Monthly Archives: April 2012

Coaching

After a relaxing day off on Wednesday, Thursday brought with it our first coaching session as we headed to a primary school about 45 minutes away to put on a coaching clinic with the aim of securing longer-term work with the school, for whom this was a first dealing with SSI. On arrival we met with our fellow Coaches; Sunday, the head of Coaching at SSI Jakarta (and ex-Cameroon international) and Reza who, as well as being the longest-serving coach at the centre (despite only being 26), runs the under-6 team.

As we were dealing with over 200 kids we split up into pairs, Reza and I taking grades 1-3 and Robbie and Sunday working with 3-6. Despite obviously being a reasonably well-off place the school had no real facilities for football and so Reza and I took our session on a pretty small playground at the back of the facility, after Reza led the warm up we split our group up further as he took the two youngest grades and I was left with 40 odd grade 3 pupils on half a playground. It immediately became apparent when trying to gather the kids into groups to count them that, for all their enthusiasm, listening was definitely not one of their strong points, a fact that was also noted by the by now quite large crowd of parents and teachers watching the session who then managed to produce a microphoneout of somewhere for me to coach with! Definitely a first!

Voice magnified to epic proportions I was soon able to sort them into seven groups of about 6 and started off with some basic fun races with the ball, first of all passing it over their head and under their legs, followed by side to side and finally rolling the ball backwards through the legs of all their teammates which served to excite the kids even more than they already were! With 20 minutes left of the hour-long session I decided I should probably actually do some football and used the same groups to do some basic dribbling work, first of all running in straight lines before weaving through cones and a quick game of keeping the ball up with your back, all of course accompanied by races. Despite only working with them for a short time the majority of the kids displayed a marked improvement after I told them what parts of foot I wanted them to dribble with and, most importantly, to slow down!!! Happy with my session I finished my debrief, named my players of the day and handed out SSI flyers and premier league mugs with Reza before attempting to leave, failing to dodge the crowd of parents wanting pictures with their kids which held us up for about 15 minutes before we jumped into Reza’s car and headed to ISCI (International Sports Centre Indonesia), the home of SSI.

As the session at the school didn’t allow us enough time to get to ISCI by four, the start of their afternoon sessions, we were just there to familiarise ourselves with the facilities, which are absolutely fantastic and meet a few other coaches before Reza and Irfan took us to two other malls; Poins Square, essentially a massive jumble sale and haven for pirate DVDs and cheap football boots and Pondok Indah (maybe) which was far more upmarket and possessed a brilliant food hall where we had (two) dinner(s).

On Friday we didn’t have work until the afternoon so it was after a well-appreciated lie-in that Nislam, the other of the two SSI drivers, came to pick us up to take us to Global Jaya school where we had our session. A (I imagine) pretty exclusive private school, the facilities were amazing; with a swimming pool and large sports hall accompanying two pristine football pitches. Once there we met with two more SSI coaches, George- Tanzania’s most capped player and Phillip- an-ex Liberian international who played with (ex-world player of year) George Weah and it mates with ex-gooner Christopher Wreh! Again we split into pairs with Robbie and George taking the u-11s and Phillip and I working with the u-12s.After Phillip’s warm-up I took a shooting session which had four groups (two at each end of the pitch) dribbling to shoot into the opposite goal, focusing on striking the ball with their laces and shooting across the goal before adding a lay-off element and finally a ‘transition of play’ in which the shooter would immediately become a defender. I was really happy with the way the session went and the ability and attitude of the kids; although it seems that poor listening skills may be quite a common trait amongst kids out here! Another really nice aspect of the session was that the kids English was perfect, if very American, which meant I encountered none of the communication difficulties we had in our early sessions in India. After heading home for a quick wash we were soon off out again, this time to ISCI for a welcome dinner for ourselves and the new head coach of all SSI centres Simon McMenemy. As we sat next to him at the dinner table our new boss told us some stories about his career up until this point, after starting at various community departments in roles not too dissimilar from ours he moved on to working for Nike where he got to meet some of the world’s most famous players including Ronaldinho (who beat him in a game of keepy-uppies), Fabregas (who nutmegged him) and Denilson (who obviously didn’t). Following this he moved into management, working at non-league level in England before managing the Phillipines international team and an Indonesian Premier League team where he signed Marcus Bent! We were also introduced to a number of the other coaches including Amir, who played professionally in Iran, Simon, ex-cameroonian international and SSI’s advisor and FIFA agent Jules Onana who played at the World Cup for Cameroon with Roger Milla! Working with coaches of this calibre and with this kind of experience is an unbelievable learning opportunity and one I fully intend to make the most of!

Saturday and Sunday saw us take two more morning sessions, one at Pancoran, another of SSI’s centres where I worked with Reza again with the under-6s(!!), taking a fun dribbling session featuring sharks, one of the most popular games in India, and Sunday’s one at ISCI, working on basics with the u-6s before the rest of the time was dedicated to friendly matches designed to assess the other age groups.

