Football lessons for indian slum kids

Added On July 20, 2014

Soccer is catching-up the fancy of Indians. Now when India has got a chance to host under-17 football world cup in the year 2017, many budding players are getting trained in various capacities across the country. 
But there is still a section of the society who can not afford costly football training. Kids from slum-areas are among those who have dreams to make it big in the soccer world like Ronaldo and Messi. 
For these kids, there is someone out there in Indian capital who has devoted his entire life for slum-kids. Let' s meet him out.
16-year old Aarti wakes up early in the morning. Then she starts doing household chores assigned by her mother while going out on the job as a housemaid. 
What worries her mother the most these days is her marriage since in many Indian communities; parents marry off their daughters at an early age.
"I always worry about her marriage because people in our society talks bad about the girls of her age. I also feel bad, sometimes. That' s why I want her to get married as soon as possible."
Aarti is not alone. Most girls from about a thousand families living in a Vikaspuri slum area known as  'Indira camp'  in New Delhi had the same story, few years back. Now their life is about to change. And the helping hand comes from  'My Angels Academy' .
Run by an activist Sylvester Peter, the academy not just pushes the young kids from slum to play football but to lead a respectable life as well. Peter also worked hard to convince parents to allow their daughters to play football along with boys.
"There may not be a millionaire coming out of the numerous slums like this one in Vikaspuri area of Indian capital New Delhi but who knows if a future footballer may come out of these slums. While all others slum dwellers fight for their survival almost every day, few of them like this one of the slum area of Vikaspuri are fighting to become a footballer."
Every morning, around 120 slum-kids queue-up and follow their mentor to the playground where they take lessons of soccer.
Sylvester Peter who happens to be a professional counselor has been training slum-kids in soccer for more than two decades. His team got various accolades, too. A few years back, one of his kids got selected to be trained by FC Barcelona in Spain but didn't make it because he couldn't afford an air ticket.
Peter claims to have lost many opportunities due to the lack of funds. He has also demanded the government to provide a land to set-up his academy on.
"The challenges are many. Even going for football match itself is a challenge. How to buy the tickets? I changed the studs when the cobblers say no more I can stitch, please retire it now (I buy new shoes for the kids when cobblers refuse to repair it) . Then only I changed the studs. So imagine what kind of financial crunch I am having....My Angels Academy is just one small room in the slum. Even that slum is going to get demolished. So all this work which I have been doing for last 27 years will go, it will just go. After that media comes and writes and take my interview, what will happen. All the angels, whatever...these angels not only play such a good football but they have become one of the best citizens of India. "
The holistic approach adopted by Peter has worked wonders. It has completely transformed many slum-kids who were thieves, rag-pickers and drug-addicts. He has not just diverted them to the playground but to schools as well. Many of them who are leading respectable life today give all credit to their "big brother - Peter".
SOUNDBITE: SANDIP KUMAR, Slum-kid turned Banker
"I was about 6-7 years old when I joined 'Angels'. That time, I used to do everything. I was a thief, a rag-picker and a drug-addict. To come to this level where I am today was not easy but it was more difficult for big brother Peter because he lost his childhood to save my childhood." 
My parents used to ask me not to play football. They even didn' t allow me to wear jeans. Then I joined  'My Angels Academy'  and big brother convinced my parents that if a boy can play why can' t a girl?
"When I came to Delhi, I was without my left hand. It used to look very ugly. Big brother saw that and helped me to get it operated. Now my left arm has been cut from elbow and it doesn't look ugly. Now I play football. I can do all other things which even a normal boy with two hands cannot perform."
Once those slum kids have now become "angels". That's how Peter call them.  And  these "angels" now have their own path to follow.