Friday, September 03, 2010

Ctrl+X , Ctrl+V

A huge hello to the millions of my readers (read 2 or 3).  It's been quite a while since I posted anything on this blog. Defunct is the right word to describe it me thinks.
Guess the number's finally up :)
come on over to Yechh coz that's where you'll find me these days.


Friday, August 20, 2010

The Lighter side - This week in Sport - Ep.3

Welcome to the another edition of ‘The lighter side – This week in Sport’, a weekly review show of all the goings on in the world of sport over the past week.
Before we get to the show,
 a disclaimer: All the reports here are based on completely baseless unreliable sources. We only compile them and present it to you. If we catch hold of our reporters, we will sue them on your behalf.

On tonight’s show:
  • The Barclays Premier League season kicks off
  • Synchronized swimming
  • The Rogers cup
  • ‘No Delhi, not New Delhi’ says Dawn
  • Manchester City

The Barclays Premier League season kicks off 
After the summer of the world cup, the stars were back in action at their respective clubs for the season opener of the Barclays Premier League. The start of the season had fans waiting with bated breath and it didn't disappoint. There were goals galore and shocking results like the much unfancied Blackpool beating Wigan Athletic 4-0. The most awaited clash of the opening weekend, Liverpool vs Arsenal turned out to be much of a damp squib though, with neither team really hitting top form.
The reds' new signing, Joe Cole, really got into the spirit of the game, picking up a red card on his debut in red. When asked, he said that he was a great perfectionist and liked to really get into the role that he assumes. 

Meanwhile, while the rest of the Premier League teams played the opening weekend of the Premier League, Chelsea decided to follow a slightly different approach. In an attempt to do things differently, they played a tennis match against West Bromwich Albion. They took the first set 6-0 when they were forced off the field after 90 minutes. Being a London club, they obviously were in the Wimbledon hangover.

Synchronized swimming 
There arose a new controversy this week with the womens synchronized swimming team's preparations thrown in disarray. The 7 member team (Avanti Merchant, Anushka Merchant, Mili Laliwala, Mihira Khopkar, Bijal Vasant, Kavita Kolapkar and Avani Dave) had been training for months now under 2 Indian coaches, Edna Sharma and Param Pal. A Japanese coach, Haruka Fujishima was brought in for special coaching and she left in April. After this, the girls trained on their own.

Bharti Dave (whose daughter Avani was in the team) had been working as coordinator for the swim team. Haruka left in mid-April and since then, the girls have been training on their own. In mid-July, Bharti Dave took 3 girls (including her daughter) to the United States for a special camp. The other girls came to know of it only later. Naturally, they were outraged. They now feel as if they have been part of the cult video game, 'Dangerous Dave'. Anand Merchant, the father of Avanti and Anushka, wrote a letter to M.S.Gill, not because his name sounds like that associated with a fish, and the subject matter involved swimming, but because he is the sports minister. Anand is clearly not happy.

Coach, Param Pal, said that she had no idea where the girls were and that she was only a govt. servant. The girls left behind definitely don't see her as a pal anymore. When we contacted Haruka, she spoke in Japanese which our able translator translated to mean, 'I have only trained the Indian girls. Please do not ask me about the United States. Also, I am having sushi for dinner.'

Evidently, the synchronized swimming team is not anywhere near in-sync. Though, some girls were rumored to be listening to the music of 'N Sync to keep their spirits up. The results of this experiment are yet not out.

The Rogers cup 
The Rogers Cup in Toronto marked the beginning of the serious hard court season in the lead up to the US Open. The tournament saw a full array of stars with the 4 top ranked players, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic all reaching the semi-finals. Federer and Murray were the last two men standing after Federer beat Djokovic and Murray prevailed over the world's number 1 player, Rafael Nadal.

In a keenly contested final, Murray ultimately prevailed 7-5 7-5. Interestingly, this win takes his career head to head record with Federer to 7-5. When asked about his win, he said that it was great to win such a coveted title and that it was his serve that really helped him. He said something about being James Bond and about being On her Majesty's secret service. Clearly Queen Elizabeth has had something to do with Murray's much improved serving.

Meanwhile, Federer was clearly disappointed on missing out on the title. He said that the numerous rain delays did not help his cause either with him not being able to regain his momentum. 'The pendulum swung his way in the end', he said. Experts are still arguing whether he was talking about the tennis match or was advertising his rolex watch. Also, while Murray might have won, Federer had the last laugh. 'After all', he was quoted as saying, 'he may have won but the tournament is still named after me.'

‘No Delhi, not New Delhi’ says Dawn
 Legendary Australian swimmer, Dawn Faser has urged Australian athletes to boycott the forthcoming commonwealth games to be held in New Delhi. ‘I would hate to see another Munich’, she was quoted as saying. When we asked close friends and family, we found out that Dawn has never been a great fan of Steven Spielberg or his movies. Hence it is only natural that she would not like to see Munich, let alone another Munich. Fraser was supported by another former Australian athlete Raelene Boyle, who was present at the Munich Games during the massacre. She said that she had seen her namesake, Danny Boyle’s portrayal of India in Slumdog Millionaire and was appalled. When we mentioned that it was Mumbai that was shown in the movie and not Delhi, she was non-committal on the issue.

Meanwhile, triple Olympic gold medalist, Australian swimming sensation, Stephanie Rice, has confirmed that she will be postponing her shoulder surgery and will indeed be taking part in the commonwealth games. Rice said that she hoped to rise to the occasion and bring laurels to her country. Also, she said that she wanted to explore India. When asked what fascinated Rice the most about India, she said one word, ‘basmati.’

Manchester City 
Manchester City completed the signings of Mario Balotelli and James Milner from Inter and Aston Villa respectively. The James Milner transfer saga finally came to an end with City finally getting their man after months of speculation. While James is now the villain at Villa. When asked about his switch to Manchester, he said, 'It was a great opportunity to join a fantastic club like Manchester City who have great ambition. However, I would like to thank all those at Aston Villa who have helped me over the years. As a special gesture to them, I will buy myself an Aston Martin. This way, a part of Aston Villa will always be with me, and it would also be a tribute to Martin O Neill, my previous manager there.'

Stephen Ireland went the other way as part of the deal. reportedly, Manchester City were keen to offload Ireland because of a supposed rift that Manchester once had with Ireland, the country. When asked about the move, Ireland said that he was happy to be going to a club like Aston Villa who have shown that they are a top team. When quizzed about his loyalty towards his new club, he said, 'Oh don’t worry! If James has bought an Aston, I've already gone and bought something more expensive, a villa.' He chuckled and added, 'and not David Villa, Barca already got hold of him.'

