17-year-old Sadhna fell in love with football only two years ago. Not a day goes by now when she is not on the field. For young girls like her, football is the answer to a society that initially tried to inhibit them from playing. For practice and training, they would have to visit the sports centre which is close by, but it also entailed walking through the busy community in shorts and a jersey or t-shirt.
It was not easy at first, as people would pass comments and say “look at how short her shorts are,” says Sadhna. “They would also try to incite our parents about our clothes and tell them not to send us to play football. It disturbed our parents, but now they do not pay attention to them. They know how important football is and how much we love playing it,” says Sadhna.
Sadhna is from World Vision India’s Area Development Programme in Mumbai. She now coaches young girls at the Sports Complex for free. She represented World Vision India in October 2017 at the Premier Skills training, which is the British Council’s international partnership with the Premier League. In this week-long programme, she received expert training from qualified Premier Skills coaches who gave her the necessary skills and support to develop her own community football projects as well as the confidence to increase her employability in the future.
Sadhna successfully completed the practical and written assessments and was awarded the Premier Skills Phase 1 Certificate. She also gained knowledge about child protection through sessions like keeping children safe, Part 1 and 2, and using football as a community development tool. They will be contributing to the community by training children from their community to play football.
Sadhna now is a coach to around 30 girls in the age group of 7 to 18 years.
Reflecting on society and the resistance to send girls to play, Sadhna feels like things are changing now, due to the presence of World Vision India in the community. “People like to comment,” she says. “Even if girls wear jeans and a t-shirt they are looked at strangely. Society has not changed much but our parents’ support has increased. They trust us and allow us to go even for far off trainings and matches, so we do not have many restrictions. This is because of all the awareness sessions conducted by World Vision India for mothers, parents and other groups in the community. Children now have so many opportunities to play different sports. At first these were chargeable at the sports centre, but now it has been made free,” says Sadhna.
She continues to tell us about her experience at the Premier League training. “I really enjoyed the training because I understood how to work with children, how to teach them football through fun activities, through drills and how to be a good coach. I am grateful to World Vision India for giving me this opportunity because otherwise I do not think so many children would have access to football. Now I am interested in everything. I want to try all kinds of sports. Earlier I wanted to be a photographer. But it has been two years since I took up football at the age of 15 and I love it. I want to make a name for myself and my family,” says Sadhna.
Sadhna just gave her 12th standard examinations. She now looks forward to going to college and also continuing her training in football. “We have training from 9 am to 10 am at the sports complex. During the holidays we will start at 7:30 am and will have more sessions for children at the centre. We can choose from a wide range of sports from football, badminton, karate, kickboxing, fencing, yoga, and many other sports,” says Sadhna.
The World Vision India staff who works with these youth groups in the community sheds some light on how much Sadhna has grown. “Earlier Sadhna was very quiet and shy. She was very low on confidence. But now she has grown a lot. She was also the president of the Children’s Club and is now a part of the Joy Youth Group. She also actively participates in the street play group. The children out here love sports. We want to create more football groups for girls and boys in this community as it will help them to work together,” says Sunita, Community Development Facilitator (CDF) with World Vision India.
Joy Youth Group is making a special group for girls, especially for football so that they can get it registered and the girls can take part in tournaments at various levels. Three youth groups (in the community) have already been registered under the government and now have their own bank accounts and other documents.
Apart from the District Sports Complex, the NGO Magic Bus also organises football matches and other events for children to participate in. This football coaching at the District Sports Complex for children in the community through World Vision India began four months ago, but one can already see how much they enjoy the sport.
After a busy day at school, kids gather on the ground from 4:00 pm to 6 pm, eagerly waiting for Sadhna. They start with warm ups and then do several drills that help them understand the nuances of the game. Once in a while they play matches, but still need to perfect their skills before they play with outside teams. Some kids come in their school shoes itself, others in worn out sneakers and some play barefoot. But their spirit to continue playing despite this is what shines through.