Friday, July 21, 2006

'Angels With Broken Wings'

This summer, thanks to my great mum, I got an opportunity to volunteer for this extremely special summer camp organized by SFS (Special Families Support), a support organization for the less fortunate special children and their families. Before I get started, let me list out a few 'characters' that are vital for this post. Gulshan Kavarana - the founder of SFS, who to me is Gulshan aunty - the coolest aunty ever, with the biggest possible heart & Deepa - the organiser of the summer camp – who is very sweet and really hard-working.

My first day of the camp itself, was very enlightening. Gulshan aunty asked us, the volunteers, "Why are you here?" My confidence self, confidently uttered "We are here to help these special kids." "What rubbish!", was the reply, "These kids don't need your help, they can handle themselves." She told us that we were here to merely accompany them and to a certain extent, support them. We were there to be their friends, and to see them as our friends, and to bring smiles to their faces, and provide them and their parents an escape from the difficult world they live in. As it turns out, I love doing exactly that, so my enthusiasm levels have been very high for the past month, especially when I am with them. And quite obviously, I thoroughly enjoyed everyday of the summer camp, and am still enjoying every day - as the camp is still not over.

As days went by at the camp, Gulshan aunty found out (I think through me) that I could make 'stupid IT presentations'. So she asked me come over to her place and make a special presentation for her younger daughter, Zaara, her 'angel with broken wings'. I agreed to do it because I wanted to do it. I reached her place at noon and immediately got to work. I asked her, "Aunty, what's the objective of this video?" She said that, thorugh this video, she wanted to portray the beauty of her daughter, Zaara, and go beyond what most people saw in her - her disability. She wanted to delineate the fact that Zaara was a miracle, a gift from heaven, that she was their love. After that, the video almost sidetracked. I was keener on knowing what aunty and her family had been through and how Zaara had changed their lives, for the better. Gulshan aunty told me that Zaara taught them 'unconditional love'. She had taught them to see people for what they are, and not merely as they appear. Gulshan aunty said that Zaara helped her burst out of the cocoon that most of us are still enclosed in, the cocoon that family is everything. Zaara helped aunty to reach out to other people and other special families that were going through similar ups and downs. Thus, she instigated SFS - Special Families Support, an organization to bring together and support those familes that were a little less fortunate. 7 years of functioning, this organization has definitely changed and affected many people's life. Gulshan aunty continued that now, she is addicted to this organization. She just has to be around these kids, for they sustain her, and teach her values and lessons that no one else can. She told me that she loved being around the kids because they saw you for what you are, and not as what you appear (tall, thin, fat and so on) and told me that it's a pity that we can't see them like they see us. It's a pity that some of us cannot see them for what they are, humans with heart, soul, and love, love that oozes out because they have so much of it.

The video I eventually made was decent, but the experience I had with Gulshan aunty and her family overshadowed the video. It shattered my previously narrow-minded approach. It opened new horizons, and gateways of thought that I needed to dive into. As I absorbed every word that aunty told me, I actually learnt acceptance.

This summer camp has made my summer complete in its own way. Previously, I had never done anything like this, so I did not know what to expect. This camp took me by storm, for what I have learnt from this experience is boundless. It has opened my narrow mind to dimensions of thought that I would have never had. Adding to that, the pure satisfaction that I get from seeing smiles on their faces, and the joy that small things can bring them, is priceless. However idealistic and fake this sounds, I get satisfaction from their satisfaction, and that is the satisfaction and the joy that is priceless. This camp has made me realize that social work is necessary not only for the 'hours' that are required for your University Application, but for the learning experience that no other service can cater. I want to stay affiliated to SFS because the work done here is genuine and heartfelt. Nothing is forced, and we (as I can proudly say as now I am a part of this group) do things, because we want to do them. Thanks to Gulshan aunty for starting this organization and to Deepa for wonderfully organising this summer camp.

P.S. - This is not a corporate article typed to uphold and/or advertise SFS.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

No Way Zidane, No Way!

How? How can a two-time world player of the year do something like that? How can this well-revered man, this calm-collected magician do that? 15 years of reputation-building hard work has crumbled away, in one moment of sheer stupidity and arrogance. Zizu, no sorry, Zidane (I cannot call him by his nickname anymore - he is no longer affable) was the least likely player to do something like that. Okay fine, if a hot-head like Rooney went and did something like that, it's understandable, but a man of such stature and repute to go and head butt an opponent- it's literally unbelievable. It highlights how one moment of sheer frustration and arrogance can almost destroy a career. It's shocking, and for me, extremely disappointing. It saddened me to see the Les Bleus' maestro walk off into the tunnel after that farcical and unnecessary action. I have no sympathy for him, but the sheer shock of such an act as eluded me, eluded everything, even the Italian victory (no offence to any Italian supporter).

Apart from that, the final of the World Cup finals was decent, better than the finals of the recent past. There was enough controversy and a penalty shoot-out always promises an exciting night. The French penalty was, according to me (and most others) not a penalty. The ex-great Zidane executed the penalty with a tinge of over-confidence and haughtiness, and then what saved him was well, luck. Otherwise the contest was pretty even. Italy some what dominated the first half, which was exceptional. The French kind off dominated the second half of the second half, and a bit of the extra time. Much of the latter part of the match was stale, apart from some head butting incidences. Anyway, Italy seems to deserve this victory, at least definitely over France. Italy have played good football. All credit to them for this historic win.

