Sporting the Mumbai Indians t-shirts and caps, children, aged between 6 and 15, were at their spirited best on Saturday, as they poured into the Wankhede Stadium to witness the Indian Premier League-7 match between Mumbai Indians and Kings XI Punjab.
The entire stadium, barring a few thousand seats for VIPs, was booked for 19,000 underprivileged children as part of the corporate social responsibility of the Mumbai Indians team.
Around 425 Brihanmumbai Electric supply and Transport (BEST) Undertaking buses ferried children from across the city to the stadium.
The children were sponsored by Reliance Foundation under its Education for All (EFA) initiative of the Mumbai Indians, in partnership with a group of six NGOs. Nita Ambani, Founder and Chairperson, Reliance Foundation, said, “We started EFA in 2010 and since then, every year we arranged for around 500 seats for underprivileged children. However, last year, while interacting with a few of them, I realised that most children wanted their siblings to watch the matches as well. As we started to count, the number kept going up, and this year we have over 18, 000 children having a time of their life.”
Shaban Ubaidul Rehman Khan (13), along with her siblings Rehana (14) and Shafiq (9), and her best friend Mehak Shaikh (12), were seen enjoying themselves at the Sunil Gavaskar stand. “This is the first time I have come to the stadium. I am extremely happy that my sister, brother and my best friend are also with me,” said the class 6 student of Petit Municipal School in Bandra.
Fazal Shaikh (24), volunteer from Pratham, an NGO working for the education of underprivileged children, said, “We have around 500 students from our NGO here at the Sunil Gavaskar stand. We have brought children from across Mumbai.” Wearing white t-shirts, Shaikh along with at least 20 other volunteers kept moving across the stand to monitor the children.