Yesterday was Ali’s 23rd Birthday so I obviously have to start this post by saying Happy Birthday to my roommate, coaching partner, and favourite Canadian. On the day of his birthday we woke up to a phone call from Arup telling us our session at Mogi Bagh may have to be cancelled due to fog, being from England I thought I would be used to such adverse weather but I was totally unprepared for the sight we were greeted with when we arrived at the school, we could barely see half of the playing field as the fog was so thick. Although we initially thought we might have to cancel the session seeing all the kids who had turned up despite the weather made us determined to put it on and, after a quick check of the pitch, decided to do another skills corridor session. The session was probably my favourite up until that point in India as, after help from Arup and Mr Kaliya with the translations, the kids seem to take on board what we were trying to tell them and improved massively through the session, this group is probably the most basic we work with so any improvement at all with them is really rewarding. We ended the session with a game called sharks in which the ‘fish’ had to protect the ball they were dribbling from the tackling sharks, the kids really enjoyed this and we left really happy that we had decided to put on the session.
After heading home for breakfast we were soon out again to visit another literacy India centre, this one was much closer to where we live and also gave us our first chance to see a class in action, much to the curiosity of the kids. After the obligatory cup of chai we were told this centre would be where we would be taking part in our first English language lesson the day after and left looking forward to it.
We were soon out again for another session at IYSA, I took the under-14 ‘special group’ featuring the best players of that age group and some particularly good under-11s who Arup decided would benefit from slightly more advanced coaching and will now be coming four times a week, whilst Ali took the rest of the under-11s. As most the advanced group were already pretty good technically I decided on working on ways to transfer these skills into matches, working on possession and movement. Although some of the kids picked up on the need to communicate and support the man on the ball as a whole this was the session in which I feel the kids showed the least marked improvement from beginning to end but as this was probably more advanced than the others, without instructions that could be easily demo’d, perhaps this was to be expected. One notable exception to this was Rishab, another very talented member of the under-14 squad who, as me and Ali agree, is perhaps the most natural footballer we have seen so far with a bag of tricks that would put Ronaldo to shame! He deservedly won the player of the day award.
Post-training was dedicated to the big day, Ali gave out a big bag of sweets to the kids who had already sung him happy birthday (we also signed yet another autograph, and posed for pictures with this guy….madness!) before us and the coaches shared out a tremendous birthday cake provided by IYSA and Mr and Mrs Popat! We then made the drive to Gurgaon with Arup to meet Rupen and Khilna (his girlfriend) for dinner, Gurgaon is on the southern outskirts of Delhi around 15 minutes away by car, although closer to half an hour if you actually want to be alive when you arrive there. It is also yet another testament to the massive development being undertaken in India, with some of the most ridiculously over the top office buildings I’ve ever seen on the way in. We ate at a small vegetarian restaurant recommended by Rupen where the food was unbelievable, in Bat Baji? (Obviously not spelt anything like that) I’ve definitely found a new favourite! Anyway, after another dice with death drive on the way home, I got home and crashed straight out, nackered.
Our Moti Bagh session was cancelled due to even heavier fog than the day before, granting Ali and I a much appreciated lie-in! After a leisurely breakfast we left the apartment at 10.30 in time for our lesson and literacy India beginning at 11. This journey was our first in the famous Indian auto-rickshaws (or tuk-tuks) first impressions of this mode of transport were, that despite being cheap (about 30p for a 10 minute journey), they are absolutely freezing! Sure I’ll be glad of it come February/March though!
The lesson started very quietly as Ali and I were asked what the lesson was going to be today; a lesson which we had not planned for as we thought we would only be assisting. After a few awkward moments of silence in which an hour and a half lesson seemed a long time we were soon rolling after Ali suggested working on likes and dislikes. The standard of the class was very varied with some handling our questions on their favourite subjects, fruit, colour and sports with ease whilst some had barely any English at all. Still, by the end all the kids were able to say what they liked, with some even being able to explain why so all in all I think a decent lesson!
After another brilliant lunch rustled up by Robi the chef I had another session with the under -14s special group who we put together with the under-16 B team due to an initial lack of numbers. Today’s session was a particular good one, a massive improvement from yesterday. After the lack of movement on display yesterday Ali and I both wanted the session to focus on passing and moving, particularly using one-twos and overlaps, along with awareness and communication. After a warm up which I was really pleased with, having made it up about half an hour before the session we had two groups of 16 practicing making angles and beating defenders with movement, with shouts of ‘hold, hold, release’ which had echoed around rosemary gardens on many a cold Tuesday morning overlap drill now being heard in the somewhat more exotic surroundings of New Delhi!
To finish, I would like to leave you with a song which, as Anuj’s ringtone, has been stuck in our head for pretty much all of the last week… good luck not singing the first few lines everywhere you go for the next few days! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BiRFEOUh-2Q
P.S- if anyone is keeping count, players of the day today were Morvin- possibly the happiest kid we’ve met so far and winner of our first ever competition on the first day and Prakash, a third member of a very talented group of under 14s with a first touch best described as ‘kaka-esque’
P.P.S- An old man farted whilst walking in front of us in the street today before casually walking on; it was like ice cracking on a frozen lake. Don’t want to say best moment in India so far but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t up there.
P.P.P.S- I will try and upload some more pictures soon!
P.P.P.P.S- Im not sure you understand the scale of the old man’s fart- it was really really loud.