Monthly Archives: March 2012

Return to Delhi

The problem with a blog is that unless you post every few days you find yourself looking at writing a huge blog describing loads of events over such a stretch of time that you’ve started to forget them already. This problem will, I imagine, be brutally exposed in this post and as such I will endeavour to give you an overview of events in Delhi whilst not actually giving many details or dates.

It’s been about 2 weeks since I got back to Delhi from Goa now and I’m now well back into the swing of things in terms of coaching, although transitioning from lying on the beach to trying to teach the basics of volleying to a group of excitable ten year olds was one of the more difficult tasks I’ve encountered during my time here!  

Due to the continuing exams taking place in schools and Ali’s trip to Gujurat my first couple of days back in Delhi were quite disjointed coaching wise, the inconsistent attendance was particularly problematic as I had to take a session for a group containing kids whose ages ranged from 9 or 10 to 16! (I settled on shooting… with none of the little ones in goal!). After these initial issues things were soon back to normal as I took a few sessions with the under 11s, who weren’t as affected by exams as the other groups, working on heading, volleying and shooting. Heading is easily one of the funnest topics to coach; finishing the session with the absolute classic head/catch competition which is up there with ‘over the bar’ in the pantheon of great drills! Heading was also a topic, along with volleying in which the under 11s did really well, displaying a good understanding of the content (attacking/defending headers) and good technique. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of shooting! Throughout the age groups shooting has consistently been the topic which the kids have struggled with the most so far, a flaw which has been glaringly apparent in the matches we have watched! Despite taking to the session with their usual enthusiasm and gusto (probably actually more than usual) a large number of the under-11 group really struggled with the shooting drills I had been using at home with my year seven group at school, especially the ones that required them to run onto the ball as they would plant their non-kicking foot nowhere near the foot and take a hopeful swing, or not plant it at all and kick the ball on the hop! Because of this the three shooting sessions I did were basically gradual regressions, the last one seeing them taking one step before striking a stationary ball (making sure none of them used their toes!), this drill coming after a warm up where I had them hopping around whilst kicking the ball to demonstrate that way is definitely not easier! After taking it back to the basics they seemed to improve a bit but in the next two weeks shooting’s definitely gonna be the focus!

After working with the under 11s for a few days I had 3 sessions with the U-14 special group working on attacking movement (which, after playing left back for three years is obviously my speciality!). After a decent session on counter-attacks I got a bit too elaborate, trying a session on ‘lending the ball’ and strikers dropping deep which was best summed up by Rupen, who came down to watch training, as “a bit of a mess”. After a few tips over a dinner of Pao Bhaji (still some of the greatest food known to man) I simplified the next session, using a ‘circuit’ to work on different types of through balls and runs before playing a game of ‘target’ with 100% better results!

Getting back into the habit of waking up at half 6 to go to Moti Bagh school has also been pretty difficult; tired coaches resulting in a lot of matches for the kids! Despite (or maybe because) of this one of the sessions that I put on really stands out, a shooting one using a drill called ‘the chaser’. This session not only stands out because it went well, but mostly due to the fact that when we were introduced to it at coach training I thought it was rubbish; a drill that I would never use…..I’ve now used it twice in 5 days! This sort of thing has happened a few times in India, drills that went well in England not going so well here and vice versa and demonstrates perfectly how much of a learning experience it has been and continues to be.

The other big footballing news of the last two weeks was our trip to the 60,000 seater Nehru Stadium over the weekend as Arup had arranged for the kids to be ball boys at a corporate football tournament being held there. As it had recently held the Bayern Munich vs. India friendly the boys were really excited at the prospect of stepping out onto the turf, a feeling echoed by Ali and I, until about two hours into the first day when we realised that sitting in the stands of an empty stadium watching a standard of football just hovering over the brink of abysmal was actually quite boring.  Still, it was good to hang out with the kids (for whom it was a really great experience)  and part of the deal was that we got an hour on the pitch at the end of the first day and some time on it during the second which meant I got to take a session, and score a goal (albeit against a 10 year old) on the same pitch as Arjen Robben had a few months earlier, in front of 60,00 (in my case, empty seats). Sunday was a better day as the knockout stages saw the standard of football improve and after a quick exploration of the stadium I managed to find a place for a cheeky nap. The day was topped off by team Barclays (or India, as I had dubbed them due to their kit) beating Libero Sport in the final, which was particularly sweet for me as I had picked them as the winners from the welcome ceremony on the first morning, before our under 16’s and u14 special group played a barefoot game against a girls team from the North coached by an American and featuring an Indian national team player!  (They won 6-2 after I threatened to go back to England if they lost).

