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Football in the Punjab is as passionate as football around the world. This applies to both the Punjabi states, West-Punjab in Pakistan and East-Punjab in India, together home of some 100 Million Punjabis. Where poverty, history and borders divide, football has the power to build opportunities. Mr. Gurmangal Dass (Youth Football Club, Rurka Kalan, India) and Mr. Fawad Usman Khan (Sudhaar Society, Lahore, Pakistan) are founders of two Punjabi organizations that use football to work with children and youth for tackling social problems at large. With International Children’s Football Alliance they now shared their work and their learnings. The first time they speak about their recent plan to institute a Pan-Punjab programme.
The Youth Football Club Rurka Kalan was established in 2000 as a community football club in the Jalandhar District of Punjab (North India), close to the border with Pakistan. Recognising the lack of opportunities in the region, the club developed into an organisation which not only provides football training, but gives its participants access to opportunities for positive personal development. The club combats a number of social issues in the local area. Mr. Gurmangal Dass (GD), President of YFC Rurka Kalan was a member of his local football team while studying engineering. His love for the game inspired him to develop the club into a Sports-for-Development organization.
GD. The power of football brings communities together – young people love to play a game of football. They have a lot of energy to burn and through sports and play they discover talents which they enjoy exploring. In some areas of the Jalandhar district it can be a tough place to live; many children and young people find it difficult to find time to play. They are born into adult driven environments and have very little childhood. Limited education levels and lacking livelihood opportunities make young people vulnerable against drugs and violence.
RESTORING THE CHILDHOOD OF MILLIONS OF CHILDREN
When we started we were a village club of approximately 100 children 14 to 16 years of age. Today there are 12 community centres around the district delivering a pilot learning programme to 1,200 children with more and more girls attending. Over 50 volunteers, 17 full time members of staff and 13 part time members of staff, all coming from the local communities, working together to help restore childhood. Developing life skills and vocational skills they finally seek to deliver confident young people into the workplace or higher education. Since its inception YFC has not only touched the lives of more than 10,000 underprivileged children but also provided livelihood to hundreds of youth. It has produced 15 international players and hundreds of National level footballers including Anwar Ali who had 31 caps for Indian team. The organisation’s core strength has been community participation and support.
Often we have coaches visiting us from countries like Canada or UK, next spring also from Spain, imparting their knowledge of the game to young people. There are many positive aspects that have grown from our humble beginnings: Intergenerational relationships, community cohesion and there is a tremendous sense of pride at home and abroad with many friends and ex-pats supporting our work. For instance, ex-pat Jas Sandhu (Associate Director, Coventry City Football Club) travels the world supporting of YFC Rurka Kalan, raising funds and awareness of the good work currently under taken in the Punjab through football.
TACKLING CHILD LABOUR
Sudhaar was founded in 1994 in Lahore by a group of eight social and human rights activists initially focused on child protection and the quality improvement of education in formal and non-formal sectors. Fighting child labour in the football-stitching industry the organization established a football league for several hundred stitching children and their younger siblings. The programme simply gave children back a bit of their childhood through sports and play. It involved parents working with them on the significance of play and education for children. It linked communities to efficient formal and informal education facilities. Mr Fawad Usman Khan (FK), CEO of Sudhaar, Electrical engineer by profession, community worker and child rights activist by choice, founded Sudhaar along with seven other like-minded friends and colleagues.
FK. Since its inception Sudhaar has worked with hundreds of schools and thousands of deprived children across Pakistan in multiple areas such as child protection and child labour, quality in education, child health, livelihoods and gender equity. Till today we are fascinated how outdoor activities and sports can help children to discover and develop their own interests and talents. Through experiential learning curricula we could build self-confidence and self-efficacy, through events such as football tournaments we were able to reach the families and communities of the children we work with and address complex issues on multiple stakeholder levels. That is the reason why we were very curious when we first learned about the idea to send a mixed team of children from deprived communities from West- and East-Punjab to the FIFA Football For Hope Festival in Brazil next summer.
A PAN PUNJAB IDEA
Unfortunately the concept did not qualify in the FIFA Football for Hope selection process at the first attempt. Nevertheless the momentum of the dialogue with our new friends from YFC led us into a conversation on how to use the power of football to improve people to people relations and cooperation between India and Pakistan in a Pan-Punjabi context.
GD. History records that the border between India and Pakistan has been troubled for many years. Ultimately, we feel that young people through football and sport can improve relations and move forward. We understand that young people are the future. That is why we want to succeed with Pan-Punjab project. Young people want to form new relationships, want to create new opportunities.
