CHENNAI: Homeless and left to fend for herself and her mother, S Sandhiya, never dreamt of touching the skies let alone representing India in the Street Child Football World Cup (SCWC) 2022 in Doha, Qatar.
Sandhiya was rescued while selling vegetables at the Koyambedu Market and shifted to Karunalaya shelter, where she nurtured her interest in sports.
She is among nine girls from Chennai representing India in Doha for the October 6 to 16 event. Captain of the 12-member Indian contingent, she will showcase her talent against children from 24 other countries. “I never dreamt of flying in an aeroplane or representing India. I still can’t believe that this is happening. As captain, I will motivate the team to play to our potential,” she said.
All the girls have a similar tale of grit and determination. 17-year-old Priya, who has never seen her parents, said she was introduced to football five years ago. The Class 12 student of Girls Higher Secondary School in Royapuram, who aspires to be a social worker to help the street children, is excited to be part of the SCWS. “I am happy I am given the chance to represent India.”
Empowered by Karunalaya with the support of Greater Chennai Corporation, Azim Premji Foundation and Amos Trust UK, these children have been given an opportunity to not only play but take part in the global movement such as the SCWC.
“These kids have been training hard for the last six months under special coaches,” said Dr N. Paul Sunder Singh of Karunalaya. “This event gives the children a lot of confidence. It provides them with a global platform wherein the plight of street children is highlighted. We have paid the UK £650 for taking part in the tournament. The rest of the amount will be raised through a fundraiser,” he said.
Organised a month ahead of the FIFA World Cup, the SCWC will unite street children from Brazil, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Palestine, Peru, Philippines, USA, Zimbabwe, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burundi, Egypt, England, Hungary, Mauritius, Nepal, Pakistan, Qatar, Sudan, Syrian Forum, Tanzania and Uganda.
Held every four years as part of a global movement and organised by UK-based Street Child United (SCU), the SCWC is a global campaign for the rights of street children.