Twenty four years ago, a small marshy ground at Masab Tank was a desolate place without any activity. Things changed for good in 1991 when former cricketer K Sai Baba entered into an agreement with GHMC for promotion of sports in public-private partnership. Thus was born the Sports Coaching Foundation(SCF).
“I am grateful to Jannat Hussain for reposing faith in me,” says Baba. Today, SCF boasts of 600 children, a majority of them from slums, who play basketball, cricket, volleyball, boxing, karate, tennis and football on this one-acre land. Recognising his contribution to sports and encouraging street children, SCF was nominated for the Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puraskar, the highest award given to a non-governmental organisation for promoting sports.
“It is one of the most memorable days of my life. My hard work has been recognised. I dedicate this award to these children,” says Baba, who received the award from President Pranab Mukherjee at Rashtrapathi Bhavan in New Delhi along with Arjuna, Dhyan Chand and Dronacharya awardees in August.
Talking about his foundation, the 60-year-old says, “I always thought these children did not have the required finances or parents’ encouragement to enjoy these games. But they had the desire to play. Keeping this in mind, I encouraged these children. Initially, these children had a lot of reservations. I had to coax and convince them children to take up sports. Today, I am happy that there are many orphans who are active at the foundation. They forget their suffering by indulging in sports. That is the biggest victory and satisfaction for me as I am able to bring joy to these orphans and street children,” beams Baba.
Today, SCF bustles with activity. “We started with two disciplines and with our limited resources, we extended our activities to as many as seven disciplines. We also built flood lights to play at night. We have certain hours in the day reserved for under-privileged children. We also came up with a project called Build India Through Sports (BITS) that has helped provide opportunities to about 25,000 children,”he shares with pride and satisfaction.
Baba’s idea is to spread awareness about the value of sports. “It is important that children, rich or poor, should play sports. I would like these under-privileged children to play games for they will be busy and distance themselves from crime and illegal activities. I have been successful to some extent but there is still a lot of work to do. There could be more hidden talent among these slum children too,” feels Baba who has also visited several government-run schools, in the city and adjourning districts, promoting sports. “I want to create more awareness among the younger generation about the importance of participating in sports. I believe that sports and education go simultaneously. Sports can build a child’s character. It imparts discipline in them,” he says.
SCF being a non-profit organisation, Baba has gone through the hard way. “However, I am lucky as I get general donations that help me run the show. It is a challenge and this new award motivates me to strive harder in promoting sports, particularly among street children,”he shares.