A Letter To Didier Drogba

Dear Didier

A memorable journey has come to an end. Rationally, it is the right decision for you and the club. We all need to move forward and we will. However, there is a time for making sense out of this. Football is not all about cold logic and pragmatism. It is also about unexplainable passion, unexpected magic and sheer will. It is a game full of emotions, and you more than anybody else embodied that. It is impossible for any Chelsea fan to set their emotions aside when he thinks about you. You have frustrated me, perplexed me, amazed me, enthused me, made me laugh, made me cry, lifted up my spirits and you have topped it all by giving me one of the greatest moments in my life. And I have not even seen you in flesh and blood. I am not writing this as a tribute to you. This effort is a very selfish desire to trace back my association with you and document it. I do not ever want to forget you. This is so that I do not miss you after my visual memory has faded.

In July 2004, when I heard reports that Chelsea were to sign a strong physical African striker I could not understand the logic. I believed Gud and Crespo were perfectly good first choice pair up-front. One had superior ball control and technique and other was a thorough-bred goal scorer. I wondered why we were spending £24 million on another striker. After watching you play, I was adamant that Crespo should be first choice. You were physical, went in hard and never shied from confrontations. Crespo was a classical goal-scorer and Gud had the finesse. Eye-pleasing is what I wanted. You however did not bother about what pleased the eye. You did what the gaffer told you. You ran yourself to ground, threw your body to latch on to every long ball and unselfishly laid off headers for Duff and Robben. That was a time when teams still used to play 2 strikers. You played alone and ensured that defenders noticed you. For most of the 90 minutes you did not look for goals, but looked to make yourself a menace to both the opposition centre-halves. An ignorant fool that I was, I found it frustrating. I loved the mazy runs of Robben, the trickery of Duff and the fine goals of Lampard. I did not realize then that none of these players would have had space afforded to them had you not been there. You drew the centre-halves. You created the space. You made them so weary that they lost focus. You, with others won our first Premier League title in a long long time. I did not realize all of this till that outstanding game at Anfield. That game represented everything about you. You were involved in all four goals and scored none. You gave Hyypia and Carragher a nightmare. You displayed pace, power and trickery in equal measure. That to me still remains your finest performance. When things did not go so well for us in the next two seasons, there were times when I felt you should be moved on. I felt that our physical style was not working. That we need to be more refined to win the league against a free-flowing Manchester United side. But soon enough you proved me wrong again. By 2007 you had developed into a heady combination of a beast with the ability for the delicate. Your touch was magnificent and your ability to hold of defenders and turn with the ball was unmatched in the footballing world. Not to mention those powerful swirling shots that confounded Howard, Reina, Lehmann and many other goalkeepers. With Robben and Duff long gone, you had reinvented yourself to suit the forward lines. There were no pacy wide men to latch on to your headers, so you started taking the balls on your chest a lot more. After a forgettable time with LFS, you were in the mix in that memorable semi-final against Barcelona. You missed fair number of chances but you said what every Chelsea fan wanted to say. You had the guts. Once Sheva had left there was no real competition for you. You had a fair number of forgettable performances but you came good in big games. You would not have a meaningful touch for long periods then you would conjure a goal out of nothing. Competition has always brought the best out of you. We won the double under Carlo. This season you have been instrumental in giving us what we have been thirsting for ages. At 34 you ran your socks against Barcelona. You played an auxiliary left-back when the team needed that. You chased the ball knowing that you will not intercept it, but purely because not chasing would give the opposition time to put a telling pass. You slid, tackled, blocked shots and helped out the defence in set pieces. And they call you a prima-donna. Your last kick for Chelsea FC won us the Champion League – the biggest trophy in club football. You deserved it as much as anyone else. It is really a great source of satisfaction for me that you have Champions League medal.

