I have always seen people associate Indian sports with Cricket. Fun fact: India's National game is Field Hockey. Yep. When I started school at UNC, almost everyone asked me if I played Cricket when they heard I was into sports. I won't lie, I did play inter-collegiate cricket for a year and even now I enjoy watching cricket matches. But nothing could win me over from soccer. Playing soccer relaxes me and elevates my mood. And I like to think I'm good at it.
|Definitely good at kicking balls|
So here we were, a team of twenty-two girls at the tryouts, where in the end sixteen would make it to the national team (which included the core team of eleven and the substitutes). The camp was in Bombay, in June, and as a result the weather was sultry hot and humid. Considering this, seeing the "team quarters" shocked me. It was a big run-down room with paint peeling off the walls, tin sheets for roofs, two ceiling fans hanging from iron beams threatening to collapse on you any time, and seven bunk beds between 22 girls. Which meant 11 girls crammed next to each other in a space meant for seven people. There was one bathroom, one sink and one toilet between all of us. Through the cobweb filled gap between the roofs and the side wall, we could hear the boys' team in the neighboring room crack obnoxious jokes and yell playful obscenities at each other. There was an old television, which personally I thought was totally unnecessary and the absence of which would have saved us a lot of arguments over what channel to set. A few of us, who were the older players in the team (and knew the system better than the rest), immediately chose the top bunks so we could at least have the comfort of the ceiling fans. I know this was unfair and we were being bullies, but over the years, I had learned that Darwin's theory plays a very important factor in the Theory of Football Selections too.
The second set of shocks came next morning, when we had our morning workout at 6:30am. We were woken up at 5:30am with knocks on the door of our room. Thanks to the "limited number" of bathrooms and sinks, not all 22 girls could get a chance to brush and finish their morning chores in time, which meant a lot of girls were late for practice and a lot of those who did turn up, hadn't had a chance to brush. To add to our horror, we had a limited supply of hot water, which thankfully wasn't so bad after the workout in the Bombay heat. After the workout, we got breakfast. And if you are thinking milk and cereal or waffles or sandwiches, nope. Breakfast meant two slices of bread with eggs and ketchup. Not even a glass of milk. So what do the strict vegetarians eat? Not the Management's problem. They have ketchup to go with their bread, don't they? Lunch was no better. Rotis, bland daal (lentil soup), rice and a looping preparation of potatoes, cauliflower and lauki (bottle gourd). So basically if you had potatoes for lunch today, you can expect the same for dinner tomorrow.
|Left: What the funds were for; Right: How much of the funds were used|
Why these vegetables? Anyone who grew up in India can tell you that these are the cheapest vegetables that are also the easiest to cook with minimal spices. So where was the calcium and vitamins and so many more nutrients that sportsmen need? -- Again, not their problem. Why do they serve such meager meals? -- To save as much money as possible from the allotted funds to have a little party of their own. Who is 'they'? -- The Management, Sports Committee, Coaches and everyone else involved in the system. Hey at least the rice was unlimited right? Damn right it was, until all of us lost appetite when we saw the cook's sweat dripping in it and someone else found a black curly in their daal which I hope to God was from his beard!
|Our cook: Picture this guy, with a sweaty face and no hat|
|And with a lot of potential!|