In Manipur, the trans man football team of Ya_All has stepped forward with compassion. Recognized by the United Nations as the first LGBTQI+ youth-led organization in the North East region of India, Ya_All launched the campaign "Football for Heal, Football for Peace" in June, aiming to provide free football coaching and bring hope to underprivileged youth.
The ongoing civil unrest in Manipur, which has persisted since May, has taken a toll on the mental well-being of many children, most of whom are taking shelter in relief camps. Sensing the profound impact of this crisis on the state's children, Ya_All, India's first all-trans football team, initiated football coaching in June, tirelessly dedicating their efforts to children under 18 years of age.
Founder of Ya_All, Sadam Hanjabam, shared insights into their mission. In the initial days of the crisis, the organization focused on distributing relief materials to over 100 camps across far-flung areas. During these visits, they witnessed the severe trauma experienced by children in the relief camps. This realization spurred them to offer free coaching, despite limited resources.
Ya_All's approach involves five players from their team traveling to various districts, identifying relief camps close to playgrounds, and conducting training sessions lasting one to ten days for at least two hours each day. To create suitable playing conditions, the team clears and prepares the ground for football activities.
Their initiative has received overwhelming support from parents and local communities. So far, they have provided coaching in four locations, including Sagolmang in Imphal East, Wangoo Ahalup in Kakching District, Wangoo Laipham in Bishnupur district, and Lamboi Khongnangkhong in Imphal West district. The latest coaching session is currently underway at the Oinam relief camp in Bishnupur district, with approximately 200 children participating in their programs to date.
Overcoming challenges such as curfews and shutdowns due to the civil unrest, Ya_All's enthusiasm and the children's interest have driven them to continue their efforts. They have managed to sustain their activities through crowd fundraising, although resources remain limited.
Football was chosen as the means to uplift the spirits of traumatized children because it transcends religion, language, and community boundaries. As Sadam Hanjabam emphasized, "At this point in time, we don't want to assert any religion, language, or community. We only hope for peace."
This initiative has garnered positive responses within the transgender community. Previously, transgender football players faced criticism, social stigma, and were often underrated in the sport. However, they are now receiving accolades for their compassionate service and dedication to helping displaced children.
One of the coaches, Rita, a trans man from Langthabal, expressed how most children in relief camps eagerly participated in the free football coaching sessions. Some children hesitated to join due to a lack of basic needs like clothes. In such cases, Ya_All motivates and encourages them to participate, ensuring no child feels left out.
The coaching sessions typically last for one to ten days in each relief camp, and Ya_All has identified many talented children who could potentially pursue football as a future career. These initiatives provide not only hope and happiness but also the prospect of a brighter future for the youth.
A displaced child from Churachandpur, whose home was vandalized during the crisis, expressed gratitude for the opportunity to attend the free football coaching. He shared how it helped him find moments of happiness and alleviate the boredom of confinement within the relief camp, especially during the reopening of schools when concentration in studies was challenging.
According to the report of the Social Welfare Department, there are 12,694 displaced children living in relief camps across Manipur. Among them, 100 children are severely traumatized and in need of professional counseling.
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