20-yr-old Thane woman score Fifa dream trip
Poonam Gautam, Lalu Rathod, and Akshay Chauhan, from Mumbai; along with Shital Toppo, and Sony Kumari, from Jharkhand have also been chosen
Shradha Aher, 20, has been teaching football to children at Rabodi since the last few months. She started with 15 children but that number has gone up to 74 in less than a year.
This young coach’s achievements and hard work have helped her get selected to be part of the six-member youth delegation that will represent India at the 2018 Fifa World Cup Russia from June 26 to July 3. The team will participate in the Fifa Foundation’s Football for Hope festival – Fifa’s global initiative for youth and community development.
They are a part of the Oscar Foundation, the only non-profit organisation from India to be invited for the festival. The event is will focus on how the youth from under-served communities can bring about a real and lasting change.
Aher is the only Thane resident along with Poonam Gautam, 18, Lalu Rathod, 18, and Akshay Chauhan, 18, from Mumbai; while Shital Toppo, 18, and Sony Kumari, 20, are from Jharkhand.
“I always wanted to pursue sports but my family was not financially able to support me. In Class 12, I happened to attend a session by the Oscar Foundation. They motivated me to take up my lost passion. It was during their young leader training that I discovered my passion for football. I have been training for two and a half years now,” said Aher, a former student of Holy Cross High School.
As she started gaining confidence in the game, she realised that there are many like her who need support and a boost from experts to guide them in the right direction. This is why she took up the mentorship.
“My aim as a coach is to recognise the talent and bring confidence among the children. I also hope that more girls opt to play football and not just boys,” said Aher. “I feel football is the perfect game to teach team spirit. There is just one ball and everyone involves themselves with that ball.”
“I am very excited that my daughter has been selected from among so many people. She will get a chance to visit a different country and she is making all of us proud with her initiatives and actions. I just hope for the best and want her to learn a lot from this experience,” said Sheetal, Aher’s mother.
Aher is excited that she will get to watch the match live and is also keen to visit people from other countries and witness an exchange of cultures. The delegation will get an opportunity to watch Match 51 of Round 16 on July 1 at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
Ashok Rathod, founder of the Oscar Foundation will be joining the youth delegation. “Our organisation uses football as a tool for engagement and supports youth and children from low-income communities to complete their education. This six-member delegation was selected as they are role models from low-income communities in Mumbai and Jharkhand,” he said.
Poonam Gautam who is also selected, lives in Mumbai’s Ambedkar Nagar slum. “I am very happy to be selected for this tour. From my community, I am the first girl who will be going outside of India. I am very passionate about football and I aspire to be a professional football player,” she said.