Despite India’s 154th place in FIFA’s ranking, soccer fever seems to be picking up in the country. Case in point being the Indian men’s team which won the Calle Cup against Switzerland at FIFA’s Homeless World Cup held in Chile. The FIFA Homeless World Cup consisted of tier cups, one of which was the Calle Cup.
And the players are drawn from even humbler roots than Cristiano Ronaldo, a gardener’s son, or steel worker’s boy Lionel Messi. These players hail from the slums of India.
Meet 18-year-old Simarpreet Singh and 19-year-old Tariq Ahmad who come from humble backgrounds in the city with a common dream of playing soccer for their country. For Tariq, born in a family of five and losing his father when he was very young, childhood was anything but easy. “My mother is a tailor and brought us up with whatever she saved”, says Tariq. For Samarpreet, growing up was difficult for they barely had any money to make ends meet.
Tariq and Simar are presently pursuing their graduate studies and have been training hard at the Sports Coaching Foundation grounds for the last four years. Earlier this year, a Hyderabad team selected from Sports Coaching Foundation participated at the Rajiv Gandhi National Slum Soccer Tournament where the team won the second place.
It was during this tournament that the scouts for the Indian Slum Soccer team chose Simar and Tariq for their exceptional talent with the ball who were then put through various tests and rigorous training sessions. And very soon the talented lads made it to the team going to the FIFA Homeless World Cup.
Talking about their experience at the World Cup, Tariq says, “It was a proud moment for us to represent India at the Homeless World Cup, we got to learn so many things and handle the team, game and coach pressure at an international level.” The boys’ trip to the Homeless World Cup was entirely sponsored by Kaarmic Education Services.
And first time experiences were many for the two lads. Among this was travelling in an airplane, the exposure to different cultures during their short stay at the championship.
“It was a first time experience of everything. It is amazing how systematic and organised those countries are. You create friendships and set the right attitude to succeed.”
The Homeless World Cup partnered with Slumsoccer in India is a global platform which aims to reach out to Indian underprivileged children using football as a tool for social empowerment.