National Sports Day: How football changed OSCAR Foundation's Meet Yelkar and Ayan Khan

As the country celebrates National Sports Day, here are two boys from Mumbai's OSCAR Foundation, Meet Yelkar and Ayan Khan who explain how football helped them become better humans and taught them various things

  • National Sports Day: How football changed OSCAR Foundation's Meet Yelkar and Ayan Khan
  • National Sports Day: How football changed OSCAR Foundation's Meet Yelkar and Ayan Khan
  • National Sports Day: How football changed OSCAR Foundation's Meet Yelkar and Ayan Khan
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On August 29, 1905, Major Dhyan Chand, one of the greatest hockey players to have played the sport was born. Accordingly, in an attempt to commemorate the hockey wizard's memory, every year, August 29 is observed as the National Sports Day across the country. The day is celebrated to highlight the significance of Sports in an individual's life. 

While it is rightly said that 'All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy', does 'All play and no work make Jack a good boy'? Meet Ayan Khan, an FYJC Arts student who has been playing football since Class V.

Currently living in Colaba, Ayan came to Mumbai from Gorakhpur. Explaining his initial days in Mumbai, he said,

I was the new kid in the class and therefore, no one talked much with me. I felt like a left out individual but soon that week, during the PT period, we all began playing football and that is when I was accepted by the students. It was the usual school norm that kids avoid talking to the new kid but Sports became an icebreaker for me."

But slowly, his love for football grew exponentially and he started practicing every day to become a better player. He says that when he was studying in Class VI, it was the first time he came to know about OSCAR Foundation but it was a year later when he joined it.

Later he said that in Class VII, he appeared for the U-14 trials in the school,

I was very excited to be a part of the school's U-14 team. Unfortunately, I didn't get selected. I cried a lot that night and decided never to play football again. However, the next day when I went to school and saw my friends playing football, I just couldn't control the urge to be back on the ground and so, I started playing again."

Later, Ayan joined OSCAR Foundation the same year and started playing for them. He had started as a striker but one day as the regular goalkeeper was absent, the coach asked him to be the keeper. Subsequently, Khan became the regular keeper after his skills as goalkeeper impressed the coach.

More importantly, the 15-year-old learned equality through the sport. He admitted that he used to think that girls were weak and couldn't play football as efficiently as men. However, football helped him clarify his mindset as once he saw girls play football, he was left shell-shocked. 

While Ayan had decided to put football aside for a little while, things were more complicated for his teammate Meet Yelkar, a midfielder who was forced to quit playing football for a year after he got sick with Dengue, Typhoid, and Leptospirosis. 

It was more than a shock for Meet who had been playing football on the streets of Mumbai since he was a mere 7-year-old kid. A St. Xavier's School student, Yelkar showed talent since he was a kid and played for his U-12 school team. The defender-turned midfielder was progressing quickly but unfortunately, his journey hit a roadblock as he fell sick when he was a 12-year-old.

Meet was forced to quit football after that as his parents were skeptical about him playing football. He said,

Forget about football. My mother and father didn't even allow me to stay outdoor for a long time or play any other sport. I understood that as being from a middle-class family, the financial strain on my family was monstrous."

Meet was ready to bid adieu to his favourite sport but amidst his desperation, one of his friends asked him to visit OSCAR Foundation. While he was still skeptical, upon everyone's constant persistence he decided to give it a shot and the rest was history. He was glad that the foundation would conduct practice sessions at Mahalaxmi Race Course Ground which meant good grounds. Eventually, upon seeing good facilities and the condition of the ground, his parents agreed to let him play.

When asked what football taught him, he said,

Football taught me to become a more sensible person. I have always believed that you can either be the one to clap or you can be the person to earn claps."

While he felt his life got a little bit hectic during SSC, he decided to focus on academics during the Board exams and sidelined football for a month. He scored 81 per cent. Now as he drifts towards adulthood, Yelkar already has things organised,

"Currently I am doing a six-year-long Textile Engineering course which consists of three years of B. Tech (degree), and another three years of the diploma course. If I cannot make football as a career, I can always be a textile engineer as you know, people are never going to stop wearing clothes." 

About UK Tour 2019

In October 2019, 14 boys will set off on the third OSCAR UK tour. The boys will be hosted by ten leading schools across the UK, competing on the football pitch and taking part in academic lessons and cultural events. Each participating host school allocates pupils to initiate fundraising activities and plan an exciting and life-enhancing itinerary. The school is widely seen as a reciprocal endeavour, providing young people from vastly different backgrounds the unique opportunity to learn from each other. Meet Yelkar and Ayan Khan are part of the squad that will tour various schools.

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