Crying is Cool
November 18th 2016. CAC Global Citizen Alicia Calcagni wrote about gender stereotypes in Malda, India with Slum Soccer.
When was the last time you cried? If you’re a man then your answer is definitely, “Never.” If you’re a woman then your answer is definitely, “This morning.” This is a common stereotype across our world.
Last week I was working with a group of 18-22 year old coaches from a village in rural India. We played a game that discussed typical male and female qualities. I introduced it by asking the group to define four characteristics of a man. They shouted, “strong, angry, and happy.” After struggling to determine a fourth, in between giggles, a young man offered “crying.” You guys get the joke, right? Obviously guys do not cry. However, he stopped giggling when I asked him: “Why don’t boys cry?” “Because we are not girls, we are strong.” I should have guessed that. Then I really challenged him, “Even though you do not cry, do you still feel emotions inside of you?” He nodded slowly, uttering a serious “yes.” I am proud of him for admitting this in a world where the cultural norm is to oppress emotions.
We continued our discussion and I suggested that boys are strong when they cry. Maybe you can imagine the crowds response. It was an uproar of laughs and “no, no, no!!!!!” It is also important to note that the boy to girl ratio was 15:8, and the men were dominating this conversation. If no one ever questions then boys will always be strong, and girls will always be weak. Will we ever be able to define crying as strong? I have trouble understating why it is normal to suppress emotions, when 1. It is impossible and 2. Everybody feels them. However, now that it is public knowledge that women AND men have feelings why not give crying a try?
Life Starts After Your Engineering Degree
CAC SDL coach Turner Humphries talks about his 2nd week in Nagpur, India with Slum Soccer.
December 10th 2015. Due to a cyclone developing in Chennai the decision was made to remain in Nagpur for a second week. A group of coaches from Chennai made the long train journey to Nagpur where their training would be held.
After an hour and a half of hard work on the field we would all retreat to the small patch of shade outlined by benches with faded green, yellow and red paint. As the participants ate their breakfast of yellow rice and fruits, it offered me the opportunity to get to know them outside of being soccer coaches. For many of them their journey to becoming a coach was not so straightforward. The participants voiced their frustration with the pressure put on them by their parents. This pressure in some cases led them down a path that they had no interest in. It seemed like many of them shared similar stories, citing how their parents decided which school they would attend and which subjects they would study. Aaron, a participate from Chennai spoke to me about his time at university studying to earn a degree in engineering. ‘I had zero interest in engineering, but that didn’t matter,’ he proclaims, ‘in India every parent wants their child to be an engineer or a doctor. That decision was made for me basically as soon as I was born.’ While Aaron tells me his story his friends have been nodding their heads in agreement to every sentence. I go around to each of them and ask them what they studied, ‘civil engineering,’ ‘electrical engineering,’ ‘automotive engineering,’ ‘structural engineering.’ ‘I told you!’ Aaron shouts, ‘In India your life starts after your engineering degree.’ I have no doubt that their parents had only but the best intentions in mind. They most likely look at the world and see an incredibly competitive global workplace. Hoping to give their child the best chance to succeed they handpick a course of study they think will bring security. But what about the days of ‘you can be anything you want to be’? Is that just a nice phrase we tell children until they get older? Should it really be you can be anything you want to be, as long as it comes with a six figure salary, a company car and approving sentiments from the neighbors? We tell children to dream big, but if those dreams do not fall in line with what is socially acceptable or is not the ‘right’ choice, we tell them to dream again. Prithvi, another participant from Chennai was talking to me about his favorite soccer coaches, listing the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola. Prithvi then asked me, ‘Do you think an Indian will ever coach in the Premier League in England?’ ‘Why not?’ I responded, ‘why not you?’
CAC staff member Turner Humphries writes about a day in the life of Pankaj Mahajan, a Community Impact Coach from our long term partner Slum Soccer in Nagpur, India.
