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.
Morwin and Rubal enjoying it