Over the last two days Ali and I have been being shown round some of the other projects we will be a part of whilst here in Delhi. Yesterday we visited the Moti Bagh government school which is about a 10 minute drive away from our apartment and where will be taking morning sessions, running from 6.45, yes 6!, to 7.45 when the boys have to start classes for the day. Although the facilities aren’t up to the standards set by IYSA HQ this school has a reputation for producing some of the best footballers in Delhi, it is where Anuj started to play the game and its current pupils include Gatu, who I mentioned earlier and several other IYSA boys. Whilst visiting we were introduced to the head of PE, Mr Puri who talked to us about the state of football in India as well as telling us he had banned cricket in the school as it would take over other sports, explaining the success of the school football, and Banghra teams! Who he promised would perform for us before our team here is done.
After meeting some of the kids we would be coaching at the school’s assembly, held on the football pitch we were taken back to the office so Ali could sort out a sim card from the local market. After this was done Arup showed us some of the travel opportunities we could take up whilst in India during a short period of time we have off in March before reiterating our purpose for being here, to improve the technique and awareness of the kids in order to get them playing the sort of football he, and the IYSA coaches like; on the floor and attacking ‘the Arsenal way’ as he put it before checking and deciding the ‘Barcelona way’ might be a better analogy, as IYSA win things!
After waking up bright and early yesterday morning we arrived at the Moti Bagh school at around twenty to seven to the realisation that the sun wasn’t going to come up to at least seven. This didn’t seem to have any negative affect on the kid’s enthusiasm though as there were at least thirty-five of them running laps in the darkness when we arrived, with more arriving as we watched. As the sun rose Ali and I began our first sessions, I worked with the ‘open group’; mostly beginners whilst he took the school’s senior team. In order to gauge the ability level of the group I chose to do a very simple drill to start with; focusing on basic passing with the inside and outside of the foot, although inside of the foot went ok many of the group struggled when using the outside. Despite these difficulties the kids were an absolute pleasure to work with, very attentive, eager to learn and clearly possessed with a real passion for the game, this attitude meant that many showed a real improvement throughout the session after listening to the coaching points given by me, Anuj and the legend that is Mr Kaliya, a 64 year old ex-Delhi footballer who is at the school well before us every morning, as well as coaching in other schools in the district.
After returning home for breakfast and a nap we headed out to the Literacy India centre in Saket at which, along with its partner centre in Mohmadpur, we will be helping teach English and basic computer skills four days a week. The journey to Saket was our first experience of Indian public transport, after hopping onto the still moving bus on the ring road near of our apartment Ali and I proceeded to sit in the ladies only area on the bus before being hurriedly moved on by Vinod. Although this seems an easy mistake for any new visitor to the city to make it’s less excusable when one considers the massive signs about the seat which, in bright red writing, clearly state its ladies only, a sign pretty visible to someone who would actually bother looking! After getting off the bus we were taken onto the Delhi subway system which was very impressive, with wider, and much cleaner trains that on the tube at home, as well as little tokens instead of old school tickets. The Literacy India centre at Saket is around a five minute walk away from the metro station, a walk which took us through what Arup called ‘real Delhi’ and one which made us really appreciate why Vasant Vihar is known as one the plushest areas of the city with the cramped streets and various scattered debris a million miles away from the place we are living.
Upon arrival at the centre we were introduced to Lalit who helped set up the scheme which aims to provide education for children, and some women, who live under the poverty line. The kids at the various centres are from families with a maximum income of a few thousand rupees a month, around thirty to forty pounds, meaning they are classed as living ‘in poverty’ as opposed to the kids at IYSA who are classed as ‘economically disadvantaged’. I’m really looking forward to starting work here as it will be a completely new challenge to anything I’ve done before, I’m aiming to create a little Enfield corner of New Delhi and expect all the kids to be ending sentences with ‘init’ and ‘standard’ by the time I’m done whilst picking up a bit more Hindi on the way.
After returning home for lunch we were soon out again for another session with the IYSA kids, I took the under-14 group this time with Ali taking the under 16s B team. I was really pleased with the session the ‘Arsenal/Tottenham’ warm up, an old favourite from Holloway and John Olaleye classic went down really well as expected and after doing a session on different types of control the kids showed a marked improvement, particularly in communication, and seemed to enjoy the competitions, although I think a few of their scores may have been a bit exaggerated!
When preparing to leave after the session Ali and I had possibly the strangest experience we’ve had in India so far when two of the under16 B players asked for our autographs! Perhaps sensing our initial disbelief they insisted and so it was, a bit awkwardly I gave my two first (and possibly last) ever autographs. Leaving Nikhil and Atullya with two potential priceless, but currently absolutely worthless, souvenirs of our time here!
A surreal day was ended on a high note with a Skype conversation with Danny and Sam, two fellow coaches who’s, whilst in Kenya , relationships seems to have taken a turn to the odd, with the ‘syncing’ of certain bodily functions that should not be a team effort. A conversation about toilet habits over two continents isn’t technology wonderful!