An Indian sports organization which uses football to empower the most marginalized of India’s society has won the inaugural FIFA Diversity Award.
The award was created by FIFA to recognise outstanding organisations, group initiatives and football personalities that are standing up for diversity and inspire unity, solidarity and equality among all people.
Mumbai-based Slum Soccer promotes the development of the Beautiful Game among slum dwellers in India and in the process, fighting homelessness and improve living conditions in disadvantaged areas.
Slum Soccer triumphed at the event – held in Manchester on Monday night – over the anti-racist initiative Kick It Out and the International Gay and Lesbian Football Association (IGLFA).
Using football as a tool of social empowerment to transcend race, religion, language and gender barriers, Slum Soccer aims to build self-sufficient communities and in the last 10 years, 70,000 men, women and children have benefited from livelihood training, healthcare workshops and more.
Slum Soccer, like IGLFA and Kick It Out, were selected as finalists from a 100-strong shortlist of organisations across the world and their continued commitment of promoting diversity saw them presented with the inaugural award.
“For the past 14 years, Slum Soccer has worked primarily with socially excluded youths and we use football as a tool to engage with them,” said Abhijeet Barse, who received the reward on behalf of the organisation.
“Most of these participants come from very marginalised areas and we want to make sure they are part of society.
“We use football to give them a platform, engage with them and slowly channel them back into society. Once you have their attention through football, it’s easier to pass on messages. With the award, it makes us feel that the work that we’ve done so far is reaching people.”
Slum Soccer were chosen by an 11-strong jury comprising global experts in tackling discrimination and renowned figures from world football, including Abby Wambach, Moya Dodd, Piara Powar and Tokyo Sexwale to name but a few.