In Mumbai, the UEFA Foundation for Children is working with the Oscar Foundation to transform children’s lives through football. The initiative tackles a range of issues, from health and hygiene to child labour and child marriage.
The number of children dropping out of education at the age of 14 is increasing across Mumbai’s slums. Underprivileged children are being sent to work to help meet their families’ needs. Entering the labour market at such a young age and working long days in dangerous conditions is having a disastrous effect on their mental and physical development, while the risks of developing addictions to alcohol and drugs increase.
Two thirds of girls in Mumbai’s education system drop out of school before they reach their 15th birthday. Many are ushered into child marriages, with parents believing this will secure their daughters’ economic security. However, cutting short their education severely limits their future prospects and the cycle of poverty therefore self-perpetuates.
Key player: The Oscar Foundation
The UEFA Foundation for Children, which celebrated its fifth anniversary on 24 April, has been working alongside the Oscar Foundation – a non-profit organisation based in Mumbai dedicated to empowering children in low-income Indian communities – since 2019.
Tackling the issue
The project in Mumbai comprises football and education programmes that rely on the power of football to bring about social change. The aim is to use football to engage youngsters in a variety of activities, but also to teach them about key social topics such as teamwork, respect and fair play, thus increasing their resilience, self-esteem and motivation.
During the sessions, issues such as dropping out of school, child marriage, child labour or health and hygiene are discussed. If children identify as being at risk of dropping out of school, they will be invited to attend informal education classes at one of the four education hubs in Mumbai, improving their chances of passing exams and providing a platform for future employment opportunities.
Expert’s verdict: Luis García
“Having access to good-quality education is one of the most important things in life and has the potential to open up so many new opportunities,” said former Liverpool midfielder Luis García, who spent a year playing in India for Atlético de Kolkata.
García knows the value of education, having graduated from UEFA’s Executive Master for International Players (MIP) programme in 2019 – along with Youri Djorkaeff and Gaizka Mendieta.
“Football is a powerful tool which can be used in order to facilitate change and this is a fantastic initiative by the UEFA Foundation for Children in conjunction with the Oscar Foundation to help those in need in Mumbai, which will hopefully have a long-lasting effect on their future lives.”