Kolkata’s slum kids await Messi moments

Slum Kids Kolkata and soccerKolkata, Aug 31 (Calcutta Tube / IBNS) As Lionel Messi arrived in India’s soccer capital Kolkata early Wednesday, four child labourers from the eastern city’s slums kept vigil as the first among the equals for their Friday date with the Argentine soccer wizard.

Since childhood these boys lived in the city’s armpit- the infamous slums of Kolkata overflowing with gigantic stinks and all around poverty.

But on Friday (Sept 2) they would leave behind their shabby life behind and be all spruced up to live the magical moments of escorting Messi and his team mates to the ground  before the Argentina-Venezuela match.
Argentina is scheduled to play against Venezuela at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata and due to a novel initiative from  Non Governmental Organisation (NGO)  “Save the Children”, four handpicked slum children will have the once in a lifetime opportunity of escorting Messi and his squad.

Each of these four children is either a child labourer or has been rescued from hazardous child labour situations and it would be a dream come true for them to walk alongside the legendary footballers onto the field.

One of the four, fourteen-year-old Rajen Bhuia, a resident of the Tangra slum area, expressed his exuberance by saying, “To watch Messi play live will be the most unforgettable moment of my life. One day, I want to be a football player like him.”

An unbelievable opportunity indeed for these underprivileged children who toil each day through numerous hardships and the one for which uncountable fans around the globe would gladly pay any price.

For Rohit Mullick, a resident of Mullick bazar slum area, who is another candidate chosen by the NGO, the entire episode is still like a dream.

“I can’t believe that I will get to hold Messi’s hand and walk beside him. It still feels like a dream to me. I will surely get his autograph,” said Rohit.

Rohit idolizes Messi and wants to recreate his magic himself someday.

“When I grow up I want to be like him and I want to play like him. My parents want me to concentrate on my studies but I want to play football like Messi,” he remarked.

Using the platform provided by this match “Save the Children” wants to draw the attention of people so that the general populace comes forward and contributes to making a change in the lives of underprivileged children throughout the country.

“Save the Children” CEO Thomas Chandy said, ““It is a proud moment for Save the Children to be chosen as cause partner for this match.”

“It is an endorsement of Save the Children’s vision in India to see every child grow up to be a healthy adult living his/her dream, be it becoming a doctor or a sporting hero,” he said.
“We celebrate the beautiful game as an expression of physical talent but that talent can only come to the fore if we ensure that our children are nurtured with good nutrition and health within the first two years of their birth.”
Meanwhile, Kolkata, a city known for its craze for football, the game’s meccas like Brazil and Argentina and its legends like Pele and Maradona, is gripped by Messi mania.
People donned in Argentine jerseys had thronged in large number to catch a glimpse of their icon to the airport, though Messi was whisked away in a vehicle from the tarmac on his arrival, leaving his fans disappointed.

Argentine jerseys are selling like hotcakes in Kolkata while the youngsters are frenetically cheering Messi and his country in the big ticket match on Sept 2.

– Arnab Chakraborty

Complete Gallery

Kolkata's slum kids await Messi moments

Rohit Mullick, one of the slum children chosen to escort Messi and his team to the ground, in a Mullickbazar slum.
(Photos by Avishek Mitra/IBNS)

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