The Homeless World Cup Football tournament held recently in Milan, Italy, gave the Indian team a chance to shine.

Think of the world’s greatest footballers — Maradona and Pele, the Black Pearl. Both came from impoverished backgrounds. Maradona was born in the slums of Villa Fiorito near Buenos Aires. He was the fifth of eight children. Pele grew up in Bauru, São Paulo, and earned money by working in tea shops. Pele could not afford a football and played with either a grapefruit or an old sock stuffed with newspaper.

Professor Vijay Barse at Krida Vikas Sanstha, Nagpur (KVSN) trained kids from the slum. And today a group of kids living in the slums of India’s metros are competing at the Homeless World Cup football tournament at Milan, Italy. Tottenham Hotspur, founded in 1882 is today one of the world’s leading football clubs and they sponsored the team groomed by KVSN.

The competition at Milan saw 48 countries participating, including defending champions Afghanistan. This is the third year that India is participating in the competition. The Indian team was trained at a 15-day camp in Nagpur by coaches Ashok Chhetri of Bengal, Andy Hookes of Scotland and Debora Ball of England.

High competition

“We would like to hold the Homeless World Cup football tournament in India in 2010,” says Dr Barse.

KVSN runs football programmes for the homeless and slum dwellers.

Paul Barber, Executive Director Tottenham Hotspur, says that by supporting KVSN’s Slum Soccer programme and other projects, the Club will hopefully contribute substantially to raising its profile worldwide and encourage others to support.

In addition to financial support, Tottenham Hotspur provides the kit, signed memorabilia for auction and coaching advice. The Club will also seek to engage further with KVSN through their own partners and supporters.

The team

Savio Andrew (captain),

Vikas Sharma, Chandrashekhar Luche (Nagpur),

Vinod Subba (Darjeeling),

Nirnay Shirwar (goalkeeper, Chandrapur),

Dhiraj Kumar (Uttaranchal),

Disha Lohabre (Bandara),

Chitra Turkar (Boondia).

Their manager is Swapnil Kalbande from Mumbai.

KVSN – What it does

KVSN now runs slum soccer programmes in over 15 cities.

It addresses issues like HIV/AIDS infection, personal hygiene and environmental protection.

Matches are organised to raise awareness of these issues.

An India-Pakistan friendship bicycle rally along the disputed border was held to promote peace.

Currently, in the process of developing a community development centre to offer participants housing, school education and vocational training.

Homeless World Cup

It began in 2003 and is today, an annual tournament.

It supports grassroots football projects in over 60 nations working with over 25,000 homeless and marginalised people.

The project has impacted 73 per cent of players, helping them come off drugs or alcohol, moving into jobs, getting an education, homes, training, reuniting with their families and in some cases going on to become players and coaches for professional or semi-professional football teams.

The programme includes and benefits both girls as well as boys.

KVSN programmes keep children away from alcohol and drugs and gives them a new life.