Saturday also saw another all-day session at Chitos (watching 21 Jump Street for the second time in four days) before heading to De Hooi, a European Bar to watch the Arsenal game and sample enough Bintangs to make Robbie believe a 1am KFC bargain bucket was a good idea!

Monday is our day of rest, a name that I took very literally, waking up at near on 4pm before we headed out (you know where) for some food and to watch one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. As I’ve already filled up my entertainment review section of today’s blog I won’t go into too much detail but I implore you all to go and watch ‘The Cold of Light Of Day’ starring Bruce Willis (for about 10 minutes), a film which entire plot sees the main character chasing people and objects before running away on encountering them.

Tommorow we’re off to another school for a meeting with the headteacher (whom Nina, our boss, called Robbie earlier to tell him was ‘very serious’, because of this she told him to tell me to make sure I ‘didn’t make any jokes!’) before more coaching and our Indonesian debut for Reza and De Hooi’s team on Wednesday, can’t wait

ISCI

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Jakarta

It’s been almost a week since we arrived in Jakarta now, after a week at home which was largely dominated by preparations for the trip, and the very occasional beer, it was soon time for us to head off again. This being the case come Monday morning Robbie and I were at the beginning of an epic journey which would see us arriving at Jakarta international airport, Via Dubai (where the firstattempt at this blog post was undertaken over a £7.50, yes £7.50!, pint of Guinness), almost 25 hours after we left.
Our first flight, the 7 hour jaunt over to Dubai, was my first experience flying Emirates and they definitely left a good first impression. After futile attempts to play the ‘weworkforarsenalyousponsorarsenalputusinfirstclass’ card we boarded the plane where our excitement at heading to Indonesia was (almost) matched by the range of our in-flight entertainment! After watching the delightful ‘Our Idiot Brother’ and the classic ‘Bugs life’ there was just enough time to catch a few episodes of Peep Show, fall in love with an air stewardess (who, by the way, gave me an extra packet of biscuits, obviously feeling the same way) and play a couple of games of Mexican-themed hangman with the girl on our row before arrival at our destination.
Arriving in Dubai with Sean’s (one of the two gappers just returned from Indo, http://www.coachesworldguide.com/?cat=4&paged=3) story of how difficult it was to find the food court fresh in the memory Robbie and I decided on a bold and revolutionary tactic of following the signs which soon led us, unsurprisingly to a veritable cornucopia of fast food outlets, good work lads. After a few overpriced beers followed by an equally overpriced McDonalds we headed to our departure gate to get on the plane out of overpriced Dubai headed to Jakarta! By now the 10 hours travelling had started to take their toll and the majority of this journey was spent in various states of sleep before waking up and catching two new sitcoms on the in-flight entertainment. New Girl, in which Zooey Deschanel and a cast of likeable actors combine to produce a reasonably funny, eminently watchable sitcom, and ‘Two Broke Girls’ in which two pretty mediocre actress (the aforementioned ‘Broke Girls’) combine to produce a show which would have been more accurately entitled ‘One Crap Sitcom’. B this point, with just over an hour left on the plane we were buzzing that we would soon be arriving at our home for the next 3 months! Upon arrival our excitement was somewhat blunted by the huge lines at immigration, the Indonesian authorities having decided to only have two people checking passports, however after about 45 minutes we were ushered to another line which took next to no time and we were soon out and ready to see what Jakarta had to offer!
After getting through passport control we were greeted by Ivan and Irfan, Ivan is one of the two drivers employed by SSI (Soccer Schools Indonesia) whilst Irfan is part of the admin staff and the man who has been given the duty of looking after us whilst we are here, a role which he has so far fulfilled with aplomb! After putting our bags into the car we headed off to check out our new home, two hours away. When we arrived we were both very pleasantly surprised at the size of the bungalow which, along with our two bedrooms, a kitchen, two living rooms and bathroom even has a spare room! The one downside is our very traditional bathroom, containing a ‘squat’ toilet and a ‘shower’ involving two bucket of water and a tap (which I’ve actually become quite accustomed to now) After dropping our bags in our rooms and freshening up we headed back out to a local shopping mall called Chitos for dinner, confronted with a huge range of restuarants and cuisines we told Irfan we wanted to try traditional Indonesian food and so he took us to what he assured us was the best place for Nasi Goreng, a fried rice dish, around. Not having had it before I couldn’t make a judgement on his claim but all I can say is that it was delicious and was definitely the best Nasi Goreng I’d ever had! After dinner Irfan took us to a bar located within the same mall where we were introduced to Bintang, an Indonesian beer made famous by Sean’s blog, and had a few games of pool before the travelling finally caught up with us and we headed home to go to bed.
After arriving in the early afternoon on Tuesday we were given the next day off to acclimatise with our new surroundings and, most importantly, the sheer heat and humidity of Jakarta which is far worse than India, it seems to be the same temperature at 3am as it is during the middle of the day which has made sleeping pretty hard so far and it’s always, always humid. For our day of rest we headed back to Chitos for a lunch of more Nasi Goreng, this time with Bebek (duck), which was even better than the one we had the night before after which we killed some time at the arcade before heading to the cinema to watch 21 Jump Street, one of the funniest films I’ve seen in a long time, and getting some dinner at an American-style diner. It’s safe to say Chitos is a good place to go but a hard place to leave, so far we’ve had lunch and dinner there without leaving twice and we’ve only been here 5 days!

