How Football Gave An Identity To These Boys From Chennai

I started my “Teach for India” journey at Anjuman Matriculation Higher Secondary School, a 125-year-old Muslim Charitable Organization, striving for the holistic growth of the orphan, destitute children through educational and vocational programmes.

Anjuman’s primary objective is to provide a second chance for these children, who otherwise would not have received it at all and to transform them towards becoming the best of mankind. That being said, at the end of each day, these children go back to their dormitories (hostel) and not to the comfort of their homes and relatives as other children do. Anjuman has two separate Homes (hostels) for Boys and Girls in its campus with a strength of 330 boys and 335 girls.

 

 

Term 2 in October 2017 started with Sowmya and I teaching Grade 5 English. We found it difficult to discipline this particular all-boys classroom. It was extremely frustrating and mentally and physically exhausting every day and we didn’t understand what we were missing in this equation. While most of the boys were like this, there were a couple of them who were just a little more extreme. Akbar, for instance, would randomly walk into our classrooms shout, scream, sing songs and run away.

Now it would be unfair if I didn’t share their background and their stories which are beyond heartbreaking. Akbar lost his father when he was really young. His mother went into depression and ended her life 6 months after his passing, leaving Akbar and his two brothers in the care of her older sister who left them at this school’s orphanage.

Abdullah also lost both parents when he was young making him leave his home in Bihar to stay in the school. These boys are all so lost. They did anything which made them feel important and gave them some attention.

To be honest, it took me a while to understand this.

Fast forward a couple of months and enter Just for Kicks. I don’t think words can describe the transformation. Football has given these boys hope, purpose, meaning and suddenly, an identity that they didn’t have all these years! The discipline and respect they have on the field has found its way into the classroom and HOW!

Every evening after school, Akbar and Abdullah come to spend some time with me. We play Jenga, build cool things, read books and sometimes even just talk. They help me clean up the classroom and walk with me till the gate. 3 months ago, I would have scoffed if someone said this was possible.

 

I would urge everyone to encourage sports of ALL kinds with children of ALL ages. You never know the impact – the discipline, commitment, perseverance that come with it is immense. Not to mention – The hope, purpose, and self-importance it gives these kids who need it desperately.

Proud to also mention our boys are REGIONAL CHAMPIONS for both under 10 and under 12 and flew (that’s right, aeroplane!) to Mumbai in February 2018 for the National Championship of the JFK League. Thank you Anjuman and Just For Kicks for this amazing story I can share today.

 

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Have you looked up the official Just For Kicks merchandise that can be all yours? What’s even better is that all the proceeds go towards ensuring #EveryonePlays. Go get your favourite merch now.

Shreya Karumanchi Written by:

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