BENGALURU: In 2002, an NGO in Israel started a football therapy for children with learning disabilities. Soccer being the most popular sport in Israel, the idea was to inculcate inclusion. Bengaluru is on a five-day workshop to experiment the initiative and 50 children and 50 trainers are gearing to learn from the Israeli coaches.
The two coaches, Yael Paz and Daniel Test, are from an organisation called Mifalot in Tel-Aviv. It is not the first time the idea is being adopted in the country but it is the first to be introduced in Bengaluru. The workshop is initiated by the Rotary District 3190 in collaboration with the Consulate General of Israel in Bengaluru.
“The idea came about a month ago when I met Yael Hashavit, Consulate General, at an event. While in discussion, she told us that she would like to contribute to the community and said she would sponsor the programme,” says Mohan Ramanatha, past president of Rotary RT Nagar, who initiated the workshop.
“It is not only about the diplomatic relation between two countries but something like this that has a human aspect can go a long way in securing friendship between the two countries,” says Yael Hashavit. “Even though in India, the popular sport is cricket, this is to show that any sport is therapeutic,” she adds.
Parents of the children worry about the city’s heat. The workshop that was to be conducted in the afternoon was postponed to morning at 9.30 am till noon for the coming five days. For the trainers, the practice is from 9 am till 4 pm.
How will soccer help?
“The initiative started in Israel with football seen as a medium to provide a common platform for children both with special needs and those without,” says Daniel Test. He says the initiative titled ‘game of life’ has wielded good results as children started becoming more outgoing, confident and learned team work. “Football is not a solo game. I need to pass the ball, co-ordinate and play. This way the importance of communicating is highlighted. Football is also a peace-building game and it’s language is universally understood,” Daniel adds.
Today there are 350 trainers in Israel and about 10,000 children with learning disability is using football as a therapy in Israel, states Daniel.
Yael Paz, who has been in the drive for five years, says, that she has noticed a sense of belonging is developed after the football therapy. Daniel shares that a group that was struggling to work together as team became united after being introduced to football therapy in Israel.
YMCA Bengaluru, physical training academy, where the event was inaugurated, has said that they will be adding the therapy in their curriculum. Mohan Ramanathan says that talks are going on to include the curriculum in Bangalore University.
On the fifth day of the workshop on March 31, a tournament will be held among those under training. “We will see how it goes and try to make it an annual event,” adds Mohan. Yael Hashavit assures that this is just the beginning of blooming friendship between the two countries.