Wednesday, December 26, 2012

4 days spent at a village football Academy….why didn’t I do this earlier???

It’s Christmas Day and I’m on the train heading back to Delhi from YFC Rurka Kalan in Punjab and feeling high on life. It is the most natural high I’ve felt in awhile. 4 days enjoying simple village life: eating, working out, long walks, playing football, reading and sleeping. 

People always say that some of the best talent comes from rural areas and I now believe it more than ever. The boys living in this Punjabi village eat, sleep, drink and breath football.  Outside of school there is little to keep them busy so they spend their free time helping maintain the pitch, working with some of the younger players, watching premiership and La Liga matches on TV, talking about their past or upcoming matches, training (2x a day) and dreaming about their careers.  They are hard-working, focused, humble and have committed themselves to continually developing their game.

The above can be said about the players in most village Academies, however what’s special about YFC Rurka Kalan is that they have been able to attract some quality foreign coaches to come in and work with the boys and girls.  Craig Smith is one of these coaches who is now in the middle of his second long stint at the Academy.  He is an extraordinary individual who has made a tremendous impact on both the on and off the pitch lives of the YFC players. 
Me with Craig Smith
Joining Craig are Ish and Concetta who are both spending another Christmas holiday in Rurka Kalan offering daily training and equipment to 150 government school girls. They do it under the guise of Ish's NGO called Shooting for Hope. I watched a few of their sessions and was impressed with the energy, love and fun they brought into their sessions without ever sacrificing on quality.  
Ish and Concetta working with some of the girls
The environment and the technical staff are just right for YFC Rurka Kalan to be considered one of the best Academies in India.  The Academy has already produced 1 senior national team player and has a few other potentials coming up through the ranks.
Outside of not speaking a word of Punjabi, I felt at home and at peace in this village and was kicking myself for not spending more of my holidays and weekends over the past few years in these serene environments. I’m feeling stronger, happier and more closely aligned with why I chose to move to India in the first place all for half the cost of a decent night out in Delhi. 

I can assure you that I will be spending many more days in this and other football villages moving forward…

YFC President Sony Rurka 

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