Meanwhile City also finally got their hands on Mario Balotelli, the prodigious 19 year old Italian striker from Inter Milan. Nicknamed 'Super Mario', Balotelli has worked with City manager Roberto Mancini when Mancini was the manager at Inter. Balotelli joins City's long line of strikers. When asked if Balotelli could force his way into the starting line-up, Mancini was very optimistic, 'Why not? He's supremely talented and has got a great game.' When asked about which game, Mancini was still undecided over the Nintendo 64 version or the Nintendo Wii version of Mario. Rumor has it that Balotelli has also bought a go-kart just so that he doesn't look touch with the 'Mario kart' game. Next up on City's radar is Luigi. Once they complete his signing, they will have the Super Mario Brothers on their books.

 Just in case you missed the whole Sehwag – Randiv ‘no-ball gate’ midweek, catch it at

That’s it from this week’s bulletin. We hope you enjoyed it. Until next time, its good bye from us …

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The lighter Side - 'No Ball' gate

a disclaimer: All the reports here are based on completely baseless unreliable sources. We only compile them and present it to you. If we catch hold of our reporters, we will sue them on your behalf.


Suraj Randiv denied Virender Sehwag a century by allegedly deliberately bowling a no-ball when only one run was required for victory. This has sparked off a wide-spread debate in cricketing circles regarding his conduct. It has emerged that the captain Kumar Sangakkara and all-rounder Tillakaratne Dilshan might have had a hand to play in this decision.


The stump microphone has picked up a voice in Sinhalese saying, ‘only one run remains.’ This was initially suspected to be the captain Sangakkara but it is now emerging that it could well be Dilshan who spoke those words. The confusion seems to arise from the fact there it was a no-ball. Our cricket expert, says that this has been blown out of proportion. He argues, ‘ if it was a not a ball, then what was it?’ When we enquired further, he muttered something about a no-ball not being a ball at all.


Dilshan, when asked, pleaded innocence. He said that he was being quoted out of context. Said he, ‘ I’m preparing for my GRE this year and Sanga helps me out with the math. He asked me this question before the match that if he had 100 runs and he took 99 away, how many would he have. I was busy concentrating during the entire match but it was at that unfortunate moment that I got the solution and replied that only one run remains.’


When asked, Randiv pleaded innocence by saying that he was only trying to help the Indians. After all, since only one run was remaining and the Indians had worked that hard already, it was his obligation to make the win easier for them. Also, he said that he was really confused as to whether he should indeed bowl. After all, whenever he asked anyone for the ball, they all said ‘no-ball.’


Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan cricket board has decided to launch a full-scale investigation into this issue by getting the official ‘uncensored’ version of the tapes from the broadcasters. Naturally, these will not be available on youTube.


When asked about Sri Lanka losing their ‘Spirit of Cricket’ award, Arjuna Ranatunga said that it was very important for Sri Lanka but was not too perturbed about losing it. ‘While the award will be good, we already have Sanath in our team; he is so old that in cricketing terms, he comes closest to a ‘spirit of cricket’‘.







Monday, August 16, 2010

The ligher side - This week in sport : Ep.2

Welcome to the another edition of ‘The lighter side – This week in Sport’, a weekly review show of all the goings on in the world of sport over the past week.

Before we get to the show,

a disclaimer: All the reports here are based on completely baseless unreliable sources. We only compile them and present it to you. If we catch hold of our reporters, we will sue them on your behalf.

On tonight’s show:

India’s dismal show

Cadiz accuse Spanish football of being fixed

Usain Bolt is beaten

Manchester United sign an unknown

England beat Hungary

Indian Hockey

…and of course

The commonwealth games


India’s dismal show

The tri-series featuring India, Sri Lanka and New Zeland got underway with an under-strength New Zeland side taking on a much-fancied Indian team. The Indians were expected to be too strong for a Kiwi side that was missing the likes of skipper Vettori, and senior players like Brendon McCullum and Jesse Ryder. What ensued was a complete turn up for the books with India getting all-out for 88 runs, losing by a whopping 200 runs. Speaking after the match, coach Kirsten was a bit worried about the display but brushed it off as a one-off. ‘Besides’, he was heard saying, ‘Sachin will make up for those 200 runs.’ When quizzed about this dismal performance, our cricket expert said that it was all in brotherly spirit, now that Independence-day was coming up. ‘After all’, he said, ‘when the number one ranked team in ODIs can get all out for 88 in a test match, as a neighbor, it is our duty to emulate Pakistan’s feat and hence it’s only fair that the number one ranked team in Tests should get all out for 88 in an ODI.’

Meanwhile, Yuvraj Singh made an excellent claim for a place in the test side with a 50-ball 5. Unfortunately, he was playing a One Day international. When asked about this, he nonchalantly waved it off saying ‘The selectors of the ODI and test team are the same.’


Cadiz accuse Spanish football of being fixed

The Spanish football federation have opened a private investigation into accusations of match-fixing last season after Cadiz, who were relegated to the third tier of Spanish football accused their rivals of match fixing. When approached, a club official said that there were a couple of teams he was doubtful about. A club source (who does not wish to be named) had this to say, ‘We strongly suspect 2 teams. Barcelona and Real Madrid. I mean, look at the results! They were clearly winning against all the teams in the second division. Something is wrong. Even though we are inferior in terms of quality, there is no way that we can be beaten by Real and Barca numerous times.’ The Spanish football federation is rumored to have issued a directive tot Real and Barca not to win so many matches.


Usain Bolt is beaten

Olympic champion and world record holder, Usain Bolt, the fastest man on the planet was beaten for only the second time in his professional career in a 100 meter race. The previous time had been against a Ferrari F1 car. Speaking about this loss, he said, ‘This is a non-competition year. So whoever wants to beat me, better do so this year.’ Clearly, he does not view the Commonwealth games as ‘competition.’ He added,’ I’ll be back’ in terminator style. Unfortunately, his back is injured and it can be safely said that he won’t be back anytime soon. In fact, he has ruled himself out of all competition this season. A small note on his conqueror; Tyson Gay, who beat Bolt was, needless to say, happy.


Manchester United sign an unknown

Manchester United, this week, signed an absolute unknown, Tiago Manuel Dias Corrieia, nicknamed Bebe. This is remarkable because less than a year ago, Bebe was playing in the ‘homeless world cup’ in South Africa. He was picked literally from the streets. When approached, Bebe was still in dreamland. When he was asked about the experience of going from playing in the third tier of Portuguese football to playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world, he had one word to say, ‘Inception.’ Clever really, because after all, he is going to play at Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium commonly called the Theatre of Dreams.

