They did it! Team South India are the 2019 Street Child Cricket World Cup Champions! The first team to win this special competition, Shama, Bhavani, Irfan, Mani and their teammates from Chennai, will be written into the history books for their amazing achievement.
Read on for the full write up of Team South India’s visit to the UK, provided by Magic Bus India’s own Parvati Pujari, and Magic Bus UK supporter Anne Makepeace.
Team South India
When we received the news that there was an opportunity to attend and play in the Street Child Cricket World Cup 2019 held in Cambridge and at Lords we were very excited but concerned as to how we would be able to raise the funds needed to pay for our team’s participation fees. Vic Southwell from the Magic Bus UK office was very keen that we should attend and took on the responsibility of making it happen along with our enthusiastic Magic Bus UK Ambassador and supporter Anne Makepeace. In all, we have raised half of the funds needed through the Impact Guru and Magic Bus UK Foundation websites.
The first challenge was to secure birth certificates for all four children and their families before applying for their passports and then their visas. As most of the family’s documentation was missing, it was a seven month process to secure their passports. The families were very involved and supportive during this challenging process. This was our first victory!
The Mankhurd youths were selected from a group of 2,000 in their community after four rounds of interviews to play for Team South India using the following criteria:
Attendance at Magic Bus sessions
Familiarity with the concerns of their community and a willingness to communicate and share these with their peers
Our first outing as a team and their first plane ride landed them in Chennai. The other half of Team South India was from the shelter Karunalaya Social Service Society which has been rescuing boys and girls from the streets and train stations of Chennai for the last 24 years. They welcomed us into their shelter home and arranged a specialized cricket coach, a choreographer for the South Indian cultural dance performance they would perform in Cambridge, warm meals and lodging. They trained twice a day for four hours. It was there on the pitch, at dance practice, over meals and during a friendly match at the residence of the Deputy British High Commissioner’s home (they won the match against the staff of course!) that they learned to work and play together, share their stories and really prepare for their upcoming life journey.
Team South India celebrate their victory over the British Deupty High Commission in Chennai.
Visiting the sites in London.
Once in London, the teams commuted everyday from their hotel accommodations to Parker’s Piece, a beautiful common ground in front of the most distinguished hotel in Cambridge. John Wroe, the Co-Founder and CEO of Street Child United, warmly welcomed all the participants and the games began. Interspersed between cricket practice, games and the cultural performances the youths sat down to address the issues regarding street-connected children’s rights from their respective countries. There was an outing to the Oval where Sir John Major, Patron of the Street Child Cricket World Cup 2019, encouraged the youths to bring voices of change for the rights of street-connected children before Teams Surrey and Kent took to the pitch. Some of these issues were presented to a Member of Parliament during a meeting held at the House of Commons. Who could ever imagine that our youths from Mankhurd Community would be in London sharing their concerns in Parliament!
Team South India played three matches the first day and all of the three matches they won (1. West Indies vs South India, 2. Nepal vs South India, 3. Bangladesh vs South India).
In the second day, we played four matches and the team won three having lost to Team England (1. Mauritius vs South India, 2. Tanzania vs South India, 3. England vs South India).
We were leading at the top of the tables reaching the semi finals and reaching high for the gold cup!
On a glorious and sunny final day, the teams were to play on Lords main pitch in front of the Pavillion. The actor Jeremy Irons, a patron of the Hope Foundation which partly sponsored the Kolkata team, was there to support and cheer the crowd on. In a tense and well played game, Team South India won over Team England by 5 wickets. There was a rush to the fields from those players standing on the sidelines and by the media. It was a victorious moment for Team South India with Team England playing consistently at a very high level throughout the tournament.
Our team was presented their medals by Monty Panesar in the Long Room at Lords. One young girl and boy from each team was awarded for their sportsmanship as well. It was wonderful to hear the roar inside the room, the excitement and the warmth of all.
Holding the trophy high with their partners from Chennai, we went on to the Congress portion of the day. Each country’s representative spoke about street-connected children and their basic rights in front of NGOs, government authorities and TV networks. The Tanzanian youth leader, a 18 years old former Street Child Football World Cup participant in Moscow, said that…
“The hands that before were raised to hit us will now salute us”
The speaker from Karunalaya Shelter in Chennai said the following during the Congress:
“As street children we have no protection, and face many difficulties. We live on the streets because we have no place of our own. If we are asked to leave the streets, where will we go? We, street children from Chennai, voice our need for protection through the platform provided by Street Child United. We call on the government to respect the rights of street children and accept us as part of society. The government or police must not disturb or hurt us. They must not move us by force – this is totally against the rights of a child. To protect street children, basic necessities and facilities like clean bathrooms, toilets, quality water, clean food, medical facilities and quality education must be provided for free to all children who live on the streets.