KICK FOR TOLERANCE
We are keen to scale YFC´s programmatic reach across the Punjab and moreover to cross-border link them with Sudhaar. Under the working title “Kick For Tolerance” we currently together assess the possibilities to establish twin schools and facilitate cross-border events where children, families and communities can feel safe and enjoy their activities. On the impact level we seek to create mutual respect and tolerance across cultures, borders and religions. Positive social and economic climate changes resulting from this initiative shall become visible one day and generate new livelihood opportunities across the Punjab.
FK. We are under no illusions that there are indeed years of issues to over-come, however, there is a generation of positive and pro-active people, wanting to change the current climate. There is a strong sense of purpose. The key is good neighbourly relations between the two sides – young people should have the opportunity to unlock the obstacles. Being part of the global team game football is a road to becoming part of a global community. We are positive that our partnership with YFC will foster an environment of goodwill on both sides of the border. Together with the support of international community, we will be able to make a genuine contribution in creating tolerance and promote friendships between the people of the two countries.
GD. Punjab links around the world are very strong. Second and third generation Punjab families are reconnecting with their roots. Funding from ex-pats has provided a much needed platform for our work. We now seek to build on that platform and need running costs to sustain the good work. The International Children’s Football Alliance is a wonderful opportunity for the Pan-Punjab idea to reach a wider audience. Punjabi communities in Britain, Europe and the rest of the world can connect with our work, duplicate the good intentions and help accommodate events that promote education, protect childhood and provide access to cross community activities, through football and sport. There is potential for a legacy here.
Is there value in a voice for children through an International Children’s Football Alliance?
GD. Absolutely, there is a genuine need for a voice for children through an organisation that values childhood. An International Children’s Football Alliance provides organisations and clubs like YFC a platform to share best practice, support likeminded children’s football groups, educate young people, parents and practitioners.
Follow the YFC Rurka Kalan
How can you help?
Individuals, governments, corporates, international organizations and others can help and support our endeavors through:
• volunteer activity
• contributions & donations in other forms or in-kind
|Bank Name:||Union Bank of India
Rurka Kalan Branch, 144031
|Account Name:||Youth Football Club Rurka Kalan|
• YFC is a registered charity with the Department of Income Tax, Govt. of India. Exempted under 80G of income tax act.
• Income Tax Exemption Number: CIT/JAL-II/TRUST/206
Football & Peace – A German Perspective
by Clifton Rajesh Grover, Munich
Next year at Christmas, the very evening of 1914 we call the Christmas Truce or in German “der Weihnachtsfriede” will have its 100th anniversary. What does that mean to me as a German, born in the divided city of Berlin? What does it generally mean in Germany?
When I was asked by NCFA to contribute to the Football & Peace Newsletter Special with insights on the German perspective I said spontaneously – yes, of course, hasn’t that been done yet?
As the General Manager of the private non-profit foundation Kick into Life in Munich I work with kids, schools and organizations using football as developmental tool nearly every day. I would say I have become a part of the scene in Germany. Nevertheless it was only a couple of weeks ago at a Swiss conference hosted by Football is More, when I listened to the touching speech given by Ernie Brennan, Director of NCFA. I realised just how strong my work is connected to the history of my homeland.
I think it is very likely that the usage of football as a developmental tool started in the early 1990’s in the favelas of the mega cities of Latin America. Social workers introduced football as a methodology to negotiate rules for a peaceful co-existence among youth gangs which were fighting and killing each other on the streets. Only a little later first and informal street football projects started in Germany with the view to integrate children and youth from migrant and refugee families. Under the name “Streetfootball for Tolerance” a researched methodology was introduced in the years 2000/2001. First federal states integrated the new approach into governmental sports and integration curricula. Since then the methodology set has been continuously further developed into a holistic education platform and is now widely spread over the country. Multiple regional institutions have entered the scene, a nationwide network has been formed organizing a Streetfootball Youth Festival once a year, worldwide exchanges and events grow.
Looking forward I would like to draw the attention to the fact that with the success of the streetfootball movement new challenges occur. Perhaps some will not share this observation with me, but to my perception one of our forthcoming challenges in Germany will be to keep the portion of disobedience from the early beginnings. We have to avoid to become part of the conventional systems which tend to be static or may create new deprivation and divide.
Keeping the memory alive of the very wonder of the Christmas Eve in 2014 may help us to remember that even the strongest form of divide can be overcome by a game like football. Which, in the context of peace, is a very particular responsibility to us Germans. It is hoped that we can generate Football & Peace events for young people here in Germany and twin those events with the great work undertaken by NCFA in Britain and Ireland.
