KOLKATA: Ismail Sardar is 14 but has met his mother a handful of times in the last few years. The son of a sex worker in Kolkata’s Sonagachi area, Yakub has spent all his time honing his skills as a footballer.
He says he knows his mother is going through hell to give him a life. “We hope one day our lives will change if I can achieve my goal. Football, I hope, will one day give me recognition,” Sardar says.
The teenager and his friends — all children of Sonagachi sex workers — are aiming to make history by becoming the first-of-its-kind team to compete in a national under-15 youth league.
The young players make do with second-hand boots and meagre meals but are buoyed by the enthusiasm of their mothers, who often come see them play at local tournaments.
They are trained and looked after by the Durbar Sports Academy (DSA), which has applied to the All India Football Federation (AIFF) for the league spot next season.
“We have submitted the documents necessary for qualification. The academy has its turf that can be used as home ground. We have requested the AIFF for a visit too,” said a senior official of the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC) that looks after the welfare of sex workers in Asia’s largest red-light district.