A Christmas football initiation session was conducted with at the Radiant Kids School in Jharsa Village, Gurgaon courtesy of the Mission XI Million programme.
The activities conducted with the children of the school, ranging from the age of 6 to 15 comprised playing football as well as taking part in the FIFA U-17 World Cup Awareness session. They were quick to grasp the information shared with them and took a liking towards the sport, with many expressing a desire to watch more football and play as an activity if given the opportunity.
A Government of India and All India Football Federation initiative, Mission XI Million is a school contact endeavour, which leading up to the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017, will evolve into India’s biggest outreach sporting activity ever. It is a gender-neutral programme and doesn’t aim to solely engage boys in the activities. Girls are encouraged to participate as well, and have shown a lot interest once given that chance. The objective of MXIM is for school children, including those from disadvantaged strata of the society, like Radiant School, get the opportunity to experience the charm of the beautiful game.
Given the sparse knowledge of the game in the locality, it was surprising, yet pleasing to hear the answer of the children’s favourite football players. “Lionel Messi” was a common response, the Argentinean maestro clearly forming an impression in their minds. The Barcelona forward also played a youth tournament in football and represented Argentina in the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship held in the Netherlands.
The most pleasing aspect of the Christmas session was that every kid, boys and girls, that participated said that they would want to play football in the future, irrespective of whether they would take it up professionally because it is a fun sport.
Commenting on the session in Gurgaon on Christmas, Project Director of the FIFA U-17 World Cup, Joy Bhattacharjya said, “We are so happy to see these young children be so receptive to football. It is seemingly only a matter of introducing them to the sport. MXIM strives to do the same and give them that opportunity to at least develop some interest in the game”.
Intimating students across the country with football is the aim of the Mission XI Million programme. From the northernmost capital city in the country to the southernmost tip of peninsular India, MXIM will go to 36 cities, more than 15000 schools and aims to get at least 11 million children in contact with football before the FIFA U-17 World Cup begins in India in October 2017. Designed to improve the football culture of India, MXIM will change the way people perceive the sport around the country and will be in sync with the federation's vision of initiating kids to the beautiful game and making it the sport of choice here. So far, the programme has reached 270 schools in 4 states comprising Goa, Mumbai, Gujarat and Haryana and has touched over 1 lakh students.