November 20th 2015. Pankaj ascends from bed at 6:00 am, he washes his face, brushes his teeth and takes a small cup of tea before heading out the door. He borrows any moto available to get him to Nagpur’s city center for a practice session with fourteen year old boys and girls. He then departs for the Slum Soccer center in Bokhara – arriving around 7:45 am. He brings out all the football equipment that I will need for the on-field training and takes another cup of tea. As the clock closes in on 8:00 I reach the field. Having spotted me walking up the road, Pankaj has already retreated to the kitchen to prepare a cup of tea for me. As the program begins Pankaj is right by my side as he beckons the Hindi translation of the instructions I have given for the upcoming game. He then scurries to join his team to play; hounding attacking players with his insatiable appetite for a 50-50 challenge. After assisting me with my coaching session Pankaj sits down with the CEO of Slum Soccer to discuss an upcoming fair play tournament that he is in charge of organizing. Pankaj is hoping this tournament will give him the experience necessary to be a Young Leaders Coordinator for a Street Football World festival in France. Following his meeting with the top brass of Slum Soccer, Pankaj sets about fulfilling his many Off-Field responsibilities. Emails must be sent, practices must be planned and reports must be written. Closing his laptop Pankaj heads back on the field, this time to observe and evaluate some of the Young Leaders of Slum Soccer as they try their hand at coaching games to local youth. Once the session is complete Pankaj makes his way back to the office to retrieve his trusted laptop. The lights of the office have been switched off, still he continues his work from home. Back at home another cup of tea is in order. With the last of his emails sent he begins refining his English skills with a booked entitled, Differences Between Mission and Vision. He shuttles back and forth between this book and the dictionary as he attempts to learn the words he does not understand. After dinner Pankaj mingles with friends and relative in his neighborhood. For an hour or so they listen to music and share tips on how to gain the interest of members of the opposite sex. The clock now reads 11:30 pm – it is time for Pankaj to go to bed. Before he switches off the lights he squeezes in five more pages of his book.
Pankaj Mahajan is twenty-one years old and has recently become a senior coach with Slum Soccer. Just one year ago Pankaj’s circumstances were very different. After a battle with alcohol addiction his father committed suicide. Pankaj left college so he could care for his family. He began work painting houses and running a provisional store, earning around 1,000 rupees per month. His entire wage was going back to help support his family. As Pankaj shares his story with me he is calm and measured. Instead of being sad about the past he wants me to know he is focused on his future – I have no doubts it will be bright one. Pankaj is a Community Impact Coach with Coaches Across Continents. His hard work and dedication have made him a joy to be around, his sense of humor and genuine personality have made him a great friend.
I’m Here, I Want To Play
CAC SDL Coach Turner Humphries blogs on renewing acquaintances with Slum Soccer in Haryana, India.
November 12th 2015. Stepping out of the Delhi airport I could see a tall man with wide eyes and an even wider smile making his way through the crowd of people towards me. The sign he had made to find me was folded up in his hands. After seeing me glance at it he said, ‘You look like a CAC coach so I didn’t even need this!’ His name is Homkant, and the two of us would be spending a lot of time together. From Delhi we had a two hour drive to Haryana were the coaching program would be held. Once we arrived at the house we would be staying at we both dropped our bags in the room and sunk into bed. He had arrived into Delhi not long before me; making the trek from Nagpur, a twenty two hour train ride away. The two of us were sharing a bed in a room lined with posters of Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar. With the eyes of some of footballs greats looking down on us we drifted to sleep, the next day would mark the start of the program with around thirty young leaders from Haryana.
As always we began with Circle of Friends, a game designed to allow everyone to get to know one another as we warm up our bodies and voice. The first time Circle of Friends is played both participants and coach are feeling each other out. Participants new to the concept of sport for social impact are most likely wondering what a ‘boomshakalaka’ is and why I want them to do something called the Koo Koo dance. Before leaving for the field I was briefed by the local partners that female empowerment would be the main issue for the training, as girls are actively discouraged from playing football in their community. As Circle of Friends took off I noticed that girls were only interacting with girls and boys with boys. After pointing this out to the group everyone gave a light hearted laugh and agreed to mix it up. For some of the participants this was their first time playing football with the opposite sex. What was first nervous energy became real enjoyment and excitement as the participants learned how much they shared in common. It turns out both girls and boys really like Barcelona and Messi. Later in the session Homkant came up to me and said, ‘You and I, we know that girls and boys playing together is good. But some of the local coaches here are upset that the girls are mixing with the boys. They told me they will not bring there girls team to our training again.’ After hearing this I was deflated. To me this seemed incredibly unfair to the girls, as someone else was dictating under what circumstances they could play.
The next day sure enough we were without nearly twenty female participants. However, the following day two girls appeared back at the field. They told me their coach had threatened to kick them off the team if they went back to the training. They didn’t seem bothered by their coaches severe threat. Putting her hands up in the air one of the girls said, ‘I want to play…so I’m here.’ Sometimes teenagers are smarter than adults.
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.