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Leaving India!

Yes, after an amazing three months in India this post comes to you from the decidedly less exotic locale of my room in Enfield, United Kingdom (well it started there, now im in Indonesia!) and is accompanied not by the endless beeping of rickshaws or the Indian-accented barking of the dogs outside our apartment but by the familiar, somewhat comforting, drizzling of rain outside my window and the (thankfully) muffled dialogue of the grey’s anatomy episode being ignored by my sister in the next room. Although leaving the kids and Delhi behind was hard London will always be home and India has given me a whole new list of seemingly everyday things to enjoy, English pubs, side salads and, perhaps biggest of all, being able to brush my teeth with tap water! Being home has also, however, left me with the immense task of attempting to sum up the last week and half of our time in Delhi in a post that isn’t; A- rivalling War and Peace in the word-count stakes or, B- rivalling The Notebook in the self-indulgent-emotion stakes.

To do this I think its best I started where we left off, after our game on Monday and a subsequent IYSA session we were booked in to take two one-off sessions at Dunveer (another coach in the programme)’s school, St Marks.  To start with we took a one hour session with some students from the school, given the younger group I, utterly predictably, took a skills corridor session attempting to get the kids to understand when best to take big or little touches which went just about as well as skills corridor always does whilst Ali did a control session with the older group. After an hour of this in the late morning sun I was starting to wilt in the extreme heat but we just had time for a quick drink before moving onto our second sessions of the day, this time with ‘Angels Academy’; an organisation set up to help get street kids’ lives back on the right track through football. Despite the heat this session was up there with some of the most enjoyable I took over the three months. Taking the older group, which included 4 or 5 girls, I did a basic session on passing, one-twos and overlaps which they took to really well, despite there being some decent talent on display the thing which really impressed me was the politeness, cheerfulness and unity of the group who were an absolute pleasure to work with. I was particularly impressed with how seriously a few of the older kids took their responsibilities as role models and leaders, organising the groups, helping with translation and generally acting as assistant coaches whilst participating in the session, ensuring it ran a lot smoother than it might otherwise have done. After our sessions with the Angels and Ali had distributed out various boots, shirts, socks and shinpads donated to his foundation we headed over to the P.E offices (with a quick detour so I could teach Dunveer an absolute lesson at badminton) for a lunch of Masala Dosa’s, one of my favourite Indian foods. Good Day.

Having covered all the topics we had planned by the start of April Ali and I decided to use the last two weeks to hold some higher-level sessions for the under 14 and 16 advanced groups in the hope it would give them some things to continue working on  after we had left. After both taking sessions on attacking movement in the non-too-distant past we decided the first few of these higher-level session would focus on ‘third man running’, with me taking the first session. After a sluggish warm up the group improved hugely when we moved onto a drill encouraging third man running in conjunction with shooting, showing a big improvement in their finishing as well as movement. Due to the success of the shooting/third man running drill I decided to use it, with a few progressions for the next day before we finished off our third-man-running-week with two sessions jointly run by Ali and myself based around a modified version of a game called noughts and crosses which we had been taught by John at Hale End (Arsenal’s academy).  Although originally a possession game we added some small goals to make its primary purpose third man running as players would have to play the ball into one of their teams’ two corner zones before making a run to one of the neighbouring goals to try and score. The size and scale of the drill enabled us to play ten a side on both games and work on a number of different aspects of play, after some initial teething problems with the kids bunching or trying to hit too many ‘hollywood’ passes the standard of play gradually improved beyond recognition, their ability to grasp and perform well in a drill which was probably the most difficult any we had done was a true testament to the talent, drive and determination of the kids, and hopefully maybe a little to our coaching ability!

Our last Sunday provided us with the opportunity to test the boys’ good work in training with another match, this time playing against Navyug school who were coached by Mr. Kaliya and came into the game with the reputation as one of the best teams in the region. The game was also our first away from the IYSA ground which we had turned into somewhat of a fortress with two wins and none conceded in our previous two. Despite this we entered the game in a confident mood, buoyed by the fact we were able to name an unchanged squad from the one which won comfortably the previous week.  This confidence was soon to take a blow however as, about a minute before kick-off, our captain and centre midfield dynamo Prakash had a heavy fall on the hard Navyug turf and had to be taken to hospital where he would later be diagnosed with a broken wrist. The loss of our talisman was a big blow and forced us into a late reshuffle of the starting lineup with Morwin coming in to play on the right wing and Rohilla taking the armband, leaving us  with a, by now familiar to regular readers, team of:

GK: Christopher

RB: Kapil

CB: Pradeep, Arbaaz

LB: Ajay

DCM: Rohilla ©, Aditya

LAM: Rishab

CAM: Gatu

RAM: Morwin

CF: Vivek

Subs: Deepak, Juvraj, Mark, Sahil, Hemant.

