Grassroots Football :: Mahindra Project Diary
OUR Indian leg of the trip to assist in the final stages of the Mahindra Youth Football challenge began at 6am at a bustling Bangalore airport where we were met by Raj a representative of the Procam/Mahindra group.
We then proceeded on an hour-long journey to our hotel in the centre of Bangalore city.
Even at that time in the morning the sights and sounds were colourful and interesting.
The distractions on the journey of cows wandering up streets, monkeys dodging traffic and being passed by a family of four on a scooter made the journey quick and eventful, not to mention the local driving customs which at times felt more like a ride on the dodgems.
After arriving at the hotel we dropped off the luggage and grabbed a couple of hours' rest before heading off to the Bangalore football stadium to watch an Indian league fixture between local team HAL and Mumbai FC.
The game itself had a crowd of around a thousand spectators, who created a loud and vibrant atmosphere within the stadium with a constant background noise from the local supporters' drums.
The game itself was even and the final score of 5-1 to the visitors did not accurately reflect the closeness in opportunities and possession for both sides.
The heat during the midday match meant that fast flowing football was not always possible. However, the game was littered with moments of excitement and goalmouth opportunities.
The match officials in India also appear to be under the same scrutiny as officials in Scotland as a series of dubious offside decisions against the home team led to cries of derision from the local HAL fans.
After the match we were invited to meet the President of the Bangalore District Football Association and his colleagues who offered us a very warm welcome.
The rest of the day was spent preparing for the first coaching sessions.
THE second day began with an early rise, a quick breakfast followed by a short car journey to the Bangalore city football stadium to set up for the arrival of the first three participating teams in the morning coaching sessions who were Bangalore, Delhi and Goa.
Then followed by Mumbai, Calicut (Kerala) and Kolkata in the afternoon sessions.
The coaching session themselves consisted of three different themes: defending, attacking and skill development. Each squad was allocated one of these themes today, the remaining topics will be covered over the course of the next few days meaning that teams will work on all aspects of the curriculum by the end of the coaching block.
In addition to the above, goalkeepers from all squads came together to receive specialised training from our goalkeeping coach Tom McKay. Today's theme concentrated on handling and communication.
During the day; the players demonstrated great enthusiasm, attitude and an eagerness to learn and were a great credit to their schools, regions and Indian youth football. We are looking forward to the forthcoming coaching sessions and the final stages of the tournament.
WE arrived at the Bangalore City stadium to be met by a familiar face in Mani Maran. Last year Mani was chosen from the tournament stages to participate in a 22-man elite squad and remain behind to be put through their paces by Stevie Frail, Ian Call and Greig Robertson.
From that group Mani was one of three players to be selected to travel to Glasgow for 10 days to train alongside our Celtic academy. .
Today's coaching sessions had increased in tempo and intensity as all of the squads seemed more relaxed and eager to show what they were capable of. Like the previous day, the sessions remained the same with each school being allocated their second of three topics from the coaching curriculum.
In addition to the coaching sessions, today's experience for the players was further enhanced by Mani himself taking part along side all of the schools for a period of time, which allowed this year's participants to witness the level and standards that Mani sets himself on a daily basis – and those standards helped him archive his goal last year and will hopefully inspire this years participants.
The goalkeepers' training was based and focused on building an understanding of the various types of movement around the 18-yard box in relation to game situations.
A bonus for the players at the end of coaching was a question and answer session with Mani, about his experiences in last year's tournament and subsequent trip to Celtic followed by a discussion with the teams, school coaches and the Celtic staff. The questions and topics ranged from personalising training programmes, pre-season work loads and diet and nutrition advice.
THE start of coaching today saw very hot temperatures and humidity. This day consisted of all teams participating in their third day of the coaching rotation. By now the squads are becoming more relaxed with us and occasionally they even manage to call us by our name rather than sir.
The boys throughout the week have all been a real credit to their schools, regions and India and an absolute joy to coach' They are always happy to give their all no mater the heat or demands of the training sessions.
Coaching Day 3 saw the goalkeepers work on ball control, switch of play and in particular counter attack distribution.
Later that night we were invited to attend an IPL (Indian Premier League) cricket match between Bangalore Royal Challengers and Pune Warriors which ended in a fantastic last-ball winner which sent the locals into a frenzy.
The strangest thing about the whole experience was watching the home fans cheers on the visitors Pune when they record a score or caught out one of the Bangalore chargers batsman in a gesture of good sportsmanship. The Indian people are obsessive about cricket as we Scots are about our football.
As we left the stadium we were reminded of the weather we left behind at Glasgow as a cooling rain showered while we drove back to the hotel.
AFTER a discussion on the previous night with the team coaches and due to the fact that the players were going to be playing their first game 24 hours later, a collective decision was made to reduce the intensity of the sessions.
Nevertheless, we still felt it was important to give the players as much as game related preparation as possible.
The two-hour coaching sessions consisted of three segments: Corners, Free-kicks and Throw-Ins and specifically movement in relation to the three topics.
The team coaches as well as the players really seemed to enjoy and engage with us on this in addition to incorporating their own ideas and methods.
While the teams were working at the Throwing section, the goalkeepers were separated and received individual coaching on reactions and recovery.
Between the morning and afternoon sessions, a press conference and lunch was held at the stadium where all of India's media was invited prior to the commencement of the tournament.
The press conference was packed with team coaches, team captains, television, written media and local dignitaries. The lunch provided was both a mixture of western and Indian food which gave us an opportunity to sample some local delicacies.
Everyone, including ourselves, is now looking forward to the forthcoming games and seeing the boys put into practice what we had worked on for the last few days.
The big kick-off.
THIS was our opportunity to now observe the teams in action and give feedback at the end of the day to each individual team.
Bangalore 2 - 2 Mumbai
Delhi. 2 - 0 Kerela
Kolkata. 2 - 0 Goa.
All of the games were fiercely contested with some close scores. However the loudest cheer of the day was given when the home team Bangalore scored a last-minute equaliser.
All of the games were thoroughly enjoyable and we look forward to watching the games tomorrow.
Celtic coaches - Mark Reid, Mark Tobin, Jose Romero and Tom McKay