On a related story, on the day the signing was announced, the Manchester United website recorded an increase of a fifty thousand hits from India alone. Upon investigation, it was found that an over-zealous news channel, in their hurry to publish the news first, had published it with a slight spelling mistake. Bebe was spelt Bebo. Clearly, many Indians want to watch a size zero, red jersey flaunting actress.


England beat Hungary

After a dismal world cup campaign, a new look England team took to the field against Hungary at Wembley. Many pundits questioned the organizing of a friendly so close to the start of the new Premier League season, which kicks off this weekend. To this, the English FA authorities said that it was a strategic move. They were quoted as saying that a friendly against Hungary would only make the players more hungry for success in the upcoming season.

In a pre-match conference, England captain, Steven Gerrard said that if he were an England fan, he’d boo the team too, after the lacklusture performance in the world Cup in South Africa. While some questioned this candid remark, other pundits hail it as an excellently clever move. They felt that, in spite of his poor showing, Rooney is still England’s main player and that the ‘boo’s would actually sound like ‘roo’s  and serve to galvanize him. Boo or Roo, there will be no vuu as the vuvuzelas were banned at Wembley for the game.


Indian Hockey

After almost a 2 year standoff, the 2 bodies of hockey in India, Hockey India (HI) and the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) began the process of merging together. It may be noted that HI, which held its presidential elections last week, was officially disbanded shortly after. However, the Federation of International Hockey (FIH) threatened to ban India from further tournaments until the mess was sorted out. Hence this coming together. The IHF has taken the first step by merging with the Women’s Hockey Federation, which was a pre-requisite for the official recognition. Yet, there are problems still to come with the question of who are to be the office bearers of this merged federation. Vidya Stokes, the recently elected president of the now disbanded HI has apparently staked a claim to the chair. Her argument is that since she’s 82, she’s the only one to have seen all of India’s Olympic triumphs. K.P.S Gill, however, smells something fishy, and is apparently using his political muscle to take control of this new federation. Whether the fusion happens or not, there, there is certain to be a lot of confusion in the days to come.


…and of course

The commonwealth games

The mess surrounding the Commonwealth Games (CWG) seems to getting more and more, well, messy. The latest charges of corruption have been raised against the big three – Suresh Kalmadi, Mike Fennel and Mike Cooper. The handing of the contract to AM Films has been called into question. It has been shown that this has led to expenses over and above required to the tune of nearly INR 10 crore. The other scam surfacing has been that regarding the payments to the company Fasttrack, which have led to losses of INR 25 crore.

When approached, Mr. Kalmadi remained calm and had this to say, ‘I expected Mr. Fennel to funnel out the right from the wrong but he has let me down. Regarding the use of Fasttrack’s services, we were short of time and thought we might speed up operations.’ When asked about his alleged involvement in the many scams, Mr.Kalmadi refused to comment but shortly after, our sources have learnt that he received a crash course in scam management from the Hon. Minister of telecom, Mr. A.Raja. This is true parliamentary brotherhood.

In other news, the Delhi Chief Minister, Ms. Sheila Dixit, has given the organizing committee until the 31st of August to clear out the rubble. Because of the extreme short notice, there is talk of the Flintstones being employed for this special job. When asked if the venues would be ready in time, she said that she was confident as this was the month of Ramzan and that she expected people to work fast.

In related news, the stock of Pidilite, the makers of the popular adhesive, Dr.Fixit has shot up. This is because rumor has it that it’s being used to fix the leaks in the leaking Jawaharlal Stadium.


That’s it from this week’s bulletin. We hope you enjoyed it. Until next time, its good bye from us …


The lighter Side - This week in sport : Ep.1

Welcome to the first edition of ‘The lighter side – This week in Sport’, a weekly review show of all the goings on in the world of sport over the past week.

Before we get to the show,

a disclaimer: All the reports here are based on completely baseless unreliable sources. We only compile them and present it to you. If we catch hold of our reporters, we will sue them on your behalf.

On tonight’s show:

The Hungarian GP

The India-Sri Lanka test

Tiger’s comeback

A-Rod’s home run

Hockey India’s presidential election

The Commonwealth games


The Hungarian GP

Mark Webber’s victory at the Hungaroring ensured that he went atop the driver’s standings and McLaren were toppled by Red Bull at the top of the constructor’s standings. Webber, later admitted that he was fortuitous with Vettel’s drive thru penalty but added that it was he who won at the end of the day. When asked about being number two, and about the entire front wing controversy, he shrugged it off saying ‘Red Bull gives you wings, even if, sometimes, they are not the latest.’

Meanwhile Michael Schumacher and ex-teammate Rubens Barichello were involved in a li’l bit of argy-bargy. Only, the argy was missing but the barging was done by Schumi. Speaking later on, Schumi admitted his mistake but added that he was merely jostling for track position. He also added that at the back of his mind, he thought that he was still at Ferrari and was wondering as to why team, ahem, orders weren’t called in. It must have been Rubens’ calling Schumacher ‘Schumi’ that the German must have probably mistaken to be ‘shoo-me’, and duly obliged.


The India Sri Lanka test

The much awaited third test begun in earnest this week with the sides, completely unfamiliar with each other (due to the lack of cricket between the two nations in the recent past). The build up to the game was marred with injuries to key players to both sides, the left and the right.

Yuvraj Singh was fit again but Raina, the centurion in the previous test was preferred to him. When questioned, Dhoni defended his decision by saying that Raina had proved himself in the extremely testing conditions in the previous test where batting was ‘difficult’. Yuvi meanwhile, was involved in ‘the waterboy’ controversy where someone was accused of calling him one. Yuvraj has so far declined to comment but we learn through reliable sources that Adam Sandler is not amused. On questioned about why the ‘waterboy’ claims might have come in, our cricket expert says that it might have something to do with Yuvi’s ‘pot’ belly.

Sri Lanka, meanwhile, have reacalled Slinga-Malinga to their lineup and have retained last test match’s double centurion, Suraj Randiv.


Tiger’s comeback

In spite of the nature of the headline, it is not one of Tiger’s mistresses’ calling him out to come back. Tiger Woods makes a comeback at the Firestone invitational. Previously unbeatable at the venue, Tiger has had a dismal opening round of 4 over par and trails the leader by nine strokes. When asked about his performance, he said that he was yet to peak and that the birds, er, birdies distracted him. When asked what he felt about his number one ranking hanging by a thread, Tiger responded by saying that rankings were immaterial. It was the ‘game’ that counted. Tiger is also seen sporting a new French beard, which raises suspicion of the new French bird in his life. Asked about his meanders, Tiger mistook it to mean his personal life and stormed out of his conference, presumably to go back to the Woods (yes, that is the hotel he stays at.)