Despite being able to name a strong side our confidence took another knock when we saw the other team take the field as, instead of the school team we had expected, we had clearly been booked in to play against the Monstars from Space Jam. At least three of the opposition were the same height as me and a few may or may not have had their wives and kids watching from the stand (holding a razor for their half time shave), not that I wish to cast any aspersions on the validity of their status as an under-14s team but I would be very surprised if the opposition did not have at least a few 16 year olds playing, which made our task all the more difficult when you consider that we four players under 12 in our match squad and none much above 5 feet 5. Despite this, what our team lacked in height, weight and age we more than made up for in technical ability and Josh!

After the first few minutes the game soon settled into the pattern which would last throughout, with our team dominating possession and making most of the running but the opposition looking the more dangerous on the break with their ‘indian’ style of football (think Bolton circa 2006) as Abdoulaye Faye would smash the ball to big Kevin Davies up front who’s physicality was a bit much for our defence containing just one teenager to deal with. Despite playing some lovely football, particularly down the wings our own attack was finding the superior strength and pace of the opposition a major obstacle to creating clear cut chances, time after time our midfield managed to play our attack in behind their back four only to be caught up and muscled off the ball just before pulling the trigger or getting in a cross.

After the first fifteen minutes or so it was clear that, after winning the previous two games easily, this was comfortably the most difficult game we had been involved in and our players responded to this challenge fantastically with each and every individual working harder than we had ever seen them, personifying the ‘Josh’ in our team name by throwing themselves into challenges and pressing the opposition right around the pitch, our attackers working particularly hard to win the ball back off defenders far bigger than themselves, an effort which was almost rewarded with a penalty in the second half only for a marginal decision to be awarded as a free kick just outside the box. Despite these truly heroic efforts we could not find the winner that our effort and second half display in particular deserved and the game ended in a 0-0 draw. Although this was the only game we hadn’t won I was more proud of the players after this than any other, easily beating poor teams is one thing but to stand up physically to a team much older and bigger than yourselves whilst completely outplaying them football wise is fantastic. What most impressed me was how all the team, including the subs kept to our footballing principles throughout; keeping the ball on the floor and dominating possession whilst showing off some of what they had learnt in the week before with a number of fantastic forward runs and through balls, all of which were built on the basis of an extremely solid defence, led by the fantastic Pradeep which did not concede a goal in over 180 minutes of football. After a number of fantastic individual performances it was difficult to pick a man of the match and so the award was shared between Rishab and Mark Stallone. Mark is a player who hasn’t necessarily played as much as some of the rest of the players but whose performance against Navyuk proved he is definitely not one of the Expendables of the squad with a Ramb(o)unctuous performance coming on in the lone striking role. His effort, endeavour and exceptional first touch throughout his time on the pitch gave the defenders a really Rocky time of things, efforts which were almost rewarded by drawing the foul which could well have been given as a penalty and would have resulted in First Blood to the IYSA and possibly provided us with an Escape to Victory, alas it wasn’t to be and after running himself into the ground he came off for a well-deserved break with ten minutes to go as it is, of course, important to realise when a good thing has run itself out rather than run the risk of continuing it with poorer and poorer results. (In all serious he played fantastically well, and thoroughly deserved the award, not just because his name provides stunning punnery).

After the game we treated the boys to Pizza Hut (well, Ali’s mum did) to celebrate our time together and were joined by our injured skipper who was far more upset about the fact that he can’t play for a month than any damage to his wrist! We also heard that he refused any painkillers whilst at the hospital, kicking the doctor who tried to force some upon him… warrior!

After the match our last week was largely one of goodbyes, goodbyes which I would like to be able to show you but cannot due to losing my phone whilst worst for wear in Islington on Friday, and so I’m left to paint a picture with my words, a difficult task as I only really have space for about 300 more, 700 less than required…

After a number of dinners with Arup’s friends and the coaches our first proper goodbye came on Thursday with our last session at Moti Bagh School which saw us play our last (of many recent) tournaments before Ali doled out some more kit and we went to Mr Kaliya’s house for a cup of tea and one last look over the scrapbook detailing his illustrious career (I’m sure I mentioned he played in front of 30,000 people?!) before saying goodbye to someone who I now consider one of the biggest legends I have ever met, a man over 70 who comes to training at 6 every day before going to coach his own team in the afternoon…absolute hero. Our second goodbye came later that morning as we had our last Literacy India session, after working for three months with almost exactly the same class it was a pity that some of them absent for our last session having gone up a year whilst we in Goa. Despite this the ones who were there gave us a great send off, singing all of the songs we had taught them back to us before giving us home-made leaving cards, and in the case of Ankit drawing us a lovely picture! After sharing a samosa with Miss Neetu and Miss Rekha it was time to go, a goodbye that felt even more emotional than the earlier one as the kids’ appetite for learning and sense of fun has made such a pleasure to teach over the last three months. Luckily I managed to bag, amongst others, Lalit’s , probably my favourite kid of of the lot, card which among the others we received will be going straight up on my wall!

