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New Delhi, August 23: It was their wildest dream come true. For four children from the most marginalized communities in Kolkata, September 2 will be a special day. While millions of Messi’s fans will have to be content with watching the live telecast of the Argentina vs Venezuala friendly match that day, these children will walk the players out into the stadium.

Save the Children has been chosen as cause partner for this match to be played in Kolkata. Each of these four children is either a child labourer or has been rescued from hazardous child labour situations. Given the right opportunities, each of these children can well become a sporting hero.

Fourteen-year-old Rajen Bhuia is one of them. “I go to Salt Lake everyday to practice for 3 hours early in the morning and I am a player of the team East Calcutta District Force, Kishalaya. To watch Messi play live will be the most unforgettable moment of my life. One day, I want to be a football player like him,” Rajen, who is a resident of Tangra slums, said.

“It is a proud moment for Save the Children to be chosen as cause partner for this match. It is an endorsement of Save the Children’s vision in India to see every child grow up to be a healthy adult living his/her dream, be it becoming a doctor or a sporting hero. We celebrate the beautiful game as an expression of physical talent but that talent can only come to the fore if we ensure that our children are nurtured with good nutrition and health within the first two years of their birth,” Thomas Chandy, CEO, Save the Children, said.

With 43 per cent of India’s children underweight and seven million under fives severely malnourished, the possibility that India will shine in sporting events like the football World Cup appears bleak.

“Messi was fortunate to overcome a growth hormone deficiency to become the legend that he is today but for millions of children in India, surviving beyond the age of five is a big question mark. Nearly 2 million children under the age of 5 die every year in India. This should not be so,” Chandy said.

Using the platform provided by this match we would like to draw the attention of people that they too can and must contribute to making a change in the lives of children.

Save the Children is the leading, independent child rights organisation that works in India and in over 120 countries around the world. In India, Save the Children works in 12 States focusing on strengthening child rights in the key areas of inclusive education, child protection, health and nutrition and emergencies. Through our programmes so far, we have brought positive change to the lives of over 4 million children and their families in India

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