Field Of Dreams
CAC SDL coach Turner Humphries writes about a great week in Kolkata, India with Slum Soccer.
December 18th 2015. In Kolkata we were playing on a recently built artificial turf field behind one of the local schools. Before the field was built (by our partners Chevrolet FC in May!) this area was steered clear of by most of the community, as it became a haven for drug and alcohol use and other antisocial behavior. The addition of this new field has seen a transformation in the community, and a once crime ridden area has become the focal point of positive activity.
Shabaz, a participant from Kolkata, describes what this field has meant to him. “Most of the members of this community enjoy football. Before there was this facility people were practicing in the streets at night, but the police would chase everyone away. That’s how we worked on our fitness – running from the police! Before this field was here this area had lots of problems with drugs, alcohol and other bad things. The people in the community did not feel safe. In a way this field has stabilized the community, you will not see anyone doing bad things around here anymore. Parents now feel comfortable sending their children here at night. Girls have been invited to play too. Everyone should feel safe here; it’s football, not bad-ball. Because of this field I have been able to start my coaching career. Without it I would have nothing.”
During our training the field would be surrounded by community members coming to hangout, chat with friends and to check out the coaches yelling ‘Boomshakalaka’ and dancing around singing ‘Mingle Mingle!’ The field is equipped with lights so the field is almost in constant use. The participants all took pride in the new facility, cleaning up every piece of trash before leaving. It was the ideal setting to go deeper into some of the issues troubling the community and work together to come up with solutions.
We are India, and we ASK for Choice!
CAC’s Sophie Legros talks about another week in Nagpur, India with Slum Soccer.
June 4th 2015. All programs are different with CAC, but this week was especially so, and not only because of the record temperatures of 118°F! Instead of a usual CAC training and in continuation of our partnership with Chevrolet FC and Slum Soccer, I assisted Slum Soccer in running activities around their annual state and national women’s festival in Nagpur. U20 teams from all over the state and country came to play Homeless World Cup-style games in the evenings, avoiding the blistering middle of the day heat.
Slum Soccer and their leaders have embraced the culture of sport for social impact. Although teams were competing to win the state and national cup, On-Field sessions were organized in the mornings and classroom sessions later in the day so that players had a chance to learn and develop as individuals. I worked with both the girls and the Slum Soccer leaders on CAC’s new ASK for Choice curriculum. Games were played to teach about women’s rights, to question society’s attitudes regarding women and to reflect on what choices the girls want to make in their lives.
A game that went particularly well was Indonesia for Choice. Four teams stand in four separate squares and have to come up with a word that describes first a man and then a woman in their community. When two words are called out, the two associated teams play a game where they try to bring the ball into the square of the other team. It is not only a fun football game, it also allows for engaging discussions about society’s perceptions of women in men. The Slum Soccer leaders, being advanced in their understanding of the CAC curriculum and of the problems of gender inequality in their community, came up with honest, power, good listener and patient to describe a man and with education, empower, freedom and all-rounded for a woman. The Slum Soccer leaders are not only aware of the gender norms in their community, they have also reflected on what is needed to achieve greater gender equality.
Some of the young women we had worked with in Kolkata participated in the tournament. It was their first time playing in a tournament and probably the first time they had worn sports clothes. It was a true joy to witness the team’s evolution since the first time they walked onto the Chevrolet FC field just a few weeks ago. What Slum Soccer did particularly well was to make sure all teams, whatever their level, could participate. Teams of varying levels and experience, some having played for more than nine years at the national level, others just beginning, came together to celebrate women and sports.
On the last day, girls and Slum Soccer coaches shared their stories about how they started playing football and what impact it has had on their life. It was inspiring to hear these stories which served as a reminder for everyone that the value of sport far exceeds that of winning and losing.
Over the week, more than a hundred young women showcased their abilities and defied stereotypes that girls are weak and cannot play football. One of Slum Soccer’s greatest achievements is that the boys fully support the change. The official photographer was surprised at how much more exciting the women’s tournament was compared to the men’s, which took place a few months earlier, because in particular of the cheering on the sidelines. At the end of the week, the message was clear: “We are India and we ASK for Choice!”
Chennai learns about Gazza
May 26th 2015. After two exciting weeks in Kolkata, I headed to Chennai to continue strengthening our partnership with Slum Soccer and Chevrolet FC and train another group of future coaches and youth leaders. The Slum Soccer Chennai team had selected a few coaches from their various centers in Tamil Nadu who will be responsible for implementing the CAC curriculum every week in their respective communities. The training effectively served as the transition between the first and second instalments of the Gamesa league. Building off of the excitement from the final tournament, just a week before, we worked to set the foundation for a strong second year of football for social impact throughout the region. Protection of the environment, gender equality and alcohol abuse were the chosen social issues for the week.
