First Cruyff Court opened in India

Foreign trade and development minister Lilianne Ploumen opened India’s first Cruyff Court in Mumbai today. Ms Ploumen is in India as part of a large trade mission with Prime Minister Mark Rutte and agriculture minister Sharon Dijksma. Her programme also focuses on women’s rights and corporate social responsibility. ‘This mission is a perfect opportunity to combine aid and trade,’ says Ms Ploumen. ‘India is a growth market. Dutch expertise can have major added value here. Together, we can improve the lives of labourers, women and children in India.’

The Cruyff Court will be managed by Magic Bus, a sport-based mentoring programme for children. ‘Millions of people in India play soccer,’ Ms Ploumen notes. ‘It’s almost as popular as cricket. I’m glad children in Mumbai now have a place where they can play safely, and learn important lessons about respect and health.’ During the opening ceremony, coconut milk was sprinkled over the court in accordance with an old Indian tradition to banish evil spirits. It took years of effort to get the Cruyff Court built. That it has now succeeded is seen as a breakthrough.

The mission is the largest Dutch trade mission ever to visit India, with 100 participating companies, including sports infrastructure businesses. ‘These companies have a lot of unique expertise,’ says Ms Ploumen. ‘They can help hundreds of Indian cities improve their stadiums and make them cheaper to operate. Or even build new stadiums. India offers so many opportunities. This mission is helping Dutch companies to open doors.’

The private sector’s social responsibility was discussed at a meeting of the Indian-Dutch CSR Platform, a sustainable growth forum that’s open to private and public sector organisations and civil society. Ms Ploumen: ‘India recently introduced a rule that companies must invest 2% of their profits in social development. It’s a good step towards a responsible private sector that’s not just about making a fast buck. The Netherlands and India both have lots of good experiences that we can share with each other.’ The Netherlands is India’s only official partner in the area of corporate social responsibility.

The minister also visited designer Pepe Heykoop’s workshop, located in one of Mumbai’s slums. The employees make a variety of designer products, like cardboard vases, which are popular with museums and trendsetting shops worldwide. Besides earning an income, the 110 women workers also learn arithmetic and reading, personal health and management. As a result, the women gain a stronger position in the community.