Four Days in India with NYUAD Soccer

Beth and I have talked about visiting India ever since arriving in Abu Dhabi, but we were never sure exactly how we wanted to do it. The country is huge and offers an immense diversity of landscape, culture, and cuisine. When we were invited to participate in NYU Abu Dhabi’s second international soccer tour, we immediately jumped at the chance. Despite the trip’s short length, we had a wonderful time and felt like we got a good taste (literally and figuratively) of what India had to offer.

One of our students, Abhishek Mehra, wrote a summary of our trip for NYUAD’s Salaam Blog. He did a wonderful job of chronically the teams soccer experiences and captures the spirit of our adventure. Read the full story here.

 

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Our adventure in India, however, did not have the most auspicious start. When we arrived at the Abu Dhabi airport with students in tow, we were told by our airline upon check-in that four of us would not be able to board the plane. They quoted some improbable rule that set a limit on the number of travelers who could fly into New Delhi each day. While it seemed totally impossible to accept such an explanation, the players later confirmed that the flight was not simply oversold, as there were lots of empty seats on the plane. In the end, Beth and I, along with two other staff members traveling with the team, were required to drive to Dubai and take a later flight on our own. Head coach Pete Dicce went on alone with the students and we hoped to catch up in Agra with everyone safe and sound.

We owe a deep debt of gratitude to Abishek’s father who helped arrange a private car to drive us from the airport in Delhi to Agra. It was a long six-hour journey, but we were glad to have the peace of mind that we were well taken care of. Ironically, the students still encountered travel problems of their own, as their train from Delhi to Agra was significantly delayed and even with a 6+ hour head start, only managed to arrive in Agra about an hour before us.

Once reunited, we took an evening visit to the Mehtab Bagh Gardens which are directly across the river from the Taj Mahal. It was cool to see the Taj from a distance as it definitely whet our appetite to see it up-close the next morning. Like any good tour guide, we were taken immediately afterward to a local craftsmen’s shop who make carve and inlay marble in the same manner used on the Taj Mahal. Beth and I made up for the students’ limited budget through our multiple purchases and our poor bargaining skills.

We spent the next 36 hours in Gwalior, a city slightly further south, where we were guests of the Scindia School, the alma mater of one of our NYUAD students. Our hosts were the most gracious and generous people you could possible imagine. I think it was by far the highlight of my time in India.

The Scindia School did not consider our visit a simple friendly match. It was treated like a serious international match. Our players were escorted on to the field by the school’s primary students and we had a play-by-play announcer to call the match. The only element missing was the playing of national anthems. Of course, it would have taken about 30-45 minutes to do so, as we had players representing so many different countries. After the match, the Scindia School presented customized pennants to each of our players and staff which has been printed with the two schools’ logos as well as rosters. It was a very special souvenir for a very memorable occasion.

Beth and Hazel Raja, NYUAD’s Career Development Center also got special treatment during our visit as they were invited on a special tour of the Scindia School and got to share ideas with school administrators. While visiting a Sikh temple on the school grounds, Beth was also invited to guest star in the family portraits of a local Indian family.

We rounded off the trip back in New Delhi, where again Abhishek’s family went above and beyond the call of duty by inviting us all to their home for dinner. I think we all thoroughly enjoyed their hospitality and their company.

One final story… After our last match in Delhi, we had only a few minutes for the students to take a quick shower at the American Embassy School before going directly to the airport for our flight home. In my urgency to keep everyone moving, I accidentally took a pair of headphones I mistook for one our players which actually belonged to a local student. Luckily for us, the school’s soccer team was scheduled to be in Abu Dhabi a few weeks later for a tournament of their own, so we were able to return them to their rightful owner.

  • Team Photo from the Metab Bagh Gardens
  • Team Photo at the Taj Mahal
  • Fountain at the Scindia School
  • Old Temple at the Scindia School
  • Old Temple at the Scindia School
  • Detail of Carving at the Temple
  • Indian Family Who Beth Met
  • Sikh Temple at the Scindia School
  • Part of the Sikh Temple at the Scindia School

2 Responses to “Four Days in India with NYUAD Soccer”

  1. Mom says:

    Interesting Temple – Dad would have enjoyed.

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