The last couple of weeks have also seen have Ali’s parents visit Delhi, taking us out for a great meal with (a new) Anuj, who has been showing them around, last week, as well as coming to watch training sessions and bringing with them a huge amount of boots and equipment donated to Ali’s newly founded ‘football for the world’ foundation which were a huge hit with the kids!

 As we had a day off last Sunday Ali decided to take them to visit the village he stayed in last time he was in India whilst I headed off to Chadni Chowk with Vidur, another of the guys who volunteers at IYSA and a massive Arsenal fan. Chadni Chowk is Delhi’s biggest market area, and it is massive! Despite hearing some mixed reviews about it before I visited, even Arup saying it’s a bit intimidating. I really liked the hustle and bustle of the place, it seemed to be India in a microcosm, a lot of people with somewhere to go, and in a real hurry to get there… also partly because there were loads of wild/not so wild animals all over the place. Upon our arrival Vidur told me about this famous restaurant which everyone visiting Chadni Chowk has to go to, after hearing this I obviously decided I didn’t really fancy doing any shopping and we headed straight to Karims. The food was amazing, definitely living up to the hype, the Seekh kebabs in particular were unbelievable (explaining why we had about 8 of them), if you’re ever in Delhi you need to visit the place……. Leave a 4 or 5 hour timeslot, don’t eat for a week or so first, and take about a fiver and you’ll get change! After reluctantly leaving Karims in a futile attempt to walk off the post-kebab stupor we headed to the Red Fort which was a really spectacular building and also the only place I have managed to find post-cards in Delhi!

Finally, a week later (sorry about the chronological mess that is this post) this Monday I visited Vasant Kunj mall in a futile search for flip-flops and yoghurt. These joint dissapoinments were soon forgotten, however, as I managed to find a newly opened WH Smiths in the promenade mall, what followed was the most emotional trip to a stationery shop of my life so far. To me that WH Smiths was England and as I wandered around the shop with a patriotic grin on my face humming God Save the Queen being home felt good. I even enjoyed the que as it was a proper, British que….that is until some Indian bloke pushed in front of me….obviously he didn’t understand the significance. After leaving my post-Smiths exuberance had soon carried me to the last mall of the three situated in Vasant Kunj; Emporio mall. Emporio mall is ridiculously expensive and exclusive, essentially what I imagine Buckingham Palace will look like in 100 years when it’s inevitably bought by the Westfield people who decide to whack a Gucci store and a Starbucks in it, anyway flushed by my excellent shopping (1 copy of four-four-two and Shantaram) and re-acquaintance with England I treated myself to a wander around and visit to the plush toilets before heading home a happy man.



P.S. Regular readers of the blog will have noticed how, whilst in Delhi, I’ve spent a lot of time watching films which some would describe as terrible (I prefer to think of them as hidden gems, like all genius, tragically unappreciated in their own time) The last few days have seen no change in this pattern as I have been both transfixed and inspired by Goal: The dream begins and utterly charmed by ‘Music and Lyrics’ featuring Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant, some people come to India and find themselves, I’ve managed to find these diamonds.






The Stadium





Morwin and Rubal enjoying it



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The first thing to strike us upon arrival was the heat, Delhi, Jaipur and Ranthambhore had all been warm but Goa was another story! After we arrived at the hostel, which was everything the 95% rating on hostelbookers had promised it would be, we dropped off our bags and went to check out the beach before enjoying our first of many traditional Goan fish curries. After all this travelling and currying upon returning to our hostel Ali and I were very ready for a couple of Kingfishers, you can imagine our dismay therefore when we were informed that we had arrived in Goa on a ‘dry day’; where no alcohol was being served due to local election (no, I’m not sure why elections and alcohol are incompatible either). This shocking news meant that our first night in Goa was spent chilling out with the people in our hostel whilst seeing off bottles of mineral water before having an early night, nutters.

