The OSCAR UK Schools Tour 2017 has drawn to a close, but the journey for the 14 children has just begun.
The OSCAR Foundation UK tour was a combination of football, education and culture for 14 under privileged children from the Ambedkar Nagar slum community in Mumbai. The UK tour, the first of its kind, was inspired and organised by OSCAR volunteer and patron, Lucinda Sowerbutts.
The tour would be a life changing experience, inspiring the children and the community to believe in their dreams, to work hard for change but more importantly, it would help change parents attitudes to what their children are capable of achieving by being part of the OSCAR family. With hundreds of families encouraging kids to take part in the selection. The tour quickly created a positive energy amongst the community, reassured that opportunity could happen for the poorest and most vulnerable amongst them.
Once selected the team needed a passport. OSCAR’s Maruti Chahuan and Sunita Rathod worked tirelessly to ensure the applications were successful. It was a complicated process with many of the children presenting insufficient paperwork. The team were the first in their families to own a passport let alone need one, the parents and children were rightly proud. Football coach, Maruti held bi-weekly training sessions, coaching, teaching nutrition and fitness. Tour funds were allocated to provide additional protein for the children after the training session. They wanted to arrive in the UK as winners. Volunteer, Max Cooke spent three months teaching English and preparing the kids for the flight and all the new experiences they had ahead of them. Enthusiasm for the tour spread rapidly from India to the UK, with over 2,000 children raising money to fund the tour. Beaudesert Park School, kicked off the fundraising by dribbling a ball 4543 miles, the distance from their school to Mumbai, raising a staggering £18,000.
Hall Grove School, Aldro, OBH, Cheltenham College and The Cheltenham Ladies’ College also did an impressive job of fundraising. The children had fun baking, running, hiking and swimming to make the OSCAR ‘dream tour’ a reality. With passports, visas and airline tickets sorted all the boys needed now was smart new football kit, shoes and suitcases. The children were all set to board the plane and begin the adventure of a lifetime.
The first highlight was the 2am trip to Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, with each child accompanied by four family members. It took an hour just to say farewell! The children were very excited about going on a plane and quickly discovered the movie channel and the button that called the hostess! UK TV station, CBBC accompanied the tour to film a ‘My Life’ documentary programme. The team very quickly got used to being filmed and interviewed, especially Faraz, Sujal and Sachin, who’s English was improving daily.
The first fixture was against Cheltenham College. The kids had a tour of the chapel and college and sat in on academic and art lessons with time set aside to look at books in the library. Omkar had the opportunity to showcase his ‘very loud’ drumming talent in the music centre. The children were amazed at the beautiful English countryside and the green but rather chilly pitches. Despite the cold they managed to kick the tour off winning 1–0.
A tour highlight has to be the team’s arrival at Hall Grove School. As the OSCAR coach pulled in to the school they were greeted by 450 children, wearing OSCAR t-shirts chanting, “OSCAR is the best”. The team felt like International players. What a welcome! The tournament was great fun too; many tough matches were played with OSCAR coming a very hard fought second place.
The next match was against Aldro School, but first they had a training session in the grounds of Charterhouse School, with legendary coach, Wishy. The Aldro match attracted a huge crowd and the OSCAR boys played brilliantly against a very competitive team with a 2:2 outcome. Still no losses for the OSCAR boys! They celebrated in the evening with pizza and bowling, before bedding down in the boy’s dormitory and learning how to fall out of a bed!
An early rise and off to London to experience the London Eye, stroll over Westminster Bridge, take photos of Big Ben, feed the pigeons in St James’ Park and walk up to Buckingham Palace.
Next stop is OBH School in rural Suffolk. The match was the first time for OSCAR playing on astro. They fought hard, sliding around and grazing their legs, but won 5:2, so worth the a few grazed knees. The afternoon was spent playing on zip wires, cooking on an open fire in the outdoor classroom and taking on their new friends at pool and table tennis.
The final match was against Beaudesert Park School, but first a training session with Ex England captain, Tony Adams. The match was a tough contest. The wind was howling and the OSCAR team were feeling the cold. A lot was riding on this match… could they remain unbeaten? With exceptional goal keeping by Aman Yadav and superb play by Viju Pawar, the boys triumphed, 2:1. What better time to celebrate? The boys quickly changed into their kurtas and set off to the ‘OSCAR Party’, an opportunity for the children to thank everyone for making the tour a dream come true and of course to show off their Bollywood dancing.
The grand finale to an exceptional two week tour, was an invitation from Manchester United player, Juan Mata to a private tour of Old Trafford stadium and to the opening of his photographic exhibition. The OSCAR boys spent the following morning in the Hotel Football watching themselves on national TV and reading about the tour in all the leading national newspapers. The OSCAR boys are famous!
The OSCAR UK Tour 17 was a collaborative effort of schools, companies and individuals across the UK, who came together to raise funds to provide 14 children with a life enhancing tour. The tour provided a combination of sport, education and culture. The children were perfect ambassadors for the OSCAR foundation, making new friends and sharing their particular brand of enthusiasm and magic with everyone they met. The tour is proof that dreams can come true.
“The OSCAR team played 10 unbeaten football matches, had numerous new experiences, improved their English, forged new friendships, learnt new skills and brought a lot of fun and laughter to the UK. Mission Lucinda