A-Rod’s home run

Alex Rodriguez scored the 600th home  run of his career this past week and becomes the youngest man to do so. When asked about his success, he patted his bat and said ‘a rod’. He takes the record of being the youngest to 600 homers from Babe Ruth. When we went around the streets of India and asked what people felt about this achievement, we got replies such as ‘why run home 600 times’ and ‘600 Homer Simpsons? D-oh!’. Clearly baseball has a long way to go in this country.


Hockey India’s presidential election

Hockey India’s presidential elections finally took place this week with the 82 year old Vidya Stokes triumphing over former India captain, Pargat Singh. Pragat paid the penalty for underestimating Stokes. In the aftermath of the elections, the opposition cried foul. One of their main allegations was that MsStokes used the slogan ‘Chak De india’ in her campaign while secretly ‘Cheque de’ing money to rig the elections. Also on the opposition’s agenda was the fact that the ruling party, the Congress had rigged the election because of Ms.Stokes’ uncanny resemblance to a certain Ms. I.Gandhi. This theory, however, was soon disbanded when , hours after the election, The Ms.Stokes led Hockey India was officially derecognized by the govt.


The Commonwealth games

In what is being acknowledged as the worst organized even ever in the history of India, the commonwealth games’ Organizing Committee or OC has been slapped with charges of misappropriation and unwanted expenditure. The man at the eye of the storm, Mr. Suresh Kalmadi seems unperturbed by it all, though. It has come to the notice of the press that toilet rolls have been purchased at Rs.4000 a roll. When asked to comment on this, Mr.Kalmadi simply said that it was a baseless allegation and that the press must get their facts right. The Govt meanwhile has promised to get to the ‘bottom’ of the toilet paper controversy. When asked about a tread mill being hired for one million Rupees, Mr.Kalmadi did deny the allegation but mumbled something about asking Usain Bolt to come and run on it. Meanwhile, the Nehru stadium that will host the opening and closing ceremonies, was found to be leaking. When asked about it, Mr.Kalmadi blamed WikiLeaks and also said that Dr.FixIt was being employed.


That’s it from this week’s bulletin. We hope you enjoyed it. Until next time, its good bye from us …




Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Indian football - a perspective

Disclaimer: This post is in response to the following post on The author has written a passionate piece but I do not agree with certain aspects. I look at an understanding of the broader picture to better appreciate the situation.

“Don’t blame cricket, blame yourself!”

When I first read this, I was thinking, ‘wait a minute! I don’t actually blame cricket. I’m a football fan. So does that mean that I should blame myself for India’s lack of quality in football?’ Well, most certainly not. I am not to blame, and neither are you. Hell! No one is to blame and all of us are to blame.

While Yash Modi has written a passionate plea replete with facts about small nations and even a social experiment, what he fails to do is essentially capture the essence of why what is what it is. He asks us not to blame cricket. Spot on. He says that we love football but not INDIAN football. Once again, bulls eye! Yet there are a couple of points he makes that I don’t quite agree with, simply because of the context, or the lack of it.

“Slovenia. A tiny mountain-laden nation nestled in between Austria and Croatia spreading over 20,000 sq km with a population of 2 million. Now here’s why these statistics are important. Their FIFA World Rank is 25 and they are participants in the 2010 FIFA World Cup.” Yes. A small nation indeed and indeed a very small population. Yet, look at 2 very important words in that statement: Austria and Croatia. Two countries, who have been good footballing nations in their own right. Also, Slovenia is not that far away, and in fact shares borders with Italy and Hungary – footballing powerhouses; one still, and another historically.

“Trinidad and Tobago, a Caribbean nation, have 1.2 million citizens living on an island that’s 5000 sq km in size. They lie 95th in the FIFA World Rankings and had participated in the 2006 FIFA World Cup.” Again, look at it in the broader perspective. Trinidad and Tobago gained independence from the British only in 1962. Surely, the effect of their culture was not lost on them. Cricket is a testament to this fact.

It’s great to read such a passionate article and be moved about the bad state of Indian football and why who is to blame. Yet, looking at it in the broader context, all is not doom and gloom, really. I appreciate the article and the passion in it, I really do but what I don’t quite concur with is that there is anyone to blame.

First, look at it historically. If you want to blame anyone really for the under-development of football in India, blame the British. Yes, the British. I’ve gone crazy, you might say but just spare a thought. Cricket, football, tennis, badminton, polo – all brought to India by the British. They might have existed in different forms in India previously but not as organized sport. It was the British who truly brought organized sport into India. If you’ve read ‘A corner of a foreign field’ by Ramachandra Guha, you’ll come to appreciate the history of cricket in India; how it was and how it grew. If you haven’t read it, you really should. There he examines not only the sporting factors but also the socio political factors that governed cricket and helped in its spread.

Cricket was simply more accessible (though you may ask how cricket, where obviously more equipment is needed than just a football is more accessible, it just was.) The British in India did not play football, or at least not nearly as much as cricket. Cricket is what people saw the ‘firangs’ playing and this is what captured their imagination. Also, football was not an elitist sport. It was played by the lower classes in England and the primary audience was the throngs of working class who flocked for their Saturday afternoon fun in the sun after a long week’s labor. The British ruling classes in India were obviously from the upper classes and hence preferred the more ‘civilized’, if you like, cricket, tennis and polo. The traditional stronghold of Indian football, Goa, was ruled by the Portuguese, who were much more into football because of the vast number of traders who came and went frequently, imbibing their culture into the local culture.

As they say, the rest is history and well, the results are for all to see. Cricket captured the public imagination and has gone on from strength to strength. We could argue that, had football been given equal status and importance as cricket, we might well be playing at a world cup now. Yes, maybe we could but the fact of the matter is that we aren’t. Again, to look at why this is, we must look at the Indian psyche. We, as a race, are a far more peaceful people. We enjoy competition and the spirit of the game but are far more reluctant to watch people getting battered and bruised. Innately, we enjoy beauty and elegance rather than brawn. For this reason, cricket and tennis offers more to an Indian than does a football or rugby. Hockey is the notable exception but even that can be made an excuse of because of its elitist status that it held in the times of old. It was more artistry and skill, and still is.

