What started off as a few games of recreational football between coaches and students has now become a full-fledged Sports Foundation. The South United Sports Foundation was started in 2012 in Dharavi with the main purpose of providing lesser fortunate students with a safe environment to play and express themselves.
The children from this area are more susceptible to substance abuse, crime, and other bad habits and to help overcome this, SUSF started weekly football training for more than 70 boys and girls in the area. The students, who were between the ages of 5 and 21 years were given kits, equipment, and refreshments as well.
South United believes that every child must be given an aspirational value as a part of our continuous endeavour to ensure the overall development of a child. Hence, in order to give the students more competitive exposure, 22 of these students were selected to form the Development Team. Participation in various tournaments was encouraged for both the Development Team as well as the other students. This interaction was important to boost their confidence as well as give the kids the opportunity to know how much they have accomplished in the sport.
Simultaneously, programmes were started in other areas like Andheri and Vile Parle in Mumbai and Jeevanhalli in Bangalore, once again aimed at underprivileged students in the area. Sports programmes were introduced for more than 500 students in Shrirampur where they were trained in Football, Cricket, and Athletics. Coaches were then identified and trained locally to take over the programme in order to follow the SUFC motto of sustainability. The programmes sought to improve the physical and mental fitness of a child and empower the students through sport.
In 2017, SUSF started working with Government aided, BPM High School in Khar. The school was not heavily invested in sports at the time and though they had a basic football ground within their premises, the facility gets flooded during the monsoons, making it inaccessible for three months of the year. The parents of the students too, especially those of the girls, had never promoted sports amongst their children. South United partnered with HotFut and set up a world-class AstroTurf Arena in the school which can be used in any weather condition. During the day, the students from the school, both girls and boys, train at the facility. 200 students from the school are scouted each year from the ages of 8-16 years to form teams that participate in an annual programme.
The Foundation also has not only seen a number of its students go on to play for bigger teams but has helped some become professional coaches as well, thus helping them find employment while doing something they love. Having received funding from donors like TATA Trusts, Enerzal, and BookASmile, the Foundation continues to reach out to lesser privileged kids and looks forward to building on this vertical of the ecosystem for years to come.