As emotional as they were both our goodbyes on Thursday were really just warm-ups for our final IYSA session the next day, after finishing our packing during the day we headed to the ground early for a meeting with the coaches to discuss any questions they had about the sessions we had done and what they intended to do after we left. Despite initial apprehension about advising coaches much older and more experience than ourselves about how to run sessions the meeting went really well, the coaches putting us at ease by asking a lot of questions and being greatful for the chance to look at our resources, even going so far as to say they had learnt stuff of us which was all a bit embarrassing really! After the meeting we had took our final sessions at IYSA, Ali working with the u-14 level two players whilst I had a last chance to work with the special group. Leading on from the day before I took a session based on possession and switching the play which I was very happy with, the last session finished with one of my favourite coaching moments of my time in India, after first telling the group they were to play a short pass to a player on the outside (before receiving the ball from another ‘outside player’ at the other end of the square) only under pressure and teasing the idea of the switch during the session, when doing my debrief I asked the group when else they could utilise this pass to which Gatu, who as regular readers will know has been consistently excellent, immediately answered ‘to switch play to players in space’ (or words to that effect) which was the major objective for the whole session. Its moment like that when coaching feels brilliant.

After the session Ali shelled out for (delicious, by the way) Kebab rolls for all the players and coaches after which came the proper goodbyes. After an official goodbye on the field, featuring the official Josh song and a few speeches from some of the staff and kids we spent another 45 minutes or so on unofficial goodbyes, pictures and autographs, particularly with members of the Special Group who, after coaching every day for three months we had gotten so close to. After these emotional goodbyes, with tears from more than a few of the kids (around the same time as I got something in my eye/had an allergic reaction) we headed home to finish packing, say goodbye to Robi and answer a couple more emotional house and phone calls from the kids before it was time for Ali to head off to the airport and, after a nap, my turn to follow.

With that I left India and, although my short time at home and trip to India hasn’t given me much time to think about it, I still can’t really comprehend not working with the special group everyday, even now a week into my time in Indonesia I still find myself sure I’ll be going to the ground soon. All I can say is that coaching in India was without a doubt one of the best things I’ve ever done and probably will ever do, as a coach it was a perfect experience as I went from essentially a junior coach in England to planning 3-months of sessions for over 150 kids in 3 age groups! I’ve definitely grown a huge amount as a coach and can’t thank IYSA enough for the opportunity they gave me and can’t wait to demonstrate my new skills in Indonesia.

It was however, of course, about a lot more than football (getting dangerously close to ‘notebook territory’ now I know, but bear with me). The truth is Delhi is a fine city, it has good aspects and bad ones and the fact that it was so brilliant for me is down to the people I met there. With that in mind I would like to thank everyone I worked with over there, my co-coach and friend Ali, Mr Kaliya, all the coaches at IYSA, Rupen and Khilna for showing us around and making us so welcome (and taking us bowling!), Anuj and Vinod for being absolute heroes, Arup for organising the opportunity and putting so much faith in us and, of course, all the kids. Whose attitude, talent and sense of humour have been an honour to work with and all of whom I consider ‘Meri Acha Dost’ (my good friends) and Meri Chota Bhai (my little brother’s! ).  I’m sure I’ll be back!

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Busy week 2 (I told you it was busy)