The next day we awoke, fully hydrated and hangover free, to another boiling hot day, the sort that gives you no choice but to hang around on the beach all day and go for the occasional dip in the sea and this is, of course, exactly what we did. After working on my burn tan all day we headed out with the guys from our hostel (3 Canadians, a couple of Brits, a South African and a Swiss Girl) with the sole intention of sticking it to the Goan authorities by having a beer on (the second) election day and so, after dodging the hordes of blokes trying to sell us LSD, Cocaine and a host of other substances, we arrived at the beach to negotiate with the bar owners for a bit of the real hard stuff, Tuborg. After some hushed discussion we found a bar that was willing serve us, as long as we sat upstairs with the lights turned off, drank out of cups and hid the bottles immediately, despite feeling a bit like customers at a Al Capone era speakeasy this at least represented a mission accomplished, take that Goan democracy. After leaving the 1920s we managed to find another, more relaxed bar on the way home where we met with some more people from our hostels, including three Dutch girls with whom, being quite merry by now, we arranged to rent scooters the following day to drive to a neighbouring beach.

Come noon the next day I soon came to realise that this was far easier said than done; it’s not that there was any lack of scooters, or a problem with those available. The problem was that it would never have crossed my mind the night before that I wouldn’t be able to drive a scooter, a failing that I was soon to confront when the guy arrived with them. As I strode up to what I was sure was to be my hog for the next few days and the guy asked if I knew how to drive it I obviously replied with a carefree yes, a confidence which continued throughout his instruction talk when I was busy imagining myself as an easy rider figure and pondering names for my biker gang rather than listening to where the brake was. This misplaced confidence was soon ruthlessly exposed when I was asked to take the bike for a test drive to the end of the road, around a tree and back to the hostel, ignoring advice to go slowly I managed to rev the crap out of the engine fly off down the road, completely fail to turn and end up crashing into the road, Jay from the inbetweeners style, despite this minor crash I felt I’d got the hang of it, a view obviously not echoed by the scooter’s owner who greeted my jaunty thumbs up with a disgusted shake of the head. Ali’s turn was even shorter as after sitting on the scooter for just enough time to give it a tentative rev he was unceremoniously hauled off it whilst the guy told anyone and everyone in earshot about our total lack of scooter driving ability.  Our masculinity then took a final blow as the Dutch girls (Belinda, Marloena and Helma) took their turns and, obviously, perfected the test drive on a moped which the guy described as much more powerful as the one we were on which was apparently more suited for old ladies running errands. Luckily the girls decided they didn’t fancy scooters anyway and so, suitably chastened, we hung up our leathers and went for breakfast before getting a cab to Vagator beach. By that evening the elections had finished and so we headed out for our first legal beer in Goa, we also attended our first trance party on the beach which are common all around Goa. Although the music sounded quite a lot like a lawnmower filled with cutlery and shards of glass falling down a narrow, but deep, well the setting was awesome and provided us with the opportunity, after a few hours of displaying some outrageous dance moves to the shock and awe of the onlooking hippies, to live up to the stupid-tourist-by-the-sea stereotype and go for a late night swim (on the rockiest stretch of the beach of course) before, a bit scratched, returning home.

