Yuwa flies Indian flag at Laureus Awards
Fifteen years after the cricket teams of India and Pakistan won this award for spreading the message of peace through sport and four years after Red Bus bagged it, Jharkhand-based Yuwa clinched the Laureus Sport for Good Award 2019 here on Sunday. Four young girls’ coaches, all in their early teens, received their dream trophy from Arsene Wenger, the erstwhile Arsenal boss and one of the top managers in world soccer.
In 2008, Franz Gastler, a young American, founded Yuwa at Ormanjhi in the northern outskirts of Ranchi, to arrest the growing menace of illiteracy and child marriage. Football was the panacea and on a sunny Sunday off the picturesque French Riviera, Yuwa’s aim of empowering women through sports stood vindicated.
Yuwa was selected from among 160 projects by Laureus World Sports Academy, which has Olympians Edwin Moses, Mark Spitz, Nadia Comaneci, Monica Seles among others. Laureus has been working with Yuwa since 2016 and funding a portion of the running costs – estimated at Rs 3 crore annually – through its partner Mercedes Benz.
“The award came as a surprise. In December we were told about it. That the academy members wanted to recognise the work we were doing is incredible,” said Gastler. Yuwa, currently a day-boarding school with 95 students, wants to turn residential in the next couple of years.
For Radha, Neeta, Konica and Hema Kumari, Sunday was being “in magic land”. The morning started with some street football and Brazilian World Cup-winning captain Cafu, Wenger and Becker matching their skills with Yuwa’s flag-bearers; it made for some fun and frolic.
“At least they were trying to play as a team. In football, 11 selfish people play together. The girls were good technically,” said Wenger in all seriousness. “The 21st century will be for women only and this is the right way,” the Frenchman said.
STINT IN SPAIN
For the Yuwa girls, there is more coaching lessons coming up. Fourteen of them will be at La Liga side Real Sociedad for a two-week training course. They will take that training forward with the kids in Jharkhand.
But more than playing football, the regimented training at Yuwa has given the girls mental strength. In a state where 45 per cent women cannot read or write and 60 per cent are married off before 18, the Yuwa foursome was described as “role models” by five-time US Olympic champion swimmer Missy Franklin.
Two-time World Swimmer of the Year Missy, who retired in December at 23 due to shoulder pain, described the work done by Yuwa as “extraordinary.” The girls “blow me away by who you are,” she said.
The Yuwa girls, already the darlings of this year’s awards, will walk the red carpet on Monday when the year’s best male and female awards will be announced. Wrestler Vinesh Phogat will be vying for the World Comeback of the Year award with Tiger Woods and skier Lindsey Vonn, among others.