• Changing Culture in Kolkata

    May 15, 2015.  Chief Exec Brian tells of the dramatic transformation occurring in Kolkata, India.

    They want to play. That much is clear. There were 49 different women who came out to our trainings this past week and all wanted to play. Even the 22 of whom had never kicked a football until this week. The culture and traditions of this community did not make it easy for girls and women to play football. It just wasn’t something that they historically participated in – and change is not easy. Threats and acts of physical violence on women for playing sport are extremely rare, but still occur from time to time as we heard second-hand accounts during our time here.

    But the culture is changing and the overwhelming majority of this community has chosen to support this change, with the assistance of the partnership between Chevrolet FC, the Belalious School, Slum Soccer, and Coaches Across Continents. A new field-turf facility was built on the grounds of the Belalious School in an impoverished area of Kolkata called Tikiapara. The girls (and boys) now have a safe space, both physically and emotionally to participate in sport. And more importantly the community has embraced this facility as their own.

    Each afternoon two hours has been designated exclusively for the girls and women of this community to come and play and learn. They slip off their shoes and headscarves and join in the CAC training to learn from the game of football. Only a few are comfortable donning soccer jerseys or shorts, and the rest play in their colorful saris. A handful are already coaches, while others are hoping to become community leaders who can begin using the field as a place to teach young girls social messages through soccer, an opportunity many of them were never afforded.

    What does it mean to change cultures and traditions, and why is this important? Despite the lip service globally to equal human rights, many girls and women are not permitted to play sports. Here in India, less than 2% of soccer players are female, and that number may be generous. But beliefs can change and should change if we truly want to embrace equal rights. Sport, especially sport for social impact, is something that promotes healthy lifestyles for women, decreases infant mortality, fosters female empowerment and gender equity, and encourages further education which in turn increases average annual income. And most importantly, sport is fun. And the women want to play. That much is clear.

    The most satisfying aspect of this week, as a western man who is coming to this community as an outsider with my own ingrained beliefs, was watching a group of older men observe training each day. They sat peacefully and supportively guarded the entryway, shooing away small boys or leering adolescents so that the women could train in peace. They were the guardians of this new safe space. In their own gruff way, these men are ensuring that it is ok for cultures to change and to allow their daughters, sisters, and wives to enjoy the freedom of sport and the power of social education through football.  And the girls and women want to play. That much is clear.

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    One thing is clear:

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    They want to play.

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    CAC, Chevrolet FC, and Slum Soccer have helped make it happen.

     

  • The Possibilities of #PlayItForward

    May 11, 2015.  The world is full of possibilities, no matter where you look. It could have been easy to dismiss the trash dump and pond full of garbage, located just behind Belilious School, as unsalvageable. But Chevrolet FC and Slum Soccer only saw the possibilities. Together they worked with Sandip Dutta, trustee of the land and the Belilious School to create a field worthy of any community in the world. The new field will be used to reach out to the most under-served children and youth of Kolkata.

    Coaches Across Continents continues its award-winning partnership with Chevrolet FC in our fifth community, this time in Tikiapara, Howrah, in Kolkata, India. CAC’s important role in this partnership is to create a sustainable legacy, where local coaches and teachers can use the new field as an educational environment, using sport to create social change. During our first week we trained over 60 coaches, empowering them to become coaches who can use sport to educate about important local social issues like health & wellness, female empowerment, conflict resolution, and child rights.

    On the Event Day, Saturday May 9th, CAC showcased two of it’s games on the new pitch to a crowd of over 500 which included representatives from General Motors, Mikaël Silvestre (Manchester United legend) local dignitaries, the board of trustees of the ground, members of the media, and hundreds of children and parents watching. One game we showcased was from our Child Rights module: The Right to an Education. Slum Soccer coach Homkant used the game which involves adding goals onto the pitch each time you score (representing completing another year of schooling) to correlate the message that the more education you complete, the more opportunities open up in your life. On average, continuing just one more year of school means an increase of 10% of income.

    These important messages will continue to be used by local coaches and teachers on the new pitch, creating long-term social change in the community. Our long-term Indian partner Slum Soccer has already created such social change in other locations – and we are confident that the impact they are about to have in Kolkata will be immense, thanks to the joint efforts of Chevrolet FC, One World Play Project, and Coaches Across Continents. Possibilities are everywhere.

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    Coach Homkant uses the new field to teach about the importance of education.

    Coach Homkant uses the new field to teach about the importance of education.