This pretty much set the pattern for our time in Goa, heading to picturesque Vagator during the day before heading back to the hostel and going to the livelier Anjuna beach at night. After a couple of days of this we decided to break the pattern and joined the Dutch girls on an early morning ‘Dolphin spotting trip’, which it turned out would be more aptly named as a getonaboathangaroundfortwentyminutescatchaglimpseofdolphintailandheadback trip. After this disappointment we pretty much decided not to change our formula anymore, although our beach partners did change as most people left on the same day as the dolphin trip. After another day on the beach Ali left on the 8th to join his parents in Mumbai whilst I set out with the remaining people in our hostel to find a good place to play Holi, the indian festival of colours, which pretty much involves people chucking a load of coloured powder on each other. After a fruitless bus trip to a neighbouring town where we managed to catch the last five minutes of a party we headed back down to Anjuna beach where we got well and truly holi’d before heading to one of the bars for lunch. In a celebratory mood after taking part in one of the great ‘why not’ festivals in the world, up there with the running of the bulls and the tomatina this lunchtime also saw our first experience of Fenni, the local liquor, which easily outstrips the likes of Sambuca and tequila to join the pantheon of truly awful shots up there with the likes of Wray and Nephews and that dodgy Irish stuff. Anyway, after a couple of these we headed home for a shower (not a collective one) before going back down to the beach for a few more, aided by a couple of beers one too many fenni (which is basically any more than one) finally took its toll and I spent my last night in Goa crashed out on a hammock spooning a packet of crisps, standard.

The next day, a little worse for wear, I caught the flight back to Delhi having thoroughly enjoyed our ten day tour, particularly the last leg in Goa where I met a lot of cool people, found a new shot to avoid and enjoyed the atmosphere in easily the most chilled out place I’ve ever been. Anyway, enough of that.. now back to football, I mean how many people can really say that after a week on the beach they are looking forward to going back to work?!

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P.S For those who havent seen it, me on a scooter  ….(I didnt actually fall off, but please dont let that stop you thinking it for comedic effect)

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How’s it going?! After two weeks away I’m now back in Delhi and back to blogging! As some of you may already know this short break  was due to the fact that Ali and I were granted two weeks off work whilst the kids are taking their exams to travel around and see a bit of India, our trip took us from the forests of Ranthambore to the ‘pink city’ of Jaipur and onto the beaches of Goa and was, as all trips are of course, started with a single journey. In our case this journey was a five and a half hour hop from New Delhi to Sawai Modhopur train station in Ranthambore on the world-famous Indian railway network. Being used to the South-Eastern service from London to Canterbury it’s safe to say I was pretty shocked by the sheer size of our train when it pulled into the station, a feeling which continued after we entered our carriage and were immediately surrounded by bags and bunk beds all over the place! However after I got over this initial shock I thoroughly enjoyed the journey and soon decided that every form of transport should come with a ‘sleeper’ option! After a cheeky nap and a spot of breakfast the journey, which I know from experience would have been a boring, drag of an experience on British trains, was pretty much at an end, great stuff.

After checking into our hotel we were soon off on the first of three safaris we had booked during our stay. Immediately after entering the park on our canter (basically a truck with 16 seats on the back) we encountered a troop of monkeys, although cute it soon became apparent that these monkeys had turned to a life of crime as one guy in our group, who had clearly decided that if we saw a tiger that magical moment could only be improved by crunching down a packet of salt and vinegar, was mugged for his crisps by one of these rogue monkeys, who then had the audacity the crack open the pack and eat his prize about two metres from the victim whilst (possibly)* giving out ‘wanker’ hand signals. After escaping these pilfering primates we entered ‘zone three’ of the park which reminded me more of Epping Forest than the tropical jungle I had expected, despite this we did manage to see some wildlife, including crocodiles, mongoose, various birds and a lot of deer but, crucially, no tigers! Unfortunately this trip set the pattern followed by our next two safaris in which we encountered a lot of deer but, despite the desperation to spot them displayed by guides and tourists alike, no tigers! This desperation resulted in a number of false alarms from over-eager members of our group trying to convince themselves they had seen one of nature’s great hunters; one American lady on our second safari getting very excited after spotting a ‘tiger’ which was actually, of course, a deer. Even Ali was not immune to this tiger-hysteria, for a couple of minutes on our last safari he was convinced he had seen a tiger before realising that it was actually a (in all fairness, stripy) rock.

