Published: 05th October 2020
This 15-year-old from Punjab has covered the FIFA World Cup and spoken at the UN. This is how she did it
Ananya Kamboj believes that education, sports and childhood character development go hand-in-hand. We find out more
Ananya Kamboj believes she is changing the world. The 15-year-old from Mohali, Punjab, who is currently a Class 11 student, is also an author, a goodwill ambassador of BRICS countries, and was recently invited to speak virtually at the United Nations’ ECOSOC Youth Forum this month. For the past three years, Ananya has represented India as a Young Journalist at the global Football for Friendship (F4F) social programme, which is implemented by the Gazprom Company and is supported by organisations like FIFA, UEFA, the UN, the Olympic and Paralympic Committees, governments of several nations and football federations of different countries around the world.
She's a real 'sport'
Ananya has been promoting sports as a part of the school curriculum and believes that education, sports and childhood character development go hand in hand. Through her participation in various initiatives and empowerment programmes across the globe, the 15-year-old is also an advocate for women's empowerment and gender equality in sports. "When most people talk about a school curriculum, they think about math, science, social studies and language courses. Seldom do I hear or read about sports as a part of the curriculum. The problem is that the negligence in teaching sports in schools is hurting our youth and causing problems in society. If a person has never learned or played any sport, how would she or he able to discern the difference between victory and defeat? That is basically the essence of sports education," the young achiever tells us.
She credits all her achievements to the F4F programme, which she was first introduced to in 2017 when the U-17 Men’s Football World Cup was held in India. Ananya took part in an essay writing competition organised by Mission XI Million, an All India Football Federation programme promoted by Government of India to popularise football in India. Following this, she was selected to represent India at the F4F Programme in Russia. Ananya tells us that her experience in the programme has been thrilling. "We got to learn a lot about different nationalities, cultures, languages, and traditions and also interact with youngsters from countries across the globe. We were divided into teams and had to write on the nine values — friendship, equality, fairness, health, peace, devotion, victory, traditions, and honour that are promoted by the programme, and write reports about football matches regularly," she adds.
Write, what's she up to?
Ananya is also a published author at 15. Her book My Journey from Mohali to St Petersburg is an anthology of twenty-one stories. The book talks about the nine human values that Ananya learned during the programme and how football and sports can help unify various cultures, ethnicities, countries through the power of friendship. Her book was launched in Moscow during the 2018 FIFA World Cup and was officially released by Viktor Zubkov, Chairman of the Gazprom Board of Directors as part of the 6th season of their international children’s social programme. Ananya says that her book "should appeal to all those who are concerned about questions like how to be a good person, how to live a good life and how to help create a good society," adding, "It offers a fresh interpretation of sports through human values which collectively enrich the different dimensions of life. A harmonious realisation of all these values will help us grow as complete human beings."
In 2019, Ananya was invited by International Children's Games (ICG), an International Olympic Committee-sanctioned event to speak on peace, friendship, and youth empowerment during their opening ceremony in Russia. Her achievements seem to be never-ending as she also tells us that she was invited by the United Nations twice to share her views on Football for Friendship.
Coming up next
Currently, Ananya is working on setting up her own initiative called Sports to Lead, which is still in the pipeline and will specifically focus on women’s rights and help them overcome gender inequality in sports. "I plan to organise awareness sessions, workshops for girls educating about their rights and to fight against discrimination and gender equality. The Sports to Lead initiative will also highlight the benefits of using sports as a vehicle to combat hyper-masculinity. Even in the 21st century, we often hear 'don't play like a girl'. I wish to change that and curb discrimination on the field. There is a long way to go but I would like to begin somewhere," says Ananya.
As for her own future plans, Ananya seems to be pretty focused. She wishes to study journalism when she gets to college and then apply for the FIFA masters programme, which is a sports management course.