On a hot and rainy July afternoon inKolkata,UKForeign Minister Jeremy Browne kicked a football into a muddy field at Shibtala community ground in Topsia, one of Kolkata’s more deprived neighbourhoods. For the three hundred youngsters who had gathered there, it marked the beginning of a chance to change their lives through the game.
Minutes later, Madan Mitra, Hon’ble Sports Minister, Government of West Bengal, Sovan Chatterjee, Hon’ble Mayor of Kolkata and Rob Lynes, Director British Council India took turns to kick balls to the coaches and young people on the ground, signalling the launch of Kolkata Goalz, an inspirational initiative by the Premier League and British Council to encourage young people from across Kolkata to aim for a more positive future.
Kolkata Goalz is a new strand of the Premier League and British Council’s hugely successful Premier Skills programme, which uses football as a tool to engage with and develop the skills of young people. It is inspired by and modelled on the groundbreaking Kickz programme in theUK, a partnership between the Premier League and Metropolitan Police that targets youth at risk in deprived parts ofUK.
In Kolkata, the project has been launched by the Premier League and the British Council with the Kolkata Police, Kolkata Municipal Corporation, All India Football Federation and Indian Football Association (West Bengal) in association with six Kolkata Premier League Football Clubs, who will directly be involved in the delivery of the project. The six Premier League Clubs are Mohun Bagan Athletic Club, East Bengal Club, George Telegraph Sports Club, Mohammedan Sporting Club, Police Athletic Club and United Sports Club. Children’s charity Future Hope will support the project in an advisory capacity.
This is a project for young people in difficult areas. Youngsters in the age group of 12 – 18 years will join the programme. The youth, identified by the police, are those at risk, and in some of the most deprived parts of the city.
Kolkata Police have selected six neighbourhoods in Kolkata where the project will be piloted and helped in selection of the youths. The Kolkata Municipal Corporation is providing the ground and infrastructure for the project in these areas.
The clubs have provided their most experienced coaches who will train the young people in the neighbourhoods, thrice a week round the year in the evenings in football and engage with them in a range of other constructive activities.
The coaches involved in the programme underwent a three-day Induction training with Rubel Ahmed from the Active Communities Network and Michael Nyarko, the Social Inclusion Manager of Crystal Palace Football Club, both of who work with the Premier League.
In this intensive but fun training programme the coaches focussed on the essence of community sports, worked on a delivery plan, learned through role play about engaging, challenging and mentoring hard to reach young people and techniques of developing volunteers. The trainers also stressed on the importance of monitoring and evaluation to measure success.
“In this room we are all experienced football coaches but you have opened our eyes to social inclusion through community sports. We will try our best to apply the learning in the training sessions with the young people,” said Kalyan Chaubey, former Mohun Bagan and India goalkeeper, speaking on behalf of the Indian coaches while thanking the trainers.
Speaking at the launch, Rob Lynes, Director British Council India thanked the partners for joining hands to achieve the key objectives of the project.
R K Pachnanda, Commissioner of Kolkata Police thanked the British Council and Premier League and reiterated Kolkata Police’s support and commitment for the project.
Kushal Das, General Secretary, All India Football Federation, speaking on behalf of the football fraternity, wished the project all success and committed their support.
Sovan Chatterjee, Hon’ble Mayor of Kolkata representing the Kolkata Municipal Corporation lauded the Kolkata Goalz initiative and said he was happy to support the project by providing the infrastructure.
Madan Mitra, Hon’ble Sports Minister, Government of West Bengal commended all the partners and stated that the Government of West Bengal was delighted that the project was being piloted in Kolkata and that his department would extend all possible support to make it a big success.
Speeches over, dignitaries took turns to demonstrate their skills in football and kicked the ball to the coaches and young people in the ground. The coaches then gave a mini-demonstration of their coaching techniques with the young people.
The training will begin soon at the six venues. As the young people wait excitedly to join the programme, we at the British Council wish the project all success. Our endeavour will be to set up a sustainable model in Kolkata which could then be potentially replicated across India in collaboration with other police departments, municipal authorities and football clubs. We hope that in the future we will be able to encourage young people from across India to aim for a more positive future.