In spite of all the hoopla about the world cup, it still remains a minority of the public’s imagination. ‘The 2010 edition is the most widely watched football event in India with viewership up by more than 35%’ said a report. Yet, the TRP was 1.2. Compare that to a TRP of 7 odd for IPL3 and you get an idea. Yes, football is growing exponentially. There is no doubt about it but we must accept that there is a fair way to go yet. There is no point in bemoaning the lack of success. Apologies for being blunt but, there is a distinct lack of it. Deal with it.

Whether we accept it or not, there is nothing like success to capture the imagination of a nation. I don’t know if people will agree but the 1983 Cricket World Cup win did something for cricket that no amount of advertising or money could do; it brought success. It showed us that we could compete with the world; not just compete but beat the best and be the best. This truly captured the imagination. Cricket has gone on from strength to strength and it is where it is today.

Having stated all that, I do agree with the author that more must be done. We must support our local clubs as well but look at the situation: You see a Messi, a Rooney, a Ronaldo and then you see an I-League match. The dip in quality can be quite disturbing and that essentially is the reason that puts off people.

Strides are being made, and will continue to be made. Patience is a virtue. Football is blossoming and will blossom in years to come. We have Indians plying their trade in foreign lands now. We have academies being set up and scouts coming to witness football at the grassroots level. With more exposure to the world class talent on show in the foreign leagues, more youngsters are inclined to take up the sport.

There is no point in saying that we care about football and not Indian football. There is no point in holding grudges against people for appreciating the European leagues and not the Indian league. Honestly, there is no comparison. People who like to watch good football will watch it and there is nothing wrong with it.

Suddenly, being a striker is fashionable just like being an all-rounder is. Being able to do a step-over is as good as being able to play an elegant flick shot. Indian football is growing. Indian football is slowly but surely coming of age. Let it; and once is has grown, we will know. Until that day comes, wait and watch. After all, even the mighty Rome was not built in a day.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Raavanan - Grey matter

Right from the get go, when you see the camera focus from behind on a half-clad Vikram standing on a cliff, testing the waters below and jumping, you know that you’re in for a visual spectacle. What follows is a movie of epic proportions, which is to say that it captures the essence of an epic and adds its spin on it. Raavanan with Vikram at its helm works on a certain level but most definitely fails on another.

Santosh Sivan (and Manikandan in the initial stages) successfully take your breath away with some drop dead stunning visuals and some of the most brilliant macro and close up shots. The locales are such that you’d be awed that such places actually exist in India. The lighting is brilliant. If nothing else, the film is worth a watch for the sheer opulence and natural grandeur that it exhibits.

A.R.Rahman’s music is slightly different to what we have come to expect. You cant call it inspired but it's not all bad. A lot of the background score has tribal elements with the racy scenes having a tribal chant set to an exceedingly fast beat. Quite awesome! The songs are blended brilliantly into the movie. The tribal rendition of ‘Kaatu Sirukki’ together with its screenplay is simply mind blowing. The choreography and music of 'Kodu potta' warrants a special mention.The phrase ‘leaving the best for last’ was never truer. Rahman’s song in the end (not included in the album) is so brilliant that you can’t help but feel lifted and moved by the rendition.

The casting, as ever, is impeccable. Vikram, as Veera, is simply awesome. He elevates his performance to another plane. As a proud brother, as a wounded soldier, as a brother in angst, as a man scorned willing for revenge, as a deranged lunatic caught in his own mind. Each is exemplary. There are even shades of Heath Ledger’s iconic Joker performance in Veera’s conflicted mind and Vikram’s portrayal of this is par excellence.

I must say that I was most surprised by Aishwarya Rai’s tamil. It was very good. The trace of an accent was there of course but hats off to her. Her portrayal of the damsel in distress and the helpless yet putting-on-a-brave face maiden is very good. Her dance in ‘Kalvare’ is superb. There was one scene that she dances in a shirt, in the rain. I swear, it was exactly the same as the ‘kannai katti’ song in Iruvar. She hasn’t aged a day! 

Karthik and Prabhu play their roles to perfection. Both maybe past their prime as mainstream heroes but they can still act, and how. The one scene where they appear together will definitely throw Mani Ratnam fans to the heydays of Agni Nakshatram. Priyamani comes for about 15 minutes of the film but yet again shows her brilliant acting skills. It can be said that she has matched her Paruthiveeran performance or maybe even surpassed it in her cameo in Raavanan.

Raavanan is an epic retold. In true epic style, it is not rushed but glides on in its own pace. Like an epic that goes through lulls and periods of extreme action, Raavanan waxes and wanes. The movie is the shortest Mani Ratnam has ever made. Yet, it is conflicting in a way. The first half appears to drag on but when the interval comes, it comes too soon. The second half picks up the pace and the climax has been shot brilliantly.

For the hardcore Mani Ratnam fan, Raavanan will not match up to the levels of Mouna Raagam, nayagan or Iruvar; possibly nothing ever will. Raavanan is not earth-shattering but is good, but lacking that telling ‘Mani Ratnam touch.’

Mani Ratnam has not set out to make a ract thriller. He has not set out to make an all-action entertainer. What he has set out to do is to retell an epic in his own distinct style. Most of us know the Ramayana and its characters as black or white. Mani Ratnam succeeds in greying this line.


Monday, May 24, 2010

El Beatle - A tribute

May 22nd, the day of the Champions league final, was what would’ve been the 64th birthday of one of the greatest of all time, the first real “superstar” of the game – George Best. When I saw a few videos of El Beatle on Youtube, I simply couldn’t believe the amount of skill that he had, the brilliant body balance, the fantastic technique and most of all, just that bit of specialness that made him ‘El Beatle’!


I watched a documentary called ‘George Best – footballing genius’ and was floored, to say the least. The amount of skill he possessed was out of the world. Back in the day, the hair was longer, the shorts shorter. The ball was made of leather and the pitch was no manicured carpet but was rather a not-so-healthy combination of grass and slush. Amongst these conditions, one stood above the rest. His name was George Best.


Now I’ve seen Messi play and a lot of Maradona clips. Both absolutely great footballers but having seen George Best, I can safely say that he is right up there amongst them. Sir Matt Busby once said, ‘He’s got the greatest natural talent in a footballer I have ever seen.’ Now that has to count for something.


The amount of abuse he was subjected to in terms of hard tackles, potentially career ending, and the appallingly miniscule amount of protection the referees offered him make his brilliance all the more, well, brilliant! If even half of those tackles went in today’s game, there’d be an avalanche of red cards and sending offs.


He did have his problems with the bottle but on the pitch, it was pure magic. He did things the only way he knew how – magically! He was a prima donna and left people wanting more; much more. He held together a crumbling team and left his legacy on the world of football.


