If I had to summarise what it’s like to be in this surreal world where a child’s life is changed through football, I would say this – I don’t know what lies ahead and what is going to come of this, but I do believe that this experience will define me as an individual in ways that not many other experiences can.
I was born in Nigeria, a country driven by football. I studied in a school that represents my idea of an excellent education. I moved to India when I was 14, wore a uniform for the first time, and stepped into a middle-income private school where I would spend two years pursuing the oasis of an IIT admission. Meanwhile, my soul was taking in the kaleidoscope of people and ideas in this country. I ended up at VIT, studying Biotechnology, to-this-day not knowing why. I graduated in 2014, by when I knew I didn’t want to ever sit in an office and clock 9 hours in front of a PC. I got into the Teach For India Fellowship, a highly rewarding and life-changing experience that brought me closer to an actual personal identity. Soon after, the opportunity to work with Just For Kicks came up, and I took it without any second thoughts.
I’m still here, and here to stay.
Let me break down my initial statement:
I don’t know what lies ahead and what is going to come of this.
Football is growing. Tremendously. As a spectacle, a way of life and a universal tool to build bridges. Education reform is a real thing – so many wonderful people are making an effort to better millions of lives around the country. Just For Kicks, to me, is somewhere at that intersection.
All of us are dreamers. There’s a long, hard road ahead of us at Just For Kicks. We’re not the solution to all problems, but we are a solution for many. We hope that together, we can rid children of facing the byproducts of inequality.
Hope is not a guarantee though.
but I do believe that this experience will define me as an individual
I am part of a small team, aiming to deliver a rock-solid football program to over 700 children in Pune. Through this program, we try to impart key life skills that are otherwise unattainable inside a classroom. I have taken responsibility of all operations in Pune – communication, partnerships, finances, relationships; and broader organisation functioning like processes, development, and leadership. Every day has been filled with its own set of challenges. (At the time of writing this, all practice sessions have been cancelled due to incessant rains, and all our assessments were on hold). Every day has been that of learning to me – reminders, commitments, professional development, managerial skills, and staying connected to the children. There are a multitude of ways in which I can fail, but as long as I keep our mission at the center – impact and success is defined by a team celebration and a smiling child.
In ways that not many other experiences can.
I work from home, besides meetings and school visits. I have had to develop some semblance of self-discipline. Football is still an attraction to many, not a tool. I’ve had to ensure I portray my belief, simultaneously investing and respecting varied opinions. I’ve had to learn to work in the present with one eye on tomorrow. I’m learning to let go of control and trust every decision I take. I have to learn to look at what’s realistically possible and align it with what we want.
All this, and it’s only been a few months.
I’ll leave you with one experience that wraps this all up: I was talking to the father of one of the best U10 students we work with, and I asked him, ‘What’s your opinion about football? Have you seen any change in your child?’ He replied, ‘Lots of changes in him, but more than that it’s about the change football has brought in our lives at home. The atmosphere is always positive. We feel closer to our child. We now watch football matches together. We listen to him talk about football and we feel proud to be part of his passion. It’s a beautiful feeling.’
It’s a beautiful feeling for us all.
City Lead – Pune