Mumbai-based OSCAR Foundation uses football as a tool to instill the value of education in children from low-income communities.
Steve Johnson suffered a fatal accident as a 21-year-old promising footballer on the football field which resulted in an amputation of his one leg. But that didn’t stop him from loving the game.
“I was always passionate about football. When I was 21, there was some rainwater near the corner and I slipped on the floor while playing and my leg got damaged and later had to be amputated. I continued to play and won three World Cups with England Amputee team and played two Para Olympics in Volleyball,” Johnson told this paper.
He was voted ‘World Amputee Footballer of the Year’ in 1999 and was included in England’s National Football Museum Hall of Fame in 2008.
Johnson is the premier club Everton’s Disability Manager, currently involved in training coaches and young leaders at Cooperage football stadium. The program is in partnership with a city-based NGO Oscar Foundation and Everton’s Community Disability Development Coach Jessica McNally who is also with Steve for over a period of one week.
The disability project is supported by the Premier League’s International Development Fund in partnership with Streetfootballworld — an international ‘Football for Development’ charity. This funding from the Premier League will benefit 30 young coaches and 100 children and young people with disabilities in Mumbai.
“All Premier Clubs have similar projects what we deliver. Our top division team is actively involved in encouraging disabled players. We have nine teams in Everton of disabled players in different age groups across both genders. We also give work placements and provide job opportunities to disabled people. We have been doing this for over 20 years,” he said.
Speaking on the special coaching to disabled players he said, “We train coaches and young leaders on how to coach disabled children as they have special needs. We have to make it first fun and enjoyable. Different people have different disabilities like visually impaired, hearing impaired etc so we have to cater to all their needs and also provide them special equipment,” Johnson said.
Ashok Rathod, Founder and Director of the OSCAR Foundation felt that football gives an opportunity to disabled children who aren’t considered an equal part of the society. “In India, children with disabilities often face exclusion and discrimination. Limited access to education, sports, and related infrastructure affects their well-being and limits their opportunities. We believe that children with disabilities have the potential to excel in any field of their choice and sports can contribute to developing that spirit,” he said.
Mumbai-based OSCAR Foundation uses football as a tool to instill the value of education in children from low-income communities. It has now reached over 3000 children per year and has trained over 500 youth across six Indian states in its Young Leaders training programme.