Elvis Joseph, founder and director of Bangalore School Sports Foundation (BSSF). |Nagaraja Gadekal
The Bangalore School Games, a first-of-it’s-kind sporting event in the country, begins next month, where around 120 schools participate in different games. It is the brainchild of Elvis Joseph, founder and director of Bangalore School Sports Foundation (BSSF). “Sports in our country is treated as a recreational tool and not taken seriously. Schools have one period of physical training, which isn’t enough. There is so much more to sports,” he says.
A former state and university athlete with the vision to professionalise school sports, Joseph started the foundation, which aims to promote active sports programmes for children across Karnataka, in April, 2009. After spending three years in hospital management and seven years in the corporate industry, he decided that sports was his true calling.
The foundation kicked off with the Freedom Cup, a one-day tournament with 100 school football teams participating in 100 games at one venue. Since then, there has been no looking back. BSSF also organised events like Science and Technology (SNT) Run in 2010 where more than 2,500 people participated. “We had men, women, children, senior citizens and physically-challenged people doing the SNT Run. We had no advertisers. It was all through word of mouth,” says Joseph.
BSSF’s biggest achievement was India’s participation in the 43rd International Children’s Games in Athens. “For 42 years, India had not participated in the International Children’s Games, which is quite sad. But in the 43rd year, we finally took India there and it was only a few months after we had started. We were very raw the first time we had gone for the Games. We did not know what to expect, but over the years, we have grown and are doing much better,” says Joseph.
The Bangalore School Games, another project of BSSF, has caught the world’s attention. The first Bangalore School Games (2010) was inaugurated by International Games Committee — Igor Tapole, ICG’s vice president, secretary Richard Smith and technical commissioner Zalkto Kauran. “Many famous sports personalities are involved in BSG like Reeth Abraham, who is an Arjuna award winner and Arjun Ballal, international hockey player and also an Arjuna Award winner,” says Joseph. “It is by God’s grace that we’ve reached so far, so fast. When I wanted to do Bangalore School Sports, only one man believed in me, Reverend Bernard Moras, the Archbishop of Bangalore. It takes only one man to believe in something and achieve it, and I did it,” he says,.
BSSF has also started various outreach programmes to nurture the talents of underprivileged children. The Champion in Me is a sports module for children living with HIV/AIDS. It began with 100 children and now 1,400 HIV positive children participate in the event.
A programme was started to help poor children join the professional football circuit. The Magic Feet programme organised the Bangalore Soccer Cup in 2011 and most of the participating children were from government schools with very little opportunity to showcase their talents. “Some of these kids went for the International Children’s Games. They were playing with children from international schools,” he says.
BSSF also has some programmes in the pipeline — Survivors is for tribal children and Challenged aims at empowering differently-abled children. BSSF and Joseph are working hard to ensure children get to spend quality time on the field and India gets a fair share of sporting heros. “Sports is what I know best and this is what I want to do,” he says.