In a heartening display of compassion, Asia's only transgender football team is extending a helping hand to displaced children who are struggling with the ongoing crisis in Manipur.
Founded in 2020 under the banner of Ya All, a United Nations-recognized LGBTI+ youth organisation, launched the remarkable initiative which aims to provide free football training to empower displaced children with skills and a safe space for healing.
The crisis has severely impacted the mental well-being of numerous children, particularly those living in relief camps.
With around 40 per cent of the approximately 60,000 displaced individuals being minors, concerns have been raised about potential psychological issues stemming from the trauma they have endured during their confinement in relief camps for nearly four months.
Amid the crisis that has disrupted lives and left children traumatised, Ya All has stepped up to offer a ray of hope.
Recognising the urgent need for support, the initiative provides football training as a means to help these children overcome their challenges and find moments of joy amid adversity.
"To address the trauma affecting these innocent minds, we realised the importance of creating a safe space where they can simply be themselves. This motivated us to launch the initiative," explained Sadam Hanjabam, the founder of Ya All, while speaking to the Imphal Free Press.
Hanjabam emphasised the universality of football, highlighting that the game transcends boundaries and is inherently filled with compassion and positivity.
Football was chosen as the medium to address the trauma, with the slogan "Football to heal, Sports for peace" encapsulating the initiative's core purpose, he added.
At the heart of this initiative lies the Ya All football team, comprising talented players, and stands as the only transgender football team in Asia.
Leveraging their skills and experiences, the team embarked on this journey of healing by providing training sessions to displaced children.
The initiative was launched in early June and has successfully provided training to approximately 200 displaced students across four different locations.
The latest training session is currently underway at a football ground in Nambol Oinam, situated in the Bishnupur district, adjacent to a relief camp.
The response from both displaced parents and local authorities has been overwhelmingly positive.
One parent stated that despite governmental efforts such as opening schools and implementing skill development programs, it was the introduction of football by Ya All that ignited excitement among the children in the relief camp.
The impact of this exposure to football on children who have been confined in relief camps for an extended period has been profound.
Parents have noted that witnessing their children's engagement with the sport has rekindled a sense of childhood within them.
The transgender football players, who previously faced criticism for their involvement in the sport, are now receiving accolades for their compassionate service and dedication to the displaced children.
Yaiphabi Sanasam, a transman player from the Ya All football team, expressed his joy in witnessing the innocent smiles on the children's faces as they momentarily escape from their traumas through football.
Yaiphabi mentioned that teaching the children was a natural extension of their practice, and the love and positive feedback they receive are gratifying.
Despite challenges such as sudden curfews and roadblocks impeding transportation, the Ya All team remains committed to expanding the training program to various locations, targeting relief camps with nearby access to playgrounds.
This inspiring initiative serves as a poignant reminder of the transformative power of sports, compassion, and unity. It stands as a testament to the human spirit's ability to rise above challenges and bring healing even in the most trying circumstances.