Source: The Better India

It was a dream come true for 35 kids from North East India as they were selected to be sponsored by Tata Trusts to learn professional football in Germany, Europe for six years.

Called the Tata Trusts U dream Football, this initiative is a partnership between The Trusts and U Dream Football to improve football in the country, beginning at the very grassroots. In the first phase, the program has selected 35 kids from North east India to pursue professional Football in Germany alongside their education for six years. The initiative aims at placing about 150-200 kids across Europe and another 600 placed across Tata U Dream football Centres across India.

Focussing on children aged 8-14 years, the flagship program will have about 100 centres in the states of Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Assam. Having identified the popularity and talent of football in those regions which are considered to be the birthplace of Indian football, Tata Trusts aims at not just redefining the perception of football in the country, but also aims at creating champions and making India one of leading football nations in Asia.

But, that is just not it Tata Trusts U Dream Football is one of the many sports initiatives by the trusts. Being tied to sports from over Nine Decades, Tata’s first acquaintance with sports began when Sir Dorabji Tata became the first President of the Indian Olympic Committee that was started in 1927, a little after he made personal contributions to the participation of the Indian Contingent in the 1920 and the 1924 summer games held in Antwerp and Paris respectively.

With a view to promote Paralympic sports in the country, the trusts have taken to supporting the country’s first blind football team as it prepares to play in the international arena. Working alongside the Indian Blind Football Federation (IBFF) and the Paralympic Committee of India (PCI), Tata Trusts brought together the first of its kind, training session for the players in Shillong, followed by a National Selection Camp in Kochi for the first Tri- Nation B1 Blind Football Tournament. Being supportive since the initiation of the introduction of the blind football through the awareness camp till the final tournament was welcome by not just the beneficiaries but also the authorities involved in the promotion of the sport. Embracing the support received, Carmo Naronha, Executive director of Bethany Society, Shillong said “Organising the first ever blind football interaction and awareness camp in September, followed by the intensive training camp in October with IBFF & SRVC has helped get the game the necessary exposure,”.

The efforts of the trust and the federation have also helped in not just recognising talent in Blind Football, but also helping in integrating the visually challenged into the society. The national team comprising of 12 players from across the country played the qualifiers in Tokyo ahead of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

Of the many initiatives taken up by the Trusts one of them is to promote the national game- hockey. They have partnered Tata Steel, Olympian Floris Jan Bovelander and One Million Hockey Legs, Netherlands, to establish Tata Hockey Academy. The Academy was established at not only professionalizing Hockey at the grassroots level, but also to train native coaches to create an environment that will host and nurture Indian Hockey talent, facilitate the conduct of Hockey Leagues and Tournaments. Targeted to reach 50,000 school children, it aims to generate a minimum of 200 players by three years.

“This initiative will promote hockey and sustain it as a national sport in India. Tata Hockey Academy is going to create a meaningful impact at the grassroot level — both in the field of this fantastic game of hockey as well as in the lives of the people who are interested in this game,” said Floris Jan Bovelander, Olympic and World Hockey Champion, Assistant Coach to the Dutch National Team and member of the Executive Board of One Million Hockey Legs
Our goal is to reach one million hockey legs by the 2018 World Cup, which is scheduled to take place in India and we are excited to see the outcome in the coming years,” he added.

Having identified at a very early stage that sports in the country do not receive much importance as education and learning does and the resulting physical and intellectual development, the trusts aimed at encouraging sports alongside their other development initiatives. They began partnering with the government and other private organisations to make the best of the facilities and talent available to foster the growth of sports in the country alongside intellectual development and imparting of education.

With many Olympic hero’s roots set in some of the most backward areas of the country, they realised that sports was a means for social transformation. With that, they began to focus their programs at the grass roots in such areas that had shown a history of talented sports persona. The beneficiaries of the multiple sports programs by the Trusts are trained by Professionals with significant expertise in the field that will open a plethora of opportunities for the kids.

“At the Trusts, we view sports as a vehicle for social change. Often, we look at all the developing sectors as a supply-driven area but sports, on the contrary is generating demand which unites people,” said R Venkataramanan, Managing Trustee, Tata Trusts

With the entire trust primarily working towards Rediscovering India’s glory in sports, the methods adopted are such that the will be lasting and not just merely create champions in the short run, but, change the face of Indian sports drastically. The trust, under its ambit has facilities and infrastructal provisions, training for coaches, and also is changing the sports at the very grassroots, thereby, ensuring that the fruits of the programs are everlasting,

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