That was the football; but what you meant for us Chelsea fans of this era, goes much beyond football. You are responsible for creating our identity. An identity not based on pleasing the world, but being resilient and believing in ourselves. In my early years as a fan, I strived for validation from opposition fans and pundits in the media. They were never forthcoming. You were routinely slated for diving and play-acting. You were called a powerful beast. Your excellent technique was rarely mentioned let alone appreciated. Eventually I realized that it is not what others think about the players from my club, it is what we fans think of our players. You have taken a physical battering beyond human limits. You have not cared what others think of you. You spoke for all fans on that fateful night on May 2009. When it mattered you have done what it takes for this club; and that is the very essence of Chelsea Football Club of this era – Doing what it takes. I no longer need to read a random pundit’s glowing tribute to make me feel good that Didier Drogba was a part of Chelsea FC. I no longer need rival fans to tell me that they wish you played for their club. I do not care if you do not make it to Fantasy teams. You have reached the pinnacle as a Chelsea player in my eyes. I recognize your frailties and your strengths. I recognize your ability to stand up and carry the team in one moment and be utterly childish in another. However,  I feel privileged that you have been a part of Chelsea FC for so long. You, Frank Lampard, John Terry and Petr Cech have been the backbone of this club for the last 8 years. All the trophies that we have won, we owe it to you four. You are the first to move on. Every second that you have spent in the Chelsea jersey is much appreciated. You have the love and respect of all Chelsea fans. You will never be missed by us because you would never have left our memories.

I wish you all the joy in life, success for your foundation and pray that your country and continent becomes a peaceful place.


Up the Chels!


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By Vinod Iyer

So another World Cup has been completed. Unlike the last World Cup, no one has an iota of doubt on the worthiness of Espana as Football World Champions. That the Bengalis would be surprised to see Europeans showcasing more skill than the Brazilians is a different issue. The World Cup threw many surprises and some expected results. The Spanish played like Brazilians, the Brazilians played like Germans, the Germans played like the Dutch, the Dutch played like the English and the English played their National Cricket Team. And that brings us to the English Football Team. The English press love dissecting their National team. They will tell you that Gerrard was not played in his favored position, Lampard is not really World Class, Terry is too slow, Barry is useless, Heskey is too immobile and what not. While some statements are justified, most are not. The pundits have peeves with certain players and given an opportune moment they prefer getting on the backs of their peeves than digging deep into what really the problem is.

The problem with England has always been the Management with a shadow of doubt – in this case, Mr. Fabio Capello.


A manager, not just in football, is expected to maximise the result with the resources available. Resources are generally limited and therefore complicates a managers life. This is why critical decisions must be taken with great care. With the resources Capello had maybe the R16 was the best possible result. That cannot not however overshadow the systemic failures in the English squad.

To understand what Capello missed out, I would like to illustrate two coaches who made the best out of their resources – Bert van Marwijk (Holland) and Joachim Low (Germany). The Dutch team in 2010 is unlike any Dutch team of earlier times. The first choice defence in the World Cup consisted of a young talented Right Back, 2 decent Centre Halves and an aging left back. There were however excellent attacking options in van Persie, van der Vaart, Sjneider and Robben. Notwithstanding Robben’s suspect fitness, attack seemed like the way forward. Get the goals in and do not worry about conceding the odd goal. van Marwijk, though had other plans. An attacking mentality would have got the Dutch into the Knock-outs, but surely they would have struggled to push on further. Instead of planning the team around the forward line van Marwijk planned his team around the two holding midfielders, de Jong and van Bommel. What’s more, when not in possession they defended as a unit.


Low had a different problem – that of occurrence of event(s) on which he had no control over. Unexpected events can make or break a manager. It challenges the ability to be patient, clear-headed, creative and bold. The key World Cup qualification games saw Germany play with three central midfielders with Rolfes and Schweinsteiger in defensive roles with Ballack pulling the strings in attack. Up front we saw one striker and two slightly wide forwards. The wide men did not really float a lot. Ballack was fairly important in getting goals and he ended up as their third highest goal scorer in qualifiers behind Klose and Podolski. It was a real blow to Germany when both Ballack and Rolfes were injured for the World Cup. The Ballack injury was more damning as Ballack had been the general for almost 6 years and more importantly, the injury happened just a month before the World Cup. Low would have been forgiven even if Germany had huffed and puffed to the Quarter Finals. Instead, Low displayed courage, intelligence and imagination that made Germany one of the most attractive and strong team in the World Cup. He did away with 3-man midfield, strict flanking positions and the linking man in the midfield. Instead what we saw was a striker, a fluid 3-man attack and 2 holding midfielders. The novelty of the system was the freedom given to the 3 forwards. They gleefully interchanged postions or ran into free spaces. What the German fans saw was unprecedented and it was all down to the vision of the manager.

