Go, Slum Soccer, Go
December 10, 2014. Volunteer, Billy Hawkey, writes about the first of two weeks back in Nagpur, India with long-time partner, Slum Soccer.
We landed in Nagpur a little after 9 pm on Sunday night. I had heard about Slum Soccer mostly through the 2014 CAC documentary, but still knew very little about who they really were. Sophie told me that we are in the fourth year of our partnership, they have completed the Hat-Trick Initiative and are in many ways a model program. But what did that mean? I needed to see it for myself.
As we sat in the kitchen of our guest house, 100 yards away from the all dirt pitch, like normal we discussed a plan for the week with our partner. However, this meeting was different than all the previous meetings I had been a part of over the past two and a half months. “Ronaldo?” we asked.
“The new Marta for Gender Equity?”
“Yes, we played it.”
I thought to myself, “what are we going to do this week? They know everything!” The participants for the week had just been through a two-day training conducted by the Slum Soccer coaches in which they played all the games from our Ronaldo, Marta, and Wambach role models; they played Old Trafford Tag, Scary Soccer, and more. “So they know how to coach our games?” I asked Sophie; “Oh yes” she said in a very assuring voice, “they’re creating games.”
I was quickly starting to get a picture of the cumulative impact that CAC has on its partners. As the week progressed I would see just how self-sustaining Slum Soccer is and how deeply ingrained CAC is in their organization. But for now, as we sat in the kitchen, we needed to come up with a fresh plan for day one. We would begin with Mia Hamm day.
As I sat in the Slum Soccer classroom on Monday morning, as participants were filing in, I looked around the room and admired the graffiti art on the wall of Wayne Rooney, Neymar, Messi and Abby Wambach; all CAC role models.
The participants were Slum Soccer’s second batch of first year youth leaders. They were a cohesive group, who were just as passionate in the classroom discussions and activities as they were on the field. Our child rights training/discussion during the middle of the week was quite interesting. The various forms of abuse that children in Nagpur suffer from and the extreme imbalance of power between the child-adult relationship was the early focus of the conversation. For the most part, children in Nagpur do not receive respect or support from adults, and are fearful to approach them. Sexual abuse was noted to be a major issue for women in Nagpur, which shifted our discussion to the topic of rape. One man said that if a girl is wearing provocative clothing than it is her fault if she is raped. This fired up the group, both men and women, who argued otherwise, and many voices in the room weighed in on this issue, eventually reaching the consensus that it is never the victims’ fault.
On the field the next day we played Know Your Rights, as a follow up to the strong discussion we had the day before. Players are divided into two teams, with a large circle separating the two. Five cones are evenly spread out around the outside of the circle. Each cone represents a different child right. The group designated them as: the right to decide, the right to play sports, the right to an education, the right to information, and the right to have a voice. Two players from each team enter the circle and jog around. When the coach yells out a right, the players must run as fast as they can to the correct cone. The first team with both players to reach the cone gets a point. We played many rounds, adding more players in the circle, more complex rules, and of course, some dance moves to replace the jogging. The game was full of energy and it continued our message of child rights and why those rights are important.
Throughout the week I enjoyed observing the Slum Soccer coaches and staff display their knowledge and understanding of the CAC methodology. From time to time the young Slum Soccer coaches would step in and help us coach, and play some of the new games that they invented including games related to voting, traffic, and keeping the environment clean. I was impressed by the work Slum Soccer is doing, and how they have assimilated the CAC games and values for using sport for social impact into their organization. The work they are doing with local slum children is amazing, and everyone involved with Slum Soccer has bought in to the strong culture they have created.
On Sunday we visited a farm with some Slum Soccer friends, picked sweet limes and guava fruit from the trees, hiked to a damn, and had a great home cooked chicken lunch. Throughout the day there were cries of “Marta 1!”, “Wambach 2!”, “Solve your problem!” and lots of laughter.