Vinay Menon had never watched a football match – live or on television – until watching himself playing Chelsea at the Stamford Bridge Stadium in 2009.
He didn’t need a ticket: because this 46-year-old from India is a wellness consultant for the football team. Now, during the season, he spends his days training with the team and watching many of their matches.
“Cherai to Chelsea” is how he likes to describe his story.
Incidentally, it is also the name of his wife Flomani Menon’s biography, which was published last year. “Cherai is a small village near Kochi in Kerala. Whenever I go back I sit by the door and drink Tea And look at the backwaters. The feeling of being home is wonderful,” says Vinay on a call from London.
Sitting on his balcony, gazing at the Thames, he tells his story. “The only footballer I knew was Diego Maradona,” he laughs. So, 12 years ago, when he was introduced to the team that played for Chelsea, he was not made a star despite big names like Didier Drogba being in the locker room.
Vinay was working with Jumeirah Group in Dubai when he received an offer to join Chelsea football team owner Roman Abrahamovich as his personal coach in London. Eventually, Vinay landed his new role with the team, also known as The Blues.
Although he has many inspiring stories from conversations with players, he is not at liberty to reveal them as part of a non-disclosure agreement. “We are a family. I am very grateful for this opportunity and for the faith that has been placed in me,” he says. That is why he wants more and more people to take the profession of physical teacher seriously. Take it from
trip to chelsea
Although Vinay wanted to become a police officer, but when he completed his graduation, he did not get any opportunity in the police force. Hence, he pursued his Masters in Philosophy in Physical Education at Pondicherry University. “I also started training street children in physical education for free,” he adds.
After this he did a course in yoga science from Kaivalyadhan Yoga Institute, Pune. “I worked briefly in Mumbai and then taught at Pondicherry University, before working as a senior wellness practitioner in Ananda, Himalayas. There, he not only discovered a world of luxury but also met the most important man in his life: his wife.
They next moved to Dubai. “I started something called Poornima Yoga. I often felt like Madonna. I would wear a white dress shirtStanding on a platform at the five star resort instructing his customers,” he laughs.
His current lifestyle in London is not what Vinay had ever planned or imagined. “My cousins used to work in Mumbai or abroad and they used to talk in English when they went to Cherai. I spoke only in Malayalam,” he says. But he always wanted to do something that would give recognition to his village, his state. “I always tried to walk a different path.”
In his current role, Vinay is often a sounding board for Chelsea players. As he is “not a fan”, he can isolate and critically evaluate footballers, no matter how big a star they are. But back in Kerala, it is plain old Veenu (as he is fondly called), who turns around slippers. “It’s important to be different, especially for mental well-being,” Vinay says. This is his advice to the team. “If you want to perform at the peak, you have to have balance.”
It would then be fair to credit him for playing his part in Chelsea’s recent win in the UEFA Champions League, where he admitted he was overwhelmed. “I created ARFA. It stands for Awareness. Recovery. Center. Achievement. I use this process to train players,” he says.
He says that fun is the key to getting the best results. “If you’re not enjoying something, you can’t be an elite artist.”
Vinay has completed 23 years in the wellness industry. Over the years they have seen that physical education is poor in India with more focus on education. “We need to work in that sector. The PE department is not paid well. Once you complete the PE course, job opportunities are limited. If the country will not have a healthy population So can you imagine what would happen?” he asks.
Especially now, with the current situation, and greater reliance on gadgets and various kinds of addictions, he emphasizes on mental and physical well being.
“Take five to seven minutes each day, sit in a comfortable position and ask yourself a few questions: Where am I sitting? How am I feeling? Be mindful of your breath. Tell yourself positive affirmations as I feel fine. I’m breathing. I look good. I feel good,” he says. “Really connect with yourself.”