I remember when I was working with the MLS League Office, I always appreciated the fact that I was in a position where I could work with multiple organizations around the country on an ongoing basis. It gave me a good sense of what was happening within the football industry and ensured my job was never monotonous or repetitive. Then there were those few moments when a club would win a big playoff game or MLS Cup and I would envy their celebrations as those individuals working for the club were a part of the same project all year long, riding the ups and the downs. At the league office, my position entailed me to be more like the fun Uncle who would show up with some money, run a program and then take off to the next place.
It’s the same here in India. I have the incredibly blessed opportunity to work for the only football consulting agency in the country and travel throughout India studying and working with key stakeholders in the industry. Through this position I meet so many interesting people who are doing great work to grow the sport nationally, regionally and locally. 99.9% of the time I’m satisfied with the profile of my position, however there is always that.01% of the time when I begin to envy others who are working directly on the ground day in and day out and question what I’m really doing to make a difference.
I experienced that the other day when I met Abhijeet Barse, CEO of Slum Soccer. This is a program running for the past decade or so which is committed to transforming life in the slums through football. I met Abhieet at Ambedkar Stadium where the National Slum Soccer Championships were taking place. We went over to Connaught Place for a simple Chinese dinner and during the meal he shared his story with me.
Abhijeet has a PhD, yet has chosen to take road less traveled and run this growing NGO. It was fascinating for me to hear his story and I was most amazed with Abhijeet’s approach to his responsibility to develop youth and the everyday challenges he faces while working with individuals and families sitting at the very bottom of the socioeconomic ladder.
After dinner, I dropped Abhijeet back to Ambedkar Stadium where he had a long night ahead of him trying to figure out some tournament scoring issues with the rest of his events team and then communicating the results to the participating teams. On my way home, I was left exploring ways I can have a consistent impact on a local organization while still continuing my position with a national agency.
I thank Abhijeet and Slum Soccer for the great work they are doing and wish them all the best through the challenging yet fulfilling years ahead….