Chennai, India 2013
The guys are off on their travels again, heading back to Chennai with a small team to run a football camp and also to work at the Onside Academy at Christ Church. The team (Paul, Dan and Rob) will be keeping a daily blog of their exploits (wi-fi permitting) so if you want to keep a track of their latest Indian adventure then this is the place to do it!
Day 1 & 2, 1st - 2nd May 2013 - Are we there yet?
The team set off late on Wednesday evening for the journey to Chennai via a seven hour stop-over in Dubai. All pretty uneventful, with the undoubted highlight being Rob spilling a drink over the trousers of the man sitting next to him on the flight from Dubai to Chennai. We arrived in Chennai around 8.30pm on Thursday and were met by Churchill at the airport, who whisked us off to our accommodation and a peaceful night's sleep in preparation for the first training session the following day. Everyone feeling pretty tired but excited about the week ahead.
Day 3 - 3rd May 2013 - Training Session 1
An early start today as we held our first training session at the YMCA sports grounds with a small group who attend the Christ Church Soccer Academy. The session started at 7.00am to avoid the worst of the heat later in the day but it was still pretty hot as the session got under way. The camp was officially opened by Dr.R.Sweety Premkumar, Correspondent of the YMCA College of Physical Education. The focus for the day was decision making and the group worked on a number of drills before splitting up for a few small sided games. We then headed off to see another YMCA site and saw the cottages built for boys who had been orphaned by the 2004 tsunami. This evening we are going to attend the weekly Christian Sports Fellowship meeting and we catch up with our old friends who have provided us with so much help over the last few years.
Day 4, 4th May 2013 – Training Session 2
An early start this morning for training session 2, with everyone ready to start at 7.00am. A bigger crowd of kids than yesterday and the focus for the day was decision making, looking at making wise decisions both on the football pitch and also away from the pitch. The training session went well and the equipment we brought across has proven to be very popular. A slight diversion today was playing a spot of cricket, with each of the guys going in to bat for a local team in a friendly match. The score card read as follows: Rob out for a duck, Dan 0 not out and Paul 5 runs off 4 balls before seeing his wicket fall. Chennai Super King scouts were making enquiries apparently….. On another note, the weather forecast for the next few days has predicted ‘severe heat’, which is an interesting way of putting things given the temperature today. To quote Alan Partridge, ‘it’s hotter than the sun’ here already so who knows??? Dan caused quite a stir last night at the CSF meeting just by turning up. The average height in India is around 5’7-ish (so we have been told) and at 6’2 Dan has been turning a few heads, which has led to the inevitable nickname of ‘Crouchy’, which he was delighted to hear. We are having a rest now for a bit before another big day tomorrow, with Rob due to speak at 2 different churches. Busy days but everyone is keeping well and having a fun time. Keep tuned for more India news tomorrow….
Day 5, 5th May 2013 - Rest Day
Today has been a relaxed day for Dan and Paul but not for Rob. He was called into action this morning to speak at Christ Church, giving a sermon and also confirming seven young people into the church. The service went well and the general consensus among the congregation was that Rob should probably be promoted to Bishop, although he was introduced as the Reverend Dr Bob Powell, so the sky's the limit.
Yesterday evening Churchill took us for a look at Marina Beach, which stretches for miles and is a popular spot with the locals. We then briefly visited one of the slum areas on the waterfront which had been badly hit by the 2004 tsunami. Both Rob and Paul have been to slums in Africa and South America before but what we saw was pretty shocking. The conditions that people live in are dire, with most making a living catching fish, which then then sell on stalls on the waterfront. It's really difficult to reconcile seeing such terrible poverty such a short distance away from affluent areas. It is also difficult to imagine how anyone could possibly escape the cycle of poverty in a place like that. Looking at the little children running about on the beach, playing quite happily, you wonder what the future holds for them.
We are now back at our accommodation having a break before meeting some people from the YMCA School of Physical Education tonight. They very kindly donated one of their pitches free of charge for our use during our visit and hopefully we will be able to work with them again in the future. Tomorrow we have our third training session, which we are all really looking forward to. The kids we are working with have been great and are very keen to learn as much about football as they can, and have also been really enjoying Rob's talks.
Day 6, 6th May 2013 – Training Session 3
As we reached the half-way point on our trip the weather suddenly took a turn for the cooler for our third training session today, changing from utterly stifling to just roasting. The slightly cooler weather was very welcome though, and today’s session went very well. We divided the group into two groups, with Dan and Rob looking after the younger players while Paul and Churchill worked with the older lads. The younger players looked at passing and ball control, while the older group did some drills aimed at helping to maintain possession of the ball and at communication. All of the kids picked the drills up very quickly and launched themselves into the session with gusto. They really are a great group to work with and all of the coaches have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them. This afternoon we will be visiting the American International School to meet some of their coaches and see one of their training sessions, which we are very much looking forward to.
