Chennai Street Girls Make a Splash in Qatar Football World Cup

Pawan Chandana and Naga Bharath Daka want to make rocket launches as simple as cab booking.

A soccer team of nine  girls  who used to live on Chennai streets earlier have brought laurels to India, moving upto quarter finals in the Street Children Football World Cup held in Qatar ahead of the FIFA 22 World Cup. 

Representing India, the team from Karunalaya, a non profit organisation in Chennai  won 4 of the six matches they played against Mexico 2-0, Bangladesh 1-0, Zimbabwe 5-0, Peru 1-0 and lost  to USA and Columbia in the quarter finals.

“We played a tough game and still lost to the US. The loss motivated us to perform well in other matches” said S Sandhya, the team captain who used to sell fallen vegetable she would pick up at the Koyambedu vegetable market to support her single mother. She  told “I hope this sports achievement will help me to secure admission in a good college. I want to become a social worker”.

Saranya, another player said “I am so proud to have been part of this.  I want to come back for the young leaders programme too”. Her father had deserted the family and the mother who earned her livelihood as a domestic help in Gujarat and Kerala couldn’t take the  child with her. 
Trained by a special coach the girls had put in hard work for six months ahead of  the world cup tournament. 
The rescued and  rehabilitated girls are growing up at the Karunalaya Social Service Society that’s been rescuing and rehabilitating street children since 1995. Some of them have lost both parents, some being raised by single mothers, some abandoned by parents. In 2014 a street girls team from this shelter won the fair play award in Rio  de Janeiro. In 2019 a team from this home lifted the first Street Children Cricket World Cup at the Lord’s, winning the UK team in the finals. 
Karunalaya’s Founder Dr Paul Sunder Singh says  “It’s a global opportunity, a global platform  that given a chance for street children, that given an opportunity they can also dream and  achieve like any other child and make their country proud. They can also be the voice of the hundreds of voiceless children  across the country”.
The Qatar experience was a great opportunity for these girls who had lost their childhood on  the streets. It was their very first travel abroad and very first flight. They also got to bond and forge friendship with children of refugees and other difficult situations from other countries. They met the Indian Ambassador there besides training sessions on tennis, boxing and drumming at the Hamilton International School.
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