Monsoon of points in Kolkata
Quins Community Development Officer Nick Hyde reports from Kolkata....
Future Hope Harlequins Calcutta began their season by qualifying for the All India Cup, having won the 'cup' last Saturday (1st July). The season in India is a short one, therefore securing pre-season games is vital. A training game against the Army Eastern Command (15th June) proved to be a very useful exercise at two levels. Firstly, it provided a much needed run out against a fit and strong opposition. Secondly, and more importantly, Future Hope boys were given an opportunity to spend time with serving soldiers and officers, which may encourage some to consider careers in the Indian Army. The day was a great success, with the Army providing fantastic hospitality and Future Hope winning 24-12, fielding a First XV that comprised largely of development players.
The second game of the season was the opening game in the 'cup', with Future Hope Harlequins facing their old adversaries, the Kolkata Police. Things have changed in Kolkata; street children were regularly pursued by policemen, but Future Hope and rugby has started to change the perception of street children within the Kolkata Police. Now best of friends, Future Hope boys have coached and officiated for the police and were integral to the smooth running of the Kolkata Police 10s played last month.
Fixtures against the Police are usually close and tough affairs, but this year the Future Hope Quins were too strong, running out 65-7 winners. This victory clinched their place in the 'cup' final against CCFC.
Such advancements in Future Hope Harlequins rugby have been hugely important to the development of all children at Future Hope. Rugby has given the whole organisation a sense of purpose and pride. Future Hope matches attract big crowds, as the wider family comes out to support Tim Uncle and the boys. A further indication of the development was demonstrated by the decision to drop Tim Grandage to the bench in his 41st season! This highlights that the team made up of ex-street children are now very able to stand up for themselves both on the rugby pitch and more importantly in life.
Life at the Future Hope School is a real challenge, just as it is in the UK. 14 and 15 year-old boys are more interested in practicing rugby and football, going for a 'chai' and meeting girls than revising for their Year 10 finals. In India, exams and the ability to complete formal education is very important, however the cheeky adolescent demeanour of the boys is a joy to see, particularly when you remember the 'previous life' these boys have had.
So to the CCFC ground, a plush relic of colonial sporting might founded in 1792 - home field advantage and a squad including five Irishmen stood in Future Hope Harlequins way of glory. These fixtures are tight and this game was no different. It was the Kolkata Quins who in monsoon conditions took the lead against a far larger team. The key to victory was to weather the storm; this they did. By the final whistle, the Future Hope Harlequins had clocked up 22 unanswered points to win the 'cup'.
The day began with a first for Kolkata; a curtain raiser festival, very much in the style of Quins Curtain Raiser held before home matches at the Stoop. Teams were provided by Future Hope and Ashalayam, an NGO children's home in Howrah, coached by the Jungle Crows. The Crows are the newest team in Kolkata, and are coached by Future Hope old boy Sanjay, who is now the Bengal RFU Development Coach.
With new teams like the Jungle Crows, old established teams CCFC and LMOB, and support from the Police and the Army, rugby in Kolkata is on the up. The rugby in Kolkata is keenly contested, and the spirit of rugby is very much in evidence, however, facilities and kit are in short supply. The Future Hope Sports Academy will go a long way to improving the rugby and the general sporting situation in Kolkata, as well as providing much needed housing for the growing number of children who benefit from Future Hope's tremendous work.
If any individual, school or rugby club wishes to find out how they can help in making a difference, please email Nick Hyde in the Quins office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To find out more about Future Hope, log-on to their website.