STAIRS Under 14 team of girls – the team comprising mostly underprivileged girls from Delhi’s grassroots – won the seminal match against Summer Field School, Kailash Colony (1-0)and has made it to the finals of STAIRS Schools Football League Delhi – 2015 (SSFL-Delhi).
The achievement of STAIRS’ team is worth appreciation as it is the team of girls who were once so called underdogs in their own community and had minimal resources or a platform to showcase their sporting talent until they were spotted by STAIRS selectors.
Each player in the STAIRS team was selected through a unique process. STAIRS had conducted 60 grassroots spotting camps across four zones of Delhi. Over 6,000 children had participated in these camps where they played matches and went through formal selection procedures. STAIRS team comprising sports professionals including mentors and coaches chose over 130 children from these camps. All the chosen children underwent special coaching and training and the best performers formed the STAIRS Team that outplayed about 15 regular football teams of Delhi schools.
“It is an interesting development. The team’s performance showcases the talent that is in abundance at the grassroots. In less than nine months of engagement, these girls have transformed into football players and some of them are already looking at brighter prospects in sports”, said Siddhartha Upadhyay, Founder & Secretary General, STAIRS Foundation.
“At STAIRS we believe that children not only have the right to play, but also the right to showcase their talents. Our efforts are focused at providing children with their right to play, create opportunities for them to showcase their sporting talent and also nourish and nurture the promising players. Victory of our children’s team is an affirmation of our efforts. Moreover, the fact that the ‘girls’ team has stepped up the tall ladder is an appreciation of our focus on empowerment. Also, SSFL is the first school-level league in the country where 32 girls’ teams are participating.
“The two seasons of SSFL in Delhi has also made us realize that this is the best format for talent spotting as far as football in the country is concerned. One of the major reasons for underperformance of the country’s football team is the fundamental talent pool – a mechanism or a system that can keep churning out promising players. SSFL to an extent is doing that. I am sure of over 4,000 youngsters who play in the league, at least one has the potential to make it to the national team and get laurels that we all wish to see,” said Upadhyay.
Stairs School Football League (SSFL) is so far the largest grassroots football initiative focused at schools as well as underprivileged children in India. Started by STAIRS, SSFL is primarily conceptualized to identify football talent at an early adolescent age and then provide him the best possible support to nurture the talent further. In its second year in Delhi, SSFL has made a difference to about 10,000 children and will continue to multiply its reach as well as impact with each passing year.
The fundamental objective is to create champions and provide opportunities at international circuits and uproot all obstacles facing sporting talent at the hinterland.
Apart from the known change that sports bring in overall personality of children SSFL ensures social mobility as multiple stakeholders – media, social foundations, corporates, education institutions, and political decision makers – come together for a common goal.
The league also has a great economic significance as it opens economic opportunities for sports fraternity as well as many more ancillaries associated with the league.