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Olsson’s India diary: part two

31 May 2016

The second instalment of Jonas’ Delhi adventure

Hello again and namaste.
 
I’ve been told to expect anything in India. The impossible or improbable happens here every day.
 
On Friday I visited the kids at a slum school and it was without doubt one of the most humbling experiences of my life.
 
Twenty four hours later I found myself playing football with those very same children in the gardens of the Vice President of India’s house. It was an unlikely moment. Though we were surrounded by the opulence of the beautiful estate it was still emotional to share that experience with the children of the slums.
 
Our party was invited to the Vice President’s House by Smt. Salma Ansari, the Vice President’s wife.
 
Madam Ansari works with the school I visited on Friday and she has a beautiful and touching relationship with the children. She knows them all by name which I thought was remarkable. Madam Ansari knew each child’s heart-breaking story.
 
I was joined by the Director of The Albion Foundation, Rob Lake, and a Director from Youth Football International (YFI), Jaideep Bhatia.
 
We discussed how we can all work together to improve the lives of the children in the slums.
 
As you might imagine, there is no simple solution to poverty in India. Around a quarter of the Indian population is living in poverty. That’s about 300 million people!
 
Madam Ansari strongly believes that exercise and nutrition helps to focus the mind and discussions then moved on to how we might all be able to work together to get the children playing more football. Kids here do not dare to dream of escaping the slums so it’s important they have something to inspire them.
 
The children were polite and well behaved. They were smartly dressed too which, given their circumstances, really impressed me.
 
After a fun game of football in the blistering heat we all departed – us to our air-conditioned hotel, the children back to the slum. That doesn’t sit comfortably with me but I know we are here for the right reasons and it makes me even more passionate about helping them in the future.
 
On Saturday evening I was invited to present the awards at the Delhi Youth League end-of-season dinner. The Delhi Youth League was established by our India Coaching Partners, Youth Football International. The league has a fantastic mix of teams from every level of India’s economic scale. From the slums right up to the children who attend the American Embassy School.
 
My understanding is that before the league existed many of the affluent children had little to no interaction with kids from the slums. Now, some of them they play in the same teams and celebrate each other’s achievements. They were there on Saturday evening cheering and applauding one another.
 
That’s beautiful, isn’t it?
 
My point is that only five years ago it would have seemed improbable - impossible even - for children from such differing levels of wealth to now be friends.
 
It’s a reminder of how powerful football can be.
 
Jonas

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