Collecting water supplies from the communal tap became a positive turning point for a ten-year-old boy living in the Mumbai slums.
Maruti Chauhan is a 20-year-old OSCAR Foundation football coach and has been working hard preparing the OSCAR U14 squad for the UK Tour in October 17. There is nothing so remarkable about a young man being a successful football coach, until of course you learn more about his early life.
Originally from Yadgir in Karnataka, Maruti moved to Mumbai when he was 5 years old. With no direction or guidance Maruti was heading down the wrong road. He lived with his family in cramped conditions in the Ambedkar Nagar slums. His loving but uneducated family worked hard in the neighbouring, Sassoon Dock, barely managing to provide enough food. Maruti took care of his young cousins, worked in the house and luckily for him, it was his responsibility to collect the water from the communal tap.
No one ever suggested Maruti should go to school; he was unaware an education was an option. Immersed in a community where no one could read or write, there was little chance this small boy would ever be in a position to improve his life. With mounting debt and growing daily struggles, providing food was his parent’s prevailing priority. They did not understand the concept of seeking an education and seemingly no desire to find out. He began to hang out with kids in the neighbourhood, gambling, playing the marble game and up to no good.
Fortune was on Maruti’s side. In his neighbourhood was OSCAR Foundation founder, Ashok Rathod. Meeting Maruti regularly in the queue for water Ashok repeatedly asked him why he was not at school. His response was that his parents would not agree. Ashok arranged to meet his parents and encourage them to let him go. It took him five visits, but finally in 2004, when he was ten years old he enrolled in school. Having motivated him to attend regularly Ashok invited him to play football with OSCAR. The simple rule of ‘no school, no football’ was the talk of the community and gradually many young girls and boys like Maruti were enrolling
The positive, life-enhancing opportunities OSCAR provides ensures children stay focussed on change. The once disapproving and sceptical parents become ambassadors for OSCAR. The evolution within the community is there for all to celebrate.
Maruti still lives in the same community, in very cramped conditions, but is a highly respected member of OSCAR. Through his work he has attended many football-training courses and in 2016 attended festival 16 in Lyon France during the UEFA Euro Championships. During the course of a week he will train upwards of 180 girls and boys. Doing for them what Ashok did for him. He is a mentor, a role model and shining example of how education changes lives and living a life his parents never even dreamt of.
In October 2017, Maruti will accompany a squad of 14 children to the UK, on a two-week football, educational and cultural tour. He has played a key role in making the tour a reality. For 18 months he has been diligently training the team, teaching nutrition and preparing them for the trip. He has undertaken the onerous task of navigating his way through piles of paperwork to ensure the children all get issued with passports. Children who never dreamt they would own such a thing, now the proud owners of ‘passports to a better life’.
“I am so proud to be the coach for the UK Tour. This is an amazing opportunity for the children. When they return to Mumbai they will set an example to the community and demonstrate that football can be used as a tool to bring change. The team will become role models for the younger children. This is OSCAR… initiating change.” Maruti Chauhan