a-kind event that was started in 2009.
So what’s so special about it? The participants are the children of women from red light areas in the state, prisoners, drug addicts, slum dwellers and tribals. These children don’t have any coaching, but they play with such passion that the league has gradually gained recognition for its work.
Caption: A Padatik Football League match underway Source: DMSC Facebook
An $185 million investment. 160 acres. 50 football pitches. A partnership with Real Madrid. Hogwarts-style buildings. 2,600 boys. 200 girls. And it was all built in 10 months. Welcome to Evergrande Football School in Qingyuan, Guangdong (rural southern China).
Kids training at Evergrande Football School, China Source: www.thestar.com
Driven by Chinese President, Xi Jinping’s passion for football, Evergrande Football School is symbolic of how far ahead China has gone ahead of India in the effort to nurture grassroots talent. Their goal is to have China compete at the World Cup again (after 2012) and, who knows, even challenge traditional powerhouses like Germany, Argentina and Brazil in the years to come.
Looks a brilliant facility. Wonder when we’ll have something like it in India…