Not everyday we see people from a rough background get back up from the wounds of their past, self-heal, rise up stronger than ever and make a mark for themselves in this competitive world. These people are gems, they are treasures that can never be replaced, an inspiration to every single soul who is fighting a battle out there to prove themselves. What if these people were a bunch of teenagers who are fighting to earn a daily meal but have scripted history in the walks of Football? Amazing, isn’t it?
8 talented kids from Sparky Football – an NGO that supports and trains underprivileged kids who don’t have the luxury to afford for Football coaching, have been selected to represent the state of Karnataka at the National Slum Soccer Championship to be held at the Andheri Sports Complex, Mumbai during February 2017. The winning team will make it to the Homeless World Cup to be held at Oslo, Norway.
Most of us know what FIFA World Cup is. But how many of us know what a “Homeless World Cup” is about? Homeless World Cup is a soccer Championship held annually where one team from every country participates. The minimum age requirement for the participants is around 16 years and they should have been homeless at some point in their life, provided they should not have participated in any former editions of the Homeless World Cup.
The dedication and amount of involvement these kids put into training is just beyond words. Most of these lads being residents of Cox Town, walk all the way to Indiranagar, which covers around 7 km, reach Bullring (the sponsored venue for training) at 9.00 am and begin their practice. All that matters to these boys is the time they spend playing Football. The love for the sport is blatantly evident in their efforts.
Talking to Ebenezer, a 20 year-old certified coach by Coaches across Continents and a part-time psychology student at Teacher’s Academy, I slowly uncover the kind of struggle these boys face with, in their daily lives. Ebenezer, now part of Sparky Football, took to playing the sport only to lose weight. But slowly he started falling in love with the sport. With a shady past, Ebenezer met Tejas – Founder of Sparky Football, at the age of 13. This was a big turning point in his life. Tejas inspired him to take up Football seriously, from which he completed school at Radian school of learning and started coaching boys around Cox Town. Currently, there are 25 boys and 6 girls being trained under him. I quickly pose a question to him asking how he funds the coaching for these less-fortunate kids. But with full spirits he answers that he takes professional football coaching at apartments to self-fund coaching for the unprivileged talents.
I used to deliver newspapers at the Cantonment Railway station at 4.30 and then cycle my way to Hennur for School later. I started training in Football after 11th standard. My dad was a mason and I lost my mother at the age of 5. My Grandmother was the one supporting me. I was stuck in terrible bad culture and habits. But Football relieved me of everything. I made my wounds proud.
says Ebenezer, who will be travelling along with Tejas and the boys to Mumbai for the Slum Soccer Tournament. Ebenezer is a life-skill trainer in Football who plays games like “Running for Life” and “Virus” with the boys, to train them and impart discipline in their lives. He insists that life-skills are more vital for a successful Football career.
These kids have nothing to complain about. Although they have a lot lesser than what an average human requires to live a content life, they are more than happy with their Football time.
I play Football in the morning and work as a Golf Caddie in the evening. My parents don’t support my desire to make it big in Football but still I will never give up on my dreams. Football has taught me how to be respectful. I never used to respect anybody. Even when the coaches asked me to practice more, I would never listen to them. But now, I’ve learnt discipline through Football.
says Chotu, who is one of the 8 boys selected to represent Karnataka in the Slum Soccer Tournament. Winning this tournament will be a big turning point in their lives as qualifying for the tournament did to them. Until yesterday, nobody even appreciated and recognized their efforts. But now it is not the same. Naveen, another participant in the tournament and a member of Sparky Football, says “Football is everything” to him.
Once an Amazon delivery boy, was then introduced to Sparky Football, through his close friend Nagaraj who is also part of the current team. He has been through various team selections in the state and nearly made the cut at the Bengaluru FC selections. After joining Sparky Football, all his attention was focused on qualifying for the Slum Soccer Championship and now that he has achieved it, this is what he had to say:
I am doing my 1st PUC. I started playing Football when I was in 6th standard. None of my family members encouraged me. Even when I used to go for practice, they used to say I’m wasting time playing the sport. But after hearing that I’ve qualified for a National tournament their approach has changed. I’ve faced a lot of hardships in life and being able to play Football today is something that I cannot put in words. I want to be a Role Model for the other kids in the slum. I want to become a coach and train these kids some day.
Few months back these boys didn’t have shoes to play, they didn’t have a ground to train. But today, someone has come forward to sponsor these kids with the little they could. They walk 1 hour to train for 3 hours. They go back home with an empty stomach. But none of these hardships can dampen their spirits. All that matters to them is the euphoria they experience out of kicking those balls into the net, a bit of those crazy headers, adrenaline rushing through their nerves and the joy of winning. They might not have everything but they have the spirit of sportsmanship living inside every soul.
These kids will be playing the biggest tournament of their lives in February. It might be a small thing for you but it’s a huge life-event for them. Kindly help these kids in their journey. If you would like to sponsor these little heroes, you can contact Tejas on 9986599525.
All the best Sparky Football… Now go get that trophy!
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