Yes, there is a world cup for the homeless and India’s Slum Soccer organisation has represented the country there. What’s more? The men’s team won the Sports Gen cup and the women’s team got the 6th place among 16 participating nations. Here’s more.
Homeless World Cup is an annual football tournament organized by the Homeless World Cup organization – a social movement which inspires homeless people to change their lives with the power of football. They organize an annual football tournament, where teams of homeless people from more than 70 countries get a chance to compete.
In India, selections for the Homeless World Cup begin at the National Slum Soccer Championship every year. Slum Soccer is an Indian organisation which uses football as a tool for social empowerment, to change the lives of street dwellers in the country. An initial lot of 32 players are selected during the championship, in which teams from over 15 states across India participate. The selected players then undergo training at the Nagpur, Chennai and Kolkata centres of Slum Soccer. And then, the final selection takes place.
More than 500 players from 48 teams took part in the 2015 edition of the Homeless World Cup.
This year was the 7th time that the Slum Soccer team represented India in the World Cup which was held in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
The Men’s Team
The Indian men played a total of 12 games against teams like France, Netherlands, Finland, and Grenada. They finally won the SportsGen Cup.
The team led by Sahrul Hoque, defeated Belgium in the quarter-finals 3-2. They faced Israel in the semi-finals and won with a score of 4-2. The final match was against Grenada, one of the best performing teams, and India won 4-3. Players in the team included Mohit Sharma, Saddam Hussain, Shubam Varma, Anikesh Tandekar, P Parthiban, Manikumar, and Ashutosh Bobde.
The Women’s Team
The Indian women’s team played 13 games in all. They attained the 6th place out of the 16 participating nations.
The team performed really well, defeating England, Finland and Scotland with huge, unexpected margins.
Players included Shrutika Amle, Monika Pathak, Sweeti Saini, Anuradha Malekar, Vaishali Dhote, Jhuma Hazra and Apeksha Wankede. Reena Panchal was the captain.
The Homeless Behind The Players
All these players have faced a lot of suffering and struggle. But Slum Soccer helped them in overcoming those days, and leaving their struggles behind. Today, they are making India proud.
P Parthiban: The men team’s defender from Chennai lost his father and a younger sister at a very young age. The hardships he had faced all his life had turned him into a ruffian. It was football that changed his life, and turned him into a winner!
Shubam Varma: A resident of Nagpur, Shubam is the vice-captain of the team. He understands the importance of being a leader, and the kind of roles one has to take up in order to help others, as well as oneself, in taking the right life decisions.
Apeksha Wankhede: She fled from Chandrapur and reached Amsterdam with the help of an NGO, Shivprabha Charitable Trust in Pune. Her mother works as a domestic helper and brother works in a salon. In spite of weak financial conditions, her determination to play for the country has always been strong.
The Captains: Sahrul Hoque
Sahrul hails from Nazipur Chamagram village, located in Malda district of West Bengal. Being the youngest of four brothers and two sisters, Sahrul was always showered with love. But his father, who is a fish seller, could hardly afford their education.
26-year-old Sahrul somehow managed to pass high school. He then fulfilled his passion of playing by teaching football to the kids of HGH Madarsa in his village.
His life took a turn when one of his friends, who had returned after completing his higher education from Nagpur, asked him to contact Mr. Barse of Slum Soccer.
Since then, Sahrul started playing for the Slum Soccer team in Kolkata. He is now coaching 100 slum soccer players in Kolkata.
“I never thought that I would fly to a foreign country. My parents and elder brothers and sisters did not say much as I am the youngest, but they did not like that I was playing football all the time. They called me ‘Khela Pagol’ (mad for sports). But now, they feel proud about me,” he said.
Reena comes from Sonipat, Haryana. She had a strong inclination towards football since childhood. Her father worked at a small garment shop as a salesman, and though her family members were supportive, they could not go against the norms of how girls should lead their lives, created by the orthodox villagers.
“My father never differentiated between my brothers and me, but our neighbours called names if I wore trousers to play football. It’s not easy for a girl from Haryana to break the rules and come out of her shell,” says Reena.
She started playing football at school (Hindu Kanya School, Sonipat) without telling anyone at home. But when she got selected to play at the national level, she had to tell. Her coach, Mr. Ankush Mallik, convinced her parents, and she nailed it at the game.
Reena could not stop thanking Slum Soccer, who not only gave her the opportunity to play, but also made her the captain of the team.
“Indian team was everyone’s favourite at the Homeless World Cup. I wore the No.5 jersey and everyone used to say No.5 plays really well. I can’t express in words how happy I am to represent India in the world cup. It was always a dream. A few months back I couldn’t even think that I will be awarded as the ‘best player’”
21-year-old Reena, who is the top goal scorer in the team, is an arts graduate and has also done a diploma in Bachelors of Physical Education (B.PED).
She wants to help other girls in her village to come out and build a future of their own. She wants to make them realize that if they get an opportunity they should just grab it.
Reena, Captain Team India 2015Another powerful story from the 2015 #HomelessWorldCup. Reena Panchal from Slum Soccer found strength and opportunity through football – in a culture where the social pressures on young women are often intense.
Film by Nacho Spinola – www.nachospinola.com
Posted by Homeless World Cup on Tuesday, September 22, 2015
“There’s nothing better than the feeling of representing India in front of the world and Slum Soccer made this dream come true. There can be no other organization like Slum Soccer. I want everyone to learn from them that even the underprivileged part of our society is talented and one should help them grow too,” she concludes.
Slum Soccer has been discovering many such gems from the past seven years. But it’s an irony that every year they have to ask for financial help from different NGOs.
“We have been doing the entire event, including the training with the help of online fund raising. Last year Ashok Leyland helped us and this time keto.org came forward. I wish the Indian government too helped our team, just like the Scotland team is funded by their government as a part of their common wealth youth development program,” says Abhijeet Barse
Mr. Barse, however, praises the police department, which really helps them with the documentation work for the players.