maidaan img_related Presentation The Maidaan Family How can I support? The Kickoff Video/Photos

In 2005, in the heart of Kolkata, in Maidaan, Sailen Tudu and Zaffar Khan chanced upon some foreigners playing with an oddly shaped ball. Upon noticing the eager bystanders, one of the players beckoned them over. Ever since then there's been no turning back for the two boys.

It was through Paul Walsh, a former diplomat with the British Deputy High Commission, that Tudu and Zaffar found opportunity on the playing field. Paul, who is also the founder and coach of the local Rugby team 'The Jungle Crows', is mentor to the two players having nurtured them from mere local enthusiasts to seasoned frontmen of the Indian Rugby team.

Tudu, 23, is a Santhal tribal from Dhengeham, a tiny village in insurgency-ridden Bankhura,West Bengal. From studying under a tree to being a student of Hartpury College, England, his journey has been far and long. In Hartpury, his unfamiliarity with English caused him to be reticent, pushing him, thus, to seek refuge in his best mode of communication - the playing field. His skills soon led him to become a popular subject in the English media with his chiseled looks even landing him the cover of Men's Health. However, all the limelight notwithstanding, a certain Rugby-inspired dream keeps Tudu rooted to his homeland. Starting in Dumka, Jharkhand, Tudu is spearheading a grassroots movement that’s using Rugby to give kids the opportunity he had - a purpose to strive toward and a chance to prove their worth.

Zaffar, 26, is a native of the Paktika province in Afghanistan. Like most Afghans in Kolkata, Zaffar's future was deemed to be in moneylending,until rugby gave it new direction. He's now a student at Cardiff University, Wales. In June 2011, Zaffar's skills in Rugby and fluency in Pashto bagged him the opportunity of a lifetime - an invitation to set up Afghanistan's first Rugby team. After years of fighting his identity, he doesn’t want to deny his origin anymore. Through rugby, he wants to give Afghan boys something to aspire to. The 2016 Olympics in Rio is the first target he's aiming for.

Countries in conflict offer turbulent and restrictive lifestyles to their people, along with a future that is rarely without fear or uncertainty. But for Tudu and Zaffar, in the bleakest of circumstances, the Maidaan is always something to look forward to - a beacon of equal opportunity, hope and liberation.