In both the cases, there was very clear understanding of the resources in hand. This was Capello’s biggest weakness. Even after two full years in charge Capello did not seem to have any understanding of his players. By April he should have been clear about the pecking order in goal, defence, midfield and attack. Instead, he grappled till the last moment to decide the final 23. Unlike Germany, he did not have any surprise injuries. He should have decided the final 23 well in advance and focused on training them. The friendlies should ideally be used as a mechanism to improve on-field coordination and fitness. Instead, the friendlies were almost turned into a pantomime to prove competency. By the time the third game of the World Cup was completed, it was patently clear that Capello had no clue about his best line-up, formation or tactics. His first flaw was to define the system without gauging player ability. In the first game England lined up as a 4-4-2 with Milner and Lennon on the flanks. He started 2 players who were not completely fit. You take one gamble at a time. Capello took two clear gambles and it blew on his face. Both King and Milner were out before the first half ended. Although England had scored early, Capello conceded tactical advantage to his opponent by have to make 2 forced substitutions. The second game again saw England line up in a 4-4-2 with Gerrard on the left. Gerrard’s positional indiscipline meant that either Lampard or Barry had to cover for him and that greatly diluted the influence of the central midfield in build-up play. By this time it should have been crystal clear that there is a systemic flaw in the strategy. The simple question to ask in such a situation would have been ‘What are my team’s strengths?’ Surprisingly, there are multiple answers ‘2 pacy and energetic full-backs, midfielder adept at keeping the game ticking, a passionate and energetic attacking midfielder’. With 2 fast full-backs, Capello could have afforded a narrow formation. Sadly, Capello was a victim to his earlier decisions. Any change in the formation would mean that he was wrong all along. The John Terry press conference probably made him more rigid and defensive than open and welcoming. Wingers were never the strength and yet Capello persisted with a system that gave them the responsibility of creating goals. He did not show the understanding of van Marwijk or the imagination of Low. Instead he focused on following a poorly thought and extremely sub-optimal system.


There is no questioning Capello’s credentials as Club coach. However, the national coach has different challenges to which Capello did not adapt. His starting point was formation and from there-on it was a painful path to inefficiency. Capello is known to be a strict disciplinarian. Sadly, the discipline in training was never reflected on the pitch. One of the glaring gaps in the English team was the lack of role-definition. The positions were defined, but the roles were not. It was almost as if the English players were expected to improvise. You cannot expect players to improvise when you do not have a stable system in place. We know that Capello will be the English manager till the Euros. The first thing he needs to do is treat the team like that of a mid-table club. Retain the ambition but understand that the team is working with a handicap there is need for strict discipline on the pitch. The next step would be to define roles. Pick a player or two (Ideally two central midfielders) whose position will indicate the aggression of the team. It is very critical that these two players are disciplined, intelligent and aware. The rest of the team can be built around these two players. Once Capello has the shape in mind, he needs to pick his players – not a month before the Euros, but now. He needs to decide who will be too old for the Euros, who has a poor injury record and who blows hot-and-cold too often. There are just too many decisions to be made for a manager who has neither taken stock of the resources in hand nor completely understood the gravity of the situation. The only way forward is to start from Zero.


Calcutta – A Photo Blog

Calcutta visit during the first week of July 2010. Was able to manage some good snaps.

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Banks of the Ganges

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The Fallen Ego

Haven’t been able to get a good connection to upload the Varanasi snaps. Hopefully I can do it tomorrow.

This is a song I wrote about a couple of years back. Hoping I will be able to write music for it sometime in my life.


By Vinod Iyer

Deep into the depths of loneliness

He walks on an untread path

A sequestered mortal that he is

He will not enliven his dreaded past

He was the Emperor of the Universe

A world that was meant to be his

Every soul was a slave to his needs

And so was he

A slave to himself

“Who lives believing he can destroy me?

Which God would dare take my life?

