Till almost two months ago Biswajit Nandi and Surajit Bhattacharya were sex workers’ sons for whom football was nothing more than a kickabout in the dingy lanes of Kolkata’s red light districts. That seemed to have changed the day they were selected to the squad for the Homeless World Cup to be held in August in Poznan, Poland. But the duo faces a problem they do not have the means to solve — money.
Both teenagers have been asked to cough up Rs. 75,000 each or forget the dream of representing India. This despite the Homeless World Cup Foundation vouching to support all footballers in the tournament.
The Homeless World Cup Foundation works through 70 national partners across the world to help promote this event and get boys to attend trials. Nandi and Bhattacharya were the ones who made it from Kolkata.
Money to travel
But they were jolted when the Indian partner of the Homeless World Cup asked them to provide money for airfare and other expenses.
Since both come from the red light districts, their education and upkeep are taken care of by Durbar, an NGO run by sex workers. “They don’t have the means to even buy a decent pair of boots. Naturally it was up to us to arrange for the necessary amount of money,” said Swarajit Jana, advisor to the NGO.
“We didn’t want to get into any trouble with the authorities as it was clearly indicated to us that the boys would be dropped if they can’t arrange the money,” Jana told HT.
“The only way for us is to get the money through sponsorships or donations as soon as possible since the deadline’s very near (June 30),” he said.
Abhijit Barse, director of Slumsoccer, the organisation in charge of selecting and sending an eight-member team to the Cup, said they were facing difficulty in sponsoring the boys. “We need to spend almost Rs. 1.5 lakh on each player till they reach the venue from where the authorities take over. But we haven’t found adequate sponsors,” Barse told HT from Nagpur.
“We have tried to approach the India government too but the response has been very lukewarm since this is more of a socio-economical affair rather being a complete sports event,” he said.
“That is why we have asked the local organisations to raise adequate funds.”