He's all of 20 and Ashok Rathod has given a new purpose to the slum children of Mumbai's Baba Sahib Ambedkar colony. He is teaching them football in exchange of education. And for them, Ashok Rathod is a real hero. Read on...
It's Saturday and its time to play ball. Shankar, Govind and Maruti are fine tuning their game. Once a week these boys of Oscar Club get together at Mumbai's Oval Maidan and its not just about football.
Keeping them on their toes is 20-year-old Ashok Rathod.
It's been two years since Ashok started the Oscar Club at one of Mumbai's biggest slums - Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Nagar colony, the place where he grew up. He was one of the few children from the slum who went to school and a chance encounter with an NGO gave him a new goal.
"At Magic Bus I played rugby. From there I also learnt football and mentoring skills," he says.
Having watched his friends fall slave to drugs and gambling, Ashok decided to experiment with the model in his slum. He would invite the children to train in football over the weekends and the only condition was they would have to attend informal learning classes thrice a week.
"In the first three months we increase their interest in sports. Our condition is that if you come here, then you have to study. You need not be a good player. You need to be a good person," says he.
Ashok is now a respected figure in these bylanes. From the money he earned by working with other NGOs, Ashok contributes to the club's expenses.
But for him, a much tougher task lies ahead convincing the conservative neighbourhood to send their girls to school. He is now hoping that he gets second time lucky.