Football has the power to change lives - read our players' stories

Opportunity knocked when Slum Soccer kicked off its  DeafKidz Goal! Project. Given her empathy for the differently abled, Shiba grabbed it with both hands and volunteered to be a part of the project. After besting the selection process, she was selected as a Shadow Coach in the DeafKidz Goal project.

Shiba Markas

If Mark Twain was around he would have been delighted to meet Shiba Markas, one of the Shadow Coaches of Slum Soccer. As an important team member of the ongoing DeafKidz Goal! project being implemented in two deaf schools of Nagpur region,  Shiba is currently assisting deaf coaches to impart football training to deaf children and youth and facilitate their integration in the societal mainstream.

DeafKidz Goal! is an innovative initiative by Slum Soccer in partnership with DeafKidz international ( with the support of Comic Relief, aimed at providing deaf children with a safe space to play, learn and replicate the learning among their friends, parents, and communities. We (Slum Soccer) have designed unique games which not only focus on the full participation of deaf children in sports but also teach them the importance of education, safety, health and hygiene, safe spaces, protection of their rights, safeguarding, life skills and a lot more. One of the main highlights of DeafKidzGoal! Project is that the program is delivered to deaf students in their language of preference.

Till a year ago, our tough-spirited yet tender-hearted Shiba, (now 50 years young – sorry but we had to put a number there) would always empathize with the differently abled but never had an opportunity to interact with them, deaf in particular. After seeing Shiba at work today, communicating with the D/Deaf in a language of their preference, one marvels at the speed at which she has picked up Indian Sign Language (ISL). It is believed that brain aging is associated with declines in synaptic function that contribute to memory loss. Try explaining this to her and she brushes it off with nonchalance “You mean to say there is an age limit to learning? Absolutely not. All of us can learn anything so long as we have the will and inclination - regardless of age, background and gender. It may be true that it is easier to learn when you are young. But this doesn't mean that we stop learning or can't learn. Don’t let your age despair you and your dream! “

Shattering the age myth has been the norm with Shiba. Just a few years back, Shiba came to know about the positive impact of Slum Soccer’s work for the underprivileged communities by leveraging the power of football and decided to join the organisation. Finding her extremely energetic, enthusiastic and passionate to be a part of the Slum Soccer team to promote in inclusion, education and equality, she was taken on board even though she was much above the average age of the team. Not only did she attend various camps and training sessions, she also went through the physical grind involved in football. In a very short time she imbibed the knowledge and skills to be a football coach in her community. Not the one to rest on her laurels, she participated in Game Changers, a Leadership Program designed and delivered by Slum Soccer for its Youth Leaders much to the amusement of her co-participants, some of whom were less than half her age. By the time the Program ended, their amusement turned to appreciation and admiration seeing her performance and determination. She stood amongst the top five of her Game Changers batch of fifty participants.

Opportunity knocked when Slum Soccer kicked off its  DeafKidz Goal! Project. Given her empathy for the differently abled, Shiba grabbed it with both hands and volunteered to be a part of the project. After besting the selection process, she was selected as a Shadow Coach in the DeafKidz Goal project. Once selected, she put her heart and soul in the new role and left no stone unturned to learn ISL so that she could communicate freely with the deaf coaches and participants. 

 “I feel so fortunate and blessed to be able to be a part of the project team. Whenever I used to see deaf communicating with each other, I used to wonder how they are able to communicate their thoughts and feelings without using words. During my initial interaction with coaches I had to use mime and theatrics to express myself and often failed to communicate my messages. That failure egged me on and inspired me to learn their language (ISL).”

In a short span of three months Shiba has learnt more than enough to not only communicate basic messages but also chat freely and exchange jokes with deaf. Her real test came recently when one of the Slum Soccer deaf coaches fell ill and had to be hospitalized. At the hospital it was Shiba who held fort and interpreted like a professional between the deaf coach and the doctor for the entire duration the D/Deaf coach remained under treatment at the hospital.

Her phenomenal progress in learning ISL to get socially accepted by the deaf community has earned her encomiums from the deaf coaches as well as program participants. Sheetal, on of the deaf coaches of the project signs it across succintly “I am very happy to see the speed with which she is progressing in learning sign language. It is proving very helpful for us to understand the intricacies of the curriculum even though we have a professional interpreter for it”.

Shiba is not ready to rest on her achievement. She now aspires to be a certified ISL (Indian Sign Language) interpreter and dedicate all her efforts and energies to teach and support deaf children. “ After working for just one year in the project, I have fallen in love with deaf children and youth, their honesty,  purity, equanimity, their sense of humour; just everything about them. I now know how vulnerable they are and it makes me want to protect them and work tirelessly for their welfare. In particular, I want to work with deaf  girls and women to help the understand their rights as well as make them confident and independent enough to get integrated in the mainstream” says Shiba setting her next goals. Her sense of purpose and determination as she says this is so palpable that is leaves us with no doubt that she is going to succeed in it sooner than we think.

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