Coming from perhaps the most impoverished background of the young leaders of 2016, Pankaj used football as a lifeline to develop personal leadership skills. His incredible natural talent enabled him to captain India in the Homeless World Cup in 2013 aged just 19. On his return to India from the tournament, Pankaj had renewed motivation to help others improve their lives in the same manner in which he had, and then sought opportunities to learn more by becoming a Young Leader with the ‘Slum Soccer’ organisation.
Pankaj’s father committed suicide after losing his battle with alcoholism when Pankaj was just 17, leaving him to look after his family financially and emotionally. Despite these heavy responsibilities, Pankaj continues to devote his time to Slum Soccer and the often challenging role of captaining and coaching other young people from under-privileged backgrounds.
He manages logistics for Slum Soccer tournaments across India, a hugely challenging role but one which brings Pankaj and the young people taking part a huge amount of fulfilment. Pankaj also works with ‘Shakti Girls’, an organisation which aims to empower young women in India through sport and education, helping communities recognise the abilities and strength of their young women.
As a result of his MJYL financial stipend Pankaj has worked with his Shakti Girls’ team. He approached communities where girls are not allowed to play sport and discussed the issue with parents and teachers. After joining Shakti the girls have participated in tournaments and been made aware of abuse and rights. They were praised for their fair play and respect during the tournaments and identified as role models. As a result of external networking opportunities he has completed coaching courses which has helped him improve as a leader. With the support of his local organization and communication with CAC he has expanded the initiative to new areas where girls haven’t played before. His MJYL financial stipend has enabled Pankaj’s initiative to become more successful. Many parents are requesting that their girls join the team and he is developing some into leaders themselves. As a result of a CAC program Pankaj assisted with an educational sport for social impact program in Chennai, India.