An alcoholic father, a disabled mother, physical abuse, tobacco and alcohol addiction, ostracization from his community – Pankaj Mahajan from Maharashtra in India had seen it all before the age of seventeen. His wake-up call came when, in an inebriated state himself, he helplessly watched his father brutally assault his mother. His inaction that day nearly cost the life of his mother, but compelled him to accept help from Slum Soccer NGO, which works with homeless children to uplift them through soccer. There has been no looking back since. Pankaj has played at the national and international levels, even traveling to Poland in 2013 to participate as the captain of the Indian team in the Homeless World Cup. Not only has the sport helped him to repair his relationship with his father, it has also honed his coaching skills. The athlete has coached the national team and also the women’s team, using the opportunity to teach life skills like problem solving, communication, and team work. And his efforts to uplift himself continue, as he works to graduate from the Open University. “This time I won’t go blank or feel helpless. I have prepared, worked hard and focused on my goals,” says Pankaj.

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