A journey from ‘Player’ to ‘Young Leader’

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‘Slum Soccer takes you from being something to being someone in life.’ Shubham Patil, Slum Soccer’s twenty-something Coach & Young Leader will tell you. You can feel, in his voice, the passion for football and the dedication & love for Slum Soccer.

Back in 2004, Shubham would, like most other boys in his locality, squander his time & energy into gambling & likes. Some of his friends & relatives would go to the ground to play football. He happened to join them once and was completely mesmerised by the amazing sport that soccer is.

He continued for some months & had to halt for a while due to injury. His friends would narrate the euphoria of playing the matches & their experience of visiting Nagpur every now and then. He realised that he was missing on something really interesting and went back to it the soonest he could.

He gives credit of his development via football to his Coach Umesh Deshmukh & Trainer Ankit Anand. Shubham says, “They taught me ‘life’ through football.” He learned the meaning of words like ‘gender equality’ & ‘leadership’ in real life because of his mentors.

He discontinued studies for some time. His coach, trainer & his friends managed to encourage him to join school again. Since he was in middle school, he was addicted to consuming tobacco & would smoke. When he started playing regularly, his stamina was affected because of these habits. He gradually got rid of these habits with the help of his mentors and now helps change many such lives. Since three years, he has not touched any of the addictives.

While learning, his skills developed and his game enhanced. Now he leads a team of 14 girls & 17 boys. He made some on-ground rules of behaviour like not consuming addictives, which helped the players get rid of those habits & perform better.

Understanding the difficulties faced by women players, he devised ways to help them leave their inhibitions behind. From convincing the parents of the girls about their safety to encouraging the girls to play football with boys, he had to go length & breath of coaching to create the team he is heading.

Shubham’s learning on gender equality from his mentors has all been useful along with the leadership skills he developed. Life lessons he learnt have made him a magnificent player, a worthy coach & a better human being.

His euphoria is clearly visible when he recollects memories of his national & international tournaments. He never believed he could qualify for the Homeless World Cup as the selection process is quite challenging. Rigorous training sessions & constant practice lead to his selection. He was the youngest player in his team.

He expresses his hesitation as it was his first international tournament; there were language barriers, everything was unknown and he felt he would not be able to compete with such great teams.

He describes how your enthusiasm reaches to the peak when your country’s National Anthem is played in the stadium. “There is a different kind of zeal & passion to play when you are representing your nation on an international platform,” says Shubham.

Shubham is nostalgic & excited to share his story. He remembers how life has taken him from being ‘nothing’ to ‘someone’ who is now a life changer. As they say, teaching is twice learning, Shubham is shaping lives and setting an example how a change in your approach & habits can take you to the greater things in life.

After all, life gets it’s meaning when we take a step forward to change things for better, for us and for so many others.

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