It all started with one little thought... "Why should boys have all the fun?"
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Last month, a bunch of football enthusiasts at my office decided to have a tournament for the entire floor, and a sprightly girl pal of mine suggested there should be a match for the women too. What at first seemed like a passing thought, quickly turned into a movement. That friend and I pestered, pleaded, then pressurized (when the 1st two tactics didn't work) every girl that passed us by to participate in what would be our firm's first ever all-girls football match.
We couldn't contain our excitement once we had 16 ladies on board, so we gathered in a conference room and worked on the specifics. By what seemed like mutual consent (or probably the reluctance to lead in a sport none had played before), that sprightly friend (let's call her Sweetheart, shall we? She has a similar sounding name, by the way :-P ) and I were declared the captains of the two teams. We split the girls by lottery (because there's no better way to choose when most are your friends, and sensitive), and started discussing the most important aspect of the game - the jerseys! (:-P Hey, you gotta look good and play good! Lorena from The Brothers Garcia taught me that when I was only twelve.)
We were not the only excited people at my department. The men too shared our excitement and volunteered to coach us. Now, coaching a dozen-odd girls who also happen to be first-timers in football is no mean feat! You have to remind them that ballerina-flats can't substitute for sports-shoes, let alone soccer-studs. The training sessions were the most exhilarating moments we had that week (if you exclude the actual match, which was a cracker!). And more so because of the July-rains, which are always heavy. We all had been so apprehensive about playing in the rains. (We could catch a cold or get pneumonia!) But when we started warming up and getting a hang of running in the downpour, we began enjoying it.
The coaches taught us everything-
- how to warm up (the most important thing to do before playing the game, if you don't want your muscles to cry after the match)
- the rules of the game (that included side-kick, goal-kick, penalty shoot-out)
- how to kick the ball (very, very important). Most of us didn't know we'd break our toe if we kicked the way we were kicking... and that we all have a sweet-spot on our stronger-foot that takes the ball farther than any other spot will. Also, the fact that the secret to an accurate kick lies in positioning the weaker (non-kicking) foot towards your goal.
- how to decide our positions (good runners would be mid-fielders, girls with strong and accurate kicks would be the strikers, etc.)
- and even football jargon (that was a typically corporate-thing to do!) like fallback, mark-your-players, carry-the-ball (a cute little lady picked up the ball with her hands and carried it when our coach ordered her to "carry" the ball...LOL)!
Hours after the first practice-session when we sat at our desks in office, the muscle-cramps kicked in. It was a herculean task to walk over to the water-cooler. Even crossing our legs required lifting the thigh with our hands. We were crying out of pain by the time we were home. That's when a random guy snickered "You girls are playing WHAT?! You play like GIRLS indeed!" That did it for us! We had to shut him up! We were gonna work hard and show 'em we had a mean kick!
Practice apart, we had plenty of other interesting things to do- picking jersey-colours, choosing names for our teams and finalizing the logos. Only that kind guy (who volunteered to arrange our jerseys) knows what we put him through! My team's colour had to be something between pink and purple with a hint of maroon. My girls had so many issues with the colour! :-P ("...I'm NOT wearing pink! It is too girly"; "...dark won't look bright at night when we have the match"; "...one of the boys' teams has maroon. We can't have the same colour"; "...the other team has striped sleeves and a V-neck. Round-neck makes me look fat!")
That Friday was the D-day! The match would be after office hours, and we kept telling each other it was just a friendly-match and we shouldn't work ourselves up. But excitement got the better of us and we had to strategize! Word soon got out that both the teams were having strategy-meets after lunch, and the guys offered to share their pearls of wisdom with us. One man even suggested, albeit in jest, we should poison the opposition's striker!
The strategy-meet that I called for my team has been till date, the most invigorating meeting I have ever chaired! I must've taken my captaincy a bit too seriously, because I got an easel-mounted white-board and coloured marker pens to illustrate our game-plan to the entire team (and two men who played managers) seated around the conference-table. It was so much fun drawing the football field and putting crosses for every player. We had carefully decided our rotating positions for the 6-a-side match. The aim was to keep our forwards fresh throughout the game and at the same time, maintain a strong defence. For the 20-minute game, we would play offensive (5 minutes- to try and score a goal early in the game so the team's spirits stayed up) - defensive (next 10 minutes - to keep the other team from scoring a goal) - offensive (last 5 minutes - to manage an emergency-goal at the last moment in case we slipped up). The rotation-plan was fantastic as it ensured all our players played for the maximum time possible and we used every girl's potential to the hilt. We even had a provision to handle (God forbid) injured players. We were not going to tackle, as we still had sisterly-affection for the other team and couldn't make anyone cry.
Locker Room Conversation (random phrases in random order, to lighten the tone of this post):-
"Does my ass look fat in this?" (This never gets old! :-P)
"Are these shorts too short?"
"Honey, those aren't shorts. Those are hot-pants!"
"My socks won't come up."
"Yeah. We're all wearing ankle-length socks. No wonder, we can't wear shin-guards! (prerequisite for tackling)"
"We'd better win this match. I paid 4 grands for these shoes even after a 50% discount!"
"I too had to shop for socks." (And you still managed ankle-length! :-P)
"Quick! We're getting late!"
"Sure. Just let me wear my lipstick."
"It'll be dark in the evening. The colour won't be visible! And anyway, it's raining."
"Oh, shit! Let me remove my eye-liner. I'll have black lines running down my face otherwise."
|Awaiting our turn|
The Captain's Last-minute Checklist:-
- Print out rotation-plan & hand it over to the team-manager - Check
- Get all the players out of the changing rooms and on the way to the venue - Check
- Make everybody warm-up for 15 minutes even if they bicker - Check
- Stop thinking about the salsa-class that you are missing - Check
The final match was like a dream-sequence! The synthetic Astroturf that we played on had cage-netting and overlooked the entire business-park area. It had a beautiful view of the residential buildings and the mountains that lay beyond. We felt like stars running across the floodlit field which also had shock-absorbing rubber-infills. We did not realize when the 20 minutes passed and we emerged victorious. Victorious, not because my fabulous team scored a goal and the strong defense and nimble goalkeeper (I was the GK for the 1st 10 minutes :-D ) managed good saves, but because all the women from both the teams really stunned the men forever. There would be no more snide remarks. Only amazed and proud looks, thanks to the terrific game we played with only 3 practice-sessions spread over a week!
|Posing with the people with deep pockets who made this happen|