Using football as a teaching module – this 23-year-old football free stylist visits slums to educate the underprivileged
Football for me is not merely just a sport, it’s an art. My own personal journey of struggle and success led me to think about the other wounded people in the society, and how I could make a difference in their lives, through football. I became a football clown and visited slums and hospitals, using my football freestyle tricks to put a smile on the ailing children’s faces. This initiative was done to make kids realise the potential of using happiness as a tool to ignite the spark of change,” says 23-year-old Tejas. R.
The young lad carries the badge of a Football Life Coach, Professional Football Freestyler, a Football Clown, and the Founder of Sparky Football – a non-profit football initiative, which uses football as a life skill module for social change.
I always had a strong inclination towards coaching and love for kids. Hence, becoming a football coach seemed the best way I could follow my passion, says Tejas.
After several rejections, with a past that flaunted an incomplete degree and no formal training at the sport, he almost gave up on his dream until he found internet and social media as his biggest boon. He started uploading videos of his freestyle performances on YouTube and soon, his work grabbed the much needed attention. Soon, he was approached by leading organisations to train kids, but very soon even this fell apart,
Coaching in an established set up didn’t appeal to me. I didn’t feel like I was making a difference. Also, my principles behind teaching football to kids did not coincide with the organisations principles. The organisations that I worked for looked at football as a recreational activity, while football has always meant something more for me.
He took a back seat when earning money and making a difference in the society were two extreme options and he had to pick one. He soon realized that his purpose was to work with the underprivileged and to provide them with equal opportunities. Using football as a tool to train these kids, not just about the sport but about various other life skills, brought him great satisfaction. He made his choice and went onto live his dream as a freestyle coach and launched his maiden venture Sparky Football.
Sparky Football was started in the year 2015 with a mission to build India’s No.1 under 19 football team from the Underprivileged kids. The organisation’s motto – Make Your Wounds Proud – was the very inspiration behind this. When asked about his venture, Tejas shares,
Forming this organisation has been nothing short of an incredible learning experience. Using football as a tool to create a difference in my student’s lives, has not only led them to become talented footballers, but gentlemen with impeccable character and strong sense of social responsibility. Several of my students have already started training other students in football workshops, keeping in mind the principle and philosophy behind Sparky Football.
His firm belief that every individual restores a humongous amount of magic within themselves and when this is shared with others, it brings back happiness in so many forms, grew strong with each passing day as he explored the nuances of the game. His intent to reach out to more people led him to a solo trip to the Himalayas (and other Northern regions of India). He travelled on foot and local buses to create a football documentary, where he understood various cultural differences amongst people from various backgrounds.
He continued using football as a tool to connect with people, while analysing how football could create a social impact in different parts of India. His video ‘Football Journey from Bangalore to Himalayas’ and blog ‘My Closest Experience to Heaven – Himalayas’ was very well received by the audience
His journey turned more interesting when he received a fellowship from Coaches Across Continents, and became the youngest Community Impact Coach from Asia. In 2014, he won the Indian Football Freestyle Championship, which was awarded by Dennis Irwin.
At the age of 19, he became the youngest football Coach and referee in the country to use football as an education and a life skill module for more than 800 kids in the city. He was awarded as The Warrior of Change for using football as a life skill module in the most innovation category in change makers in the society by ‘Youth for Seva’.
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Coaches Across Continents, a forum in partnership with United Nations, awarded him Soccer for Social Impact. In 2013, at the age of 20, he became the Youngest TEDx speaker of India. In 2015, he received the honor of Hero of Bangalore award from the Indian chief justice Sir Santhosh Hegde for keeping the city at its best through football. The same year, he went on to become the youngest speaker at INK Women, Bengaluru.
Today Sparky football is every football enthusiast’s hotspot. His dream to inspire many younger souls to take up the sport and leave behind a legacy is already on its way to create a long-lasting social impact.