We have come to the end of another world cup. The 64 matches have just flown by, and I can't believe that this mega event has actually concluded. Apart from the opening ceremony, the closing ceremony and the Brazil disappointment, Germany 2006 has been fantastic. Some of the greatest world cup goals ever, created in some of the best stadiums in the world, in a tournament that highlighted globalization, the fraternity of men (at least off the field) and the rise of female football-lovers, this world cup has met, and in some cases exceeded all expectations. And that is always good. Isn't it?

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Brazil Out. Deservedly.

July 1st, 2006 - World Cup Quarterfinals: Brazil crash out, against a decent, Zizu-fuelled, France.

Frankly, Brazil played quite crap. Why? Because well 'it wasn't their day' - as most would say it, but no, it’s not that, it is because they just did not gel, and have not been really gelling through out the World Cup. Right from the start, Brazil weren't really tested with a strong opposition, an opposition that had a mighty midfield, or a classy defense. Mediocre teams like Australia, Croatia, Ghana and Japan, cannot really be called tests. France was the first real test for the Brazilians, and they stumbled, because, according to me, of social pressure. No, no, don't jump to conclusions; the loss wasn't because of social pressure on the players, but rather on their un-inspiring coach Carlos Alberto Parreira.

Now this is my theory. Read carefully. The wing backs are the most crucial players in building an attack, because they give width and pace to the side. Observe any great team of the recent ages, as in teams that play breath-taking football, at breath-taking pace, like Barcelona and Arsenal, the Champions League finalists for the season 2005-06. For Barcelona, the likes of Van Bronkhorst, Belleti and Oleguer, and for Arsenal, Ashley Cole, Lauren and Eboue have successfully taken on the wing-back positions. They offered pace, and most importantly vital options for the holding, and creative midfielders. With the ability to run at their opponents and float in dangerous balls, these wingers were responsible for most of the major attacks of their teams. Take for instance; during Arsenal's prime era (the unbeaten 49 game streak) Lauren and Ashley Cole made devastating over-lapping runs to crack open the opponents’ defense. Beautiful combination play involving Henry, Pires and Ashley Cole on the left flank is considered one of the most devastating and successful partnerships in the history of the English game. So, regarding flank play, did you see Brazil? Cafu was simply pathetic and uninspired. Roberto Carlos showed ineffective passion. Cafu spoiled the game numerous times with his slow, old feet and lethargic touches. Roberto Carlos blasted the ball aimlessly all over the pitch. No pace, no overlapping, no real support was provided by these wing-backs to the rest of the team.The other mistake that Mr. Parreira made was the inclusion of Juninho. Yes he is a good free-kick taker, but what you needed, Parreira, is an attacker, someone like Adriano. All Parreira-favourite Adriano needed was some patience from his coach. Also it took the Brazilian coach almost 80 minutes to get on the electric and youthful Robinho.

Now if I was the coach of Brazil:

  1. I would never start with Cafu as the right-back. 36 years old, and worn out, Cafu was, according to me, not the ideal choice for the most stamina-requiring position. It took Parreira 340 minutes of football time to realize this, and then he brought in Cicinho for the last twenty minutes of what would be Brazil's final match in their 2006 World Cup Campaign. I would have started with Cicinho.
  2. I would have given Roberto Carlos 2 games to prove his worth. But after seeing the potential in the substitute left-back Gilberto, I would have put him in instead. What these wing-back positions require is not experience, but youthful exuberance and hard-core pace. A 36 year-old right-back and a 33 year-old left-back definitely don't meet those parameters. Experience is required in positions like centre-back and the defensive-midfield, which was provided through the likes of Giberto Silva, Ze Roberto, Lucio and the brilliant Juan. In addition to that, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho provided enough 'experience' and skill in attack.
  3. Emerson would have been my Captain.
  4. Ronalidinho would have been made to play a little deeper and would have been allowed to be selfish with the ball. He is by far the best dribbler in the world, so why the hell do you want to prevent him from doing what he is best at - dribbling. In this World Cup, he looked more desperate to weave chipped-through balls and roam around aimlessly. I say, let him do what he is best at, and what he has proved with Barcelona all season long. I would have put him on the left-flank and let him dominate it completely and let the likes of Kaka, Ronaldo and Adriano drift in midfield and attack.

Anyway all these ‘would haves’ would hold some reverence only if I was coach of Brazil, which I am not, and I will probably never be in the course of my entire life. The Brazil loss was more frustrating than depressing. Lack-lustre, totally unBrazilian-like Brazil failed to even have one threatening shot on target. Parreira played his cards wrong. To be fair to him, how could he remove a household name like Cafu from the team? But then that's what separates ex-Brazilian Coach Scolari from him. Scolari refused to include the oldie Romario in the 2002 Brazilian World Cup squad despite huge public requests. If Parreira had been a little discerning, he would have observed that Cafu by no means had a good season with AC Milan and was growing terribly old. Also Parreira could have been a little more thorough in picking his starting 11 for the World Cup. The match against Japan, was clearly Brazil's best performance. Cicinho and Juan took centre stage then and provided another dimension to the Brazilian attack, through the wings. Didn't Parreira get that?

On the other hand, Zidane put on a master-class performance in frankly, quite a dull game. Apart from his 3 goals in the World Cup, Henry continued to struggle in a totally uncharacteristic performance by him. Defensively the game was beautiful, but then defense is not Joga Bonito, is it?

All in all, there are no excuses for Brazil's loss. They are to blame. I am a Brazilian fan and I feel that Brazil did not deserve to proceed, but hell, I wanted them too. I am heart-broken, and this heart-ache won’t allow me to support any other team for the remaining portion of the World Cup. So, good luck to France, Portugal (who could only scrape past England on penalties), Italy and Germany. Let's hope that the semi-finals and finals of this World Cup will be more exciting than the quarters.