The fog was heavy early the first morning we were at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi. This beautiful facility recently upgraded for the 2010 Commonwealth Games sat quiet, empty, imposing but welcoming as the American and Indian girls exited the bus and headed up the long entrance stairs. As we set up equipment for the clinic, as all the partner organizations exchanged early morning pleasantries, and as the girls started to warm-up and shake off the cool morning, the fog began to lift from within the giant bowl of the arena, slowly making its way over the pillars in the far corner that pointed towards the sky. The start to the day couldn’t have been more perfectly scripted as the fog made way for rays of sunshine and team after team of young Indian girls eagerly made their way to the field for a full day of soccer with these special visitors from afar.
India is a land of beautiful chaos. Somehow through unwritten rules millions of people, bikes, motorcycles, cars, trucks, dogs, and cows make their way through the cities. With over a thousand political parties, over a thousand languages, and countless subcultures, nothing is simple or done in a small way.
Soccer is poised to grow rapidly in India which will soon become one of the world’s largest markets for the sport. As we ran clinics and tournaments it was clear that there is demand for more of this beautiful game across the country. Whether as a tool to improve lives of young people, a recreational activity, or a high-level competitive pursuit, the attraction to the game was strong.
I have read all the beautiful words of this year’s team and coaches. I feel honored to have spent this time with them, watching them and all of us grow together through each interaction and experience. And I can’t help thinking about that one morning at the stadium and what it represented. Out of two weeks of sun-up to sun-down activities, logistics, briefings & debriefings, interviews, clinics, events, and visits…after an incredibly successful program with so many independently wonderful and powerful moments…that one morning, with so many magnificent metaphors, brought into focus for me what Goals for Girls India was all about.
One day soon I know I will be back in India and when I return to Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the players stepping off the bus will be a top Indian women’s team arriving for a match, headphones on to block the nearly unbearable noise from the 60,000 fans cheering their entrance, and ready to inspire the next generation of girls there to watch.