Vijay Barse was on his way back home from work when he spotted a group of slum boys playing with a makeshift football in his small village of Bhokara, Maharashtra. A sports teacher by profession, he bought them a ball and offered them to play a match. “After seeing their enthusiasm in the field, I realised that all these kids simply wanted to play. They were no different than my own students. I was moved by their love of playing.”
He then told his colleagues that they should host a tournament for the underprivileged kids from the local slums, “They looked at me with suspicion and called it a publicity stunt. But I didn’t let that deter me; I went ahead anyway and reached out to the slums opposite to the college I worked at. I began coaching the kids after work in a neighbouring playground and organized district level tournaments.” The children liked having a purpose; Vijay realised that football could be the means to transform their lives.
At home, Vijay’s wife was very apprehensive about his initiative, “She thought I was wasting my time over a bunch of good-for-nothings. The parents of these children too thought their children will be better off spending time studying in the classroom rather than playing on the field,” says Vijay. Even the sponsors began thinking the same thing. When Vijay retired, his wife asked him to discontinue his initiative as the family’s savings were now going towards the children.
But there was no stopping Vijay. He remained dedicated to mentoring the kids from the rural and urban slums of Nagpur spreading his outreach to the entire state. The engagement of his pupils on the field kept him motivated.
Vijay started Slum Soccer, an academy that uplifts underprivileged and homeless children through football using his retirement fund in 2001. His organization has impacted 70,000 children across six states in the country. He has coached and sponsored 160 children to represent India at the Homeless World Cup.
Mahindra salutes the challenger spirit of people like Vijay who remind us that with grit and determination, we can change the world and help the people around us. #Rise