The five Gazza games we played on Wednesday had tremendous success. Gazza is the player for our alcohol abuse module. All five games were chosen on Friday by participants to coach back to their peers. This demonstrates both how much the issue hit home but also their commitment to football for social impact. Although this was their first time to coach, they made a conscious effort to deliver the social messages associated with each game. What was remarkable was that each group described Gazza’s story in their own way and identified different lessons that could be learned. Some coaches also had fun inventing another version of Gazza Dizzy tag. Gazza Dizzy tag is a game where the taggers have to turn around themselves while running, making it very difficult to catch players as they loose their balance, very much like the effects alcohol can have on one’s body. Instead of a tag game, players had to spin ten times around themselves and then try to score a goal, if they even managed to get to the ball before falling down.
The training took place on a football field right in the middle the Mylapore community. This type of setting makes it easy to generate community support for a program. Slum Soccer has recently started working with Mylapore residents who are somewhat of an anomaly in cricket-crazy Chennai. We took advantage of the interest created by the training and the productive discussion after Marta for Gender Equity about why girls should play sport and why they don’t to invite girls from Mylapore for a fun session on Thursday afternoon. The three sole female participants led the games. More girls have been joining teams as a result of last year’s training and many of the participants have discussed the idea of opening girl centers when they return to their own communities.
It has been exciting to witness Slum Soccer’s growth throughout India and there is no doubt that this new set of youth leaders will continue to expand the partnership’s impact to their different communities.
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.
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.
A Marriage in Social Impact
December 17, 2014. Week 2 with Slum Soccer Nagpur brought to us by volunteer, Billy Hawkey.
The setting was the same for our second week in Nagpur with Slum Soccer. Our participants for the week had already been through at least one CAC training. Some had participated in the training a year ago, others were a part of the training just one week prior. We had Community Impact Coaches and Slum Soccer senior staff members. The group knew what football for social impact meant, and they were familiar with the CAC methodology and values.
This week Sophie and I had a goal to introduce new role models and as many new games as possible. To achieve this we had two separate on-field sessions every day, in addition to our classroom sessions. We were asking a lot of the group, we were going to challenge them, but they were ready.
On day one we covered our Suarez and Hope Solo games. Day two was financial literacy and Perpetua games and the third day we played new child right’s games. The games were new to the experienced coaches, which kept them engaged and having a blast. They were able to identify the social messages with ease, and so we challenged them frequently by asking how they would adapt the games to fit different social issues.
Throughout the week the group had been planning games that they were going to invent and coach on the fourth and final day. The creativity and ideas they had were great. The topics included the dowry system, organic farming, rape, conflict resolution, the rights of children with disabilities, and child labor. They coached the games exceptionally; they were confident, well organized, and clear. They facilitated fluid discussions of the social impact related to their games. It was very fun to sit back and watch them at work. Slum Soccer is continuing to invent new games including math education games dealing with profit and loss (Did you even think it was possible to teach that through football?).
An impactful game from the week was Suarez for Gender Equity. In this game two teams play a scrimmage with three goals to defend, and three goals to attack. Each goal represents a different way to empower women. The goals represented education, sports, and support. To begin, all players must walk. When an individual scores a goal, they must yell the empowering message and then they have the freedom to run. It took a few minutes for the first team to break even, but then we quickly had two running players, then three, four, and before you knew it everyone on the field was running. The quick increase in running players was due to the running players helping their teammates by giving good support, or dribbling fast around walking defenders and laying it off for a teammate to finish right in front of goal. This game represented the impact that empowering women has on a community. It has been shown that when empowered, women will give back and help their community more than men, just as in the game the empowered individuals helped their team reach its full potential.
Slum Soccer was an extremely fun group to work with and the relationship between CAC and Slum Soccer is special. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with them. We joked on several occasions that Slum Soccer and CAC are like a married couple; sharing the same thoughts and often pronouncing a great idea just seconds before the other intended to say the same thing. Slum soccer is adding programs of Edu-Kick, Shakti Girls Program, Slum Soccer on the Road, and Youth Leaders Training. They currently have centers in Nagpur and Chennai and are expanding to Delhi, Mumbai, and Kolkata. 2015 is going to be an exciting year for the CAC and Slum Soccer partnership.
In the evenings I played in friendly matches with the coaches, some of the participants, and the u14 Slum Soccer team. However one game in particular stood out. The Chai Game.
I was feeling a little tired after a long day on the field, and was leaning towards calling it a day and hitting the bucket shower early. That’s when I was told “It’s chai game!” I needed no further persuading. I was up off the bench and on the field within seconds.
Winning team gets chai; losing team serves. Throughout the game there was a sense of urgency in everyone’s voice. I couldn’t understand the exact content of what was being said, but the word “chai” was always in there. I would sporadically just scream out “chai!” to fit in. The game is up there for one of the most intense games I’ve been apart of, right next to games vs. Amherst. I am proud to say that I was victorious in my first career Chai match; however no chai was drank that night… we were all out of milk.