Football has always been considered a great leveler that transcends barriers and is known to promote camaraderie and unity even amongst strangers. Once you are a part of a team on the football field, your teammates’ ability, age, background or gender stops mattering. What unites the team is a common goal to score a goal.
This very essence of football was amply and ably demonstrated during the novel DeafKidz Goal! The tournament organized by Slum Soccer on 9th January 2020 at their Bokhara Academy in Nagpur. The aim of the tournament was to integrate Deaf children and youth with their hearing counterparts towards creating an inclusive society.
To achieve this, fifty deaf students of Deaf School, Shankar Nagar and thirty (hearing) youngsters from Slum Soccer’s interventional community centers were brought together and divided into 8 teams, each having representation from deaf and hearing boys and girls. It may be mentioned that Slum Soccer is implementing its innovative DeafKidz Goal! A project at the Deaf School, Shankarnagar with the support of DeafKidz International and Comic Relief.
It was a sight to behold as hearing players and deaf players of the 8 teams interacted with each other in a language that evolved from the yearning to excel as a team. After initial hiccups, this new hybrid language of mimes and signs became the new mode of communication as they decided their team names and discussed game strategies. The names decided by the teams for themselves were Barcelona, Real Madrid, Liverpool, Juventus, Dortmund, Inter-Milan, Manchester City, and Bayern Munich.
In order to ensure a level-playing field as well as ensuring creation of safe space for deaf and hearing players to express themselves freely, the Slum Soccer think-tank had brainstormed and formulated a unique set of rules which included having 4 referees with red and green flags (no whistles), the hearing players had to maintain silence on the field, etc. Adding to the uniqueness was the composition of the teams as each team consisted of 10 players (6 deaf and 4 hearing).