Monday, April 21, 2014

Football & Transformation: My Experience with the Varshneya Family

It’s 9:45am on a foggy and seasonably cold Delhi winter morning January 2012.  I arrive at the British School excited to experience the first FCBarcelona India training camp, a partnership and program I had diligently and passionately worked on for over a year.  After an emotionally charged opening ceremonies, the rest of the program is on auto drive flawlessly managed by 3 FCBarcelona coaches who have traveled to India from Spain to oversee the technical aspects of the camp.


I spend the days aimlessly wandering around the small-sided pitches enjoying the sights and sounds of quality football education being imparted on Indian youth while, at the same time, pride-fully patting my own back for my role in helping to take the partnership with FCBarcelona from concept to reality. During the final day of the camp I hear about a 6 year old boy who seems to be impressing all the coaches with his speed, ball control and overall awareness of the game.  Curious, I walk over to the pitch and see Soham for the first time. He is an charming young boy, however with real defining features which make him stand out from the rest of the players on the pitch.

Then Soham gets a pass and I see this boy transform into someone who is destined to go through life with a ball at his feet. His cool composure remains, but now his energy has changed and I can clearly see his focus, his passion, the way in which he can calculate the game which is well beyond the comprehension of any of the other boys on the pitch.  I think back to when I was a 6 year child playing football every day in Southern California and ask myself “Did I have this touch? Did I have this composure? Did I have this aliveness when the ball was at my feet? “

While watching Soham navigate through the opposing team in a small-sided match I began to wonder about his future, about what opportunities exist for a talented young footballer in India, about what I may be able to do to make a difference to his life. Instinctively I’m approached by a lovely woman named AnuYukti who introduces herself as Soham’s mother. She is clearly aware of Soham’s talent, yet never shows a hint of pride or any sense that she is taking credit for this young boy, her energy is more of someone who communicates gratitude that existence gifted her with such beautiful child. 

We get right into conversation about life and what impresses me most is her family’s story. When Soham was just 4 years old, the family became aware that he has genuine talent and love for the sport and, as a collective unit, chose to move from Delhi to Bangalore so Soham could have access to a better football environment.  Since then, the family of 4 which includes Naveen, AnuYukti and sister Tapaswini, have committed much of their energy to championing and celebrating Soham’s football career travelling from opportunity to opportunity, pitch to pitch, city to city, dream to dream.


I meet Soham’s Father Naveen.  He is a life coach using the power of science and spirituality to heal and empower people. He is deep yet exudes a relaxed, loving energy.  Similar to his wife, he is aware that his son has a gift and is ready to make any sacrifices or efforts to support his child’s growth and development through football.  I’m touched by his commitment and promise to guide Soham along his football pathway to the best of my ability.  

Now its March 20, 2014.  After an uneventful two and a half hour flight followed by a bumpy hour on the road, I arrive at the Varshneya house in Whitefield, a sleepy suburb outside of the bustling city of Bangalore.  It’s been over 2 years since I’ve last seen Naveen, AnuYukti, Tapaswini or Soham yet I feel strangely connected to each of them individually.  Although, I’ve not been visiting Bangalore often, I’ve stayed close to Naveen, or rather he stayed close to me, and we have patiently been watching Soham’s rise from a 6 year old boy with talent to a 9 year old local football star.

I’m in Bangalore as a 34th birthday gift to myself. It was a trip which came up through divine intervention. Naveen has proven himself to be a powerful healer and I planned on spending a few days with him exploring spiritual and emotional areas which are blocking me from reaching my true potential.  While my own growth and development were the primary reasons for the trip, the forces of nature were certainly at play as this was the perfect time to start strategically planning Soham’s future as a professional footballer. 

I walk in the door on the evening of March 20th and the first sight I see is young Soham sitting on a large couch watching highlights of the Manchester United vs Olympiakos Champions League match. Although he had watched the match live from 1:00am – 3:00am earlier in the day, a challenging time for even the staunchest football supporter to wake up for a match, he is intently studying and celebrating each of United’s goals as it was the first time he is seeing the Red Devils kick a ball into the back of the net. 


He takes his eyes off from the television and greets me with the respect that a loving younger brother offers his older sibling and then his eyes go right back to the screen where he has switched over to highlights from a recent Spanish league match. Soham’s passion for the beautiful game oozes out of every pour of his body and its clearly addicting, so instead of walking to my room to freshen up, all I can do set my bags down and take a seat next to him  so he can guide me through a sport which has guided my life for the past 30 years.

While sitting on the couch, eyes glued to the television, a positive, youthful energy enters the room to join us. It’s Soham’s older sister Tapaswini who I’ve watched grow up over the past few years through the power of social media.  Although Tapaswini clearly has many talents, primarily as an athlete and a performer, I find that her main talent is offering her Brother the perfect balance of love, friendship and discipline to ensure that he grows to his full potential which is reflected in the fact that it was Tapaswini who first introduced Soham to the sport he has made his life. She is a joy to be around and seems to brighten up each space in which she enters.

It had only been 5 minutes since I entered the Varshneya home yet the energy, the experience, the whole vibe of the place screams love and football, I immediately felt at home. 

Over the next few days, my entire life begins to shift. Thanks to Naveen’s deep intuition and profound healing techniques, my path as a spiritual warrior becomes abundantly clear as do my areas where growth is required. What also becomes clear is that Soham is not a normal boy. Similar to his Father, he possess certain genius-like qualities, and rather than channelizing this genius into healing others like his Father, Soham puts his God given gifts into football, the sport which serves as his enjoyment, his identity, his meditation, his celebration of life. 

I watch Soham intently over the next few days.  During this time, I experience a level of focus which I rarely come across in most people regardless of age, gender or socioeconomic status.  Most people are easily distracted, allowing their monkey mind to dangerously take them from thought to thought, idea to idea, activity to activity with no real direction, purpose or destination. Soham works in a different way. His whole energy, whole being is connected to football. This energy guides him every waking and most likely, sleeping minute of his life.  It’s what wakes him up earlier than the rest of the family each morning to ensure he is ready for training, it’s what ensures the first thought of his day is connected to football as is his last, it’s what gives him the ability to spend his off the pitch hours reading football stories in the paper and watching highlights on television and youtube, it’s what gives him the energy to wake up in the middle of the night to watch Champions League matches regardless of his affinity or connection to the teams playing, and, most importantly, it’s what allows him to read the game in such a way that he can brilliantly weave through players of any age with his accurate passes or with the ball at his feet. Yes, Soham is a mad football genius and I feel blessed to be a part of his life because something always opens up within me whenever I’m around such mad people.

What was most amazing though was watching the entire Varshneya family smoothly operate around Soham’s connection to the sport.  The more I observe life, the more I experience a certain flow which surrounds someone who is closely connected with their life’s calling; it’s as if the entire ecosystem revolves around that individual without any signs of obligation, jealousy or regret. When one is connected to their true calling, if those around that individual are aware, then they will see the benefits of allowing themselves to celebrate and surrender to that flow rather than fight or deny it. I’m quite sensitive to group dynamics and felt so at peace in the Varshneya home because it’s clear that each member of the family has not only surrendered to Soham’s connection to football, but have actually recognized their own individual growth because of it. And now, I can comfortably consider myself a part of the Varshneya family because, similar to the other members, my life has been completely transformed thanks to Soham’s connection to the beautiful game.  




2 comments:

  1. Dear Neel,

    You have written so beautifully. It is an humbling experience to read through your lines...you are a family and you will always be....amen...

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  2. Beautifully written.thank you for such wonderful words. Soham will always be our pride. Love you all

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