This is football season. I must admit shamefully that I am not watching the world cup. Firstly the 3 year old TV mechanic did something smart to the TV, that it speaks only in Spanish now. Secondly, I don’t know much about football, except the good memories of playing football in school and our great football coach MK Unni Sir.

Unni Sir was a damn good coach. He dressed only in white shorts and white T-shirts. He coached us in shorts, came to the mess hall in shorts and I bet he even bathed and slept in those same old shorts. When he did not wear shorts, he wore a white pant and a white full sleeved shirt. He really knew how to motivate us, and that made us give him our 110%. He took special care of us kids, like arranging us special food  always something extra and nutritious than what other kids were served. An extra egg, or a tall glass of undiluted Milma milk, or an additional robesta banana. He walked around the mess hall and made sure his boys ate well. I was not a football maniac, I sneaked into his coaching team just for the extra ration.

Every morning started off with a few laps across the ground. We had to run like fire crackers, for if we came last he made us run penalty laps. We sweated like we were dipped in water and gasped like a fish out of water. Still, after the big laps we had to run the little ones the short 50m sprints. We, the little Ben Jonsons, ran till we collapsed and died. Then there was stretching and flexing and strength training before the real coaching begins. Unni sir was as strict with the game as he was with the warm-up. If you ever fumbled with the ball or not follow his rules, you are doomed to a week of running. You ran till your legs wore out, then you ran more till the sun went down. If you did not dribble correctly, you had to do front rolls and get a migraine in your little kiddy head. There was punishment for everything  For wrong passes, for a missed ball, for wrong kicks  there were punishments for everything.

Although most of us did not get into the school team, we learned a lot from that experience. If you could do a week of practice in those dusty desert grounds, ignoring the scorching sun that tortured and baked your backs – you know you could do anything you set your mind to. Later in life that toughness never fails you. My football coaching taught me to realize what I am able to do, and what I an unable to do. It taught me to overcome fear, pain and fatigue, it taught us all to be modest and humble.

I have a few injuries from those days  specially my screwed up knees   that haunts me to this day. Nevertheless, Football as coached by our great Unni Sir, taught me great lessons in life.

The season’s World Cup Song.

One Response

  1. Unni Sir forever remains an example of commitment and passion.
    He also exuded a unique lightness, yet inspired every one to do his job on the ground perfectly.

    a classic study in leadership without stiff upper lip and associated gizmos.

    i think passion for sports drove him. he thoroughly enjoyed what he did.

    the argentina colors he chose for the team in 1988/89 still remains etched in mind.

    thanks for the piece Byju.

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