After our FIFAPizza the weekend was soon upon us, after Ali’s mum flew home on Friday our attention turned to the second big event of the week, the Arsenal ‘Be a Gunner, Be a Runner’ fun run we were holding at the IYSA ground.  Rather than run it as a mini-marathon with each participant running the 6k distance we decided to stage a relay race,  with 18 people from each of the four league teams (including 2 coaches a team) running a lap of the IYSA ground (about 250/300) metres each, apart from the u-16s who would run two. Despite some fears about turnout early in the week as we didn’t manage to get our message out as early as we would’ve liked the event was a big success with the numbers working out perfectly and everyone having a good time. The run also saw some heroic performances from a number of the kids, especially the under-11s who, to a man, completed the course (no mean feat in the heat of New Delhi!) with some running spectacular laps, particularly Nathan (Morwin’s, who has featured on the blog, little brother) one of the smallest guys in the programme who received the baton in 3rd and ran it home comfortably in the lead and Ramesh Malik who also made up two places during his run.  The stars of the under-14 laps were the powerhouse middle order of the yellow team, Juvraj and the two Prakash’s whose performance in the key 7,8,9 roles were the foundation of the Lightning Strikers’ eventual victory, whilst Morwin also deserves credit for his performance in what was by then an already lost Eleven Aces cause. The Lightning Strikers’ victory was seen home by their excellent lead-off and lead-in (?) u-16 pair of Munjeet and Mohit whose nonchalant, smooth and quick laps made of mockery of the struggles of the coaches! Our laps came in the (theoretically) crucial 15th position, although by the time I was handed the baton it was already a two-horse race between my team, Ten Hurricanes and the leading Lightning Strikers, Eleven Aces and Ali’s Serious Cyclones having already been ‘lapped’ by that point! After a sterling lap by Raju left us about 30 metres behind when I received the baton I set off attempting to reel in Sanjeev (Mr Bhalla to you) who was already about 20 metres ahead, after a good start I started to reel him in on the back straight and was confident of at least drawing level before the changeover, however this optimism was soon made to look ridiculously misplaced when on the last corner I hit ‘the wall’; one about as big as the one in China. This meant the heroic sprint finish to overtake Mr. Bhalla that I had envisioned collapsed into a desperate shamble to cross the line and get the baton as far away from me as possible, which isn’t actually very far on quite a small, round track. Despite a poor final 15 or so metres I was pretty pleased with my lap, which left our team in with a shout until the end but just unable to overhaul the jet-powered m-duo of the yellow team. Ali, receiving the baton just before I gave mine in, may well have run the fastest lap of the day in order to secure his team avoided the ignominy of a last placed finish although, like me, suffered for it at its conclusion.  Anyway, most importantly everybody seemed to enjoy the day with the kids constantly chanting and shouting encouragement throughout the race and very excited that they were participating in an Arsenal event that was taking place all around the world!

The rest of the weekend was spent relaxing after our exertions (yes, one lap counts as exertions, if not we’d just look lazy) with Sunday seeing us pop down to Dilli Haat in order to buy some typically touristy souvenirs before heading to Chadni Chowk so I could introduce Ali to the delights of Karims.

To finish what was a jam packed week, or begin a new one really, we had another under-14 ‘special group’ game on Monday afternoon, as a number of players who played the last game were unavailable and others who hadn’t had earned a call-up through good performances in training our squad showed a number of changes from the last game, with award winners Vivek, Hemant and Juvraj coming in along with Rubal who would’ve played the last game if he hadn’t been away and Deepak, a recently joined member of the IYSA. These changes left the teamlooking like this:

GK: Christopher

RB: Rubal

CB:Kapil, Pradeep

LB: Ajay

DMC: Prakash ©, Rohilla

AMR: Gatu

AMC: Aditya

AML: Rishab

STR: Vivek

Subs: Arbaaz, Sahil, Juvraj, Hemant, Morwin, Mark, Deepak.

 

After a quick start we were soon ahead, in a somewhat fortuitous manner as a long free kick from Pradeep took a wicked bounce to lob the opposition goal keeper ten minutes into proceedings. Despite the large part fortune played in the goal it was nothing more than we deserved as from the off we had dominated possession and looked dangerous going forward, this dominance continued after the goal with the only real danger coming from complacency as our midfield and defence bombed forward to support attacks, eager to get themselves on the score sheet. It was unsurprising ,therefore, that a second goal followed hot on the heels of the first when, after the breakdown of an earlier move Rishab pressurised the opposition defence into a mistake in their own 18 yard box which was emphatically punished by Rohilla, striking home from the edge of the box via a deflection. Despite the game falling into a bit of a lull after the second goal as we made a number of changes and our team eased off a bit after their earlier exertions there was still time for another goal before the break. The 3rd goal came from undoubtedly the best move of the match as Rohilla played a lovely through ball between the opposition’s centre and left back for an onrushing Morwin whose near post cross found Vivek well placed to steer the ball home, this goal was particularly sweet for Ali and I as we had spent the week working on through ball and attacking runs in training and to see a goal which encompassed much of what we had taught made it all worthwhile! After the 3rd goal killed the game as a contest the 2nd half saw us make a lot of changes and offered the opportunity to try out a few players in unfamiliar positions, despite the numerous substitions disrupting the flow of the game somewhat we continued to monopolise position whilst looking solid at the back and still finding the time to miss enough chances to prevent the game finishing 6 or 7 nil, which may well have been a scoreline more reflective of our dominance. All in all this game displayed a huge improvement from the last one, with the team playing some really excellent football in 10 to 15 minutes periods whilst clocking up another clean sheet. These matches have probably been my favourite part of our Indian experience thus far as they offer a tangible indication of the improvement of the players both as individuals and members of a team, when you see the defence functioning as a unit after time spent working on just that on the training pitch, or goals being scored due to through balls and good movement, which has been the topic of you sessions in the week beforehand it’s the best feeling you can get as a coach. We now have one game left in India which we go into with the aim of stretching those ten minute good periods into a whole game and Ali and I can’t wait! Bring ‘em on!

