Jumping hurdles to play football
It all started when Yaser sent a mail to the team about an upcoming Technopark event “Prathidhwani Football League” organized by Prathidhwani, a non-profit, voluntary, socio-cultural organization of Technopark employees. When I received this mail, I was very excited because of my passion for football, and immediately went to talk to Yaser about it. My enthusiasm and confidence motivated him to join me in putting together a team for the tournament. And THAT was quite a difficult task! The developers in Zyxware #4 were not “football material”, and for that reason alone, they weren’t interested. But with much difficulty, we managed to find 15 names for registering the team.
Now, amongst us, very few people knew the game properly and even less who could last 30 minutes on the field (myself included). I was chosen as the Captain, because of my relatively higher knowledge of the game and because of my undying excitement and enthusiasm (Not because I was a pro football player). That being said, we quickly set up practice sessions everyday morning and evening, wherever possible. Most of us showed up for all the sessions, and we quickly realized that most of us were either out of shape, discoordinated, or rather slow. But that did not discourage us, and once Abish started coming for the practice sessions, he coordinated the team wonderfully and we started behaving more like professionals! We were passing the ball more and held our positions properly. Needless to say, he was the perfect coach that we needed! So after the first three days, we had a rough idea as to who all would play forward, but the goalkeeper and defence were still undecided. Our practice sessions were always accompanied by heavy rains and thunderstorms, but it did not deter us as there was very little time before all of us had to leave for office. After practice, people who stayed closer to the office went to their respective homes, showered, got dressed and returned, but those who lived quite far away had no option but to do the same at the office.
On the third day, surprising all of us, Lloyd decided to play and during a match scored around 5 goals! We then switched Lloyd to the opposite team, where he scored another 4 goals. So we decided to kick prem off the team (because of his high cholesterol!) and replace him with Lloyd. But unfortunately, age got the better of him, injuring both his legs, making it impossible for him to play on match day. Although Thomas was a team member, he was unsure as to whether he would have time for practice but, fortunately he did make time for practice and played the entire 40 minutes on the match day and that too, quite well I must add!
Even before the team took shape, there were a number of hurdles that we had to overcome; We had no equipment or Jerseys. So I had set up a meeting with Thomas, Abish and Lijo to discuss the possibility of Zyxware FC being funded by the company for the purpose of branding and to make the company known to other Technopark companies. However, the plan crashed and burned as Thomas rejected it on the grounds that it wasn’t branding, and making Zyxware known to other Technopark companies wouldn’t help us in anyway. So after a lot of planning and discussions, we realized that the company's involvement in such an initiative would be minimal and it was up to us to raise the money for Zyxware FC. We were required to make a proposal (which we did not) on the funding that would be required and Thomas would review it and decide how much the company would contribute. We have maintained a spreadsheet of the expenses which you can view here. Don’t be surprised at the negative balance, it is not a mistake, it’s what we owe. It was then that we started collecting money from everyone for the purpose. The team members decided to pool in 100 each. However, this later turned out to be insufficient and hence we increased it to 500. But again, this was surprisingly insufficient! OK! Let’s not dwell much on our financial grievances and move on to the week before the match.
In the second week (the week before the match), Thomas decided to play and this gave us more confidence as he was one of the few who knew what he was doing on the ground! Our practice sessions were smacked with funny incidents and mishaps. One such occasion was the day before the match. All of us gathered at the Boys town ground at Sreekariyam to practice, but that's when we discovered that there was a better ground adjacent to where we were playing. All of us immediately got on our respective vehicles as well as the company cab and went to the location. By this time, it was raining quite heavily and since we were used to it, we decided to carry on. So, we arrived at the spot, kept all our keys, wallets and mobile phones in the cab for safekeeping and locked it leaving the keys inside! And we would not have realized this if the football weren’t inside the cab. We proceeded to practice as though nothing happened. 5 minutes later, someone asked about the football and that’s when we realized we had made a huge mistake!
First practice session:
There we were, around 10 of us in the rain, locked out, no football, no phones, no keys. I had already started shivering. We were frantically trying to open the car door with a steel scale. Aby, our team crook, showed us how we should bend the tip of the scale for better leverage against the knob that must be pulled to open the door. But all our attempts were in vain. While three of us remained near the van trying to open it, the rest of the team decided to head to the ground to do some warming up. Realizing the gravity of the situation, Thomas lectured the rest of the team for a more responsible and organized behaviour! Finally we gave up and borrowed a football from one of local kids who had come to play there. One of us went to get the spare keys from Thomas’ home. In short, on our last day of practice, we played quite a bit of football!
Even after all the mishaps, we were quite satisfied with the practice and decided on the first 7. We parted ways on Saturday, quite confident and hoping for a victorious Sunday! Go Zyxware!
Our first 7 :
The match was against M2 strikers (M Squared). As expected, it was raining hard, but all of us arrived on time (6:00 AM). We took our time to change into the jersey. In fact, It was the first time any of us were seeing a jersey, and everyone loved it! It was of fine quality and we felt really proud wearing the Zyxware colors. As I looked around, everyone was dressed the same and was putting on their gear; we were preparing for battle! There was a certain unity in the way we carried ourselves, the work we put in, the effort we took, and I was glad Yaser came to me with this initiative. It was definitely worth it.
Before match :
The match started a little before 7. Lijo had come to support the team and watch the match. Abish could not make it, so Lloyd had to make the key decisions during the match. He took on his responsibilities and worked on it quite efficiently. Almost 80% of the first half was played completely in their half. Our defense, consisting of Thomas, Prince and Siva, was very strong. Our forwards Rajesh, Saidali and Sujith kept them on their toes all through the first half. They had a hard time crossing into our half, but even so, at the last minute of the first half, they scored a goal. We just couldn't finish as well because of lack of practice.
The first 20 minutes had taken its toll on our players. Although our 2 weeks of practice had given us coordination and strategy, it had done nothing to our stamina. Yaser was drenched and covered in mud after diving after the ball. Saidali was already injured and was thinking of sitting out. All the others were panting and puffing!
We didn’t substitute anyone. The first 7 walked back to the field to finish the game. The score was 1-0 favoring M2 strikers. We still had hope. The match started and we couldn't keep up as much as the first half. There were more mistakes, yellow cards were issued. Saidali (our center forward) had to be substituted due to injury. By the time the second half ended, we were down by 4 to nothing! And then the whistle blew, ending the match. There was nothing more we could do. We had lost fair and square.
Good match! Good match! The usual! Lijo was busy getting water for all the tired players. We appreciated ourselves on our attempt and on how quickly we put together such a good team. Thomas spoke a few words about it followed by Yaser who added that this was a start and we would be picking up from where we left off; Practice sessions would be continued every Saturday and Sunday. This small experience has actually inspired all of us. We became more health-conscious, some of us even quit smoking so that our stamina wasn't compromised. So we have decided to make it a regular thing and participate in all such events in the future!