Monthly Archives: February 2012

Champions

To start I must apologise for yet again taking my sweet time between blog entries but this post definitely has mitigating circumstances, the major one being it had to undergo a complete re-write from the original negative, dark and bitter first draft which contained more than a few sentences slating the boys, of course the win over Spurs may not paper over all the cracks displayed this season but it’s a bloody good place to start! I’m now willing to put all my nagging doubts and criticisms aside as I ride the way of post-derby Euphoria to the conclusion that we’re gonna beat Milan 6-0, win the Champions League, the Premiership and, quite possibly, the Six Nations.. I feel like I should open this blog by talking about the thing which has probably taken up most of my time this week, and came about partly due to the ‘massacre in Milan’. It is, of course, the eternal solace of frustrated fans and tactical geniuses, Football Manager! After setting out to prove I could out-manage Arsene I feel that I have proven the truth of that beyond debate, moving quickly in the transfer market I managed to secure the signatures of Javi Martinez and Edinson Cavani to play in my attacking 4-2-4 system. Despite early teething problems during which I suffered a 5-1 humiliation at the hands of Fulham I’ve since gone on an eleven game unbeaten run led by Cavani and Van Persie, the most magical partnership since Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee, which included a 6-1 demolition of spurs and only saw me drop points away at West Brom, a result I’m blaming totally on the fact I was distracted by watching Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown, continuing my journey through the classics whilst in India.  I know you guys may not care about my virtual successes but I thought I’d better put it on here anyway as, since I’m working for Arsenal, I’m relatively sure Messrs Gazidis and Kroenke check this page daily and so my message to them is thus, I’m only a phone call away!

This week has also seen us finalise our plans for the two weeks we get off starting tommorow. After consulting a couple of websites and asking Arup we have decided to get the Train down to Rathnambore Tiger Sanctuary for a couple of days before moving onto Jaipur to see the Elephants and finally flying to Goa for a long-awaited week on the beach!  After Goa Ali is going on to Gujurat with his parents whilst I stay on  for a couple of days before we return to Dehli hopefully with many wildlife-spotting stories to tell whilst I sport a tan which would make David Dickinson jealous.

Anyway, the last week saw a number of notable English lessons/ coaching sessions, the first of these came at the end of last week as, due to our regular Literacy India teacher going on holiday, Arup managed to secure us a few extra days teaching at the Salaam Balaak Trust children’s home. Although in our timetable we are scheduled to take lessons here every Saturday a series of other commitments/illness/ alarm failures meant that Friday was our first visit to the home since our first week in Delhi. Our lessons here were very different from the ones we have been taking at Literacy India, far more basic and a bit more off the cuff! Despite some initial difficulties whilst we tried to work out what to do the kids displayed the hunger to learn that we have become accustomed to India and it was a pleasure to work with them. Whilst at Salaam Balaak I also got my first opportunity to play a bit of cricket in India, securing a heroic golden duck in a game of one hand one bounce with a few of the kids! After our stint at Salaam Balaak we returned to Literacy India this week to continue our work on directions. After a couple of days working from a map on the board we decided to put their knowledge to a more practical test on Thursday, creating a ‘map’ in the classroom using the carpets and stools and getting the kids to direct a blindfolded partners to various destinations. This progressed onto them directing Ali and I when they, of course, purposefully directed Ali straight into the wall! Despite the kids occasionally displaying signs of over-excitement this lessons was definitely our best lesson so far, the most enjoyable for the kids, and us!

In terms of coaching this week has definitely been one of the best of our time here so far. At IYSA my three sessions with the U-14 special group have been on everyone’s favourite topic, shooting! On Tuesday we worked on basic shooting technique, encouraging accuracy over excessive power and keeping the ball down, after a couple of drills I decided to end the session with the ever popular shooting game ‘Over the Bar’. For those of you who have never played this game it basically involves three teams (one shooting at a time) trying to score as many goals as they can without shooting over the bar (wheey)  as this give their opponents the opportunity to catch the ball and thus end their turn, it is also so popular that football should consider itself lucky that it was invented first as if not I’m pretty sure I would be over here coaching over the bar after being sent here by Arsenal over the bar club who play in the Barclays over the bar Premier League (and still teach spurs and absolute lesson). After working on technique I moved the sessions on to some overload/ attack vs defence work and was initially quite disappointed with what I saw, with the group only scoring a couple despite on occasion having four attackers against only one defender! In order to improve this in the next session I decided to take the group back to basics, demonstrating a few techniques I felt would improve their performance in attacking situations, working on one-twos, movement and committing defenders. After this I ran a few of the same drills I had run the day before and saw a massive improvement within the group, creating a lot more chances and scoring more goals which , of course, as a coach is exactly what you want to see! The coaching week was rounded off with one of my favourite sessions so far, working on control with the under-11s. As Ali had worked on controlling the ball on the floor in the previous session I decided to take it to the air, working on their instep, thigh and chest control. After the ever popular domes and dishes warm-up I split the group in half and was very impressed with what I saw as, after a few tweaks in terms of technique, the vast majority of the group were displaying a good touch and a real understanding of the necessary coaching points. The session was finished with a ‘run the gauntlet’ knock out game which was, as all under-11 competitions seem to be, won by Hemant.

