Prateek Chawla is the Projects and Development Manager of the Youth Football Club Rurka Kalan – a non profit social organization working for the upliftment of underprivileged children in numerous villages of Punjab, India. He has been identified as a potential participant for the UNOSDP (United Nations on Sports for Development and Peace) Youth Leadership Program “Camp Sweden” hosted by the NGO Education for Sports people taking place in Stockholm, Sweden from August 3-14, 2014. The camp will have 28-30 participants between the ages of 18-25 with 50% female participation.
Firstly, how did you get involved with the YFC Rurka Kalan organization although you have a prestigious Computer Science degree and had a job at a Multinational Corporation?
After joining an MNC, I was unsatisfied both at a personal and professional level. I knew it’s the power of sports that can bring joy and happiness in my life. When I resigned from my job, I didn’t know anything about how to make a career in sports. I did a post graduate course of sports management in Kolkata, West Bengal that teaches various aspects of sports industry. The course gave me all the things I was looking for: exposure in professional sports, grassroots event management, an opportunity to explore new avenues and satisfaction from work.
During the course, I got an opportunity as an intern in Indian Golf Union – An apex body of managing golf initiatives across the country. I learned how to manage international golf events, player schedules, match-day reporting, arranged fixtures and assisted the organizers in Club house. After few years of experience, I got a chance to be associated with Youth Football Club Rurka Kalan – a non profit social organization working for the upliftment of underprivileged children in Punjab. It was a perfect opportunity to help children come out of poverty and empower them to choose positive life choices through the medium of football.
Why have you been selected as a potential participant for Camp Sweden?
I have been selected on the basis of my work and implementation of football based projects in Youth Football Club Rurka Kalan in Punjab, India since August 2013 as Projects and Development Manager which is a non-profit social organization working for the upliftment of underprivileged children through the medium of sports.
It’s a community based grassroots organization setup in 2001 that aims to restore the childhood of children in disadvantaged societies of Punjab by means of care, protection, opportunities, participation and most significantly sports. The organization was setup to stem the increasing use of drugs and early child marriages in the villages. We aimed to do so using a sports and activity based curriculum. It develops social, emotional and physical skills as well as excellence in sports for the children. It works with schools and communities to enhance education levels and gender equality. It raises awareness for health issues like drug abuse, malnutrition and waste.
Tell us a bit about the projects and initiatives that you’ve implemented thus far.
I use football as a medium to curb drug menace and gender inequality issues which are highly rampant issues in the society of Punjab. In order to solve these issues, I conduct the following initiatives and projects which I would be showcasing in the camp:
- Future Football Stars: Over the years YFC has realized that some of its trainees can represent the country at the highest level of the game and with a view to nurture such extraordinary talent , YFC runs a Residential Football Academy in Rurka Kalan where these talented players are provided with the highest level of training with coaching sessions by international coaches along with mental training by experts, psychologists etc.
- ‘Educational Football League’: A three months long initiative for 1200 underprivileged kids where participants are given an opportunity to showcase their skill, talent & ability in football and life skill education. Everyone is given an equal chance to participate, marks are given on the basis of their performance in all aspects and best players are chosen and given gifts, awards, scholarships and other freebies to keep their motivation high.
- Football Centers of Excellence: A program where center of excellence is prepared at the local region with minimal resources to engage the children through sports for development sessions.
Moving back to Camp Sweden, what is the purpose of the camp?
The purpose of the Camp is to bring together youth working in disadvantaged areas on sport for development projects and who have the potential to be community leaders in the field of sport for development and peace. The camp will be both theoretical and practical in nature and provide participants with a toolkit on how sport can be best used to improve the social conditions in the participant’s home communities.
What do you hope to achieve through this camp?
The opportunity to attend this camp presents an enlightening proposition for me to learn from some of the best minds in the field. I am hoping to be equipped with the skills and knowledge to move forward in my area of expertise so that I may able to change more lives and bring happiness to disadvantaged societies. I also welcome the opportunity to network with other professionals during the camp. I would like to learn how they dealt with some of the issues they face in their society and what practices they use to curb those issues. The camp offers an invaluable chance to learn practical leadership skills to inspire and invoke changes in the society.
Football as a medium for the upliftment of society is a great ideal. After your work with YFC Rurka Kalan, do you think that there’s a case for similar initiatives to be introduced across India?
Football is the most powerful sport in the world. You can work on social development of children and improve their life skills in the most positive way. Football can also be used as a medium to create awareness about the deeper issues we face in our country and tackle them effectively and efficiently. Definitely, we need more initiatives to generate the interest of all the stakeholders involved within the game, not only players and coaches. But, we need to build our own legacy, style and philosophy by sound planning, management and coordination amongst ourselves. Its not like we aren’t working. But everybody has a different philosophy. We need a collaborative effort from all sections of the society and realize where football can be used as recreational or for rigorous football training and both these required to be kept separate.
As far as I see, we have to project most of the models in rural areas. If I was given a chance to run the whole show, I would wish to apply the strategy of football for development in the disadvantaged sections of the society. Ultimately, if we observe our past results, more than 90% of our athletes come from rural background. So Its important to set our expectations and realize what our strengths are.
We thank Prateek for his time and wish him the best for all his future endeavors.