By Lucy Mathen
When my daughter Leyla was ten years old she returned from school one day incandescent with rage.
The teacher responsible for choosing football teams had selected all the best players for the boys team, but had decided that the girls’ game wasn’t important and so included girls with little aptitude but for whom he felt sorry! The girls’ team lost… with some of the best players on the bench. The boys’ team won. And Leyla had her first lesson in Double Standards.
In reaction she dragged her parents, her footballing friends and their parents, onto Highbury Fields every Sunday, determined to show that small girls can take on all opponents. That was my introduction to the Beautiful Game.
Fifteen years later, I was visiting a village eye hospital in India for my charity Second Sight. One morning half a dozen determined girls (rather like my Leyla) joined me in an impromptu game. That small event led to a huge project. Basically, a football academy replaces child marriage, bad health and a truncated education for village girls, with football, food and a future as employees of the local eye hospital!
The story is told in ‘Junction for Having Fun’ which some of you watched a couple of weeks ago. We’ve been screening the film for a year but this was the first time that everyone in the audience was a footballer! Brilliant. And we raised enough to restore sight to nine more blind people, enabling them to work and be independent once again.
Every £20 donated to Second Sight quite literally cures a blind person. It pays for everything from the diesel used in vehicles to bring in blind patients from their villages, to salaries for paramedic staff, to that natty little plastic intra-ocular lens that sits in the eye replacing the cloudy lens (i.e. the cataract) that has caused blindness! Not a penny of donated money goes on admin or salaries—everyone is a volunteer and we don’t do glossy brochures or promotional material. Even the movie was made by professionals who worked for free.
Second Sight doesn’t intend to be around forever. With no careers and big salaries dependent on the charity, our only motivation is to get the job done…by the end of the year 2020.
And what is that job? Quite simply to bring the humdrum miracle of cataract surgery to every blind woman man or child in the states of Bihar and Orissa in India. (These are the two worst areas in the world for cataract blindness).
You can help further by buying copies of my book ‘A Runaway Goat’ (www.secondsight.org.uk) It is deliberately priced at £20 so that each reader knows that they are paying for one cataract operation. Buy it, read it, and give it to someone for Xmas. That’s how more and more people hear about our work.
And, at some point, surely we should to take a team out to play the girls at the Akhand Jyoti Football Academy? But be warned, those of you who support ‘other’ teams, they are quite clear about which English club they support…as you can see from the picture!