“Some people believe football is a matter of life and death… I can assure you it is much more important than that.”
Bill Shankly’s words truly resonate with Sudhir Chaturvedi, COO, NIIT Technologies, who openly admits that he prioritises football over his work. “It’s generally more important to me than my work,” he laughs, immediately adding how it does help him with work. “It helps in getting my mind off for 90 minutes and focus on something else,” says the COO.
His love for the game though can be gauged by the fact that Chaturvedi travels to and fro to Manchester to just watch the matches. “Even now when my assistant looks at my schedule, she puts all the games on top and plans my travel and work schedule around it.”
The COO is also a lifetime member of Manchester United Club. This means he regularly gets invited to watch games and training sessions. “I was fortunate enough to see Christiano Ronaldo’s training session… everybody else had left and this guy was just practised for two more hours,” he recalls. His favourite moment though was watching David Beckham’s 92nd minute free kick against Greece.
An avid ManU fan, there is little surprise that Chaturvedi’s favourite coach is Sir Alex Ferguson and favourite player is Paul Scholes. “You play two games - with the ball and without the ball- Paul Scholes was a genius at knowing what to do when you didn’t have the ball and a bigger genius in knowing what you had to do when you had the ball,’ he elaborates.
For the COO, though, the love for the game started much early in life. “Ours was probably one of the few schools in India where football was more important than cricket. In fact, it was more important than any other game,” he says of his days at St. Vincent’s, Pune. And growing up in the Defence Colony, he didn’t need much persuasion to indulge in his favourite sport. “All you needed was a round shaped object that could be kicked and stones or sweaters for goal posts,” he reminisces.
From school to university to local leagues, the game has been a constant in his life. Speaking of his experience on the field, he says, “There was a match at Frankfurt and I was pretty late for it. I didn’t have my shoes or T-shirt. I borrowed a T-shirt from someone but was stuck with the shoes… I think I scored the best goal that day. It’s been many years but I’ve still kept the shoes.”
Even though he has been playing considerably lesser compared to what he used to, Chaturvedi believes that football is about a lot of things - intelligence, quick decision making and team work. “I play when I can now – whether it’s 5-a-side football or just a kick-about with the kids. My son is also a bit crazy about the game – it irritates the hell out of my wife but I’m sure she’s learnt to put up with that over a period of time,” he laughs.