Football for hope

  • Garuda Sports: Helping the underprivileged through the game


Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson was once quoted by the British tabloid The Sun as saying, “Football is a sport like no other. Throw down a football on a dusty roadside in Brazil or a parched pitch in Africa and at once players are united in the magic of the game, no matter what their colour, creed or class. Football is not just about the superstars and teams known all over the world. It is about what sport can do to raise people’s hopes.”

Ferguson can be forgiven for ignoring the Asians is his statement at The Street Child World Cup held ahead of the FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa. After all very few Asians have made it to the top level in Europe unlike the Africans and the South Americans who have traded their skills in almost all the parts of the world, including Nepal.  But the Scot, who is one of the most successful coaches of all times, would have considered amending his remarks had he seen the enthusiasm of the Nepalis for the game.

Throw down a football at the Jawalakhel ground every weekend and the scene is similar to what he described. Hundreds of homeless children run after the ball taking every step with hopes of making it to the top level, thanks to Garuda Sports Club for taking the initiative. Some of these children harbour dreams of shining in national colours, while for some it’s the only time to rejoice with friends.

Ram Sharan Thapa Magar trained with Gardua Sports before making it to the All Nepal Football Association’s U-14, U-17 and U-19 squad, representing the country in various age group tournaments abroad. Thapa is now a regular starter at the Armed Police Force Club. Krishna Lama is another example; he trained here before joining top flight outfit Friends Club. Similar is the case of Bikram Lama, a new signing of Three

Star Club.    

For the last the ten years, the club founded by French nationals Jerome Edou and Catherine Leprince have been helping the homeless children engage in the game by funding football trainings in four different places around Kathmandu, including Jawalakhel, Godavari, Kalimati and Kapan. The turnout in

all these areas has been overwhelming.

The Jawalakhel ground alone entertains more than 100 such children from shelters around the valley and other interested street children. The ground in Godavari near St. Xavier’s School hosts 40 such children while another 40 pursue their dreams in the ground outside Lincoln School in Ravi Bhawan. All of them are trained twice a week by coaches deployed by Garuda.

Anurodh Rana, president of the club, said the they have been paying a monthly fee for four coaches and also pays for hiring the Jawalakhel ground, while the ground outside St. Xavier’s Godavari and Lincoln School have been provided for free by the two schools.

“The idea was to help the children gain confidence and to make them feel they are not alone. Since football is a team game, they are united for single purpose, which is to score. Football helps in great deal towards attaining this goal,” said Rana, who also used to be a part of the game every Saturday until he got married.

What drove the Frenchman Edou, who also own a trekking company Base Case Cap Trekking and Expeditions, and Chiring Sherpa of the Alliance Francaise Nepal to opt for football to help these children was simple: their love for the game and to remove the psychological factor of loneliness that comes often with many homeless children. Edou is a big fan of English football giants Arsenal because of his admiration for his fellow Frenchman Arsene Wenger, the coach of the club.

Together Edou and Chiring with the help of another French national Catherine Leprince established Garuda in 1999. Leprince is based in France and does most of the fund raising through charity. She comes to Kathmandu once a year along with bags full of goodies containing football kits for the Garuda Football Championship, a tournament featuring most of the children shelters of the valley.

Leprince is also great a football enthusiast like the rest of the members in the club. Her love for children and the game is evident during the tournaments where she becomes a part of the organising committee doing any kind of work that comes her way.

Since all of the associated members in the club have an immense liking for the game, they come up with various ways to better the children’s skills. For instance, they have organised various coaching classes for the trainers hiring professional coaches. Former Manchester United great Brain McClair conducted a 15-day coaching seminar for amateur coaches in 2004 and a year later senior ANFA coach Dhurba K.C. conducted a similar programme.

And, that’s not all. In order to help the children stay connected with the sport, the club is also registered in the All Nepal Football Association and is a regular participant at the ‘C’ division league.  “We have plans to play in the ‘A’ division one day but money is great barrier,” said Sherpa.

Words cannot describe how much football means to them, said Kamal Lama, one of the four coaches hired by the club. “The scheduled time for the training is from seven to nine in the morning but the children always want more. In order to spend more time in the field they usually start their day at five in the morning.”

Posted on: 2011-01-22 09:04