 

 

 

 

P.S- The other big news last week came from John who confirmed that my flights to Indonesia are now booked, leaving on the 23rd..Crazy!

 

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A busy week!

As I (started to) write this post Ali and I are (were) entering our 11th last day in Delhi, I’m not quite sure how best to describe the conflicting feelings this brings about, our arrival seems like a long time ago now but yet it also feels like the time has flown by, a sentiment I’m sure makes no sense, this paradox is reflected in my feelings towards heading home although I’m still loving every minute of my time here and I know I’ll miss the kids and everyone here loads there is still a  part of me that’s looking forward to heading home, eating fish and chips and moaning about the rain and the tube, (and seeing everyone of course).

Despite our time here drawing to a close there has definitely been no gentle winding down of our duties, with the past week being one of the most eventful of our time here so far. After our day off on Monday all attention turned to the IYSA presentation event on Wednesday evening, we were entrusted with two major duties during the event, structuring and overseeing an open training session for each age group and planning our own presentation with awards of Arsenal shirts for players who have particularly impressed us. After consulting with Anuj and the other coaches Tuesday’s rehearsal gave us the opportunity to put our session plans to the test and work through the details of the best way to position our drills. We had agreed that I would oversee the under-11’s sessions whilst Ali looked after the under-14s and Anuj took the under-16s, each session contained three separate drills which three groups were to spend about ten minutes on each before moving onto the next one. For the under-11s session I decided to take a turns session whilst Raju and Sandeep ran ‘Domes and Dishes’ and a dribbling game called crabs whilst Ali’s worked on volleying and two games addressing first touch and positioning.  Despite our well laid plans the rehearsal sessions didn’t go particularly well, with the kids largely more interested in who was cheating or who stole their ball than focusing on the topic at hand, this led to both Ali and I having to remind them that they would be representing the whole programme during the presentation and any bad behaviour would reflect badly on us, them and most importantly New Delhi Josh! This warning seemed to have the desired effect as our last groups of the day set to their tasks with great enthusiasm and concentration leaving us feeling confident about Wednesday. This confidence proved to be well placed on the day as our sessions went off without a hitch and seemed to impress the key guests; New Delhi’s head of sports, a senior member of the Indian FA, Fifa’s representative for India and the surrounding nations and the head of the office building which shares the IYSA ground. After our sessions drew to a close we were soon called up for our portion of the presentation, along with Rupen our job was to talk about our experiences of the programme so far before handing out the all-important Arsenal merch! As the experienced coach Rupen led off our section, speaking well about the importance of the programme and the relevance of its relationship with Arsenal before raising probably the largest cheer of the day by mentioning India winning a world cup! Unable to follow up such a smooth performance I went for the failsafe option of hundreds of unprepared award winners over the years; the classic, conservative sweeping thank-you… and nailed it! (although, facetiousness aside I did actually feel it was important to thank the people who had brought us here, Arup, Vinod and Anuj, and the people who have contributed in welcoming us and making the experience a brilliant one; Rupen and Khilna, all the staff at IYSA and, of course, the kids themselves). After my eminently more followupable address Ali concluded our speeches be=y reiterating our combined views of the potential of the programme; the sky really is the limit. This led us on to our presentations, after much discussion in the last few weeks Ali and I decided to award four prizes in each age group, each of us awarding one MVP and one ‘Most improved’ player, after discussions lasting well into the night before we finally decided on the following players;

Under 11’s

Adam-

MVP- Hemant– Somebody whose picture has already featured in the blog as a competition winner, a role that seemed to come naturally to him throughout our time here. Despite my increasingly flagrant attempts in sessions to manufacture competition rules that would prevent him from winning he has consistently been in the top two or three players in almost every topic we have undertaken. He has, in fact, won so many things that I recently banned the other coaches from awarding him the ‘player of the day’ in order to give other people a chance. Despite this success he is still one of the hardest workers in the whole programme, staying behind after most sessions asking us to help him improve some aspect of his game. The best example of this being the lofted pass; he asked us to teach him this skill during our first week here (obviously noticing it was a speciality of mine) and now takes every opportunity to to show us his improvement!

Most improved- Aditya Mishra

Aditya is one of the hardest working kids I’ve worked with, despite travelling quite a distance, being part of a group that get two buses to come from Vasant Kunj he turns up every week without fail and is an absolute pleasure to teach, and just to be around. His great desire to learn has been reflected in his massive improvement over the last couple of months to become one of the best players in his age group and training on several occasions with the u-14 special group.

Ali

MVP- Ramesh Malik- Another member of the Vasant Kunj posse, and (I know its sounding old by now) another pleasure to teach! Makes up for his small stature with brilliant technical proficiency and a sharp footballing brain. Has thrived in the few sessions he’s had with the special group, huge desire to win was illustrated as he was inconsolable after his team lost on pens in the u-11 final… in the words of the great man (TH14) ‘Passion for the game is passion for the game’

Most Improved- Juvraj

Despite only really coming to our attention a month or so into our coaching stint since that point Juvraj has been a player who has really shone, improving hugely in a short period of time. Always smiling, he is somebody whose hard work and desire to learn has seen him quickly move up the age groups; he’s now a regular in our special group team and even managed to win a ‘player of the day’ award in a mixed session with the Level 1 u-16s, the most advanced group in the programme.

