Most of Let's Go PLay OutSide! activities are conducted in a manner whereby children are free to express their liking and disliking. This means that they can choose not to participate in the activities that we have designed for them, and run off to play some other games. While this can be heartbreaking for us at times, it is a way for us to find out the activities that can best engage them. Of course, there isn't single formula that can apply to everyone across board and reach out to all. This is why LGPO! activities seems so diverse.
Football needs no introduction as one of the boys' favourite activities, but we made a decision to conduct a more formal football training due to following observations:
1) Out of 10 minutes, 4 minutes are spent on playing and 6 minutes are spent on arguing who's right and who's wrong.
2) An open grass patch is under-utilised as a potential space for an informal football game.
3) The boys wanted to be part of a competitive team.
Coincidentally, one of our facilitators Balakhrisnan Matchap has a nephew who is an excellent sportman and plays competitive football. We invited Rishi Kumara Rajendran to LGPO! in September 2017 and very quickly he was able to get the boys together. Or rather, the boys naturally gravitated towards him. The constant bickering was something that Rishi had to handle all the time, but he handled it with so much patience!
The first meeting went well. The boys needed the positive role model; Rishi gladly and competently took up that role. In fact, Rishi revealed that he felt connected with the boys because he too came from a childhood that saw him getting into bad company and eventually out of it. He is now diligently pursuing a career in the sports as a sportsman and also a fitness trainer. I instinctively knew from that very instance that we should develop the programme not just for the children, but also youth who want to work with the kids and for their own development to becoming adults and professionals.
In March 2018, we invited Rishi and his friends - Gautham and Moagesh - to come back and conduct Football Clinic during the school holidays. Moagesh is a student in Singapore Polytechnic studying sociology and is passionate about working with children from less privileged backgrounds. We wanted the club to be more inclusive, so we tried to encourage the girls to join despite protests from some of the boys. "What kind of soccer club is this? Girls should play with girls, boys should play with boys!" We tried to invite a few kids from Cassia Crescent to join too, as I was already imagining possibilities of a LGPO FC league across different neighbourhoods.
At the same time, National Youth Council was running a service week, so we made use of the chance to get a $500 funding to purchase the necessary gear and start the ball rolling, literally. It was my last chance (35 years old) to apply for a grant as a youth. There is a pool of funding from NYC if you are still within the age group and have any ideas that you want to turn into reality!
What I feel very strongly about Football Clinic is that it can develop independently as a programme on its own to engage the children and create informal support system. The lack of self confidence in the children is something that we always need to address in this programme, and being included in a team is one of the most empowering experiences for an individual. Although I personally can never understand why a ball is able to unite and empower communities and even nations, no one can deny the spirit, energy and power that can be manifested through this game.
Hence from July - September, we are running football clinic again, working towards a proper match. This time, we are also trying out a co-funding system whereby children from more financially-abled families can join us and help defray some of the costs. If you don't have children or you can't join us, but believe in this project and want to support the development of this programme, please visit this crowd-funding site to find out more!
I'm not sure if we will ever be able to fulfil the children's dream of playing in a stadium, but surely, every dream can only realise when there is someone who believes in it.