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Homeless football - From messy to Messi

An NGO, with tireless efforts, helps put Slum Soccer on the world map.

Nagpur: It would come as a surprise to many that India ranks 45th in the Homeless Football rankings, an achievement that the senior football team in India has never attained.

FILE PHOTO: Homeless Football World Cup

‘Slum Soccer’, an initiative by some football enthusiasts from Nagpur, was started with the aim of reaching out to the homeless using football as a tool for social improvement and empowerment. Today, the NGO has spread its wings across the country by setting up various units in 63 districts all around the country.

“This was initially started for spreading the game in the rural areas of Nagpur and Vidarbha. Nevertheless, today this institution has grown bigger and sponsors the Indian team that plays in the Homeless World Cup.” said Abhijeet Barse, CEO, Slum Soccer.

The NGO believes that this initiative has helped them to tackle the problem of homelessness and poverty more effectively. It has also attempted to make the participating individuals self reliant in order to ensure that their life is sustainable.

Over the past 10 years, the NGO has been reaching out to and developing football at the grassroots. What started as simple weekend sessions has bloomed into full fledged football coaching camps, educational and healthcare workshops and societal development programs, bringing a positive influence to the lives of many.

Disha Lohabare, one of the products of this initiative is the daughter of a scrap vendor. Playing under this initiative has made her realize that that she can make a difference in other children’s lives.

Today, Disha visits slums to encourage girls to play and works as assistant coach, training the Homeless World Cup (HWC) women’s team that will participate in the tournament to be held in Poland later this year.

It is disheartening to know that an organization working for the betterment of the game in the country does not fall under ambit of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and thus fails to receive any grants from the government. It is in fact the various private entities that have come out in full support of the NGO and that is what has kept it going.

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