Wednesday, August 13, 2014

An Extraordinary 5 Weeks

I’m currently sitting on an Etihad Airlines flight heading from Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi and eventually back home to Delhi.  My five week trip which ended up spreading across seven cities has finally come to a close.  Although it was difficult saying good-bye to my extremely loving family, I must admit that I’m ready to get back to India.  On a personal level, I’m actually missing the simple routine I’ve been able to carve out within the chaos of Delhi life.  And on a professional level, I’m clear that the best way for me to now actually make a difference in India is to actually be in India. 

Over the past few weeks, I’ve met with about fifty organizations all working in various areas of the US sports industry and was a guest at the most successful MLS All-Star Game in the league’s 18 year history.  Every day was a new set of conversations, ideas, insights, stories, experiences, etc… and now I can’t wait to start integrating all of what I’ve gathered along the way into our Asia based projects.

As I’ve said many times before, I feel very blessed to be in the position that I’m currently in – serving as somewhat of an Ambassador for Indian football to the west, primarily to the US soccer community.  And every year, my organization provides me with this extraordinary opportunity to tour across the states sharing the Libero Sports and Indian football growth stories with anyone who will listen. 

What I’ve found over these past years, is that more and more people want to listen and that it’s easier for me to create unique, realistic business opportunities on the spot, a newfound ability which makes me much more confident in conversation than I’ve ever been before.  This is all a result of increased high profile activity within the Indian football industry (ISL, FIFA U-17 World Cup), more organizations looking East as the West is getting saturated and my spending five years solely focused on the Indian sports industry, thus creating a foundation of knowledge which seems to remain within my conscious mind.

Alright, enough commentary, I’ll get to my traditional way of recapping these trips: listing out the Great, the Good & the Not-So-Good:

The Great
  1. Experiencing the MLS All-Star Game in Portland, a city which has quickly turned into one of the best soccer destinations in the country: beautiful stadium in the center of town, passionate supporters, active sponsors, engaged media and a fantastic selection of local beers
  2. Speaking to the MLS interns about my career path from MLS intern to Indian soccer consultant - an experience which I’ll cherish forever
  3. Seeing first-hand the excitement surrounding the FIFA World Cup in the US during quarter-finals, semi-finals and final match viewing parties I attended in New York City
  4. Meeting one of my heroes ex-Everton FC player Tim Cahill and having an enlightening conversation with him about his future, Indian football and his recent experience at the FIFA World Cup  
  5. Spending quality time with my family in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Las Vegas and our home in Orange County, CA

The Good
  1. The openness and excitement everyone I met with had about the “Indian football opportunity”
  2. Meeting with New York City FC and hearing about all of their exciting plans to become the top club in MLS
  3. Watching MLS All-Stars beat FC Bayern Munich in an exciting “friendly” match
  4. Speaking with the NBA team Sacramento Kings and hearing about their interest in investing in India and football
  5. The fact that I literally ate every single food item I dreamed of before making the trip over to the states and the fact that right this moment I don’t crave a single thing

The Not-So-Good
  1. The fact that I am now the heaviest I’ve ever been in my entire life thanks to #5 in “The Good” column
  2. Pep Guardiola’s classlessness in not shaking Caleb Porter’s hand after the MLS All-Star game
  3. The amount of money I spent at the adidas employee store during the MLS All-Star game
  4. Packing my schedule so tight that, at times, I was too exhausted to even speak or think clearly
  5. Knowing that I’m doing the right thing by choosing to live in India even though it means regularly saying good bye to some of the people I love the most in this world

So another trip is in the books and I will certainly hit the ground running once this plane finally lands.  I mean it, I literally need to hit the ground running or all these cheeseburgers, enchiladas and meatball sandwiches will soon be the death of me if I don’t do something quickly.

To be honest, I’m not looking forward to the first few days of being back as I’m typically a jet-lagged, nostalgic mess just surviving each moment until my normal sleep patterns resume and I get back into the groove of my personal and professional life.  It’s during these few days though that my mind usually vacillates between the pros and cons of living in India vs. the US, a mental battle which India always wins no matter how much I miss elements of the states. 

Here are a collection of random pictures from the whirlwind tour of New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, Cabo San Lucas, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Portland:

Finally spent quality time with my family in Cabo San Lucas

With some of my closest friends after our annual party

With Liverpool FC's Chief Commercial Officer Billy Hogan at his office in Boston

Speaking to the MLS interns about my career at the MLS League Office in NYC 
With one of my favorite people in the industry Nelson Rodriguez at his office in Carson, CA

The view of Santa Monica beach from where I sat for most of my LA meetings

My Mother and I with Libero Sports partner Alex Eu and his girlfriend at my parents house

With Leadoff Sports Marketing General Manager Take Nakamura discussing our plans to transform Asian football

With Head of Community for New York City Paul Jeffries at his office in midtown Manhattan

With college friend and Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy 

The adidas activation area in downtown Portland
With Everton FC legend Tim Cahill discussing his incredible goal for Australia during the 2014 FIFA World Cup

The great atmosphere during the MLS All-Star Game in Portland 

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