Youth United Foundation and their verve to bring happiness

Rahul Gajjal is an 18-year-old studying BA at St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai. He is a district-level footballer, pianist, bright student academically, a gymnastics, chess, cricket, football player and fanatic and visually impaired; Rahul lost his eye-site at the age of one. The ex-Happy Home and School student is, now a part of the Xavier’s Resource Centre for the Visually Challenged, which is an extended arm of St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, working towards providing an inclusive environment to its students with blindness and low vision.

His classmate and dear friend Surendra Surwade leads the Youth United Foundation with a hatful of his friends from St. Xavier’s college and volunteers from across the city. Surendra plays the violin along with Rahul in a band, and yesterday’s exhibition match for the visually impaired – Youth United Foundation organized – is a testimony to a relationship, which went beyond the similar interests during the jamming sessions both music lovers shared.

Speaking to Football Counter, Surendra Surwade recollects, “During the sessions, I came across Rahul and his interest in playing football, which fascinated me. During the summer, I and my team (at Youth United Foundation) decided for a fund-raising event. But, we needed to attach a social element to it; and while having a conversation with Rahul it occurred to us, why cannot we promote blind football?”

He adds, “I asked my friends if they are aware of the existence of the sport? But, the answers were in nos.” The sport was added to the Summer Paralympic Games in 2004 but has failed to gain adequate attention and promotion in Mumbai since.

The exhibition match played at the event organized by Youth United Foundation saw, Moving Blazzers against Legends Atleticos, and the build-up to the match is what makes the whole effort worthy of recognition – and a benchmark for organizers, whose sole intention remains to earn monetary value from the sport.

“The sport is not encouraged in Mumbai. A tournament throughout the calendar year at the most, no practice grounds as players require proper ground conditions, fencing and assistance of 4 to 5 volunteers at any given point of time,” Surendra Surwade elaborates. Xavier’s Resource Centre for the Visually Challenged supported the NGO by providing a set of basic equipment to smoothly carry out three practice session before the exhibition match on Sunday, 10th April 2016; “We (the YUF team) decided upon providing sports equipments from the proportion of money the NGO raises through the Vision To Score football event,” expressed Youth United Foundation secretary Surendra Surwade.

The participants in the ‘Blind Football’ match belonged to St. Xavier’s, Ruia, S.I.E.S, Wilson College, and “most of the players have played together at district-level,” mentioned Surendra Surwade. The friendly game between the sides was an exciting contest as a spectator to me, who had never seen the sport being played before; volunteers guided and located the position of the ball for the player and the player with him and while taking the penalty, a volunteer would clap to make the penalty-taker aware of the position of the goal.

The initiative from a group of college-going teenagers, who work towards uniting the youth towards voicing their support and abilities in the right direction, helped the idea to act and course an attempt to provide the indigent and needful of our society by bringing forward an largely, under-looked community in our daily lives.

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