Day 7, 7th May 2013 – Training Session 4
Another day, two more training sessions. A smaller crowd turned out this morning for training at the YMCA but the kids who came along were great and played really well. It is possible to see an improvement in how they play in even the short space of time we have been here, which is very encouraging. It is also fantastic getting to know the kids and some of them are real characters. John (pictured on right, blue and white t-shirt) has become the first official Onside kit-man and seems to try and carry as much of our kit for us as possible every day, even though he's one of the smallest guys playing. We have also been assisted very ably by Asaph, Sanjay and Isaac who are all members of Christ Church. Future Onside coaches??? Watch this space! All of the kids have been listening very well to Rob's talks and today Churchill introduced one of his famous (infamous?) skits into proceedings. During the skit he was attacked (very enthusiastically, it must be said!) and left lying in a heap by the other coaches and the kids had to work together as a team to get him medical attention. This afternoon we are going with one of the Christian Sports Fellowship coaches to work with a girls team, running a training session for them and after that we try yet another sport after Churchill challenged us to a game of tennis. Could be a pretty tiring afternoon!
So far the trip has been going well and we have been meeting a lot of interesting people. It is great to be working with Churchill again and he has been fantastic in helping us every day. India is a great place to visit and he is a superb guide. If you would like to find out more about his work and foundation for underprivileged kids, please visit www.drjohnjosephfoundation.org. It is hard to believe how quickly the time has gone and that we have only two more training sessions before heading back to the UK.
Day 8, 8th May 2013 - Training Session 5
After yesterday's training session we went across to coach a girl's team who are part of the Christian Sports Fellowship. The girls mainly come from one of the Chennai slums and we weren't really sure what to expect when we arrived. It transpired, however, that five of the girls are actually part of the India national slum team and the standard of football they played was really high. We did a few drills with them, which they did superbly, and then finished up with a match. During the game it was very easy to see why some of them are playing at national level. We are hoping that they will come across to the YMCA on Thursday to take part in the tournament day. The guys may be in for a surprise if the girls play like they did during training!
Our training session today went well and it is possible to see an improvement with the boys every day. It is great to come along and see how much they all love playing and although the standard varies everyone is very enthusiastic. After the session today we went out with Churchill, Asaph, Sanjay and Isaac to the Shore Temple, an ancient Hindu temple complex to the south of Chennai. It was very interesting to see. We then went down to the beach, where Churchill tried to throw Asaph into the Bay of Bengal and Dan rode off somewhere on a horse. We then met up with Rev. Dr. Samuel Sudhakar, who treated us all to some chicken biryani, which went down very well. We are now back at our accommodation preparing for competition day tomorrow, which the kids are very excited about (particularly the 800 rupee prize for the 'Cross-bar Challenge!).
Day 9, 9th May 2013 - Competition Time!
A big crowd of kids today at the YMCA grounds for our final day tournament. We ran a junior and senior competition with four teams in each category and both went really well. It was great to see some of the girls who we had trained a few days previously turn up. We had trophies for the winning team and also an Endeavour Award, for the player who had tried hardest during the week, and a Player of the Week prize. We also had three winners of the Cross-bar Challenge, who split 900 rupees between them. All of the winners of the challenge came from the junior players. The day was finished off by a talk from Rob and then we were done. It was a great way to finish off the week and the day was thoroughly enjoyed by coaches and players alike.
We then went back to our accommodation to pack before meeting one of the major contributors to the Dr John Joseph Foundation, who very kindly took us to the Presidency Club for dinner, which was fantastic and a very nice way to finish off our trip.
Day 10, 10th May 2013 - Homeward Bound
An early start as we bid goodbye to Chennai and head on the long journey home. Churchill picked us up and dropped us off at the airport. It was really sad to say goodbye to him and the rest of the guys we have been working with. We made a lot of good friends during the trip and we will miss them all. Onside India, however, will keep running and we are re-launching our training academy in June to coincide with the kids going back to school. We are hoping that a lot of the kids we worked with over the last 10 days will come to the weekly camp.
Our flights home were fine and after a brief stop-over in Dubai we arrived safely at Gatwick around 7.30pm, tired but pleased with how the week had gone. We would like to thank you for reading our blog and taking an interest in what we have been doing. We hope to run a tour back to Chennai and Sri Lanka next year so if you fancy coming with us, please get in touch. We would love to have you join us!!