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Football to Financial Freedom: Abhishek’s Journey with Enabling Leadership PLAY

On the field, he’s a natural: a vocal leader, a team player, and a footballer radiating confidence and focus. Off the field, coaching his students, he transforms into their guiding star, their loudest cheerleader, trusted friend and mentor – someone they can truly look up to. But what his students might not know is that back when he was their age, Abhishek was quite shy and timid. His journey from there to the confident, financially-independent individual that he is now, serves as an inspiration, showing them what’s possible through hard work and self-belief.

The son of an autorickshaw driver in Pune, Abhishek’s life is a mix of highs and lows. He began his schooling in a Marathi medium school but shifted to pursue a better education at his parents’ insistence.

As Abhishek entered the 6th grade with a soft toy, a present from his previous teacher, he had no clue that his life was about to undergo a transformation. It was the same year our football program was introduced at his new school, and Abhishek, driven by curiosity, decided to join.

As he embraced the unfamiliar environment and a new life, our program helped Abhishek gradually emerge from his shell. His class teacher at the time, Deepika, affirms this transformation, highlighting how his confidence, sociability, and academic performance flourished through his involvement in the sport.

As a testament to this growth, Abhishek recalls an interesting anecdote from when he faced academic challenges in 8th grade. His family, worried about his grades, suggested leaving football behind. But football was more than just a sport. Abhishek was aware of his growth due to the program and he had dreams that he didn’t want to give up on. Fueled by a desire to excel in both academics and sports, he convinced his parents that he could handle both. This unwavering determination paid off, and he aced his 10th-grade exams. This journey from a below-average to a decent student, class monitor, and captain of the football team solidified our program’s role in his life – an association that continues till this day.

After captaining his school team, football’s influence on Abhishek continued beyond his playing days. Inspired by his experience, he dreamt of a career in the sport.

Resourcefulness and determination seem to be second nature to Abhishek. His family’s financial situation does not give him the same advantages as many of his peers, and yet, it doesn’t hold him back. When he needed to improve his football skills but couldn’t afford an academy, he cleverly turned the tables and started coaching at one himself. This allowed him to earn money while constantly learning from his students, a true win-win.

Similarly, when faced with the challenge of paying his college fees, he didn’t rely on others to step in but took responsibility for his education by organizing a fundraiser. Just imagine, a teenager funding his own education through sheer initiative!

Pictures of Abhishek during his coaching session - spending time with his batch of children

This act, according to Deepika, his teacher, showcased not only his remarkable sense of responsibility but also his unwavering determination to overcome obstacles. His time with us had honed his patience and ability to put himself out there, and facing this financial hurdle required him to tap into those reserves of strength. He had to step outside his comfort zone, share his story with the community, and patiently wait for support to materialize. And it finally did.

Today, Abhishek navigates life with remarkable independence, juggling his graduation studies with coaching both at our program and the academy. Financially self-sufficient, he even supports his family when needed. While still exploring career paths, he knows that the sport will always play an important role in his life. His big goal is to open his own academy one day. Deepika, who recently met Abhishek, noticed his entrepreneurial mindset and organisational skills. She believes he’ll be really good at running the academy, owing to his inspirational leadership skills and ability to connect with people.

Our football program introduced Abhishek to the beloved sport, gave him the strength, courage, and confidence, introduced him to mentors, and brought him closer to his family, who have been enthusiastic supporters from the start. The losses he suffered on the field, and there were a lot of them, helped him navigate life’s battles. If the shy 12-year-old had not walked into the field on the first day, the world would not have known the strong young man that he is today. And considering where he started from, his progress does make him extraordinary, and a testament to how our program helps young people overcome challenges, discover their strengths, and build a brighter future. We are proud to be a part of Abhishek’s journey, and we are excited to see what he accomplishes next.

By Garima Kumar (Communications Associate)