Smackdown Live announcer and retired WWE Slam wrestler John ‘Bradshaw’ Layfield (commonly known as JBL) and Slum Soccer Krida Vikas Sanstha started Project Edu-Kick at the Trombay Urdu Pubic School, Cheeta Camp, Mankhurd.
Slum Soccer has been working in Mumbai with 10 schools from the slums of Mankhurd. The organisation has incorporated a one-of-its-kind programme to educate underprivileged children about the civic skills and basics like numbers and alphabets. They have partnered with another organisation ‘Beyond Sports’ who have famous names like David Beckham on board. Former WWE champion JBL says that he will give his maximum time to this cause. “At 50 years old I aim to spend my time left making a difference,” says Layfield. “My new schedule will allow me to continue to be a part of the WWE family and also continue my work that I feel is the most important thing in my life.”
Slum Soccer is a FIFA-awarded Football for Development organisation that uses football as a tool to educate, empower and provide opportunities to diverse and underprivileged communities throughout India. Founded in 2001, Slum Soccer started with a simple idea that football promotes participation, inclusion, and unity. Today, they work with thousands of children and youth from underprivileged communities to increase participation in sports while creating a platform to explore social issues such as gender equality, health, education, leadership, and communication. Through their programs, we are empowering participants to improve their conditions and strengthen their communities using sports education to drive impact.
The CEO of Slum Soccer, Abhijeet Barse says they had contacted JBL a month ago to get him to interact with the kids as WWE is popular among the children and he is a familiar face. “WWE over the years has become a household name and kids love it. He will visit the Trombay Urdu Public School where representatives from all the 10 schools will come and he will speak with them,” Barse says.
“What we have done is helped these children learn numbers and alphabets through football. We make them dribble the ball from post number 1 to number 2 and that’s how they have learned numbers. Most of them love the game of football and learning has become fun for them. The backgrounds they have come from are very poor and we are glad that we could help these children,” he further adds.
Slum Soccer and other similar organisations hold an international football tournament every year where the qualifications start from the state levels of every country. The Indian women’s team came seventh and the men’s team finished 18th in the ‘Homeless World Cup’ that concluded earlier this month in Oslo, Norway. “The coaches that we have on board are from the community itself. With time, we plan on getting better coaches so that the kids can learn and get better at the game,” asserts Barse.
In February this year, Slum Soccer organised the 14th edition of the National Inclusion Cup football competition for men and women, to support the cause of empowering India’s underprivileged youth through sports. All the teams had players from underprivileged backgrounds.
In addition to the National Inclusion Cup, Slum Soccer has other worthy projects such as Game Changers. Game Changers prepares youth with life and leadership skills by engaging them in challenging societal improvement projects.
“Slum Soccer fosters sustainable development within the marginalised population of India, using football to bring about a change in the lives of street-dwellers. Our main aim is to provide long term solutions to combat homelessness and improve living standards in underprivileged areas. I feel sport is therapeutic and we aim to give these youth hope and purpose. With more support we will be able to increase our reach, the number of individuals we can impact as well as improve the quality of that impact. We are grateful to those believing in this cause of connecting individuals, teaching life skills and working towards improving the overall quality of life through football,” said Vijay Barse, the founder of Slum Sports.