Deccan Chronicle | Balajee C R
March 4, 2016
Five athletes from Tamil Nadu will be representing Team India in various events in the Street Child Games 2016, a mini-Olympics in Brazil.
For homeless and abandoned children whose lives are mostly doom and gloom, it would be a fairytale if they were to get a global platform to exhibit their talents — right? In what seems to be an exciting initiative, a mini Olympics for underprivileged children, called Street Child Games 2016, is all set to be hosted in Rio from March 14, just a few months prior to the all-important Olympics which is scheduled for August.
Five athletes from Chennai are proudly representing Team India in various events. Paul Sunder Singh, the secretary of NGO organisation Karunalaya, was instrumental in India participating in the tournament.
He talks to DC about how this event is empowering these youngsters, while the athletes, on their part, share their excitement on visiting Rio and how they are training religiously to succeed and make a mark in the tournament.
“There are lots of positive things to look forward to for homeless children in the current scenario. In fact, we are grateful to the organisation Street Child United in London, who’s conducting the event,” starts Paul.
Elaborating on the event, he says, “We aren’t sending athletes just to go through the motions. We conducted lots of trials in order to pick the right people who can achieve greatness in the tournament.”
But, he claimed that there were lots of hurdles in making this happen — “As the participants didn’t have the proper official documents, obtaining passports was a big issue. But, we worked extra hard to get everything done on time.”
All five athletes — Usha, Hebsiba, Sneha, Silambaran and Ashok — are aspiring to take part in multiple events like 100m and 400m running, long jump, high jump, shot-put and relay.
But, this is in fact not the first time that homeless youngsters are participating in a global event. “Just before the 2014 FIFA world cup, we sent a team to represent the nation in the Street Football World Cup. Regardless of the results, it was a whole new experience for them,” muses Paul.
Ashok, one of the participants, said that he’s raring to go — “When I was left aside on the roads, I never thought that I would get such an opportunity. But now that I’ve got this platform, I can’t give an excuse to not succeed. I practice two hours everyday and I’m watching the videos of famous athletes to get my technique right.” Ashok, who’s also a law student, was also a part of the football team that travelled to Rio earlier.
Sharing his experience of a lifetime, Ashok says, “I was completely blown away when we were taken to various tourist destinations — especially when we visited the Maracana Stadium, where the World Cup finals took place, I was stunned.” Explaining further, he says, “I also got to meet lots of youngsters from various countries and got to know a lot about their culture and tradition. I also discovered the leadership skills in me during the tournament.”
Another participant, Silambarasan, says that he owes a lot to the organisers and hopes that this can be a good start to his life. “Though I couldn’t continue my studies after class V, I have been working as a sports coach, training other homeless children like myself. Now that I’ll be in Rio, I definitely want to make a mark there. In fact the coach, who is training us had some encouraging words to say about me and told me that I’ve a bright future in the field of sports!” he says with motivation and confidence.