Two girls, two continents and one passion for sport

Gulafsha is 17 years old. She lives in a deprived area of Mumbai in India.

Another world away, living in a poor Johannesburg township, Mavis is just a few years older at 19.

They may live in very distant countries, but they share a common passion: a love of sport.

Both are also members of Laureus-supported projects. Gulafsha plays football at the Magic Bus project in India and Mavis is working hard becoming the best netball player she can be at the Sport for All project in Johannesburg, South Africa.

But the similarities don’t stop there. was lucky enough to speak to both Mavis and Gulafsha recently, and one quickly realises how sport has made an impact on their lives in a surprising and moving way.

Some background to their stories might be necessary first though.

A culture exists in India of young women often marrying at young ages. This was very much the case for Gulafsha’s sisters, who all married around the age of 15, and it was expected Gulafsha would marry at this age too. When this happens, Gulafsha explained, it is often considered normal for these women to give up on their own interests and ambitions in order to look after the family home.

But despite being 17 now, she remains unmarried.

She remains focussed on her own goals and dreams and despite her young age, runs her own football project in her home area.

A similar story is playing out for Mavis in Johannesburg. When met her earlier this year in Palmridge, and first asked if her time at the project has helped in any way other than just with her netball skills, she replied confidently: “Oh, not really.”

But a different story emerged once asked further about how different she thinks life might be now if she had never actually joined up with Sport for All.

When asked where she thinks she would be now if she had never begun playing netball with Sport for All she laughs and said: “I’d maybe be having two or three babies.”

She went on: “All my friends from childhood have children now; I’m the only one who doesn’t. It’s a good example of how I’ve involved myself in activities. It’s been a real advantage to me.”

Mavis dreams of continuing with her netball, and is working hard to be picked for her junior national team.

Gulafsha’s very own football project, meanwhile, works to promote equal opportunities for other young women in India.
Hearing stories like Mavis’ and Gulafsha’s shows how sport can be much more than just a fun way of spending a few hours every week.

For some people, it can help to learn about different kinds of people. For others, it can help teach them there is something better to do in life than to get in trouble on the streets. But for those like Mavis and Gulafsha, it has helped give them the means and strength to make sure they pursue their dreams in life, not just what might be expected of them or what others around them are doing.

This is why Laureus are so passionate about helping more and more disadvantaged young people through sport.

It may be a lot of fun, but it can also change lives in remarkable ways.

Do you have a story about how sport changed your life? Laureus would love to hear it, so let us know in the comments below or on Facebook and follow us on twitter @LaureusSport for more stories of sport changing the world.

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