Small Indian youth team finds its way to Canberra

A small football club in Gujarat, India, is on the verge of making an impact in Australia. Set up by a Vadodara-based football fan C Sadanand in 1999, Providence Club built itself brick by brick, with players, mostly from a poor background, selling vegetables and making detergent powder to fund the team. And now the club set to go to Canberra to participate in the 17th Kanga Cup, a popular annual youth tournament. “Their years of struggle have paid off. The people of Gujarat will now know that there is football even in this state,” Hardev Jadeja, secretary, Gujarat State Football Association, told Swarup Kar Purkayastha of Indian Express.

Launched with about 15-20 players and no sponsor, the team started supporting itself first by selling vegetables door-to-door. Then the players started retailing through the Providence Super Store in Vadodara, also distributing sports goods before launching their own home-made detergent powder, which they called Team. Now, the club even conducts regular coaching programmes in Vadodara schools. “The club has struggled a lot. All the players used to stay together in a flat. In the morning, they would go to various factories for work, in the afternoon, they would go door to door to sell their products and in the evening practise football,” said Gulab Chauhan, a FIFA referee, based in Ahmedabad.

In 2000, Providence became runners-up in the Paulin Cup, a premier state tournament. It went on to retain the cup in 2001, 2002 and 2004 before the tournament was scrapped due to lack of sponsorship. But Canberra? Providence can thank a new Asian Fellowship program initiated by Capital Football for that, said Steven McIntyre, event manager, Kanga Cup. “We started giving fellowships to Asian countries this year. And the application of Providence was very impressive.”

The Mumbia-based Ashok Piramal Group and the Minister President of the All India Football Federation, Priyaranjan Dasmunshi, have reportedly agreed to provide the team with extra travel funds. The team will be captained by Akshay Mall of Baroda High School, while rest of the players are students at Tejas Schol, Rosary School, IPCL School, Don Bosco School and Vidyani School.