If you respect us you will listen to us. If you listen to us, you will protect us. Please protect us.”
For our four youths, the 10 days brought about dramatic changes. They started out more confident than other groups but became even more so as the days and wins progressed. They enjoyed learning about new countries, meeting their contemporaries from other nations, working well not to let language barriers come in the way at all, and expressing themselves in this very new and foreign environment.
The two extra days spent in London after the events saw the group visit Centre Court at Wimbledon and sit in the winners box thanks to the Wimbledon Foundation, a partner of the Magic Bus. They also had a winners dinner at Anne Makepeace’s and Tarun Jotwani’s home (supporters of Magic Bus), a tour of the Natural History Museum and some lively trampoline park jumping followed the next eventing by a second dinner at the home of Richa and Anjan Maliks (friends of the Makepeace-Jotwani’s and supporters of Magic Bus). The youths were comfortable in front of strangers in a formal setting and able to reflect on their sporting victory and all that came with it. They now are aware of and can articulate the rights of street-connected children for those in their community and around the world.
Our team members shared their thoughts below:
Shama had kept a detailed journal of all the events and challenges during the World Cup which she shared. She took note of so many new experiences happening all around her.
Bhavani spoke about having had this special opportunity to show her community that young girls can step outside the home, dress for sporting success, and compete with young boys on a level playing field. There were equal opportunities on and off the pitch and this is exactly what the Magic Bus has taught her year after year. This she hopes will become reality in her community.
Irfan was given a prize for Fair Play. Although he did not play in the final game at Lords, he stood respectfully draped in the Indian flag with his hand over his heart for the duration of both the English and Indian anthems.
Mani, the Vice Captain along with Captain Paul Raj of our Chennai partners found that he could lead, wishes to play professionally and is very keen to share with the others the glory of winning! He became an advocate for his dream of being a player by speaking with Monty Panesar who shared his manager’s details with him. He was also quoted as saying…
“Our team is really strong because the women in our team form the pillar,” explains Maniratinam, a player from Team India South (India sent two teams). “Without the girls our team is nothing.”
(Telegraph UK May 6, 2019)
Team South India recieve a hero’s welcome on the flight home.
Their return was all the more exciting when the staff on the Air India flight realized they had a winning team on board. The pilots announced the teams victory to a standing ovation on the plane, photos with the pilots followed and then there was the homecoming at Chhatrapati Shivaji airport where over 30 people from Mankhurd Community came to receive them with white and red garlands.
Also waiting was a Forbes Magazine reporter asking them to interview right off the bat. The team was so well practiced that even after a very long flight they were able to express their gratitude for such an opportunity both to play cricket at an international level and to have a platform to voice the concerns of all street-connected children to the press.
It takes a village to undertake, organize, jump hurdles and overcome challenges to get to the finish line in order to participate in such an inspiring opportunity. We would like to thank Rupesh Desai (Deputy General Manager, International Partnerships, Magic Bus India) and Victoria Southwell (Director, Magic Bus UK) who encouraged us and never said no. They helped to make the impossible possible with little funding at the start but big dreams fulfilled at the end. Thank you for believing that we could accomplish such a feat. The gold cup was just a bonus for Team South India, Mankhurd Community and the Magic Bus. Thank you also to the Programme team and Communications Team who posted daily on social media the status of the games and the lessons being learned for all.
Below you will find some of the informative and inspiring media reports that covered the Street Child Cricket World Cup events leading up to and during the games.
So here is to the next Cricket World Cup to be held in 2023 in India. We hope the Magic Bus will send a team to compete in the Street Child Cricket World Cup 2023 so we may share with others the principles of the Magic Bus that every child should be safe, respected, supported and have a productive journey in life from their Childhood to their Livelihood and beyond. After all we are all somebody!
With warm cheers and great celebration,
Parvati and Anne
The Evening Standard: Street Child Cricket World Cup: The homeless children making a remarkable journey to Lord’s
The Telegraph: Lord’s a fitting setting for a Cricket World Cup final with a difference
Sky Sports: The Street Child Cricket World Cup
CNN: “I am somebody”: How cricket is helping give street children a voice
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