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Football: Game Changer On And Off The Pitch

AISHWARYA and Yuvraj are among the first team members of Shining Stars Football Club, a not-for-profit programme of PASS Collective who work with girls and boys from marginalised urban communities of Bengaluru, Karnataka. With our focus on children and youth this month, here the teenagers tell us how football has helped them face challenges, connected them and their communities, and changed their lives.

Aishwarya K, aged 15
My goal: Army, football coach

I am one of the first of two girls in my Bandepalya community to play football. I started when I was in 5th standard. As there were so many negative boys in the community, my family did not allow to me to go outside at first.

Aishwarya is a role model in her community

This was a big challenge for me because I simply wanted to play. But because my older brother who plays in Shining Stars FC supported me, slowly my mother allowed me to go play at the local ground.

Now I am in 10th standard and I have experienced and learned so much. I have travelled to Goals For Girls leadership summit in Delhi three times and to the US as a member for Project ENVEST sports leaders programme with three of my teammates and 17 girl footballers from different parts of India.

I have played in many tournaments and district level matches and was selected in the shortlist for Karnataka senior nationals camp in Bangalore Football Stadium. I go to training with Chitra Gangadharan at the National College ground. My football training helps with my fitness in kabbadi as well. I also know different parts of Bangalore because of football and now take BMTC bus on my own.

Shining Stars FC teaches me about teamwork, leadership and gender equality and speaking English. (Everyone in my family is happy that I am the first girl in the family to speak English). We have many learnings, fun, and challenges. Girls on our teams are having many successes but our age is more challenging.

Last month an uncle came to my father to ask me to marry his son and asked me to go to his home to meet his son. This made me feel really bad. I thought: “What about my achievements and my future?” I called my coach about this matter, visited my teammate’s home to tell her what happened and that evening itself I spoke with my father in front of my family about my goals to stop this matter. My mother and brother are supporting me in this.

There are so many negative things happening in children’s lives in our communities and I plan to change this. My coach is very strong and such a good, brave, very smart and very good person in my life and above all, she is a strong woman I have learned so many things from.

I am a young woman football coach and becoming a role model in my community.  More girls are interested in playing football after seeing our Shining Stars FC team.

People in my community know me as a strong sportsperson and respect my leadership. Still, there are challenges to getting more girls to play because the Shining Stars FC programme is mixed gender… but the change is happening slowly.

Yuvraj K, 18
My goal: Game designer, community football coach

Shining Stars FC encourages us to be a team on and off the pitch – to practice football excellence while playing and do design projects for the development of our community when we are not on the field. And this is the reason I am writing this story today.

Through Shining Stars FC I am learning more about myself and how football connects to all parts of my life. I am one of the more quiet members of my team. I learned this is fine and that each team member is different.

I also learned that I am good at planning and managing various tasks and people because of our teamwork off the pitch.

My teammate Ruhan and I were leaders to support getting birth certificates for eight of our teammates who did not have them and we visited the BangaloreOne office many times for this. I am also the first person in my family to travel outside of Karnataka – and this was as a mentor in the Goals for Girls leadership summit.

The Shining Stars FC has a WhatsApp group where we share important updates, fun images, videos and say good morning and goodnight to each other. Around September last year, we started the Recycle For Football project. Each team member has a goal of the number of plastic bottles they will collect and recycle each week.

Yuvraj is good at managing people

At the time my family had just bought our first smartphone with a Jio sim and I started updating every 10 minutes that I have collected one, two, or five plastic bottles. Then Shaona ma’am [mentor] called me to ask how I was spending my time because of my constant plastic bottle reporting! This was the start to the journey of my future goals.

I am getting more and more experience from internships. I have been working in Jaaga Labs for the last six months as a 3D modelling and user interface designer.  I am learning from mentors who are good at technology and design. My team is very supportive and always help me connect my learning to my goal to be game designer.

Maybe you are thinking why I am not in college. My parents work hard but do not have the money to pay for my college. My mother is a tailor and my father is a construction labourer but because of his health, he is not working regularly. My father has been sick and my savings go into many hospital bills and medicines.  

I am earning money to save for both my animation diploma course and support my family income. I am planning to enrol for my diploma course in the June 2019 semester. You can check out my design portfolio here.

Today, I am still sharing my plastic bottle count updates in Shining Stars FC WhatsApp group and so far our team has recycled 36,987 plastic bottles, I am closer to my goal of becoming a game designer and my football sessions attendance percentage is 91% (we practice three times a week).

We have been playing football together for five years now. We are in the Shining Stars FC Coaches Development Course to learn about professional football coaching. We have started coaching children in our juniors programme. We know on the best days and worst days Shining Stars FC is together for each other and this is the beautiful part for us. We share many first time experiences together that are memories that will stay with us and our communities forever.


Check out NGOs and Fundraisers working for the welfare of children and youth on SmallChange.ngo 

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