Little Masters Challenge: Bringing out the ‘sporting’ best in youngsters

February 9, Mumbai: On Friday, the iconic Brabourne stadium resonated with the voice of over 1,000 children who cheered with all their might for their fellow mates participating in one of Mumbai’s largest inter-school cricket tournaments -- the Little Masters Challenge -- organised by NGO Salaam Bombay Foundation.

The annualsporting event, that is into its 13th year,is a landmark eventwhich has been encouraging competitive sport among youngsters from schoolsacross the city.In the over two-hour riveting final match of the tournament,the audience witnessed some exhilarating moments as Salaam Bombay Fighters U-17and Balmohan Burners U-17 locked horns in an epic battle. The occasion wasgraced by renowned cricketing stalwarts including Sunetra Paranjpe, Seema Pujare andSulakshana Naikwho rooted for the budding players.Adding to the festivities was a flash mobby 100 dancers from the Salaam Bombay Academy of the Arts and a MarchPast by the players of the U-14 and U-17 teams.

A uniquefeature of this year’s Little Masters Challenge is a 10 over face – off betweenConcordia International& Salaam Bombay Cricket Academy alumni. ConcordiaInternational, a diverse, international specialty pharmaceutical company,is a supporter of the Cricket Academy and encourages the participationof  underprivilegedyouth in sports.

Participatingin this year’s LMC is Ambrika Yadav, a Salaam Bombay Cricketing alumnus. Thirdin the batting order and the wicket-keeper, 22-year-old Ambrika’s story is oneof inspiration, determination and will power. The son of a scrap dealer,his passion for the game led to his selection in the Salaam Bombay CricketAcademy.His talent soon gained recognition – a free membership in the HinduGymkhana and selection for the U-19 Mumbai team summer camp. Today, he is afull-time coach with the Salaam Bombay Cricket Academy, the Charkop MunicipalSchool cricket team and the St. Domnic Savio High School team, earningclose to Rs20,000 a month. He has learnt responsibility at a young age.SalaamBombay Foundation is one of the few NGOs who have been advocating theimportance of sport and harnessing its potential as a toolfor the holistic developmentof youth. Its Cricket Academy focuses on the emotional, physical andintellectual development of a child through sport. Since its inception, theAcademy has focused on the personal and economic empowerment of children fromless privileged backgrounds, by providing them with world-class training andperformance opportunities.

GauravArora, General Manager, Skills, Salaam Bombay Foundation said, “Children in theCricket Academy look forward to this annual tournament.  It gives them achance to display their talent in front of thousands of peers and distinguishedguests from the sports fraternity.  Playing at the iconic BrabourneStadium is an experience they carry with them all their life whether they makesports their career or not. The finalists are peer role models, motivating andinspiring the others to go after their dreams. This tournament is one of themany initiatives that we undertake each year so that youth especially fromunderprivileged backgrounds,excel not just in sport, but in the larger pictureof life.” 

Five young‘change makers’ who raised funds for the foundation during the Mumbai Marathonwere also felicitated.  Collectively, they raised Rs9,28,000 to supportthe vocational training of underprivileged youth.

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