Notes about the Author:
Clifton Rajesh Grover, born and brought up in Berlin, today lives with his family in Munich. Clifton is General Manager of the Kick into Life Foundation. Prior to this he co-founded and managed the German entity of the Magic Bus India Foundation. Clifton is on the Advisory Board of the non-profit organization YFC Rurka Kalan, Punjab, India. As CEO of the Munich non-profit association Kick For Tolerance, he is in the process of initiating a Pan-Punjab football-for-tolerance project with the two NGOs Sudhaar (Lahore) and YFC Rurka Kalan.
National Children’s Football Alliance (NCFA) is in the process of organising Football & Peace Projects and we request the support of professional football clubs.
It was nearly a century ago that young men from different nations were set against one another on the battlefields of Flanders. But over the Christmas period of 1914, a remarkable event took place – German and Allied soldiers stepped out of their trenches, shook hands and agreed a truce and in order to momentarily escape the horror of war they took the opportunity to revert back to childhood and ‘play’ football in its simplest form… friends, a ball and jackets for goalposts.
There is a natural link between children’s football ‘play’ and what happened in no-man’s land that Christmas. It is the same football that has been played by children for generations in the streets, fields, parks and playgrounds of every country around the world.
“Play football and games. Encounter other people from round the world and realise that strangers are friends waiting to be discovered. The world needs peacemakers. It needs us all to step out of our trenches and cross the No Man’s Land of ignorance, prejudice and violence. By doing so, we will discover, as the soldiers of the Christmas truce did, that we are all brothers and sisters on a small and vulnerable planet. Peace-making today is about building friendship. And sport is a wonderful bridge to building a better world.”
Don Mullen (Patron – the National Children’s Football Alliance)
The Football & Peace Children’s Programme
Inspired by the story of the Christmas Truce football games; the NCFA are in the process of raising funds to co-ordinate projects for groups of young people to go over to Flanders to take part in the centenary commemorations and celebrate this act of peace during the 2014 anniversary.
In essence the aim is to bring children together from across multi-cultural Britain and Ireland to play football with children from Europe and the rest of the world with a powerful, thought provoking educational programme linking the lessons from the past with the realities of the present, delivered in no small part through the medium of football. To this end NCFA are currently in discussions with the PeaceVillage in Messines for the venue and are in partnership discussions with several organisations across Europe for their input and participation.
If this programme is successful then the NCFA will be looking to set up a sustainable educational project for children from the United Kingdom and all over the world to visit the PeaceVillage (or other designated venue) and engage in inclusive age appropriate football and educational workshops, through a Football & Peace Children’s Week.
The NCFA has teamed up with the Royal British Legion and through the Centenary Partnership has the support of the Government in making this project a reality.
“For the Royal British Legion the project would be seen as an exciting new activity that would help engage children and support their educational programme through the medium of football.”
Charles Byrne, Director, Royal British Legion.
“The Government is encouraging the widest possible participation in the centenary commemorations and is particularly keen to engage young people through the medium of sport. As such, they have welcomed this contribution to the centenary programme.”
Helen Grant MP, Minister for Sport, Tourism and Equalities.
For the same reasons it was suggested that [you] might wish to support the Football & Peace Children’s Programme.
With the above in mind we would therefore like to ask you to assist us by paving the way for us to arrange a bucket collection at the football clubs within your sphere of influence on Boxing Day 2014 accompanied by a minutes silence in commemoration of the Christmas Truce, if possible starting 2013.
The Bucket collection would be led by the NCFA (arranged and managed by us using volunteers from NCFA and Cadets) and the proceeds would go towards delivering the Football & Peace Children’s Programme for 2014. Alternatively, Football & Peace collection buckets can be placed in ticket offices for an agreed period of time where members of the public can make a donation.
Subject to the success of the Football & Peace Children’s Programme in 2014 we would also like to begin discussions for this to be repeated in future years to provide a funding stream for the Football & Peace Children’s Week.
We would be very grateful for your initial response at your earliest convenience and, in the hope of the response being positive, some possible times and dates for us to meet with the appropriate person to discuss how we can take this forward.
FAMILY SKILLS PROJECT The impact of the project is having a positive and lasting effect in the family, in school where children are performing better and able to show greater respect, passed to them from their parents. Supporting their child’s football, parents recognise the benefits in terms of self esteem, health and well being. They also see the value of responsible parenting and how this is passed onto their children in public spaces like football matches. There is clearly a feel good factor and a potential to roll the project out to a much wider community in its current form will provide further positive outcomes.