I am Murtaza Zoomkawala, a corporate lawyer by profession and co-founder of ‘The Little League’, a not-for-profit organization that works with the underprivileged children in urban areas and focuses on their holistic development, primarily through sports.
As a concept, TLL tries to create a structure similar to the IPL and EPL, where team owners (essentially companies with a large employee base) adopt and administer a football team of underprivileged children in their localities, for the duration of one season. The TLL model then involves weekly football training sessions and periodic tournaments, along with concurrent workshops and seminars.In addition to helping the development of a healthy body through our football programme, our workshop programme also focuses on educational, vocational and soft skill training. The idea is to focus the energy of these youngsters who are to form the backbone of our future society, through both our sports and educational curriculum.
The programme has been structured as an ‘interactive charity’, which recognizes the potential help that can be amassed by bringing individuals an opportunity to interact with the charity they do. The goal is to promote the culture of social responsibility within organizations (who are team owners) by providing their employees the opportunity to give back to the society by contributing their time and not necessarily ‘money’. To achieve this, it is imperative that all our team owners, managers, and mentors are allowed to participate within the localities of their residence.
The Little League – Season One, started in July 2017, a series of open trials were conducted across different pockets of the Mumbai city and over 1,000 children participated for the selection in one of the TLL’s team.Ninety-six ‘Little Leaguers’ were selected and divided into 8 football teams and their football coaching commenced in June.During each of its training sessions, TLL also provides all the young Little Leaguers with a healthy customized meal. By doing this, TLL seeks to achieve-physical development through regular exercise and nutrition support and help in psychological development through the building of character traits such as teamwork, dedication, and perseverance.While our main focus is developing life skills in our kids to sustain employability in the future, football is a vital part of our program. With the help of certified coaches working rigorously with each team, we already have identified some hidden football stars, who are given the opportunity to display their skills before their team owners, friends, and families at periodic tournaments hosted by TLL.
The TLL team also understands the necessity of educational development and vocational training in the lives of the Little Leaguers; and accordingly, has tailor-made a development programme through their workshop model, which complements the training provided for the course of the football season. Academic workshops are intended to provide tuition after the school hours; and vocational, soft-skill and fun-with-learning workshops are conducted as events, where all of the teams are gathered at a single location for a day-long activity.
‘The Child Development Team’ at TLL monitors the progress and development of each of the Little Leaguers individually. Through constant interaction with the children, working closely with coaches and mentors, reviewing academic results and analyzing behavioral trends in the children, the Child Development Team at TLL focuses on ensuring the psychological development and well-being of the Little Leaguers.
Volunteers slash mentors within the interactive charity system of TLL, have regular interactions with one child from the team, a relationship which is built on trust and common interests and is supported by TLL case-workers. The result is a life-changing experience for both the mentors and the mentees. ‘Our aim is to help bridge the socio-economic divide prevalent in our society today and believe that these interactions, though small in scale, have a great impact’.
Murtaza Zoomkawala| Co-founder The Little League