Part of the reason for the success of these sessions, and most during the last few weeks is that the kids now seem to be completely comfortable with us and understand that they can have a kick around and a laugh with us before and after sessions but have to concentrate during them. Every day at training now seems to end with us being dragged off the pitches by Arup as we’ve stayed too long playing PIG (a knock out keepy uppy game), being tackled/climbed upon or, as seen this week, gambling away our player cards to the kids. Obviously missing my weekly donation to Will Hill or Paddy Power this week I decided to agree to a kick-up challenge from Morwin, one of the under-14 special group, with the odds of a player card to a chocolate bar. After thoroughly beating him in our first two games, with each loss greeted by his favourite phrase- ‘oh shit’ (I’m not sure whether this is viewed differently in India or he’s just an absolute badman)- our third game saw me comprehensively beaten after just about reaching double figures and ,of course, to the victor went the spoils. Before and After sessions are also where the kids get to show what else they’ve learnt from us apart from football, with Morwin’s little brother particularly fond of the old ‘fake hand shake’ trick, using it at least 10 times a day. We also get to learn a bit of Hindi from them with this week’s most popular phrase being ‘Moti Bhains’ (fat buffalo) a nickname which was given to one of the opposition when we watched the u-16s play a match! I guess the point of this paragraph is to try and get across the fact that now the kids have come out of their shells I don’t reckon they’ll be going back, this confidence they’ve discovered in the last month or so has meant that training is buzzing and Ali and I are having as much, if not more, fun as the kids!

During this week we also held a number of successful sessions at Moti Bagh, deciding to treat the kids with matches before we go away, although there is quite a large difference in terms of ability and footballing styles between these guys and the IYSA players we were pleasantly surprised by the standard of football on Friday and Saturday after a really poor quality tournament on Thursday and, as I’ve said before, it is always good to see the enthusiasm and love for the game displayed by the kids, especially when it comes to matches!

Finally I’ve got to talk about Sunday, IYSA finals day. After a couple of months of league fixtures each division (age group) was decided by a final between the two highest placed teams. The under-14s final saw hot favourites Eleven Aces (managed by Ali) take on the Serious Cyclones (managed by me). Despite a close first half which saw the sides come in at 1-1 the Eleven Aces firmly lived up to their billing in the second, romping home to a well-deserved 7-2 victory in what was in all honesty a very one sided game. Although I was disappointed with the performance of my team on the day there is no doubting that the Aces have been the best team over the season and we well deserved champions, the fact that they also won the under-11s final on penalties is an indication of the team’s dominance over the IYSA this season which also saw them crowned overall champions. This game also saw Ali and I end of managerial duel with an honourable 4-4 draw. Anyway, after the finals were done with it was on to the star attraction of the day, the hotly anticipated clash between the IYSA coaches (featuring me and Ali) and a select team of Level one under-16s. Although we had been winning games against the under-16s after training reasonably comfortably this was the first time we had played them when they had all their best players available and it promised a tough game. This was certainly reflected in a first half in which, despite shading possession and territory we couldn’t break down a dogged defence and were perhaps lucky on a few occasions not to concede on the counter. After a half time break in which a lot of water was taken on board the u-16s came out strongly and put us on the back foot, partly due to my personal performance beginning to wilt in the heat! Despite their bright play they faced similar problems to us in the first period, unable to break down a well organised coach’s defence. Late in the second period as the game seemed to be heading for a draw I managed to recover from a nightmare 5 minutes ,where I was pretty sure my first touch had melted away, to seize on a loose ball in midfield and slot home from the edge of the box to score what would prove to be the only goal of the game and seal a win for the coaches! This followed by the Derby victory all added up to a great day of sport! This coupled with the promise of a tiger safari tomorrow, Elephant riding soon after and a couple of days on the beach next week all contributes to the feeling that life is very good right now, It’s safe to say I am loving India and it’s scary to think that when we come back we’ll be entering our last month! Anyway, I’ll save that for another day, sorry for writing another essay but I’m sure reading about my goal was worth hanging on for!

