Let’s Football ….Finally!

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I have been a football fan, growing up with a brother who played the game and was really good at it, in fact he still plays. We used to watch matches and never missed the world cups matches over the years. I was a fan of Jurgen Klinsmann, Ruud Gullit and Paul Gascoigne; moving over the years to watch Messi and Mbappe play. Now I have sons who love the game however I never considered myself playing it no matter at what level!

You have to know the background of my tryst with knee injury to really understand why this game was special to me.

Knee brings some humour

I had a fall in 2017 that caused a major injury on my knee. My husband Capt. Rajesh Todiwan was onboard at that time and he connected on a video call the same evening. He didn’t show his fear or concern but I could read his expressions and see it in his eyes how worried he was and how helpless he felt. After asking me what had happened he said, “Tum sab jagah apni tang adati ho nah, isliye yeh hua.” (You poke your nose everywhere that’s why it happened, in Hindi we use leg instead of the nose bit). I gave him one dirty look then but have been smiling thinking of that. He asked me to get a second opinion also check with doctor friends. Above all be strong and follow the doctor’s advice. He kept checking on me every single day to ensure that all was fine.

Where can the sons be left behind? They cried so much when I fell down, the younger one kept saying that I was the best mom in the world as if someone would listen to that and not punish one good mother. I continue to feel nice about that innocent expression. The elder one who was into football(even then), the moment he saw my report that showed ACL tear; quipped,” Mumma so many footballers have got that injury Kurt Zouma, Ruud Van even Neymar Jr. had got many leg injuries. I felt as if he took pride in my achievements! I come in the league of such greats or GOAT as we have learnt to call some. So what if the fall was inside the house and not on a football field, it’s the spirit that matters after all! Nothing should’ve stopped me feeling the GOAT!

The 50/ 50 Game

The people who are close to me, know me well kept saying that I wouldn’t require a surgery. The ones who use more logic and referring to case studies told me that surgery would be a good idea. I listened to all but wanted a validation of what I felt from a doctor and Dr. Mahesh Maheshwari did that for me. I was grateful to everyone for their concern, love and all the caring.

Fast forward to 2023

Guess what? I was playing a match and not just any but a football!

I got a call from a friend Archana Gupta, a fellow shippie wife. She wanted to reconfirm with me if my husband was a Master or a Chief Engineer. The conversation we had:

Archana: Hi! How are you? Wanted to know if your husband is a Capt. or a Chief Engineer?

Me: He is a sailing Master so from the deck side.

Archana:Thank God

Me: Thinking (If my hubby was a Capt. What was there to thank God! especially by her).

Archana: You know we have CMMI’s Football Tournament

Me: (Cutting her short) hubby is sailing so he can’t play.

Archana:It’snot for him but you.

Me: Me??? ….Really me!

I have played volleyball and some cricket but not football. She said I’d complete the ladies team; now she was talking to someone who is an advocate of gender equity and the Founder of Indian Women in Hospitality, How Could I say no to it? My answer was a yes… not a very affirmative one though as I know my left knee is a bit sensitive. But then I am not the person who’ll let go of first experiences.

While speaking to my husband on a video call (he is sailing at the moment); I told him that I’d be playing football to which he looked surprised and a bit concerned telling me to remember that I had an injury and that I should be careful. I assured him I shall be careful and not to worry about me. When I reached home told my son that I’d be playing in a football match he started telling me how I must protect myself from any injuries. I was like I support these men and they were discouraging me; but on a deeper level I could feel their love and care. My younger one was more encouraging saying that his mom was the best and that she’d do well. In laws were very happy saying that I made them proud always and so did my parents. As you see it’s the parents who go all out to support, spouse shows love and concern; for children their mother is the world to them and she has to be fit and fine- are the lessons this episode leaves with me.

The Team – MSC Legends

I was a part of the team called the ‘MSC Legends’  from the shipping giant MSC. We had three practice sessions before the match on 12 February 2023. The first session was on 4th February and we all reached the Nerul Gymkhana Turf. Some ladies of my team were already there along with two coaches from  The Learnyard – A multi sporting academy. It was wonderful meeting Archana Gupta, Poonam Bhargava, Ruby William, Namrata Noelle, Roopika Shrivastava and Payal Bhalla (the last member Aarti Gupta was to join later). The first experience was superb as we say ‘Moments of Truth’ in the hospitality industry. We had Patricia from MSC who was there to meet the team, she gave us all goodie bags and compliments from Capt. Bhasin. She also got us refreshments. The hospitality trainer in me was more than delighted. I understand the impact of personalization goes a long way and personal touch points are winners always! Capt. Bhasin and Capt. Pradhan achieved this effortlessly; of course, I also understand that the things that look easy and natural have a lot that goes into them.

We had a very engaging and fun first session; our coaches Kalpesh Waikar and Prajwal Kotian from  The Learnyard  were extremely good. They patiently taught us from the absolute basics and did the hand holding familiarizing us with the game of football! We went back happy and with a feeling of embarking on something nouvelle!

The next two sessions were planned in the week and finally the D day arrived; our team had ladies well over 40 the oldest being 59 years old, all spouses of Master Mariners (that was the eligibility criteria). We had our final match against the ‘Elegant Strikers’ this was just a formality as we had actually won the match in our minds. The result of the game didn’t matter. What mattered were the experiences and the fun we had during practice sessions. Namrata was my travel partner (I love her for that) and Archana ensured we were well hydrated and took care of the hospitality. I call her the Lady Santa.

To me the real Heroes were the team that had players over 57 years, all Master Mariners who were also batchmates and the spirit with which they played was truly inspirational to all.

I am extremely grateful to CMMI Navi Mumbai Chairman Capt. Sah for organizing the tournament, the Secretary Capt. Pawan Gupta who coined the idea and Archana for reaching out to me.

My gratitude is to Capt. Bhasin, Capt. Aniket Pradhan and Patricia who became the face of MSC for me. It was wonderful speaking to the team and learn about their people practices, sustainability and CSR. I am more than impressed and I wish to know more, which I will do. Also inspiring is their efforts towards empowering women especially when we are talking about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. I have spoken on the topic at many forums and written in my columns and it is very close to my heart.

Capt. Chadha and Marex Media did a fantastic job of covering the event, making everyone feel like celebrities. This post will be incomplete without thanking the young and energetic refrees Ribhu and Vibhor. The event concluded with a prize distribution ceremony followed by cocktails and dinner. Catching up with the very inspirational Capt. Khatri and Lata Khatri ma’am was indeed a pleasant surprise.

This year my engagement with shipping companies has been fantastic as a trainer for some, speaker at some events and writing for some. This is one dimension of my professional life of over 25 years; I shall cherish as it comes to me by virtue of being married to a seafarer. It’s a great fraternity and its indeed a pleasure to be a part of it.

“Sports inculcate something in you that no institution, family or friendship can. A quality that eventually emanate from you, something called Sportsmanship.” Sandeep Sahajpal

PS Do check:  https://www.thelearnyard.com/

Dr. Laxmi Todiwan
Dr. Laxmi Todiwan
Founder Indian Women in Hospitality. She is a Professor, Corporate Trainer, Motivational Speaker and a Blogger. A multiple award winning hospitality professional with a career spanning over two decades; people engagement, training and development are close to her heart. She writes for hospitality journals, online platforms and columns in the local newspapers. Married to a Master Mariner she loves to write on the maritime industry as well as the lives and relationships of the fraternity. She expresses her thoughts on her blog and website, www.theiwh.com

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