A Nigerian man, Henry Oja Kelechi, who was arrested and imprisoned in India for travelling with an expired visa has introduced football to his fellow inmates.
According to prison authorities, there has never been a higher level of anticipation among inmates about any event in Assam’s Golaghar district jail than there has been since Kelechi introduced the sport when he was brought in 6 months ago.
The prison houses about 512 inmates, some of them murderers, some of them drug dealers, but now most of them look forward to one particular afternoon activity, football.
Bhanu Soren, a murder convict said “Playing football makes me very happy, I will continue to play and teach others whenever i leave this jail”.
The 27-year old Lagos resident, Kelechi was arrested in March for travelling without a visa. He explained he was travelling to different places in Assam. He was search of football coaching in schools and also at small clubs. He claimed he had forgotten to renew his visa in the process.
“I was very upset about landing in jail. However everything changed when jail superintendent Dilip Saikia gave me a football,” he said.
Nigerian inspires Indian convicts with football
The jail authorities helped the inmates create space for a small field when they noticed their enthusiasm for the sport. Superintendent Saikia said “We extended the volleyball court. We also prepared a field 60 meters in length and 35 meters in breadth. The size of the goalposts were also decreased.”
The first ever football tournament organized in a jail in Assam held in August. It was played with 8 teams made up of inmates. As Kelechi finishes up his 6 month sentence, he hopes the inmates continue to play the game.
“A lot of people are depressed in jail. It is however nice to see how football has brought change among the inmates,” he said.