Thursday, September 18, 2008

India vs Finland - Volleyball !!! :-) .... Chak De style.

There are so many stories about how a person who is considered as an underdog rises to his tasks and achieves his goals merely by his desire and belief to win. Take for example the stories shown in Chak De India and Lagaan. But these are just reel stories. What i have to tell is not a reel, but a Real Story. :)
The day was 29th August 2008 on a beachside. That’s where a beach volleyball tournament was to be held for all Elektrobit (Oulu, Finland……that’s the company where I work) employees and sub contractors and all entries were to be given 2 weeks before the date. So we decided to participate and send in our entry. Total number of players in a team was 7 and all were Indians. The team name was selected as Just4Kicks!
Great, so we had our team we had a funky name, and now the big question was, how to play the game. Well, for those of you who do not know, the Finnish people play volleyball in their country as we play Cricket in India. So they are well versed with all kinds of tactics and strategies. And to top it all, the average height of a Finnish person is 6 feet 2 inches and they have a very strong and muscular physic. More like the WWE people. Now just imagine us standing among these huge dudes. Its like Rajpal Yadav standing among a group of Dara Singhs :). So it was evident that our team had no chance to win even a point in the game, forget winning a game.
For the next two weeks, we practiced regularly for 2 hours after office, thinking that its fine if we loose, but we will not loose without a fight. We learned a few basic tactics during our practice sessions and had a simple game plan – that come what may, we have to give our 100% and pass the ball to the opponent’s court. We all felt good about the practice sessions as we took it like a temporary exercise to this software body of ours.
So the day came, 29th of August. It was a Friday and many employees were ready at the venue. Some to see the games and some to participate in their teams. There were 5 teams including ours, that made it 4 Finnish teams and 1 Indian team. And from the Finnish teams, there were 5 players who were national level players. While we were warming up before the games, our Finnish colleagues challenged us that we wouldn’t even win a Set. As a matter of fact, that’s what we all felt when we seen the Finnish people or Finn’s practicing. Their game was so perfect, and so strong. Unfortunately for us, the temperature that day was 7 degree Celsius. The temperature did not matter for the Finn’s as they are used to extreme cold temperatures.

Well, with all odds against us, we said to ourselves, let’s enjoy the game and win some hearts :). The games started with a huge applause from the crowd. Luckily, we started our game with a bang. We got 3 straight points on our serve. So we were leading from the start. It was a best of 3 Set matches. So the team who won 2 Sets would get points added in the table. We were doing very well in the first Set, and guess what, we actually won it. This gave us confidence that if we just calm down and focus on the game, we can do better than we expected. The match continued and we performed even better and won the firs match. Wow! But there was a weird silence in the crowd. The Finn’s never expected us to win, but we did. So this became a prestige issue for them. And they started cheering all the Finnish teams against us.
Our second match was against a team named Godzilla. And likely so, all players were huge:). But we had one thing in mind, not to go down without a fight. And fight we did. We won the first Set. Seeing us perform so well with such enthusiasm and high levels of energy, few of the Finn’s from the crowd started cheering up for our team. And we really liked it. The game went on. We lost the second Set, but won the third Set comfortably thus winning the match against the mighty Godzilla. And the crowd cheered even more for us.
Then was time for a third match. We stumbled at the start but won that match too in the end. So with 3 wins to our team, we were now going to play a last match, which was the final. Now could you believe that? Well, we couldn’t at that time. With no chance to win even a point, here we were winning 3 continues matches against some of the best players and now even had a chance to win the finals. That itself is some achievement, isn’t it?
The whistle was blown and the tournament finals started. We were playing good, but the opponents were even better. We gave everything, but it didn’t matter, they were just too good. We lost the finals. But it was still a close match, with just a difference of couple of points.
But too our amazement, everyone from the crowd was just saying our name Just4Kicks……Just4Kicks :). Most of them came and talked to us, saying that they liked our style of playing the game, it was unique and different. Even the Finnish players came and applauded us. Everyone was in total surprise that how could a bunch of Indian guys manage to give such a great performance when they had all odds against them.
We lost the finals, but it didn’t matter, as we had accomplished what we had aimed for – to win hearts! And we had done it in style:). We won the silver medal and we felt like winners, not the reel way, but the Real way.