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Last Updated: Monday, 22 September, 2003, 08:02 GMT 09:02 UK
Indian street kids given new goal

Ayanjit Sen
BBC correspondent in Delhi

A private football association is developing talent from the streets in an attempt to lift the sagging fortunes of the game in India.
Street children play soccer in Delhi. Photo by Ayanjit Sen
Twelve-year-old Raju Thapa never misses a practice session

As part of its work, the Indian Youth Soccer Association is teaching the basics each week to nearly 20 Delhi street children, aged eight to 13.

The children - orphans or runaways - gather to play on the lawns at India Gate, an archway in the centre of the city that commemorates Indian soldiers who died in World War I.

The association hopes to enrol some of the street children in an advanced football academy.

They are being taught shooting, passing and dribbling.

Determined to succeed

The secretary of the association, Arup Das, says it is planning to include more street children in the near future.

"We are planning to start a league for these street children as has been done in Brazil and Argentina because we feel there will be a huge talent among them," said Mr Das.

Street children play soccer in Delhi. Photo by Ayanjit Sen
Some of the children may make the association's academy

Most of the children are determined to improve their skills.

"One of them is very talented and has a bright future ahead of him," said the coaching director, Bill Adams, who is a certified coach from Britain.

Twelve-year-old Raju Thapa, who never misses a practice session, says he wants to take up football as a career.

Raju's idols are Real Madrid star David Beckham and the Indian footballer Biachung Bhutia.

"I want to become like them one day and play for my country," says Raju.

For Gagan, who is 10, playing football is his life.

"I have memories of my parents from whom I was separated when I fell off a train while coming to Delhi," he says.

"In this empty world, there's something I can call my own and that is football."

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