Sir Matt Busby once said, ‘We’ve had our problems with the wee fellar but I prefer to remember his genius.’ In what turned out to be one of his final interviews before his death in 2005, Best said, ‘When I’m gone, forget all the rubbish. Remember the football. If one person in the world thinks that I am the best, that’d do for me.’


In the argument of who was the greatest footballer ever, there are 2 names that are oft repeated; an amazing Argentine and a brilliant Brazilian. Yet the ultimate truth lies engraved on a signboard somewhere in Northern Ireland. It reads thus:

Pele - Good.
Maradona - Better.
George - BEST !!!

May your Legend live on for all eternity!
May you rest in peace among your real equals - the stars in the sky !



Links :




Thursday, May 20, 2010

The riddle of the Berbatov enigma

Manchester United had just won the League and Champions League double the previous season. Rooney and Tevez were forming a formidable strike partnership. Yet, the complaint was that they were too similar and that there had to be a different approach too. Enter Manchester United’s new Number Nine. Dimitar Berbatov. When he was signed on deadline day of 2008 from Tottenham Hotspur for a fee of close to 30.75 million pounds, there was little doubt that he would become a success story at Old Trafford. He would be the skill and panache to all of Tevez’s grit and graft. He would be the focus of attack. He would provide that piece of magic and that flash of brilliance at will. Fans were heard singing ‘Ooh! Aah! Cantona!’
What has transpired in the following two years at Old Trafford has been a story that is different from the ideal one in many counts. What was supposed to be a match made in heaven has turned into a series of nights of lull interspersed with brilliant one night stands. To say that Berbatov has set Old Trafford on fire would be a lie but to say that he has been an utter flop would be an even bigger one. Here I attempt to understand the complex riddle of what has gone wrong, where it has and why it has; the riddle of the enigma that is Dimitar Berbatov.
Berbatov first arrived on the scene with a fantastic piece of skill at the edge of the box, a small dribble and a cut back to Tevez to score against the old enemy. Things couldn’t have looked brighter but somehow, things did not materialize as expected. Berbatov’s early season performances were encouraging with good performances and great combination with both Rooney and Tevez. It was in mid-October that something happened. El Ron was back.
Having missed the early part of the season with ankle surgery, Ronaldo returned to the United fold and straight away, was thrust into the limelight. Sir Alex increasingly started using the 4-5-1 with Rooney up top but as the games wore on, Ronaldo ended up top and Rooney relegated to the wing. Berbatov was tried in the system but out of his natural habitat and playing in a new team, Berbatov didn’t quite flourish.
There were of course the brilliant flashes, tricks, flicks and backheels but these were few and far in between. When they did come off though, they were a thing to behold. The one moment that really stands out in my memory is that piece of skill in the league game against West Ham where he did a 360 on the by line and passed it to Ronaldo to score. Pure genius.
As the season wore on, he was being in rotation with Rooney and Tevez and many a time, it was a case of one among the three to partner Ronaldo up front with Rooney out wide.  The season ended with a poor penalty taken in the FA Cup semi-final against Everton which drew flak from all directions. 14 goals from 43 appearances was not a bad return but not one that was expected from a 30 million pound man. There were more than 15 assists too but the overall return was disappointing.
The next season came with the departure of Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo to Manchester City and Real respectively. Michael Owen was signed but he was always going to be the third striker. The stage was set for Berbatov. His time was now. Yet, the season did not go according to the script.
If Ronaldo was ‘it’ in the previous season, Rooney was ’it’ this term. Quickly stepping out of the shadows of Ronaldo, Rooney was given the central role that he always craved and the effects showed. He ended the season with a phenomenal return of 34 goals. Again, it was Berbatov who made headway. Sir Alex again preferred the 4-5-1 in the big games with Rooney being the lone striker. In a 4-4-2, Berbatov did play but with him playing only every other game at best, the continuous run of games that is necessary for any partnership to flourish never materialized. Added to this, there was the lingering knee problem that just would not go away. Berbatov’s contribution was sporadic and although he did finish as joint second top scorer (along with ‘own-goal’) his performances have left fans polarized.
Why has Berbatov not worked? One, he has been playing a different role to the one at Tottenham. In his first season, he played ‘in the hole’ essentially when he was paired with Ronaldo, which his natural position. The one game where United absolutely wreaked havoc was the second half performance against Tottenham, ironically. United scored 5 goals in a 20 minute blitz in the second half, with ‘the fab 4’, Rooney, Ronaldo, Tevez and Berbatov playing together. With Tevez, Rooney and Ronaldo playing in a fluid system, Berbatov was free to drop deep, collect the ball, play one-twos and show his entire repertoire of tricks and flicks. It was a sight to behold.
Berbatov’s is not an all-action style; it’s one of style, panache, finesse and skill. He will not chase lost causes. His economy of movement is something that not everyone will understand or appreciate. When he has been severely criticized for his lack of goals and his contribution but that argument has come in from quarters that do not really look at his other contribution to the way United play when he’s in the squad.
When he drops deep, invariably, he draws 2 defenders towards him. This opens up space for the others to exploit. He seems to hold on to the ball for a lot longer than necessary but all that while, he draws more defenders onto himself, thereby opening up more spaces and hence making the opposition lose their shape. Berbatov thrives on the ‘give-n-go’ system where he gives it and expects it back immediately.  The game against Tottenham is case in point. At United, this has not been the case most of the time. Admittedly, he has not got himself into goal scoring situations, or ‘at the end of the cross’ enough but that must not be the sole criterion to judge the man.
At Tottenham, he was the pivot around which the team operated. He was the lynchpin in attack and all moves went through him. His style is usually to drop deep, keep the ball, make a quick pass and get the ball back. At United, he has been doing the first three parts but seldom does he get the ball back immediately. Usually, Fletcher or Carrick or Scholes receive the ball and look to the wings to expand play rather than giving it back to Berbatov and build play more centrally. Now, I'm not in the least suggesting that this system is wrong and detrimental but merely stating the difference in the styles between United and Tottenham.
Another factor that influences Berbatov is confidence. He’s a form player who, when high on confidence, will pull off some of the most outrageous pieces of skill but when low on confidence, will look like a sorry man ambling on the pitch without any sense of direction. Sadly, this was the case on many an occasion this term. This can partly be attributed to his being in and out of the team and partly to the hefty price tag that has clearly weighed him down. 
At Tottenham, he was the pivot around which the team operated. He was the lynchpin in attack and all moves went through him. His style is usually to drop deep, keep the ball, make a quick pass and get the ball back. At United, he has been doing the first three parts but seldom does he get the ball back immediately. Usually, Fletcher or Carrick or Scholes receive the ball and look to the wings to expand play rather than giving it back to Berbatov and build play more centrally. Now, I'm not in the least suggesting that this system is wrong and detremential but merely stating the difference in the styles between United and Tottenham.
There are talks of him being let go but I believe that he needs one more season to really prove himself. Next season, if given a fair and steady run in the team, it is very likely that Manchester United will see the best of Dimitar Berbatov. There was a video on Youtube with the title ‘Is Fergie looking for a new Cantona’ just after Berbatov was signed. As is quite evident, I am a huge fan of United’s number nine and I’m sure that given time, he can reach the charismatic heights. There can be only one king but he could well have an heir.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Blimps - IPL edition of Kites


*To be read like in the Reliance ad where that writer explains the story of Kites to Hrithik.

