Yadukrishnan P and his friend wanted to do something to express their love for the game of football. So these school students formed a group called ‘Lets Football Lets Cleanup’ to make sure that the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Kochi was clean after every match. They started with seven people who came together to clean up the stands after the first Indian Super League match held in the city. Today, the group is growing in numbers with every single match.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
It was with these words of Mahatma Gandhi that we began our initiative – ‘Lets Football Lets Cleanup’.
Passionate about working towards Gandhi’s vision of a clean India, and driven by our love for football, we began last year as a team of just two people – two school students to be precise.
We, my friend and I, were studying in class 12 at that time. And the one thing that has always kept all my friends connected is our immense love for football. We just love the game. So, obviously, when we heard about the upcoming Indian Super League (ISL) in October last year, our excitement knew no bounds.
All our favourite players like Pirès, Anelka, Silvestre, Del Piero and Elano, were now going to come to our shores. They were going to play in our stadiums, right in front of our eyes. This was a chance for the millions of football fans in India to show the world that our passion for the game is second to none. We stay up late to watch all Champions League games, and we celebrate the victory of our favourite teams with the same passion as the fans at the Stretford End. Just visit Kochi during an ISL match and you will know what I am talking about.
With ISL coming up, we wanted to do something to express our love for the game. But we weren’t sure about what could be done. This was around the same time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. The campaign had a profound impact on us. Like many different schools in the country, ours was also participating in the campaign. All the students had started cleaning their classrooms on a regular basis. We were also cleaning our canteen, and other places on the school premises. While this momentum faded in a few months, it instilled in us a sense of purpose to do something on similar lines.
That was when my friend and I came up with this idea – that of combining Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and football. Our plan was simple. We wanted to make sure that the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Kochi was cleaned up after every ISL match. And we wanted to do it ourselves. So we began by creating a Facebook page called “Lets Football Lets Cleanup”, and asked all our friends and acquaintances to like it. Being naive beginners, we initially thought that everyone who has liked us on Facebook will also come and clean up the stands with us.
For the first match, it was just seven of us who turned up for cleaning. But the numbers started increasing soon – 30 people gathered for the second match, 40 for the next, and so it went on.
This helped us in cleaning a lot more area than we initially thought was possible. We would collect all the litter that accumulated in the stands after every match, and hand it over to the people who are responsible for cleanliness inside the stadium. The only issue was that we only had 30 minutes before the stadium lights went off, and we needed more people to cover the entire stadium in that much time.
The most memorable match
The game between Kerala Blasters and Atlético de Kolkata last season proved to be the best match for us.
That day we had 70 volunteers – we hired drums, all of us wore black, and it was an experience to remember.
The best part was that we had also contacted the public relationship team of Kerala Blasters Football Club. So we had their official support. They gave us free tickets, and some of the players also came down to help us clean up after the game.
That was one of our proudest moments as a team.
With that game, we got a lot of media attention and the Kerala Blasters marquee player, David James, also praised us for our effort. Even the Prime Minister tweeted about us.
We were on cloud nine!
These kids from Kochi & Kerala Blasters team chip in towards a Clean India. Now thats a wonderful GOAL! http://t.co/i5rthM0TN2
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) November 29, 2014
After that we simply kept on increasing the number of participants. But throughout the first ISL season, we were still far away from cleaning up the entire stadium because of less manpower.
Indian Super League Season 2
Fast forwarding to this year – things are very different. All of us from school are now scattered across many different colleges in the city, and that gives us the chance to spread our message far and wide.
This year, we got a chance to plan ahead and operate in a more organized manner. This is how we are going about it:
1. We collect the cash from different volunteers to buy their tickets beforehand.
2. Everyone assembles and sits together on the day of the match.
3. Each volunteer is provided with garbage bags and other necessary items for cleaning.
4. The volunteers are then split into squads to clean up specific sections of the stands after the match.
How to join us
We hope that more people will join us in our mission, so we can achieve our goal every season. If you are interested in joining, just come over. We always clean the west side of the 1st level gallery (Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi). Wait for 10 minutes after the game is over and you will be able to spot us, cleaning up. Currently, we are only operating in Kochi, but we want to spread to each and every football stadium in India.
– Yadukrishnan P