Improving Life through Football

Slum Soccer, India

Aishwarya Sharma

Aishwarya Sharma on June 5, 2018 in Sports

There has never been a drop in the number of football fans in the world. Who doesn't love to become a couch potato during Football season? A big bowl full of popcorn and friends cheering over goals... Bliss moment, right?

But have you ever wondered, if football can improve the overall quality of someone's life? Yes, Football, a Game, Slum Soccer is registered as a Non-Governmental Public Charitable Trust Organization governed by the Public Trust, functions with the ultimate aim of reaching out to the Indian homeless using football as a tool for social improvement and empowerment.

According to them, this is a ‘beautiful game’, a unique and yet, a perfect vehicle that transcends race, religion, language and gender to bring about a change in the lives of street dwellers. To equip the underprivileged to deal with and emerge from the disadvantages riding on the back of their homelessness, use the medium of football. Unconventional as it may seem, development through sport has a track record of being successful, across continents and from their own experience.

Homelessness is a major issue in India. India defines 'homeless' as those who do not live in Census houses, but rather stay on pavements, roadsides, railway platforms, staircases, temples, streets, in pipes, or other open spaces. There are 1.77 million homeless people in India, or 0.15% of the country's total population, according to the 2011 census consisting of single men, women, mothers, the elderly, and the disabled. Furthermore, there is a high proportion of mentally ill and street children in the homeless population. There are 18 million street children in India, the largest number of any country in the world, with 11 million being urban. Finally, more than three million men and women are homeless in India's capital city of New Delhi; the same population in Canada would make up approximately 30 electoral districts. A family of four members has an average of five homeless generations in India.

The Indian government has been able to do precious little in terms of developing a comprehensive policy to tackle the problem of homelessness and indeed even official census figures are lamentably off the mark. The net result is that living on the streets renders the homeless especially vulnerable to victimization, exploitation, and violation of their civil and economic rights.

Slum Soccer exists to foster sustainable development within otherwise marginalized populations of India. They aim to provide long term solutions to combat rife homelessness and improve living standards within underprivileged areas. Their approaches are centered on building self-sufficient communities. The game of Football is their means to that end connecting individuals, teaching life skills and working towards improving overall quality of life.

Homeless and slum communities host a variety of complex issues on a daily basis. Prominence of sexual and domestic abuse, unemployment, alcoholism, drug usage, malnutrition and mental health issues and a cycle of disengagement from the education sector almost condemn these communities to a continuing struggle preventing them from being successfully involved in an already disparate society.

They all are asked to do is kick a ball. This simple act is therapeutic in itself. As a first step, they attempt to give their participating players hope and purpose. Their centers act as safe places free of discrimination; providing positive role models and a place to develop and enjoy one self.

They believe that sport and football inherently offer a transferrable set of skills for social development; through team building, acceptance and discipline. They at Slum Soccer choose specific issues that the Indian slums face and shape their sessions around building some specific and necessary life skills. Football acts as the messenger. As Oliver Stone rightly marked, "Football is mesmerizing, because it's a figurative war. You go in one direction till you get there, but you get there as a team, not as an individual. Players bond whether they're black or white, much as soldiers do." The game topics include, but are not limited to; saving, nutrition, HIV/AIDS, hygiene and child rights.

Not only this, Slum Soccer has also been awarded for their Nobel and unique work for the betterment of society. They have won FIFA Diversity Award. The award was created by FIFA to recognize outstanding organizations, group initiatives and football personalities that are standing up for diversity and inspire unity, solidarity and equality among all people. Another one is FICCI India Sports Award for the “Best NGO Promoting Sports” category. This is a big boost for Slum Soccer to get the award, which not only recognizes its work as a sport for development organization but also its efforts to promote football in the country. FICCI, or the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, is the largest and oldest business organization in India. It is non-governmental and not-for-profit. Not only this, their mentor, Dr. Vijay Barse, won the prestigious “Reliance Real hero Award’, in recognition of the stellar role he has played in visualizing, conceptualizing and executing the project Soccer for the Homeless in this country, thus transforming many young lives for the better. Slum Soccer has also won the prestigious Manthan eNGO Award in Communication & Outreach category.

If you find this project unique and interesting and want to know more about them, visit Slum Soccer right now!

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