The forward pass


In 2003, a group called the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee started a residential home for kids from various brothel colonies at Baruipur, a small town near Kolkata.

The group, long active in advocating for the rights of brothel workers in Kolkata, felt the need to do something for the children of the sex workers as well as their mothers. Most of these children do not get any education at all, and many are driven into the sex trade or are trapped in drug rackets.

Durbar stepped in to keep these kids motivated for the future by separating them from their mothers other than just for education and accommodations. They identified football as a means to integrate these children into mainstream society. First was to provide coaching by recruiting professional football coach and support staffs. The effort started small, but it has since expanded; field workers move from brothel to brothel, looking for promising footballers they can bring to the academy.

Sonagachi is the one of the largest brothels colony in Asia and it houses more than 20,000 sex workers. Sonagachi is situated at the northern fringe of Kolkata, West Bengal.

The results have been promising. The team has become champion of the Indian Football Association’s nursery league and will field a team in the senior division. And the training is paying off. Last year two boys from the academy were selected by the U.K.’s Manchester United to practice with its junior team in Manchester.

Balarka is an independent documentary photographer based out of Kolkata, India. He mainly works with different NGOs for their different activities in areas like education, health and mental care along with my personal projects. So far his works have been published in different magazines like Galli, Invisible Photographer Asia, Better Photography, Private and many more. He is a member of ‘The Stand’, a global picture collective of documentary and photojournalism.

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