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!