Blimps - The IPL edition of Kites

Shashi sees Sunandha.
Both of them speak a common language - Bad Hindi.
Cut to Dubai where Shashi romances Sunandha.
Shashi becomes minister from Kerala.
Enter Villain : Modi sahib.
Cut to Nayyar chaya shop in Kerala.
IPL Kochi deal formulated.
Shashi gives blessings.
Sunanadha gives sweat, gets equity.
Shashi travels with cattle.
Modi orders MRF blimp.
Shashi tweets.
Modi retweets.
Sunanda accused, Shashi ousted.
Modi grins.
High speed twitter rant from all sides.
Modi floats in blimp.
Shashi left limp.
Modi ousted.
Shashi elated.

Blimps - coming soon to a theatre near you.



Friday, May 14, 2010


Disclaimer: The events in this post are purely fictional and any real occurrences of the same nature between 5:30 and 6:30 PM in the gym on 13th May 2010 are purely coincidental.

The gym: a place where we go to work out, to flex our muscles and get in shape. General population: Between 50 and 125, depending on the time.
The southwest corner: the place where people generally do floor exercises and exercises on the medicine ball. Population: Between 3 and 4, depending on the time.

On may the 13th though, there was an aberration. Here is the story of 'The Southwest Invasion.'

As any other day, I went to the gym, ran on the treadmill, stretched out and then went to the Southwest corner to do crunches. Imagine my astonishment then, when I saw that my corner, the one place in the gym where I had territorial advantage, was top dog even (OK, thats an exaggeration but then this is fictional remember :P ) was invaded.

There were mats spread everywhere. Guys were doing ab-crunches, side stretches and everything in between. Now this was disturbing indeed. Upon further inspection, the reason was clear. This is where we introduce the heroine of the story; we shall simply call her 'she'.

'She' was there. Now I'm not for one moment suggesting that the general gym population suddenly migrated to the southwest corner just because of 'she''s presence but I was a bit skeptical. Now I am a man not given in to skepticism that easily. I look at further reasoning; after all, logic is something I pride myself on. So of course I stood there and observed. No, not 'she' but the others as well (see that I use 'as well' and no 'only' :D). The more I observed, the more it became evident. 'She' was the leader of the invaders.

'She' had led her troupe and they were treading the holy soil. They were to be stopped. But how? Yes, the eternal question: How?! Elementary. All I had to do was to lure 'she' from the general vicinity and her hoard would follow. But how do I do that? After all, I aint the Pied Piper and they aint no rats. What do I do? While I was pondering over this, one of her army vacated his exercise mat. I think it was the end of his shift. Fatal mistake. Now the door was open; now was my time. The corner was to be mine again.

... and in a blur, I neatly outmaneuvered my opponent, the next in line for the mat, did a somersault, made the perfect three point landing(all captured in hi-def 3d with slow motion to enhance the effect), and took the mat; a territorial advantage gained. Ha! Gotcha! I had just breached 'She''s legions; I was the true warrior. And then, 'she' looked simplyand nonchalantly smiled.

And so that is the story of the southwest invasion; a story of how I got my mat ... and then joined her army. If you cant beat 'em, join 'em :D


Friday, May 07, 2010

The season so far: Part 4 - The Manchester blues

‘Welcome to Manchester’ read a blue poster with the image of Carlos Tevez on it. A clear indication to their cross-town rivals and indeed the rest of the premier league that Manchester City had arrived; and not just to make up the numbers. Manchester was well and truly divided. The battle lines were drawn, the swords unsheathed; it was time to play.


As expected, with the backing of their phenomenally rich owners, Mark Hughes brought in massive names: Tevez, Adebayor, Santa Cruz in attack, and Kolo Toure and Joleon Lescott in defence. With an expenditure of more than a hundred million pounds, City were making their intentions clear. A top-4 place was expected and many even tipped them to be challenging for the title.


They started off in fine form with 5 straight wins that included a win over Arsenal. They went on to win 7 of their first 8 games with the only defeat coming in the controversial Manchester derby at Old Trafford.  Then came the run of 7 successive draws that ultimately signaled the end of Mark Hughes as manager of Man City. Results did improve in December with back to back wins over Arsenal in the Carling Cup and Chelsea in the league but Sparky’s days were quite clearly numbers.  His replacement was the suave Italian former Inter manager, Roberto Mancini.


Hughes’ unceremonious dumping and the appointment of Mancini was met with a mixed reception with  many players publically coming out in support of the ex-boss. Clearly loyalties were divided in the dressing room but Mancini was adamant that he could make them a success story. His reign started off with 3 wins on the bounce. Then came the ill-tempered 2 legged semi-final affair against their Mancunian rivals which they ultimately lost.


February and March were mixed with draws and losses interspersed by good wins. Stoke dumped City out of the FA Cup and come the end of March, the only focus was now on the elusive 4th champions league spot. January was a relatively quiet month in the transfer window with only the arrivals of former Arsenal skipper, Patrick Viera and the relatively low-key Adam Johnson. January also saw the departure of the club’s most expensive player Robinho; no he wasn’t sold, merely sent out on loan to former club Santos.


With the race for the 4th spot heating up, Man City went all out. There were good wins against Burnley, Birmingham and Villa but were either side of a loss in the Manchester derby and a draw at the Emirates. It all came down to the showdown at Eastlands and the Lily whites came up trumps. Manchester City are consigned to the Europa League next season.


The story of the season is merely a sub plot to the revolution at City. For the first time in recent memory, a team has actually emerged that is a genuine threat to the established big guns. A club with the financial muscle to genuinely give the big boys a run for their money. The spending power and the utter nonchalance towards the very concept of money is a frightening thought. The loaning out of the club’s most expensive player is case in point. Any other team, possibly even Real Madrid would think twice on a decision like that but to Man City, it seems like just another day at work.


