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Chennai, India 2011

In May 2011 Paul and Rob visited India to establish the first Onside Academy in Chennai.  Below is the blog of their trip....

Tuesday 10th May 2011

Feeling hot, hot, hot....
Arrived safely in Chennai in the early hours of Tuesday morning with heat already reaching 29 degrees.  After a few hours sleep we went to check out where the coaching sessions will be taking place over the next week, which is in the grounds of Christ Church, an Anglican Church right in the heart of Chennai.  We then went to buy some footballs from a local sports shop and met a few of the guys from the Christian Sports Fellowship in Chennai, who will be helping us all week.  A very busy day so far but all very exciting.  Chennai is very busy and bustling, with lots of noise and some of the craziest driving ever seen!  All good so far and looking forward to our first coaching session in the morning, with over 100 kids expected to come along!

Wednesday 11th May 2011

Training Session 1
An early start at Christchurch Anglican Church, where our first training session took place today, with around 80-90 kids participating alongside 10 volunteer coaches, mainly from the Christian Sports Fellowship.  After dividing the group into teams (named after famous football teams) we had a few drills and then played a couple of matches to round the session off.  Currently sitting top of the league are the Chelsea team (where they belong some would say!).  Rob then closed the session by bringing a few words.  Overall a very successful session.

Thursday 12th May 2011

Visit to Compassion India office and Training Session 2
On Wednesday afternoon we were able to visit the Compassion India office, where we met Marshall Caesar (Compassion India's Tours and Visits Specialist), who was able to show us around and introduce us to the rest of the team.  Compassion is a Christian child sponsorship charity which began working in India in 1968. Currently more than 114,100 sponsored children participate in 478 child development centres across India with 28 projects located in the Chennai area.  For more information on Compassion, please visit

After leaving the Compassion office we visited Madras YMCA and met Rev. Dr. Samuel Sudhakar, who presented us each with a copy of his book 'My Daily Strength'.  We then visited the Ahava Childrens Home, which is an orphanage run by one of our partner organisations, The Dr John Joseph Foundation.  The Ahava home currently houses six children on a full time basis and also supports another ten children with educational fees.  The home is run by Churchill Joseph, who has been our guide during our time here and has looked after us extremely well.  For more information on the home and the work of the Dr John Joseph Foundation, please visit

This morning we held our second training session, which again went successfully despite the heat.  It seems to be getting hotter every day!  The focus of the session was shooting, with Paul demonstrating his own 'Zamora-esque' finishing techniques to a crowd of bemused locals.  He was carried off shortly afterwards with heat exhaustion.  Rob finished he session off with a talk about keeping our eyes focussed on God.  This evening's plan is to go along to see an IPL game, with the Chennai Super Kings playing the Dehli Daredevils.

Saturday 14th May 2011

Elections, football and weddings.....
After watching the Chennai Super Kings on Thursday evening we had a rest day on Friday due to the on-going elections.  On Friday evening we attended the weekly Christian Sports Fellowship, where both Paul and Rob shared a few words.  The CSF meet every Friday evening, with all of the Christian coaches in the city getting together for a time of worship.  We were fortunate also to meet Paul Moses, head of CSF, and a very influential figure in sports ministry worldwide.

On Saturday training resumed with another large group of children coming along to play and take part.  Highlight of the day (well, for the kids anyway) was a match between Coaches and Players.  Conducted in blistering heat, the coaches truimphed 2-1 with Rob shoring up the defence and Paul playing up front in his usual Andy Johnson/Ivan de la Pena role.  We then went to the home of Churchill for lunch, where we were served chicken biryani which was delicious!  Churchill has been our guide throughout our trip and has done a fantastic job of taking care of us.  He really is the man to know in Chennai!!!

On Saturday evening Rob took Onside Soccer in a whole different direction by conducting a wedding ceremony at Christ Church.  We are now also available for weddings and bar mitzvahs!  We then managed to get home and see the Cup Final and find out that United had won the league, news which was received better by Rob than by Paul.

All is going really well and the training sessions have been great, with the kids loving the chance to come along.  India is fantastic!

Monday, 16 May 2011
Training session 4
A very successful training session today, with an emphasis on dribbling with the ball and communication.  Slightly smaller group of players than usual this morning but coaching went well and was enjoyed by everyone.  Points for the week were tallied up and the top team was Chelsea, much to the delight of the players (but not Rob!).  The rest of the day was spent in preparation for the final event which is taking place tomorrow, with a prize giving ceremony planned with both Paul and Rob being invited to say a few words.  Special guests are Mr Mike Nithavrianakis, British Deputy High Commissioner based in Chennai and Brykyta Shelton, Immigrant Visa Chief from the US Consulate.  So no pressure there then....

Tuesday, 17 May 2011
Awards Ceremony
Today we held our awards ceremony for the players who came along to the camp throughout the week.  Our two special guests also attended, with the British Deputy High Commissioner Mike Nithavrianakis arriving in a 4x4 with the Union Jack flying on the bonnet.  Fantastic stuff and made you feel proud to be British!

The ceremony went very well and a great time was had by all.  It was a sad moment when the ceremony ended and all of the kids and coaches left but seeing how much everyone enjoyed the camp made all of the hard work worthwhile.  Christ Church are going to be running a football ministry in partnership with Onside Soccer, however, which is going to be overseen by Jim Jacob and will hopefully be held twice a month.  Onside Soccer has donated four full kits to this project and also enough equipment to get things off the ground.  We wish Jim well in this venture and are confident that he will do a great job.  The camp will be an outreach to the local area and has already had a large number of players sign up for the first session which will be held next week.

After the ceremony we came back to our accommodation to pack for our journey home, which leaves in the early hours of Wednesday morning.



Wednesday, 18 May 2011
The journey home....
Today we arrived back in the UK after a 10 hour flight from Chennai.  It's hard to believe that this morning we were standing in Indian sunshine and now, as I look out the window, I can see dark clouds and English rain!!

Looking back over the past week or so, it is clear to see God's hand and perfect timing in all that went on.  During our coaching sessions we averaged 70 kids coming along every day, with over 100 coming along at the weekend.  The children were from a variety of backgrounds and it was fantastic to see them come along.  Each day we supplied transport, drinks and breakfast for everyone, with coaching sessions lasting around three hours per day.  Each session was followed by a talk from Rob, which proved to be very popular.

Apart from participating in the football programme, during our time in Chennai we also donated 30 footballs to Christ Church to set up their ongoing football outreach programme, 10 footballs to the Christian Sports Fellowship and another 10 to a local Hindu fishing community, where the kids play football on the beach but don't actually have any proper equipment.  It is our hope that they will start to come along to the outreach at Christ Church.  We also donated 53 full kits to Christ Church and another 60 kits to the Christian Sports Fellowship, along with 24 cricket shirts.  We donated further equipment to Christ Church to allow them to set up their programme and made financial donations to all of the organisations we partnered with during our visit to support them in what they are doing and to allow them to carry on their great work, in particular the Dr John Joseph Foundation, who are doing remarkable work in the city.

In terms of future plans, we would love to carry on the work which we have started in Chennai, supporting the football outreach programme at Christ Church in particular and also working alongside the Dr John Jospeh Foundation and the Christian Sports Fellowship.  We hope to go back to India next year so if you fancy coming along to see what we get up to out there please let us know - we'd love to bring you along (just make sure you pack your football boots!).

We would really like to thank you for following our blog and for all of your support over the last weeks and months.  It's great to know that so many people have been interested in this project and we hope that you will remember the Jim and the Onside project and all of our partner organisations in your prayers.

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