And you lesser mortals down there

I let you live for all the time you live before you die”

Blood was the flavour of conquest

Terror killed those who dared despise

Every cadaver smelt the reek of supremacy

No one could rule while he was alive

Came to the kingdom then a prophet

“Beyond the seas, that is where I am from

Oh you ignorant fool sitting there on the throne

Believe me, your day will come”

The emperor scoffed at the prophet

“I will rule not just yonder

I will go beyond the seas

I will rule the depths of ocean

I will rule the genesis of thunder”

The Emperor took to the sea

The sea gulls shrieked, the dolphins fled

Many suns and moons passed

The Emperor sneered

“I rule everything that lives, the rest is dead”

Then rose a virgin sun, Brilliant rays of hope

In the saffron of dawn shone new sails of power

In sight stood a potent force Kraken led

The Emperor drew his Steele to his men

“We will fight till infinity, but depart we will never”

The war drums shredded the heavens apart

The electric collision of power began

His Steele cried for more blood

An eternal craving

Could it ever be quenched?

And then flew a black sea gull

There in front of the Emperor’s eyes

A fleeting moment in eternity

Against him, God had rolled the dice

The crown fell to the dust

The shield soaked his blood

The Steele lay wrecked

The Emperor broke down

Lifeless but undead

The new sun vapourised his blood

The victor stood with his weapon between the fallen eyes

Pleading for clemency from a fellow human

The beggar remembered the words of the wise

He was the emperor of the universe

Or so he thought

He lay there screaming for his life

He was howling

As they shut the gates of light

Many blue moons had passed

when he opened his eyes

Every dawn he began a new life

Every dusk he died


Lanes and By Lanes

So there I stood outside the airport under the bright blue sky with the heat radiating from every possible direction. Unlike some of god’s blessed children I had no one holding placards for me outside the airport. So I had to make do with a taxi. Whenever I go to a new town, I have this fear of getting ripped by the auto-rickshaw and taxi fellows. Yes, experiences in Madras (Chennai) have left deep incurable scars in my mind. So, I went to the pre-paid taxi counter.

I was told by the Hotel receptionist that the fare would probably be close to Rs.550 for an A/c cab and Rs. 450 for a non a/c. The guy at the counter put forward a fare of Rs. 700 for a/c and Rs.550 for non A/c. Not having much of a choice I settled for the non a/c taxi.

I asked the guy at the counter “Sirji, taxi kahan hai?”

He replied “Ek minute, mere saath chaliye”

He got off the seat and started to lead me towards the taxi. This guy was the taxi driver. Woh, maybe I unwittingly did get ripped off. Given my strong preference for ignorance over sad truths I decided against cross verifying the fare with the hotel guys.

There isn’t much that I remember of the ride to the hotel except the odd cows, lots of wall adverts of Jaypee Cement and the innumerable sweet shops. And oh, there was this guy on the street holding a rifle like an innocent cane. So casual that it was surreal.

First two days I was put up on company accommodation at Hotel Pradeep at Jagatganj. Decent for a 2-star business hotel. The layout and the rooms are quite business hotel like. Well furnished with split a/cs. The staff though is an eye-sore. They wear clothes which would fit an obese American. Given that none of the staff weigh more than the average American teenager, their clothes are at least 4 sizes too big. Thus the shirt ends up looking like a kurta, except that it is not a kurta. I quite do not get it. Why spend crores on hotel infrastructure and not spend some 20,000 bucks on well-dressed staff. The staff is a factor in the overall experience. A learning here for me, I guess. That said the staff were extremely helpful and prompt. To sum it up, I would not really recommend it as it does not seem worth the Rs. 2200 it charges (I am not factoring the staff’s outfits here) and also it is far from every key spot in the city. I am sure they took pains to zero in on the location.

For the first two days, it was all work for me. My work took me to the suburbs and the commercial areas of the city. It is said that Benares is a city of lanes (gulliyon ka sehar). The lanes are really small and the cows everywhere make the lanes seem smaller than what they actually are. The auto-rickshawallahs though, like to take this as a challenge. They make the autos twist and turn with almost a telepathic control over the machine. If required, they even boss the cows out of their way. Some talent!