I’ll try and post again (hopefully shorter!) soon,

Adam

P.S I’ve just been knocked of the FA Cup- I was watching Never Back Down, the sequel is debatably better…

P.P.S  I bought Hall Pass, if you know why this is relevant then you are obviously an avid reader of the blog, a fact that should make you either very proud or lead you to ponder what you’re doing with your spare time, I’d go with the first option.

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February: week 2

You very rarely hear people say a blog is a lot like a bus; this, of course, is because they are not, at all. However im sure all you readers can appreciate how this one is bucking that trend,this post fulfilling the traditional ‘you wait for one for ages and then two come along at once’ grumble.  To start I would like to apologise if at any point this post contains poor grammar, spelling or sentence structure as it is being written whilst, on a day I was meant to visit the Taj Mahal- but didn’t, I am watching StreetDance 3D* and as such am overrawed at the way the world can conspire to deny you a chance to see one of the wonders of the world and then place another one in your lap.

Anyway, where was I, as my parents moved onto Kerala on Tuesday Ali and I were back to work and back to teaching English at Literacy India. To be honest looking back on the week all the lessons blend into each other so rather than go through them individually and risk lying right to your faces its probably best if I go through the whole week as one. By now we have a pretty well established lesson structure- starting with an English song/poem (and recapping previous ones) before moving onto common vocab and ending with a few role-plays/my Hindi lesson.  This week we introduced the kids to two absolute classics in the forms of ‘The wheels on the bus’ and ‘how much is that doggy in the window’ as well as continuing to test them on the ones we had learnt  before, it’s brilliant how seriously the kids take learning the nursery rhymes, practicing at home in order to stand up in front of the class the next day! Especially as some of them must be 10/11 years old, I dread to think of the reaction we would get if we tried to do them with some of the year sevens from school back home! During each lesson we try to give our vocab a theme so that its all linked, this week we have used ‘sentences you would use on the metro’, ‘sentences you would use at the doctors’ and a little bit on directions, before staging roleplays in which the kids (as well as me and Ali) have played the roles of ticket inspectors, lost passengers, doctors, patients and clueless tourists (which didn’t take too much acting). The roleplays have been really beneficial in the kids’ learning, giving them some context into when and how the sentences may be used- especially when we use a couple together in a conversation. They are also fun for both of us and the kids, the confident ones who volunteer for all of them and the shyer ones who prefer to learn by watching.

Tuesday also saw one of my more notable sessions in India, or anywhere, so far as due to a misunderstanding about which groups we were going to be taking at IYSA I had to run two different sessions at the same time, a simple running with the ball one with the majority of the under-14s and a crossing one with the special group. Overseeing two sessions meant I couldn’t quite give the individual coaching I would have liked or really flag up the specific coaching points in a lot of detail, however, despite this and thanks to the help of the IYSA coaches who ran the sessions whilst I dipped in and out we did manage to run two reasonably successful and well organised sessions at the same time without too many problems. This was a real learning experience in terms of my coaching development, but not one I’d like to repeat too often!

On Tuesday we also received the news from Arup that he had managed to arrange a fixture that Saturday for the under-14 special group against a local school team, and that we would be managing them! Preparations for this game largely took over the rest of our sessions during the week as we selected our matchday squad after training on Wednesday and decided the sessions for the next two days would revolve around getting these players ready for what for some would be their first eleven a side game and for all the group would be the first time they had played as a team. To start the first of these game-preparation sessions we decided to set the players out in our chosen formation, a very fashionable 4-2-3-1, in the positions they would probably end up playing in before giving them a talk of what we expected of each of these positions. After this the focus of the session was defending, showing the attacker away from goal and most importantly not diving in! The next day our whole session was dedicated to positioning and moving as a unit, for the warm up we modified the classic playground game ‘bulldog’ to include dribbling players and the condition on the defending team (our back four for the next day) that they had to stay in a line and in their positions whilst catching. This actually worked brilliantly (especially after Ali stepped into the back line to demo it early on) so we moved on to our midfield being in the middle before putting our whole starting eleven in there and giving a few people the job of calling the line. After bulldog we moved onto a positioning drill I had done on the Youth Module course in which the pitch is split up into 3 sections for the attack, midfield and defence, to start with the players in these positions have to stay in their areas before the drill is progressed to encourage movement such as overlaps and runs beyond the striker and cooperation in movement throughout the team, creating options for the man in possession. This was easily the most advanced session we had done with the group so far and we were really pleased with their performance in it as they listened intently to all we had to say and played some really good football. Particularly impressive was Aditya for his understanding of the need to cover an attacking full-back from centre midfield and Daniel, a ten year old from the under-11 group who has been training with us for the last few weeks and has been nothing short of a revelation! He thoroughly impressed with his movement up front as we tried to drum into the kids that all players should be involved in the game at all times as we had noticed the strikers seemed to switch off when the ball was with the defence and vice-versa.

After preparing our team as best we could it was soon time for the match! Come 3 o clock on Saturday afternoon (despite our stated meet time being 4!) our team were assembled at the ground and, after helping us set up the pitch, gathered round in for our first pre-match team talk in India! Confident they had definitely received better coaching than the other team we told them to keep the ball on the floor and trust in their ability before running through the starting eleven which was, for those keeping tabs:

  GK: Christopher- Ten Hurricanes (in the u-16 league)

Back Four:

  • Rahul (Eleven Aces)
  •    Pradeep (Eleven Aces)
  •  Arbaaz (Lightning Strikers)
  • Ajay (Ten   Hurricanes)

Holding Midfield:

  • Prakash (Captain, Lightning Strikers)
  • Amit Rohilla (Serious Cyclones, under 16 lge)

Attacking Midfielders:

  • Right Wing, Rishab (Serious Cyclones)
  • Left Wing,  Gatu (Aces)
  • Behind the striker , Aditya (Cyclones)

Striker:

  • Daniel, Hurricanes (u-11s)

Subs:

Morwin (Aces)

Kapil (hurricanes)

Akshay (hurricanes)

Varun (Aces- u-11s)

Sahail (Cyclones)

Mark (Cyclones)

The first half was a pretty scrappy affair reflected in the 0-0 score line at half-time. Although we had probably shaded the play we had not performed anywhere as well as we could, particularly at the back where the line was very sloppy, after telling the team they needed to work on this and show more confidence in their own ability on the ball the second half saw a huge improvement. Keeping the ball on the floor we played some really good football and thoroughly dominated the opposition whilst the rolling subs came into the system flawlessly when called upon. Despite this domination, as time pressed on we began to worry that this might not be our day as we saw a host of chances go begging. However this was when, as if reading our minds, Aditya stepped up to emphatically blow these worries away; guiding home a half volley from twenty yards out- the goal that would prove to be the winner. This win was undoubtedly the highlight of our team here thus far as we saw the kids who we had worked with day by day for the last month put those lessons into practice with a thoroughly composed display, playing ‘the Arsenal way’ to outplay a far bigger side. The game also saw a number of sterling individual performances; the Man of the Match award which went to Prakash could just as easily have gone to Rohilla, Gatu, Arbaaz, Pradeep or Daniel who belied the age difference by absolutely throwing himself into challenges with defenders  about a foot taller than him!

After this heroic win, and subsequent night out in celebration, came the traditional Sunday matchday. This week Ali and I agreed I would take the Ten Hurricanes and Eleven Aces teams whilst he took the Cyclones and Lightning Strikers. The first game was a pretty quiet affair as the Ten Hurricanes achieved a relatively routine victory over the Lightning Strikers after a composed performance in midfield and two clinical finishes from Akshay (modelling the new boots he had received the night before!).  The game that followed this one was anything but quiet as the Serious Cyclones and Eleven Aces served up probably the most exciting game of the league season so far. Fresh from his heroics of the night before Aditya ignited the game in the opening minutes by pouncing onto a loose ball to drive in a wondergoal from half-way and bullet the cyclones into a 1-0 lead, after this goal the rest of the opening quarter saw the Aces dominating possession without ever really looking dangerous, this pattern continued into the second quarter until a quick counter from the Cyclones was ended by a mistimed tackle inside the Aces penalty box – leading to Aditya coolly slotting home to ensure his team held a 2-0 lead, largely against the run of play, at half-time. Despite telling my team there was no reason to panic this second goal forced me into a tactical reshuffle, going from 2 to 3 in midfield with Gatu moving inside and Rubal and Pradeep playing as the defensive pair. This change paid dividends in the third quarter as, breaking from midfield, Gatu got us back into the game as he steered a long ball home to leave the score at 2-1 with a quarter to go. The last quarter was the most action-packed fifteen minutes we have seen in our time here as the Aces, buoyed by Gatu’s goal came steaming out of the blocks and equalised early on through a goal from Morwin, who was to be the dominant player of the quarter. This goal seemed to take the belief out of the Cyclones and we were soon into the lead as Vivek converted a Morwin cross, however just as I was thinking about moving back to 3 at the back the Cyclones stormed forward to score a shock equaliser, converted once again by Aditya. This goal could have knocked the confidence of the Aces but to their credit they responded by steaming down the other end of the pitch and snatching back the lead, this was to prove the decisive moment in the match as the Cyclones never looked like getting back into the game afterwards and all that was left was for us to extend our lead with another late goal to seal an epic 5-3 win and end a frenetic final quarter. This game was yet another demonstration of why Eleven Aces are leading the league, not only do they posses some of the best individuals in the programme but as a team they have continually displayed great mental strength and a never say die attitude which makes them very much the Manchester United of the IYSA league! After the games we had some visitors for lunch in the forms of Prakash, Varun and Rishab who had been keen to visit our house for a while, after Robi had insisted on giving them 2nds of everything we spent most of the afternoon showing them pictures of Arsenal, videos of the players we had assigned to each of them (Arteta for Prakash, Rosicky for Varun and Gervinho for Rishab) and playing an online penalty shootout game. All in all a good afternoon which the kids seemed to really enjoy, planning another visit for he week after next!

In other news this week my friend Krupesh has been visiting this weekend and has helped us explore some of the local nightlife which has led us to, amongst others-one nightclub which displayed what can only be described as an open-plan dancefloor/toilet area  and, for those of you in Enfield, is probably best described as Vasant Vihar’s answer to the Paradise Club, and A night out at a local mall which saw us basically crash a hen party and secure dubious, alcohol-fuelled invitations to the wedding. Before a trip to Arup’s for a really nice dinner on Sunday where we met some of his family and discussed options for our travels at the beginning of next month, gaining a truer understanding of just how massive India is.

Finally as I said at the start of this post Tuesday also saw me miss the opportunity to go to the Taj Mahal as the inevitable happened and I succumbed to Delhi Belly, although I can’t blame India for this as the culprit appears not to be a dodgy curry but instead a Banana milkshake! Ali and Kru said it was amazing and im sure that by the end of my time here I will be able to go and say the same! Thanks for reading, Come on the Arsenal!

P.S- I’m aware my blog is currently displing a mjor lack of pictures, whilst I will endeavour to take more as time goes on I would recommend anyone who wants to see more of the stuff we are doing here to look at Ali’s blog as he has definitely been the head cameraman so far! http://arsenalgapyearindia.wordpress.com/

 

P.P.S- as we were too late to count the first game, it’s currently 4-3 to me over Ali!

*dissapointingly, in 2D.

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First week in February

I know I’ve been away from the blog for a while, sorry to any dedicated readers! Anyway, I’ve been writing these as I go so I give you February, week 1!

 

Now February is here and Ali and I enter our second month of coaching in India I have decided to change the format of my blog slightly, after finding out how hard it is to catch up with blogging after missing a few days, and the fact that any regular readers must know my routine off by heart by now I’ve decided to focus my blogs around major events happening each week rather than on a day-by- day basis. Despite this change in philosophy a busy week has meant I am definitely not lacking in things to blog about!

On Thursday after our morning session our English teaching was cancelled as we had been invited to the official launch of Literacy India’s  e-learning software, described by one speaker as ‘a primary school on a disc’, held at the pretty grand habitat centre in town. This function featured a number of speakers including corporate executives and a couple of Indian actors who all spoke impressively about the need to invest in charities such as these, one of the execs using a phrase which really stuck out when talking about funding the trust- “ we don’t consider it paying back, rather paying forward”–  as the company invests in the potential of the kids with a view to finding them jobs rather than giving the money through pity or from some sort of guilt complex, really impressive. Although Ali and I have only seen the technology briefly it looks very impressive and after witnessing the enthusiasm and hunger for learning of these kids anything that can help to channel that more effectively can only be a good thing!

After the conference, and subsequent lunch was over with, (and we had given our quotes to the press!) We had our first experience of professional Indian football as Arup took us took an I-League division 2 match between Simla Youngs (the team Nerinder used to play for) and another team from the North-East. Despite only watching half an hour it was more than enough time to gauge the standard, which was poor enough to leave us debating whether we should’ve brought our boots! and to illustrate where the sporting power in India lies as the football stadium was towered over by the cricket one next door! Anyway after we left to take our IYSA sessions we found out that, unsurprisingly, the game had finished 0-0.

The next day we were excused all morning duties as Arup had arranged a meeting with the Delhi sports minister at his office in one of the stadiums built for the commonwealth games two years ago, as the metro journey took a bit longer than expected he had already left when we arrived so we met with his assistant, although we talked with him about the game for a bit and were given a  tour of the ground I think the real point of the meeting was for Arup to show off the Arsenal coaches to make sure the minister comes to the awards meeting being held at the end of March and in that sense hopefully it was successful!

After our session that afternoon we decided to have another look at what Vasant Vihar’s nightlife had to offer, armed with the names of a few local bars found after extensive internet research and recommendation from Arup and Anuj we headed off into the night vowing not to come back until we were good and merry. Despite our plans our Vasant Vihar adventure amounted to one bar, situated above McDonalds in the Priya Cmplex.  The Turquoise Cottage is a more traditional pub than the resto-bar and nightclub we had been in before and was just the kind of thing we were looking for so we settled down there with a few beers to watch some local rock bands who were playing before leaving the complex at about half 12 with the obligatory McFlurry and a ‘White Beryl’ CD which Ali paid 100 rupees for largely on the back of the title song which I can only guess from the lyrics is entitled ‘douchebag’, after a couple of listens to this over the weekend I think it’s safe to say they’re a band best listened to after a couple of Carlsberg’s!

This weekend also saw the arrival of my parents in Delhi for a couple of nights before heading down to Kerala. They came bearing gifts; real chocolate, Arsenal socks and tidings of the cat for me and boots, pencils and players cards (sorted out by John, thanks John!) for the kids.  As they caught the same overnight flight as me and were pretty wiped out for most of Saturday that evening we had dinner at their hotel before an early night as they had an early start in the morning to go to the Taj Mahal and I, of course, had matchday!

Sunday’s matches were less successful than last week, both in terms of my team’s results and the quality of football. This week I was managing the Ten Hurricanes (in white) and my regular team the Lightning Strikers. In the first game the Hurricanes, who I was working with for the first time, took on the all-conquering Eleven Aces, the team took to my 2-1-2-1 formation well to start with- going a goal up within the first quarter with Ajay on the left wing and Suraj in the holding role particularly excelling. However despite promising individual performances from most of the defence they always looked vulnerable as a unit and so that proved as we conceded a scrappy goal before half time followed by two more in the third quarter to leave us staring down the barrel of a battering in the break before the final quarter. Perhaps understandably some heads had dropped by this point so I gave them a choice for the 4th period; go out with the confidence and intent shown in the first period in an effort to salvage a result or continue with the pattern of the previous two and concede 2 or 3 more. The team took to this well, playing much better in the fourth quarter, getting a goal back and piling on the pressure for an equaliser which we just fell short of, all in all 3-2 was a fair and reasonable result.  The second game saw the Lightning Strikers take on the Serious Cyclones, once again we went one-nil up after a goal from Vanj before conceding just before half time. After a goalkeeping change (which would later come back to haunt me) we went out and absolutely hammered the Cyclones,  our attack displaying the force of a tropical storm  (wheeey), but despite our absolute domination the fact we missed numerous sitters left us open to a sucker-punch, which duly came as in the last minute Rishab scored a goal which slipped through Vanj’s legs to leave us on the end of an undeserved loss. Despite the Lightning Strikers playing reasonably well the quality of the game as a whole wasn’t great, neither were some of the attitudes present in my team with some of the boys; who are normally so good, being more interested in trying to get some teammates subbed off or moaning at them after mistakes than playing their own games, I honestly think if they had spent as much energy on the game as they did on moaning (and had scored a few of the many easy chances on offer!) we definitely would have won the game. Anyway after this week the competition between Ali and I is delicately poised at 3-3, all to play for!

After the matches, and our photoshoot (see the pictures), were over Ali and I were taken to Vasant Kunj mall again as Anuj, Vinod and Naveen (another IYSA coach) had offered to take us to the cinema to watch Journey 2 featuring the Rock and Michael Caine, a combination which could have been designed to define the term ‘recipe for success’! Rupen had told us that Indian cinemas were impressive during our first week and he was certainly proven right by the PVR branch in Vasant Kunj where the seats were more like armchairs than traditional cinema seats, although the inclusion of an intermission in a regular movie did seem a bit unnecessary! Anyway, after leaving what I though was a thoroughly enjoyable hour and a half of classic adventure film fit for the whole family the general consensus amongst everyone else was that the film was rubbish- I suppose it must’ve gone over their heads. Anyway, rather than lecture them on the unbridled talents of Michael Caine or the raw charisma of the most electrifying man in sports entertainment I reluctantly agreed with their assessment as the conversation meandered towards the altogether safer topic of the merits of Vanessa Hudgens in 3D. After the film we were invited out later that evening to a bar in another area of Southern Delhi to watch the United/Chelsea game where we watched what can only be described as a thriller and discussed the coaches’ respective playing careers over five or six beers each , a couple of vodkas and food before, during and after the match which all came to about a tenner each- gotta love India!

The next day after a well-earned lie in I met up with my parents to show them around Vasant Vihar and some of the sites of Delhi, after taking them to the pitch and Priya for lunch we headed off to Qutub Minar followed by a quick trip to Connaught Place and finally India Gate in the late afternoon, where some bloke paid one of the photographers 30 rupees to have a picture with me! Madness! India Gate is a totally different proposition close up, particularly just as the sun sets so it was really nice to be able to go there. Anyway after our tour we went to a local Indian restaurant which came- sort of- recommended by Arup, who said it was really expensive! The food was really, really good and came to about 25 quid each so not too bad (not that I was paying). After dinner my parents headed off to continue their travels and, as we were in Priya I don’t really need to tell you where we stopped off or what frozen treat we picked up before heading home!

I suppose as I am here coaching football I should talk a little about our sessions, this week it is no exaggeration to say we have been smashing them out of the park! As we have been here a while now we have started to recycle some of our previous sessions; slightly improved as we think about what has and hasn’t worked previously. This has meant we are totally comfortable with the content we are delivering  and know exactly what the coaching points we want to get across are which has resulted in some really good sessions, especially with the u14 and u16 ‘b’ groups who we see less than the others so are always playing catch-up with the others. The sessions we deliver to the Moti Bagh senior group and the IYSA u-14 special group have also began to converge over the last week, working on running with the ball and the difference between that and dribbling before moving onto delivering an end product at the end of these runs. These are sessions I have delivered particularly passionately as, after watching Gervinho for half a season I think it’s safe to say there is nothing more frustrating than seeing a player skin two or three defenders before shanking their cross fifteen rows up behind the goal! I’ve been trying to drum into the kids that without a decent cross or shot at the end the whole run and anything that came before is pointless.

Sorry for the essay, this is what getting caught behind does to a blog! Anyway, if you’ve lasted this long you’re a trooper. I’ll try to make sure the next one is shorter!

 

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Last week.

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After our day off yesterday we were back to work today, starting with an early morning session with the Junior and Senior groups at the Moti Bagh School, after focusing on passing and moving in our first few sessions with these groups Ali and I decided to shift our attention onto dribbling for the next few weeks, starting with another ‘skills corridor’ session which had to be tailored to take into account the group’s ability level, which was considerably higher than the ones we had done the session with before. After breezing through the basics of dribbling with the group we were soon at the zig-zag stage of the drill, which is normally towards the end of a session. After this we progressed the drill so that players were dribbling from both ends of the corridor, dropping a shoulder to beat their man before adding passers to play the ball across the corridor whilst the remainder of the group dribbled through it. To end the session we played a ‘run the gauntlet’ game in which these passers became saboteurs, trying to knock the dribbling players’ ball away from them with their pass, the kids really enjoyed this, so much so that me and Ali had to get involved! This session once again proved what a good drill skills corridor is, displaying its versatility both in the range of abilities you can do it with and the amount of activities you can do with it, we got a really good 45 minute session in which the players’ awareness displayed a marked improvement out of a single corridor without ever having to change the set-up.

As we were leaving the school we were invited to the Annual Day Celebrations which were being held later that morning and held the promise of songs and Bhangra dancing after ok-ing with Arup we gratefully accepted the invite. When we arrived we were immediately shown to the VIP seats at the front of the hall where we waited for about ten minutes before the chief guest, some sort of Indian celebrity (although not, as one the kids said to wind us up, the President!) arrived and the festivities could begin.  Opening up were the senior boy’s bhangra team which contained a few of the boys we coach in the mornings, who were awesome, the energy on display coupled with the length of time the dance went on for confirmed to Ali and I that we definitely don’t need to do any work on fitness! After they were finished some of the kids were given awards based on both academic and sporting achievements. In the lull that followed we were approached by the MC of proceedings who asked if we had ever played against Barcelona, after we reluctantly informed him that we were not professional footballers the reason for his question soon became clear as minutes later we were invited up to the stage and presented with a bouquet of flowers each before being asked to make an impromptu speech, something that is becoming common in India! The event was headlined by the junior boys Bhangra team, which contained Gatu, Aditya, Pradeep and Sohail, all of whom we coach at IYSA. This show was just as impressive as the one before with the kids displaying as much enthusiasm for dancing as they do for football! Just before the closing speeches Ali and I thought we would duck out early to get back for lunch, this plan did not work in the slightest as we were stopped for by dozens of kids, parents and one security guard who wanted to have a picture taken with us, including a load of kids who we have never coached! Anyway, half an hour and about eighty pictures later we finally managed to get a rickshaw leaving behind us a school assembly the like of which I had never seen before!

Later that afternoon I took the under-14 special group at IYSA whilst Ali worked with the rest of that age group. This session was easily the worst one I’ve taken so far in India and I left really disappointed. The group, who are normally so keen and attentive seemed very distracted and unmotivated which meant a drill which should have taken half hour, lasted over an hour without ever really hitting its key objectives. After getting over my surprise at the behaviour I let the group know that this wasn’t good enough and had to improve, I think this session was just a reaction to them getting over their initial shyness over us but I still left pretty disappointed.  Not for the first time in India this demonstrated how the way a session goes can have a real effect on your mood after it, So that was Tuesday, a day of ups and downs but definitely not one im likely to forget in a while!

 

On Wednesday morning we were back with the open group at Moti Bagh, after covering passing and turns we have decided to switch our focus to dribbling for the next week or so and introduced this topic with a coaching classic, ‘the cone road’. Now I’m sure anyone who has ever played football has taken part in this drill at some point in their training so in order to make our session a bit more interesting and fun we opened it with a couple of unorthodox races, asking our players to keep the ball up with it balanced between their foreheads, backs, and finally with each team member having to touch the ball at the same time(a tactic borrowed from our Kenyan Colleagues Danny and Sam) these variations had the desired effect; getting the group laughing and setting the tone for what was all in all successful session , although one leaving us with plenty to work with for next time! After returning home and partaking in my now well-rehearsed ‘one episode of friends then nap’ ritual we were finally back to our class at Literacy India for another English lesson, after a week off the kids seemed very glad to see us (one of the teaches even saying they had told her they missed us!) and greeted us with a couple of flawless performances of ‘I’m a little teapot’ complete with all the actions! After the success of nursery rhymes in our last lesson we decided to follow this up with the absolute classic ‘wheels on the bus’  featuring three verses, one including the wipers on the bus going ‘swish, swish, swish!’; a verse we had more trouble with than the kids! After their mastery of this rhyme we moved onto common phrases one might use on the metro followed by my now traditional last fifteen minutes Hindi lesson which followed the pattern established during previous one- I point at a phrase of picture, all of the kids shout out the translation over each other before bursting out in laughter as I spectacularly fail to pronounce it. Wednesday’s lesson also finished a writing component as Ali and I were taught how to write our names in Hindi, a task that still took me 2 attempts to get right! (p.s. I thought a part of Ali’s looked like a willy, this cracked me up and absolutely nobody else, obviously the kids are too mature to laugh at such nonsense)

That afternoon at IYSA I took the under-11s in a turn’s session whilst Ali took the special group and focused on control. After the warm up, in which we played a game called colours (featuring ecstatic celebrations from the winner) the session was essentially ‘tag with turns’ as the session was all about accelerating out of the turn in order to get away from a defender. To encourage this the turners were all given tails (bibs in the back of their shorts) which chasing players had to try and take after they had made their turn, although on some occasions this game meant the kids were far more focused on getting away from the chaser than their turn, the ball or their own health in general  it worked really well with the kids able to identify and perform four types of turn (inside hook, outside hook, drag back and cruyff) and having a good time doing it! To finish the session we played a variation of the chaser game in which every kid was given a tail and Dunveer, one of the IYSA coaches, and I took on the role of catchers. What followed was absolute madness, with kids running all over the place as more and more joined us after being caught and took to their new role with relish! Soon, and after me and Dunveer had to sacrifice our role as catchers in order to make sure the new ones stayed back long enough to give the remaining participants a chance to make the turn!, we were left with two players left having gone through all the turns with both feet. This left us with a sudden-death play off, one turn, winner takes all, after a number of false starts as Dunveer and I failed to hold back the chasing hordes we were left with one Champion; Hemant, a great kid and really talented footballer who always stays behind with us after sessions as the six o’clock finish time inevitable becomes quarter or half past. Anyway, after his victory I promised him an Arsenal prize on Wednesday as long as he reminds me, something I’m pretty sure isn’t going to be a problem!

After our sessions were finished Ali and I decided to celebrate a good day with a trip to the Priya complex where, after a browse around I was able to get a real slice of Indian culture, the spice, the colour, the vibrancy  ….yes, that’s right, I finally had a Maharaja Mac, and it fully lived up to it’s billing! Flushed by this success and the subsequent McFlurry all that was left was a rickshaw home and bed!

P.S- finally managed to take some videos, after seeing how long it took to upload them on here when we get the time Ali and I will be putting them on his youtube channel..  http://www.youtube.com/user/AP18arsenal?feature=mhee

 

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