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:
DMC: Prakash ©, Rohilla
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!