Even in India's slums, “Football is Life”

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In the same slum in Mumbai, a school houses 7,000 students from three different ethnicities who speak three distinct dialects. Although they find it difficult to communicate among themselves, there's one thing they all understand – soccer.

Thanks to the work of Spanish NGO Cooperación Internacional, the “Football Is Life” initiative brings the game to them, while also promoting a number of important values. 

Coordinator, “Football Is Life”
“All through a ball... it may seem simple, but once you're there, you realize the magic of this sport. We try to instill various values, like respect, discipline, following rules and teamwork.”

Each July, more than 500 children participate in the month-long sport academy. The magnitude of foreign volunteers teaching them the world's game becomes greater upon seeing the club crest they wear. 

Since the program's second year in 2013, Spanish giant Atlético Madrid has been a key collaborator. The prestige, as well as the carefree atmosphere provided by the experience, allow the children to briefly escape a harsh reality that surrounds them. 

Coordinator, “Football Is Life”
“These are boys and girls who don't have potable water. They live in a very big slum in the city of Mumbai. There's one bathroom for every thousand inhabitants. Many people have tuberculosis; there are many leprosariums. The chances of having a quality future are nonexistent. In the schools, there's also a huge lack of educational level, as well as human.”

While “Football is Life” inspires and empowers the children, it also leaves a lasting impact on the volunteers, many of whom are young people from Spain who have never ventured outside their country. 

Coordinator, “Football Is Life”
“These types of experiences help you feel and appreciate that we all walk the same earth and that we all have to help one another. To see how people live in such difficult situations helps you to also appreciate what you have, to cherish those talents you've been given and use them to the best of your ability in service of others.”

According to estimates, half of the people in India's largest city live in slums. For some of the kids, though, each summer brings hope and an opportunity to grow. Even if just for a month, it's hard to worry about much else when football is life. 

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