Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi or Mahatma Gandhi, was a preeminent leader of the Indian Independence struggle who owes a lot to the field of football for mastering the art of non violence.
Back in those days, when Mahatma Gandhi used to stay in South Africa, he had founded 3 football teams. Since his days studying law in England, he was well acquainted with the sport. Thus, he used his little knowledge about this sport to evolve and skill the three teams for Durbin, Pretoria and Johannesburg. He named them all ‘Passive Resisters’.
The main tools used by Gandhi to train the footballers involved the same tools he used to fight against the Britishers for freedom in India. He used football as a medium to propagate Satyagraha on the African soil and polish his skills as a negotiator and protester.
Instead of developing a gaming spirit for the sport, Gandhi, instead, used it to meet his political ends. The money raised from the victory matches were used to facilitate the families of those ‘resisters’ who were imprisoned for practicing non violent measures to fight against local racist laws.
Eventually, Mahatma Gandhi was called to India. However, he did not abandon his team in South Africa even as he returned to India in 1914. As a matter of fact, the first football team from South Africa, named Christopher’s Contingent, sought blessings from Gandhi. The football team, consisting mainly Indian origin players, was sponsored by Albert Christopher, a fellow mate of Gandhi who actively participated with him in the Labour Strike in 1913.
On Mahatma Gandhi Jayanti, let’s remember him, not as a political leader who sought freedom to the land of snake charmers, but as a political inventor who encouraged South Africa to have its own football team.