CHENNAI: Nine children from Chennai represent India to participate in the Street Child World Cup in Qatar to be held in October. A city-based NGO, Karunalaya, in Tondiarpet, has trained the talented kids on the streets who were abandoned and defenceless. These kids have been training hard for the last 6 months in Chennai under special coaches and are gearing up for the World Cup.
Karunalaya, with the support of Greater Chennai Corporation, Azim Premji Foundation and Amos Trust UK have empowered these 9 kids by giving them a platform and an opportunity to not only play their favorite sport – soccer. It also enabled them to travel across the ocean for a never-before experience after many challenges.
S Sandhiya, Captain, Team India, said, “When I was on the streets in Koyambedu, I used to pick up fallen vegetables to sell and support my single mother and sleep without protection. I never knew that I could even dream of flying in an airplane or about playing football representing India in Qatar. I could not believe that it was happening for real. As the team captain, I will ensure that I motivate the team to play well and win the World Cup”.
In the initial days, there was no training or nutritional support for the children. Even though there were people available to coach the girls, there was no playground nearby, and they used to travel from Parry’s corner to Tondiarpet for practice every day.
“All these kids are from difficult backgrounds, where they were abandoned, single parents, issues of protection. In addition, they did not have documents such as birth certificates, Aadhar cards like these children and stayed on the streets for a longer time. When they were selected for the world event, it took almost a year to get identity certificates and apply for a passport, which was a long procedure. There was nobody to help us with it, though the state government extended their support, but not financially,” stated Dr N Paul Sunder Sign, Secretary of Karunalaya.
Organised a month ahead of the FIFA World Cup, the SCWC will unite street children from across 5 continents from 25 countries, including Brazil, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Pakistan, and Qatar. At least 12 teams of girls and 16 teams of boys aged 14-17 years will compete against each other for the World Championship title over a period of 10 days, playing 20-minute matches on 7-a-side football pitches.