A few weeks ago a team of five coaches set out for Goa, India to coach football in schools, train coaches and to work with children living in the slums. Coaching4Christ’s first trip was in 2013 partnering with El Shaddai Ministries ran by Pastor Matthew Kurian. Their ministry works with over 4000 children, many of which are rescued from the streets in very sad situations. Shelter, food and education is provided for the children and teaching from God’s Word gives the children a start in life that they would not normally have.
A very busy schedule was ahead as the coaches arrived in Goa and also an opportunity to renew friendships, as most of the team had been there before. For Rodney Weir it was yet another new experience to visit India for the first time and to see these children and a different culture. Coaching started on Friday morning at the pitch at Shanti Niketan School with very excited children aged 5-8 years old, and Saturday 8-12 in the afternoons was coach education, with coaches from El Shaddai and some others from the surrounding area involved in youth football. Part of our vision is to train others in improving their coaching skills and at the same time help them to share the Word of God with the children they come in contact with. This enables Coaching4Christ to leave a legacy when they leave to continue the work of Coaching4Christ, but more importantly God’s call to share the Gospel.
In the week that followed the coaches made their way to a new school “Mae De Deus” in Aldona, to coach an older group of children aged 10-14 every morning. David Graham on previous trips had visited this school with James, one of the El Shaddai coaches who works with the school. We were made so welcome in the school as we coached two sessions each morning and by the end of the week as the World Cup was played out, the atmosphere was brilliant, even under the hot temperature. We left “Mae De Deus” school having made many new friends and had an open invitation to return anytime, but also blessed as everyday we had introduced the children to Jesus and His glorious salvation.
Our afternoons were spent in another area called Arpora where we worked with slum children who played for Arpora Sporting Club. This was not your typical football pitch with very little sign of grass and very dusty. In fact at times we could hardly see the children for dust, but this did not stop them having fun, and every afternoon as we arrived to coach, more and more people seemed to arrive to watch what was going on. Cars, lorries and bikes seemed to come to a standstill on the main road to take a closer look, so there was plenty of curiosity and talk in the neighbourhood as to who we were.
The coaches from El Shaddai who had participated in Coaching4Christ Coach Education were also there to assist and gain practicable experience in running a camp, but also see at first hand the impact on childrens’ lives and indeed the community.
The final day at Arpora we held a I.S.L (Indian Super League) Tournament, and this really added to the excitement, not only for the children but for parents and spectators and distinguished guests. Yes, we did have distinguished guests, local business men and president of the Arpora Club, Saleem Sayed, Chairman of Goa Football Development Council, Dr Rufina Monteiro and Matthew Kurian from El Shaddai. Two hours of football seemed to go by quickly and mainly due to the enthusiasm and competitiveness of the children. When it came to presenting the prizes for the winning teams, Saleem Sayed spoke of his thankfulness to Coaching4Christ for coming to Arpora and the impact it had on the children and the community. He spoke of the importance of football in a child’s life
to develop their character, discipline, skills and also made mention of moral issues, referring to our talks with the children about God. He was sincere in His remarks and invited Coaching4Christ to come back and work in other towns in His area. Dr Rufino Monteiro also made a speech of thanks and his remarks paid tribute to the quality of coaching offered by Coaching4Christ and wanted to publicly state that he was responsible for 90 coaches in the Goa region and invited Coaching4Christ to come back and train all his coaches. This was something we were not expecting to hear but at the same time, pleased that God had helped us make such an impact on the community and with that invitation comes new challenges to Coaching4Christ.
Our final day was at Shanti Niketan School where we were running 2 tournaments. One for the girls followed by one for the boys. Teams were selected from Shanti Niketan School, Mae De Deus and St Michael’s. The children who turned up to watch this tournament were amazing and also other volunteers who worked with El Shaddai Ministries from Italy, Germany, America, Canada and to our surprise Northern Ireland also came to watch. As the tournaments progressed and players giving everything, and the cheers from the spectators, it was hard to imagine that the previous day could be topped, but this was also proving to be a special day. Of course, there has to be a winner and St Michael’s School won both the girls tournament and the boys much to the delight of a very excited teacher. This was our final day and final presentation of prizes and our special guest was Elvis Gomes, President of Goa Football Association and in his remarks he expressed thanks to Coaching4Christ but also had noticed nets that were in need of replacing and he said that in support of what El Shaddai were doing he would be sending new nets. One final thing was to be done and at Shanti Niketan School a lot of hard work had taken place to improve their football pitch and indeed a new facility for changing rooms, showers and toilets had just been completed. Elvis Gomes and Stephen Crawford were asked to come and cut the ribbon to declare this new facility open.
It is hard to end such a good story where so much was achieved to the glory of God, but this was a trip that will always be remembered and leaves a sense of unfinished business in the hearts of the coaches. As to what is the future holds for Coaching4Christ in Goa, much prayer and consideration is needed in order for us to see the doors God wants to open and how best we can continue to help and support the work in this area.