A week can make a lot of difference during the rainy season. For some reason last week decided it was in love with me. A push up at work with some encouraging upgrades, and some amazing miscellaneous happenings really made it a week to remember.
The Schneider Electric Software India Training Champion Awards were announced and out of the blue my name came up for the “Training Champion” Award. Now, this is no run of the mill award in the company’s scheme of things and while I was wondering where this came from, HR comes up and informs me that the “Promotions through infographics” session I conducted a while back got the best feedback results and combined with the fact of being one of the training community leaders for marketing, I was giving this award.
And that was not all. Our Software Development Center in Bangalore organised the Chess Championships and guess who win’s six matches in a row and the cup! While three of these matches really stressed me out, the rest were a breeze (yes, I am in a boastful mood). I always go in with the Sicilian Defence, something my Dad taught me as a kid. The first person I called on winning this championship was my Dad. I told him how I used the Sicilian Defence in every match and I could sense through his voice the pride he felt in me winning. There can be no greater appreciation in this world than that from a parent or loved one. Thank you Dad.
The good run refused to stop here. A weekend corporate football tournament saw us reach the semi’s and though we were knocked out via tie-breaker to the eventual champions, I had my moment in the sun in the quarter finals as I blocked all the three penalties in the shootout. However, I now have a terrible shoulder and I hope the pain subsides soon. I can’t stand going to the hospital again.
So there it is, my week of happy madness. Tomorrow is a new day and I can’t wait to see what the coming days and month’s bring up.
And another football season comes to a close. Hold on, one more tournament to go next week and then we are done. Following a year of mixed fortunes, our Schneider Electric football team will be playing the final cup of the year – The Diego Cup, in honour of the great Diego Maradona. Besides being my favourite footballer, I hope to take some of Maradona’s aggressivess and maniacal risks into this tournament to ensure we finish this year on a high.
The year began with a bang. Winning the Schneider Electric intra-cup was a great start to the year and I won my first ever personal football award – The Best Goalkeeper of the Tournament. It was an unforgettable final where a rag tag team taking part for the first time knocked out the two time winners. We were bruised severely at the end of the tournament. Muscle catches, leg cramps, broken fingers and a teammate broke his leg. But it was worth it – completely.
The Blues Cup was another comprehensive win where we beat a tricky IBM team in the final. However these wins were followed by a couple of runners up trophies and then a whole lot of knockouts as we cleared the league phase hurdles but got stuck at the quarters and semi-final stage. Mid-year we lost one of our key players to an accident – a loss we feel professionally and being a close friend – personally. Our team has chugged on and has shown a fighting spirit and camaraderie that has kept us afloat. We have emerged as a team to beat in the corporate leagues – a feat we are proud of and hope to keep emulating and winning in games to come. Here’s to a good end to the football season and 2016.
Evening rains, travels and injuries have meant a loss in quite a number of hours of practice on the football pitch. With the open league season kicking off in June-July, our team has their work cut out for them as we race against time to garner as many hours of practice together. An elbow injury would definitely mean that I need to give up the gloves and move to take up a defence or mid-field role for the time-being. Fitness is the key, as last season a combination of lack of stamina and coordination led to a poor league season. Even though we made it up by reaching the quarters in our next tournament, there was scope to go further than we did.
This year, we need to focus on three key objectives: fitness, strategy and a strong bench.
Power play is important and we realised it a bit too late as we entered last years league. Result – strained hamstrings, twisted ankles and a ragged physique by the time the game got over. Fitness really let us down and though a few of us players managed to withstand the onslaught, our lack of scoring stemmed from the fact that the strikers lost their breath within the first few raids on the goal.
The strategy needs to be on defense. Lack of coordination between goalkeeper (self) and defenders resulted in me fetching the ball more times than expected from the back of the net. We had our moments where the defence held well, but as the game moved on the positions scattered resulting in a brittle and unsure defensive unit. This year the focus needs to be on defence and we need to work on breakaways to score goals.
A strong bench was what we consistently lacked and with minimal player rotation we got stuck with injuries. This year a viable option would be bringing in regulars with enough to sustain the midfield and defence. While we have developed a reasonable pool of players, a strong team management needs to ensure that a disciplined approach needs to be followed when it comes to presence for each game.
With such a formula we may just be able to move up the league a bit and ensure that our company team gets its share of accolades on the pitch, not that it would translate into anything in our end of month kitty’s 😉
After our teams last outing (where we did show some promise but failed to deliver), we get another chance to work it out on the Sarjapur Road Decathlon football turf. The Bangalore Football Club Corporate Football Rumble will take place here and the ground is like our home ground. We practice here every Friday and getting into the tournament this weekend should give us the confidence to do better than our last outing.
