Soft spoken, shy and reticent Pankaj has had a tough life. Born into extreme poverty, an abusive alcoholic father only exacerbated his woes. Despite belonging to a family that had a roof over its head, it was never home and Pankaj often found himself on the streets after being on the receiving end of a beating administered by his drunken father.
All of this changed when Pankaj discovered football. From someone who had always been a victim, he blossomed into a leader at the center. This did not go unnoticed and he was immediately identified by the Slum Soccer team as someone who was destined for big things. After the National Championships, he was put through the organization’s Youth Leadership program. He received his call up to the Indian National Homeless World Cup squad and continued to go from strength to strength.
After a brilliant campaign at the Homeless World Cup (India finished at an all time high of 29), Pankaj returned to a hero’s welcome. He had won his team over with his inspirational behavior on and off the pitch. He was welcomed by his local politician and members of his community who were waiting for him with garlands, music and fireworks. He is now a local superstar!
Though Pankaj is enjoying his success, one can notice a steely determination in him off late. He says ‘I am eager to start working in the field and cannot wait to help change other lives’
In the coming days, ‘Captain’ as he is now known will visit all of Slum Soccer’s centers and share his story with others in real need of inspiration. And we’re confident they will get it from him.
Playing for Slum Soccer and winning Best Female Player of the Tournament (2009) has given Disha a mission in life, making her realize that that can make a difference in other children’s lives
Disha visits slums encouraging girls to play and works as assistant coach, training the HWC women’s team in 2010
She aspires to complete her graduation and become a professional player
“When I started visiting slums to encourage other kids, I could see that they all wanted to become like me” Disha Lohabare.
Homkant is the son of a marginal laborer who comes from a remote village called Ner, near Yavatmal in the state of Maharashtra and left his home when many farmers in his area were committing suicide due to the harsh economic situation they were facing. With nowhere to go he wandered about aimlessly for many months.
In Yavatmal he came across kids participating in the Zopadpatti Football Tournament one day and before he knew it his life took a new direction. Joining in with a competing team his “can do” attitude was noticed more than his ability and Homkant was successful in the trials for the Homeless World Cup team in 2008, represented India in Melbourne. He was initially designated as goalie but ended up playing outfield too!
Homkant returned from Australia with great determination to change his life and use football to make a difference to the homeless and slum communities of his country. He began to help out with the Slumsoccer tournaments, organized by Homeless World Cup partners KVSN and was given a full time post with them early in 2009. India was chosen as one of the pilot countries for the Football Plus programme and Homkant took the opportunity to train as a coach and now works with groups of street children and slum and shelter dwellers creating teams, delivering coaching sessions and organizing tournaments Homeless World Cup Director of Football Andy Hook said “I first met Homkant when doing a coaching course in Nagpur, he was very quiet and reserved but very interested in being involved in the coaching, when I met with him again after Melbourne he has developed into a good, confident coach and is a fantastic role model for the children he coaches`
Homkant is now a full time staff member of KVSN he regularly delivers coaching session to kids from different slums and rehabilitation projects. He got trained under Football Plus Program which was run by HWCF.[/vc_column_text]