With Roberto Mancini seemingly with the owners’ backing, in spite of not delivering the Champions league spot, and backed by the near endless cash reserves, a top 4 place is most certainly on the cards next season and possibly a strong challenge for the title as well. The biggest problem with City this year has been that on many an occasion, they’ve played as a bunch of 11 individuals rather than a team. Mancini has an entire summer to think about that particular problem, and we may well see a different Man City next term.


There is talk of dressing room unrest and the likes of Carlos Tevez leaving but the club will ensure that if indeed they do leave, able replacements will be recruited, at any cost. As the close season nears, City are inevitably linked to most of the big names of world football. Insane amounts of money are mentioned but it wouldn’t in the least bit be surprising if these massive-money deals did indeed materialize.


People will question the appointment of Roberto Mancini. After all, Mark Hughes won a total of 32 points in his 16 games in charge while Mancini has won 34 in his 21 in charge. Since Mancini took over though, City have looked a lot more organized and that instilled discipline is evident. With Mancini at the reins, and given time to build a team, there is every chance that Man City will be a force to be reckoned in the very near future.






Thursday, May 06, 2010

The season so far: Part 3 - The kid conundrum

Arsene Wenger told the world “Watch out for us this season”, and so the world watched. Being his usual astute self, Wenger forayed into the transfer market and bought only Thomas Vermaelen, the Belgian defender from Ajax. Naturally eyebrows were raised on the lack of “big name signings” but Wenger, in his  normal manner, brushed aside the thought, instead, reiterating his faith in the young guns.


Arsenal started off in the most brilliant fashion, disposing of Everton and Portsmouth 6-1 and 4-1 respectively, an in the meanwhile eliminating Celtic from the Champions League with the minimum of fuss. With 15 goals in the first 4 games, it looked as if Wenger had been vindicated. Then came back to back defeats at the two Manchester clubs but these were followed by a remarkable run of 11 wins and 2 draws in the next 13 games. Arsene’s men were well and truly on their way to something special; or it would seem.


December rolled onto January and defeat in the Carling cup was one of the series of mixed results that saw Arsenal keep pace with the leaders and even top the table on occasion. February came and Arsenal’s good run continued with progression to the next stage of the Champions League, after an utter demolition of Porto. Next in wait – the champions. March was again mixed with good wins marred by the draw against Birmingham and the remarkable come-from-behind draw against Barcelona. This game though, would turn out to be one of the most significant of the season, not so much for the result as for the injury to Cesc Fabregas, their talisman.


Come April, and Arsenal were very much in with a shot at the title in what has become perhaps the closest title race in recent memory. April, was where it tailed off. After a scrappy 1-0 against Wolves, they were handed something of a lesson by Barcelona at the Camp Nou. The diminutive Argentinian scoring all four goals in what was a virtuoso performance by the European and World champs. With just the Premier League to play for, Arsene Wenger knew that if his side put in a decent string of performances, the title could well be back at North London. What transpired though was a string of poor results with reverses at Tottenham and Wigan and  draw at Man City. Arsenal are no longer in the title race going into the last day of the season, and by the looks of it, even third place is not guaranteed.


What happened then? It was all going so well and then … implosion! To start off, the summer signing of Vermaelen was an inspired one with the Belgian becoming one of the signings of the season. Eduardo, Bendtner and Vela were touted to be the main support cast to the main man, Van Persie but somehow they failed to deliver. The midfield was overflowing with options and Song has been the absolute unsung hero this season (no pun intended). The problem then, as it has been for a few seasons now, was injuries. Far too many players played far too less to really maintain that coherency and chemistry. Wenger was forced to play players out of position and this had a telling effect. The defence was also hampered by injuries and the only replacement Wenger brought in the transfer window was an ageing Sol Campbell, who though, has been one of the stand-out performers in the run in. Ramsey’s breakthrough season was also cut short by a horrific injury that will see him miss the first half of next season too. Add to this the fact that Van Persie was out for a major part of the season and the lack of firepower  becomes evident.


Another problem, and an even bigger one has been the attitude. As has been the case over the past few seasons, when faced with crunch situations and high pressure, they’ve often bucked under it. Much as they are the best “footballing team” in the land, they too lack that all important Plan-B when things don’t go according to plan. Often, they’ve been outmuscled and roughed up by physical teams.


With Chamakh confirming that he will be joining the Gunners at the end of the season, their striking options should be bolstered. Arsenal’s midfield certainly has a lot of options but many are too similar. Most of them tend to play the same game. Song, for all his defensive qualities, is still a touch player. What is definitely needed is steel in the middle of that midfield. Someone like ex-captain fantastic, Viera. Also, with Gallas’ contract running out at the end of the season and there still ebing question marks about his temperament, another quality center back to partner Vermaelen is most definitely needed. All said and done, one of the most pieces of business that Wenger has to do is to tie down his captain and shield him from the Catalan advances.


“In Arsene we trust” reads many a banner at the Emirates and it’s a sentiment echoed by many Gooners. It’s been FIVE seasons now without a trophy now and even the most ardent fans are beginning to raise a question or two. Arsene Wenger is no longer just the manager; he’s much more. He is building not just a squad but a football club. Arsene must realize that his footballing philosophy is great but he definitely need that extra bit of quality, grit and determination. Now rid of all debt and armed with a transfer chest of more than 50 million, there will be no question of a lack of funds next season. It’s time for the professor to go forth; to splash the cash and bring glory once again.






Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The season so far: Part 2 - The Mersyside Melee

When Jamie Carragher said before the start of the season, “This is our year!”, people, for once, took him seriously. Coming off the back of a brilliant season where Liverpool, after years of making up the top 4, genuinely challenged for the title, they were expected widely to challenge for the title and perhaps finally win that elusive 19th title that would again see them as the undisputed kings of England. What transpired though, was a season that was marred with poor displays and inconsistency on the pitch, and a storm off it, in the boardrooms.


The off season was an interesting one with the sale of Xabi Alonso and Alvaro Arbeloa to Real Madrid and the major signings of Glen Johnson and Alberto Aquilani. Aquilani’s signing was ans especially intriguing one because he was signed for a fee in the region of 20 million pounds and was going to be out for the start of the season for sure. Nevertheless, the core of the squad that had come so close to winning the title last season was maintained and it was “all hands on deck” to the title hilt.


The early season form was patchy with fantastic wins against the likes Stoke and Hull interspersed by a defeat against Villa and scraped-out wins against Bolton, