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)
- Rahul (Eleven Aces)
- Pradeep (Eleven Aces)
- Arbaaz (Lightning Strikers)
- Ajay (Ten Hurricanes)
- Prakash (Captain, Lightning Strikers)
- Amit Rohilla (Serious Cyclones, under 16 lge)
- Right Wing, Rishab (Serious Cyclones)
- Left Wing, Gatu (Aces)
- Behind the striker , Aditya (Cyclones)
- Daniel, Hurricanes (u-11s)
Varun (Aces- u-11s)
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.