A sport for development project founded in India 18 years ago has teamed up with World Cup 2022 hosts Qatar to create a legacy for the tournament at home. Together, Slum Soccer and Qatar project Generation Amazing have built a football pitch in a school near Nagpur.
Since 2001, when Slum Soccer was set up by former sports teacher Vijay Barse, it has helped nearly 70,000 men, women and children in more than 63 districts across the country. Now, it has joined hands with Qatar, which wants to build sports infrastructure in disadvantaged areas for the community to benefit from.
A total of 28 pitches have already been built in the Middle East and Asia. The one that has come up recently in Nagpur, where Slum Soccer was founded, is the second one in India.
Generation Amazing aims to provide youngsters with safe places to play. Its newest pitch in India has been built on the grounds of Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar School in Kamptee, where it will host sports activities after school hours. This will help Slum Soccer expand its football for development programme in Kamptee.
Previously, they had an open space in the area, but it would turn into a swamp during rains.
Two local youngsters, Gabriella Shirwar and Shubham Patil, have joined the project as ambassadors for Generation Amazing, which it is hoped will lead to more children pursuing a career in sport.
Shirwar said: “For both Shubham and myself, it is really great to be part of the committee that will plan and supervise the use of the pitch. It really feels like we have a role to play as youth leaders in our community.”
Patil added: “This is a great project that will enable a lot of young people to play sports. Being involved in the development and implementation of this project has been a fantastic learning experience and has given me the opportunity to see from the beginning the impact that the pitch will have on the community.”
In order to get the two organisations working together more effectively, Slum Soccer and Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar School have created a supervisory committee with Generation Amazing Youth Ambassadors.
The Qatar project has so far reached over 250,000 people across seven countries — Qatar, Nepal, Pakistan, Jordan, Lebanon, The Philippines and India. The aim is to reach one million by the time the World Cup 2022 kicks off.
In November, a new Generation Amazing football pitch promoting gender equality in sport was built next to a school in Punjab – the first in India.
Baljinder Kaur, 22, is the local Generation Ambassador there running programmes for 95 children at the school in Jamsher.
“This pitch will give a chance to more young people – and especially girls – to play football. I believe I was selected as a Generation Youth ambassador to motivate and support young girls in my community. In the future, I want to continue helping children, while ensuring girls have equal opportunities,” she had said.
(Anthony Harwood is an independent contributor.)