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‘The Underdogs’ galvanise a sense of togetherness like no-other emotion. This story of an International Children’s Football Alliance team representing Slum Soccer, India, is an inspirational story. Some of the team that experienced the Swiss International u16s 2015 tournament talk about when they played against academies from professional European clubs.
Bringing a team of young players together from one of the poorest slums in the world to one of the most beautiful, affluent and serene countries in the world, was an experience never to be forgotten.
‘I learnt so much as a football coach at the Swizz under 16s 2015 International Cup Tournament. I felt young players from India may not have the best facilities or the best leagues in the world but what they do have is the passion and desire to play at all levels’ Humkant Surandase, Slum Soccer, Head Coach.
This was a unique social inclusion programme as witnessed in the Slum Soccer u16s Tournament in Switzerland Evaluation produced by the NCFA.
Eleven Indian players formed a squad with eleven local players from Liechtenstein and Switzerland to take part in the Football Is More, Swiss, u16s International Cup. None of the players had ever played together before. They were formed to play against a number of Europe’s professional clubs’ youth academies.
The mish mash squad representing India played six matches and understandably considered to be the cannon fodder of the tournament.
What transpired was a lesson in all that participated and in all that witnessed the matches that India played.
The score lines should have been predictable and to a degree they were. However, the Indian squad were arguably the most progressive team in the tournament. To their credit, a fact that did not go unnoticed by the event organisers when the voted the Indian goal keeper the goal keeper of the tournament. The Indian goalkeeper had never played on such palatial surfaces in his life and yet he beat off academy goal keepers that some had been in the football academy system for four or more years.
Coaching and managing a brand new team where players from different cultures do not know each other’s ability may sound daunting in a tournament environment. The challenge was to form a close bond on and off the field in a short space of time – 5 days.
This was achieved quickly in terms of small short sharp burst of training. Under a blistering sun the Indian squad were already a metaphoric goal up. Conserving energy and staying cool was second nature to the Indian players which they quickly shared with their foreign team mates.
While the clip board prescriptive coaches of academy teams were training their players in 30 minute sessions right up to 10 minutes before kick off it became apparent that the Indian team would indeed benefit from setting small progressive targets in their matches.
The Indian team were told from the start that results are for other teams to worry about. They would indeed be expected to loose every match given the talented opposition.
‘We said to our players in the first match that your target is to keep the score at nil nil for the first 10 minutes and if that was successful we would seek to get three shots on goal’ Sajid Jamal, Manager.
It transpired that small realistic targets in each game were not only achieved but built a tremendous team spirit up to the point where India won there final match in front of the largest audience of the tournament. Not only did their fellow under 16s participants acknowledge their match performances but the participants parents sensed an underdog that played their matches with out fear and great adult expectations.
Indeed, there was acknowledgement among the coaching fraternity when one coach commented;
‘We manufacture footballers far too early. When our players came up against the Indian team they were suddenly confronted by unpredictable players full of energy, passion and desire. The Indian team lacked flare but their creativity was a sharp reminder that no matter how hard you coach a team at any level you will only witness creativity when you put down the coaching books.
‘The Indian team played a form of football that reminded all the academy teams not to stop playing street football because that is where you start your trade’. Jim Cassell, ex-,Manchester City Academy.
Schools participation in the National Children’s Football Week
This year’s National Children’s Football Week is to be held between Saturday 16th July and Sunday 31t July.
This year we would like to encourage schools to take part which is why the NCFW is spread over both term and holiday time.
The NCFW is about free play and football. It is about the sheer physical and mental joy of movement and play.
The National Children’s Football Week is played in the spirit of the 1914 Christmas Truces and celebrates friendship and sportsmanship – young and old.
Another aspect of the NCFW is that every event is free. For many families here in the UK organised football has become too expensive and thousands of children now miss out on playing the game they love. This is a situation the NCFA feels is wrong as football is a global game because of its simplicity, a ball, players and something for goal posts. It should be the right of all children to have access to free play.
This year we would like to encourage school’s participation and to consider becoming involved in the Peace Field’s initiative.
The NCFA and the Peace Village, Mesen, Belgium are commemorating WW1 and celebrating peace through the 1914 Christmas Truce by offering schools, clubs and public play areas with the opportunity to twin a designated area of play with Flanders Peace Fields, site of the Christmas Truce. This is open to all schools, clubs and public play areas across the UK and Republic of Ireland.
This unique opportunity will directly link your designated area of play with one of the most famous fields in world history. Flanders Peace Fields lend themselves to education in a way that brings cultures, young and old together.
Please clink on the link below to sign up;
A few tips –
- This is all about the children taking part and having fun
- NO SUBSTITUTES – everyone plays
- Small sided games work best as this enables the children to have many touches of the ball 3v3 4v5 etc.
- To make it authentic as possible use coats, jumpers etc. as goal posts
- Let the children referee themselves and have ownership of their game
Please tell as many people as possible and let us know what you are planning and how it went.
This is an opportunity for our children to reclaim their game from the rigors of aggressive marketing and the brandification of childhood.
You can download NCFA materials FREE to help support your occasion or event.
TELL US ABOUT YOU!
TELL US ABOUT WHAT YOU ARE DOING AND WHY YOU THINK SUPPORTING NATIONAL CHILDREN’S FOOTBALL WEEK IS IMPORTANT!
Send in your stories, your details and your pictures and we will showcase your celebration on the NCFA website.
Circulate news of “National Children’s Football Week” through social media networks to other football teams/community groups/colleges/universities/local government/politicians in the area.
David Evennett, MP, Acting Minister for Sport, Heritage and Tourism, talks to the National Children’s Football Alliance about the Peace Fields Project (PFP) and the impact on the legacy of the First World War’s centenary years.
To support the Peace Fields Project, click here for more information on how to twin your school’s or club’s football pitch with Flanders Peace Field, site of the First World War, 1914, Christmas Truces