Writing this post I am mulling over the various parameters we need to cover. Our immediate aim is to move into the next round. Sixteen teams, four groups and two advancing teams make this a tight finish. Given the time for each half i.e. 7 minutes each, we need to be prepared for tight finishes and physically up to it for skirmishes in the box.
Our challenge in the last tournament we played in June was finishing. Poor finishing from the strikers, erratic defending and a scattered midfield made us vulnerable to strikes and counter attacks. Our team strength lies in counter-attacks and the goals we scored relied on a couple of players with the dribbling capacity. My keeping needs to be improved too. Dives are a must, they have always been my weakness. Blocks are fine and the charging can be improved. Considering the tight timelines for each match, we need to be ready for a brutal and hard game.
However, unlike the SPT tournament which was an open format where club teams were allowed to participate, the Bangalore Football Club has focused solely on corporates and the team composition has to be backed with relevant IDs unlike SPT where the team structures kept changing from match to match.
Being a professional club I expect BFC to organize a professional tournament and with Decathlon on board it should be in the interest of all involved to have a thoroughly fair match here. And this time we are not playing for the fair play award that we won at the SPT tournament. We are playing to win. And my aim – zero goal tolerance.
It’s been a couple of months in the new place and I finally get some competitive games in the table tennis room. Games were few in between as not many residents made the trek up to the games room. I saw the billiard board scraped a bit, but ping pong looked lonely i.e. till I made the late evenings my walk time and bumped into a couple of hard boiled paddlers.
Now with a couple of professionals for company, I get to play some real good games after a long long time. I guess the last long stretch of competitive table tennis was in my school days. Considering that, it took me only a few games to get into the groove. I may not win, but I can sure give these two pro’s a run for their money. They appear to be the Republic Day finalists that people were talking about. Few more consistent weeks at the table and I should be a considerable challenge.
While working out at the table tennis table it was also pointed out about a fault in my service game. I need to toss the ball a bit more to give the right impression to referees and ensure that there is some ‘air ball’ before its served. Point taken, my service game is curtailed a bit, but I am getting there.
Table tennis was always a huge draw for me. I wasn’t a great player but did enough to make it to the last 16 in one tournament – my best shot. I remember being influenced by Kamlesh Mehta and Jan Ove-Waldner. Both were wizards with the paddle, Mehta the Indian champ for nearly a decade and the Swede on the world stage. It was a treat watching them play, with Doordarshan‘s sport runs showcasing quite a bit of the game. The greatest thrill was getting the right angle to smash the ball across the table with the right level of aggression and finesse. It’s a game that tests your patience and hand-eye coordination to the extreme.
Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) approved bats from the ’90s still hold good for me. I use the light Shanghai bat while the GKI bats had to have a side scraped with a compass to enable spin. The bat remains in my possession with the compass marks. Still going strong with a good top spin.
Forget F1, forget the Champions League T20… Kannur was in a world of their own this week cause Argentina’s eternal jersey #10 was in town. I love Diego Armando Maradona, worshipped him as a kid. I still remember Italia’90 when Maradona lost to the Germans in the final. The emotion and the beauty of the game. That was a classic era of football where a certain aura followed the stars. You had Jurgen Klinsmann, Rudi Voeller, Gary Linekar, a young Roberto Baggio… I will never forget those names, thanks to late nights when I managed to sneak a peak at Doordarshan’s broadcasts and thanks to a lenient Dad who came to my rescue and ensured that I had my share of screen time. And who can forget Paul Gascoigne’s antics… rather heroics at that point of time in his career!
And remembering those names… the credit for that goes to the bubble gum manufacturers who used to give a free card with every piece of gum. Each card contained goal/field statistics of the footballer featured, so we knew them all. Those were the days when Pokemon or any other Japanese anime faced absolutely no chance against these numbers and facts. I remember rushing to the run down stationery shop near our school and buying those piecces of gum and then trying to force the shopkeeper to give us the card we needed for our collection.
Getting back to Maradona, he was the reason I was drawn to football, played the game and then became a junior professional. It was fun imagining being a part of a dream team and imagine playing with and against the best in the world whenever I hit the field. Seeing him on Indian soil does bring a smile to the face. Childhood adoration replaced by a respect for the craft and work of the finest. And there he was in Kannur with a bunch of mundu clad men cutting a birthday cake and then going on a promotional safari. It’s God’s own country and if not the whole, at least the ‘hand of God‘ was there. Viva Maradona!