The other day I attended the AFC-AFDP Dream Asia Seminar on CSR. I didn’t know what to expect as my past experiences with conferences in India haven’t been overly positive. They typically start and end late and are mainly forums for people to promote themselves regardless of them being a keynote speaker, on a panel or asking a question thus making these events more entertaining than informative.
With the above experiences floating through my mind, I begrudgingly hopped in the taxi to the Radisson Blu Hotel in Dwarka to attend Day 1 of the two conference being hosted by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), Asian Football Development Project (AFDP) and the All India Football Federation (AIFF) with of course a little help from my organization Libero Sports India.
This conference couldn’t have been more different than what I described above. First of all, the room was full of people not just looking to collect business cards while munching on free food, it was full of people who work in the field and genuinely care about development through football. Second, the panel discussions were extremely informative as the panelists spoke about their realities through experience, and didn’t use the forum to promote themselves, rather they used the forum to promote the cause that they were working for which typically was educating and empowering impoverished Indian youth through sport. And, third, the individuals representing UEFA, AFC and AFDP had the right mix of experience, passion and humility to guide the summit in a way which lead to tangible outcomes rather than just two days of random discussion.
My favorite part of the two days was being able to spend time with some of the most inspiring people I know who work in the development through football space. These are people I’ve gotten to know over the years, many of whom I’ve spent time with in their respective villages or slums. People who always humble me and help me remember what total commitment to the cause looks like. They are people who are on call 365 days a year, fighting uphill battles for the sake of the youth in their communities. I was honored to be around such an incredible group of people who I’m proud to call friends.
So to sum it up, the conference was a success. I want to give my thanks to Merissa Khurma, Urs Zanitti, Dr. Michele Cox from AFDP and Mathilde Forslund from AFC for their commitment and friendship over the days leading up to, during and after the conference. I also want to thank all of the individuals representing their various NGOs for enlightening us with their local experiences which helped me better understand the ground realities and challenges one faces while “trying to make a difference” in India.
|With YUWA India Founder Franz Gastler|
|L-R Sylvester Peter (My Angels Academy), Chetan Misra (The Football Link), me, Abhijeet Barse (Slum Soccer), Ashok Rathod (Oscar India), Sweekar Kapoor (Libero Sports India)|
|L-R Sukhvinder Singh (Libero Sports India), Sweekar Kapoor (Libero Sports India), Urs Zanitti (AFDP), Merissa Khurma (AFDP), me, Michele Cox (AFDP), Mathilde Forslund (AFC), Peter Gillieron (Swiss FA, UEFA)|