Varanasi is made of the Old City and the New Town. The Old City is made up of the ghats (steps) on the banks of River Ganga. It is very easy to get lost and very difficult locate anything here.  Varanasi, from what I hear, is an ironical blend of the holy and the unholy. Kashi Vishwanath, one of the holiest Hindu shrines is located here. People come to die in the Old City to die. So much so that they refuse to go to the Benares Government Hospital as it is considered to be outside Kashi. At the same time, prostitution is rampant in the city. Also, the sanyasis in the Old City are notorious for harassing tourists for money. Thankfully, I managed to ignore the few who came my way.

One of the guys here said something interesting which summarizes in one line the essence of the Old City – “Raand, Saand, Seedi, Sanyasi; Isse bacche tho Seva Kaasi”. Translated it supposedly means “Prostitutes, Bulls, Steps, Ascetics; Escape from them, you will achieve salvation at Kashi”

Next, I intend to put up a photo-blog of this unique and glorious city. I type this with half an eye at the calm Ganga in all her magnificence. Peace!


What’s that smell?

I have always had the travel bug inside me which was perennially irritated when I was at home. So when I learnt that my new job requires me to travel to atleast 2 cities every month, I was a bit excited. Excited because it meant getting to see new places, ‘a bit’ because it is work after all. So there is an objective which cannot (and will not) be compromised. But thankfully, there is a way I can have the cake and eat it too. These visits almost always happen on Thursday and Friday. So I can just as easily take my return flight on Sunday and go ghooming from Friday evening to Sunday morning. My first trip brought me to Varanasi.

Flights from Mumbai to Varanasi have weird timings. All flights land in Varanasi between 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM. So given the fact that Indian airports are almost always intelligently located miles away from the city, a whole day is wasted. What’s even more weird is that there is a direct flight from Varanasi to Mumbai , but evidently none in the opposite direction. My flight was a Spice Jet 4 and 1/2 hrs flight with a Delhi stop-over.

Long flight, yes, but it gave me an opportunity to see how certain people behave. I do not mind people shouting in the flights. It is a personality disorder. Maybe, even I must have indulged in it while travelling with my friends. However, what appalled me was the manner in which people utterly disregarded safety instructions in the flight. For whatever reasons, mobile phones are supposed to be switched off while flying (or atleast in ‘flight mode’). However, there was this moron who was talking loudly as the flight was taking off on the runway. What’s more, my neighbour took a call as the flight was landing at Varanasi runway. Obviously, he never switched off his phone or even put it in flight mode. People! Sigh.

So the flight finally reached the UP Cow Belt. The flight journey did not seem that long as I got time to catch a movie (LA Confidential). Since it is raining in Mumbai, I expected the same in Varanasi. Me, not having done my homework AND wanting to be well-prepared for the trip, carried an umbrella with me. Only when I got down at Varanasi I realised that monsoon was yet to hit these parts of the country and the place was a baking at 43°C. Clearly, my umbrella was redundant. I walked on to the arrival lounge. I was in for a shock. All my senses were rudely awakened. First was my eye-sight. When you get into the arrival lounge of an airport you expect clean ceramic tiles, nicely painted walls, space, air and LIGHT. At Varanasi airport lounge, all I could see was Human beings. The lounge is a small pathetic room which would have struggled to pull-off as a Railway station waiting room. There was barely any light and it was crowded with everyone looking for luggage on the sole conveyor belt. Given the fact that it was crowded, everyone was shouting and the very interesting acoustic system meant that my ears were in for a treat. But both these senses (visual and aural) were completely overshadowed my the third sense – nasal. The lounge, if I can call it that, had this overbearing pungent smell. It was unreal. To me it was a blend of the smells at Kurla railway terminus, Mohammad Ali Road and Dhobhi Talao. I felt choked for fresh air. Maybe this is how it felt when Borat was under Azamat.

As I looked towards the conveyor belt, the indicator said Indian Express and therefore I waited. After I while I realised that the Spice Jet luggage was coming in though the indicator still said Indian Express. Aaaaaaarrrrrggghhhh. After waiting endlessly I got my luggage and went out. The Spice Jet personnel were checking everyone’s luggage tags and tags on their tickets. Very sensible, I must say. While it causes major inconvenience, I sure it prevents a lot of theft in the small crowded room they like to call the arrival lounge.

Ok, I gotta rush now for work. Today after work, my micro vacation starts. Kashi Vishwanath temple and Ganga Aarthi on the agenda today 🙂