Despite not spotting a tiger the trip was by no means a complete disappointment, after the hustle and bustle of Delhi it was nice just to be in the park and see (apart from in zone three) some pretty spectacular scenery. We also got to encounter some very interesting characters on our various safaris including the woman who, after five fruitless efforts, fancied herself as a bit of an expert on (not seeing) tigers, confidently telling anyone who would listen there were no tigers in the vicinity every time we stopped and the gentleman sitting next to me on our last safari who I would like to describe in his native tongue but unfortunately I don’t know the Hindi for ‘massive bellend’, this language barrier didn’t seem to prevent him doing the old ‘yawnandputyourarmacrossthechair’ trick employed by countless teenagers in cinemas across the world for the majority of the journey whilst arguing with the guide over pretty much everything.  The major positive however was, of course, that we saw loads and loads of deer, the reason we were at the park, without any tigers interrupting these (many) magical moments.

Finally, although this obviously isn’t a travel blog, if anyone is actually intending to go to Ranthambore, which I would definitely recommend, definitely make sure you get a Jeep rather than a Canter as we had a number of close encounters in which we were only prevented from seeing a tiger due to the size of our vehicles whilst the Jeeps were able to go into the thicker undergrowth, frustrating to say the least!

After leaving Ranthambore and a quick train journey we arrived in Jaipur and were immediately greeted by Ali Hossan, a taxi driver/tour guide who, after dropping us at our hotel, offered to come back that afternoon to take us around some of the sights. As we were only in Jaipur for a day and a half this tour was a pretty intense one, taking us to the City Fort, the amazing Water Palace and another fort which offered  a spectacular view of the city before taking us to a textiles factory which produces some of the clothing, shawls, and carpets which Jaipur is known for throughout India. We also visited the attached shop/tailor where I selected the fabric for two tailor made shirts for 30 quid, bargain! Our busy day was topped off by Ali taking us to a popular local restaurant where I had easily the best Tandoori chicken of my life, after this we had an early night, tired but very impressed with Jaipur.

The next day we were greeted bright and early by Ali as we would be heading slightly out of the city to visit Jaipur’s most famous attraction, the Amber Fort. The Fort is a truly spectacular which gave pretty spectacular views of the surrounding areas. After the fort and a quick bite to eat we were taken to another spot where Ali assured us you could get a better Elephant ride than at The Fort for less money, as Ali (P) had already ridden one I was left to go alone. Now, obviously riding an Elephant is an amazing experience but in my mind I’d always pictured any ride to involve some sort of trek through a rainforest or across the plains surrounding by lions and whatnot, not, as this one was, through a small village in India surrounded by people going about their daily lives, nodding a greeting to someone popping to the shop whilst on top of an elephant is a pretty surreal experience and, as such, as sense of awkwardness almost overshadowed my ride.

After the ride we headed back into central Jaipur to visit the Hawa Mahal another of Jaipur’s more famous sights due to its fantastic architecture. After the Mahal Ali dropped us off in a park before setting off home and leaving us to explore the area, it was at this park I got my second experience of cricket in India, being invited to join in a game being played by some locals. After one pretty nifty piece of fielding early on they clearly thought it was time to give me a bat, partnering someone who may well have been Sachin Tendulkar in disguise I strode bravely to the crease only to  completely miss the first 6 or 7 balls bowled at me as the bounced up off the concrete/dirt wicket, with Sachin getting restless at the other end the guys clearly took pity on me and proceeded to put on the slowest bowler there, finding him more to my pace I immediately despatched him for a majestic four before milking the applause of the 3 or 4 person  crowd like I’d just won the ashes. My glory was, however, short lived as they brought back on the good bowler for what I assume was the proper game after my short mess around, needless to say I missed the first 3 balls before being so happy I finally hit one on the 4th I proceeded to charge down the wicket despite the ball going about 3 yards and was comprehensively run out. After this we decided it was time to go home and left the park to the sound of Sachin punishing the bowling to all parts.

The next day we had to say goodbye to Ali and Jaipur to move on for Goa, although excited to hit the beach we were definitely sad to be leaving what we both agreed was an awesome city and the best place I’d been in India up until that point (not that that’s saying a lot). Anyway, I caught the plane with a lot of memories and pictures of Jaipur, two new tailored shirts, and couple of bruises to give evidence to my poor batting performance!

*possibly not

P.S. After a couple of months it seems my blog has received it’s very first ‘superfan’ and so I mus dedicate this post to my most avid reader, Mr Drew Blinch esq,  who also has experienced my batting ineptitude first hand.


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