"We will show them through examples and activities how to incorporate the fun element in football and spread the message that football is not just a competitive sport but can also bring about a change," Gareth Jones, one of the THF coaches, said.
"Once the coaches go through the camp, they will know how to keep them (intellectually disabled) coming back to the sport because of the sheer joy and fun of playing." The Kolkata leg is in continuation of the first phase of a program that was initiated earlier this year in Goa and Gujarat. "In Goa and Gujarat, it was more theory and classroom oriented. In Kolkata, we are making it more of a practical experience. Part of it involves session planning, motivational practices and at the end of it checking up on how much they have learnt," Dan Slaughter, the other THF coach, said. The program will proceed to Gurgaon after completion of the Kolkata leg. "On the third and final day, the Indian coaches will work with 20 special athletes from West Bengal and put into practice what they learn," SO Bharat (West Bengal chapter) vice-chairperson and president Bibek Bardhan said. "By making it fun for them, we hope families will be encouraged to participate in helping them mainstream. Later on we plan to mix normal players with the intellectually disabled players to mainstream them."
Organizers said this project hopes to improve the quality of coaching in India for people with intellectual disabilities, leading to a greater talent pool across the country. "Though they have below average intelligence, their football playing skills are extraordinary. We hope to include the English module into our training to help them play in the mainstream," O.S. Ashok Kumar, a coach from Jamshedpur said. Supported by the Premier League, the project trains coaches to benefit 30,000 people with intellectual disabilities across India with quality training and provide access to sporting initiatives