Under-14s

Adam

MVP- Prakash

 Another player regularly mentioned in the blog Prakash is, simply put, an absolute legend. He has excelled in sessions since the first week with his natural footballing ability, fantastic attitude and excellent leadership skills; skills which made him the obvious choice for our special group team captain. He reads the game perhaps better than anyone else in the programme and can spot, and execute a great range of long and short range passes, attributes which have meant that he has thrived in his new role as the defensive midfield pivot of our team, having moved inside from the wing.  Simply put a brilliant player and great kid.

Most Improved- Ajay.

Ajay is  someone who was always a good player in the league set-up but over the last few months has developed into one of the leading players in the age group, a feat made all the more impressive by the fact he’s still only 11! A great listener, he has a natural understanding for the game and a sound technique which have consistently placed him amongst the top few performers in the majority of sessions we’ve done. His innate feel for the game has also helped in his transition from an attacking midfield player to left-back, a position he has taken to with aplomb, making the spot on the left side of the special group’s defence his own.

Ali

MVP- Rishab

Along with Prakash, has possibly attended more sessions than anyone else we’ve worked with, recently even attending our sessions at Moti Bagh, despite not actually going to that school! (which means waking up at 6am in his school holidays!). Possibly the most passionate player on the whole programme and posses with an unparalleled desire to improve. This passion coming both in practice as he is always testing out his new tricks and asking for advice and on the pitch where he throws himself into challenges against players twice his size and always demands the ball. A true embodiment of the ‘Josh’ (fighting spirit) championed by the IYSA.

Most Improved- Vivek

A player for whom the most improved award could’ve been invented, after not making the cut for the special group team in our first game he worked really hard in training and displayed a huge improvement, particularly in attacking sessions to secure a place in the starting eleven at the second time of asking in his new position of centre forward where he  cemented his place for future games with an excellent performance topped off with a goal.

The U-16 awards, given out by Rupen were awarded to Ashutosh, a centre midfield player for the u-16 L.1 team and possibly the best player in the whole programme, Rupen refers to him as ‘little Jack Wilshire’ , an apt comparison as he utilises exceptional technique and intelligence to outmanoeuvre players far older and bigger than himself, such as a certain English coach in players vs coaches games! Finally the u-16 most improved award went to Amit Rohilla, a member of our special group team who also appears for the L.1 u-16s and thoroughly excels in both teams, our vice-captain; excellent player, even better person.

After our speeches were finished and the shirts were given out the remainder of the presentation was left to speeches from the various chief guests, although as these were in Hindi we couldn’t understand them we have been reliably informed that they all spoke well of the programme, particularly the minister for sport in Delhi who even talked about the possibility of a future residential scheme at which there could also be provision to work on the kids’ nutrition, a concept which, if it ever came to fruition would prove hugely beneficial.  After the speeches were over and in-between posing for pictures with various family members, signing shirts, scraps of paper and refusing to sign skin (no, not like that…grow up) we were introduced to the Fifa delegate, Sharji (or some other collection of letters that could be put together to produce a sound vaguely similar to that one). After talking warmly about the programme and discussing Arsenal’s season so far he ended our conversation by inviting us to his office the next day for lunch, and so it was that on Thursday afternoon Ali and I took our first footsteps in the corridors of football power by visiting  Shar Ji’s reasonably small but very neat and modern office situated in Dwarka, another region of South Delhi.

After a warm welcome we were soon discussing a wide range of footballing issues over a lunch of Pizza Hut, from the state of Indian football to his recent trips to Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bhutan amongst others! It was whilst discussing these trips that we moved onto the subject of Sepp Blatter, a man whom he had just spent the best part of two weeks travelling around the region with. Now, like any right-minded football fan I have certain opinions of Mr Blatter that are probably not best voiced within FIFA premises and was eager to find out more about the man, and Shar Ji’s opinion of him. However despite a number of leading questions encouraging him to confirm my view that he is a corrupt, joke of a leader who’s continued employment makes a mockery of the whole organisation all we got from Shar Ji was praise on the man’s oratory abilities which, to be fair, are undoubtedly impressive. Despite this minor disappointment the meeting as a whole was a really good experience. We have had a number of surreal experiences over the course of the Gap Year Programme which have made us sit back and wonder how the hell we reached that point but for me I think talking football with a member of the world’s governing body in an office in New Delhi over a chicken supreme has got to top them all, madness! Anyway we left the office happy and full in the possession of a FIFA pen and badge each, a new admiration of some of the work that FIFA does and full of respect for at least one member of their organisation……but still, Qatar?!

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