Moving the Goalposts
Travel

Moving the Goalposts

In the grips of World Cup fever, the kids of My Angels Academy talk about what football means to them.
June 21, 2018, 10:30am

India is gripped by football fever, and the children of Delhi’s slums are no exception. At My Angels Academy, children from the surrounding slums of Vikaspuri hero-worship Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Robin Van Persie.

Sylvester Peter, who started social work years ago when he was 13, told VICE “for these slum children, football is not just a way of releasing energy, but also reforming their way of living. These kids wake up before sunrise to go for practice.”

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A lot of the children used to beg for a living before joining the academy. “Now, I can proudly say they have turned into confident and charming kids who are capable of helping others,” Peter said.

Tavrej, 18

“My father’s a rickshaw-puller. I’ve been playing football for eight years and I dream of being a professional footballer. I’ve played in tournaments all over the country. Many boys my age from this slum quit school and are either rikshaw-pullers or drug addicts. This academy saved my life.”

Khushi, 16

“When I was a kid I used to kick everything. My father died long ago and my mother works as a maid in some nearby flats. I used to wake up at 3:30 AM and touch the ground by 4 AM for practice. I’m a striker and a national football player, I’ve played in Bhubaneswar, and been to Goa and Bengaluru through the Academy. I’m enjoying the World Cup. I’m a Lionel Messi fan, especially his dribbling. One day, I’ll wear the Indian colours.”

Anand, 15

“My father is a carpenter and my mother is a maid. In 2015, I was selected to fly to France for training at the Metz club through “My Chance” tournament. I stayed for two weeks in France. I play in striker position and have played in many cities in India. I like Cristiano Ronaldo. I like his long shot goals. His hat-trick in the recent Spain vs. Portugal World Cup match was amazing.”

Janhvi, 9

“I love football very much. Lionel Messi is my favourite player. I’ve seen him playing football on television. In 2017 I played in the Delhi Cup football tournament and our team won the match.”

Muskan, 11

“I started playing football in my childhood. Recently I played against the British School in Delhi and won the match by 10 goals. We are three siblings; my father is a rickshaw-puller and my mother is a maid.”

Pooja, 20

“Before joining the academy I used to beg in front of temples. I started playing football when I was eight. It’s very tough for girls to take up football as a sport as our parents don’t support it. My father left us long ago—after that my mother took care of us. My mother is a maid. She gave me birth to me, but Bhaiya [Peter] taught us how to live. I played in a national tournament when I was in school. Currently I'm pursuing my graduation.”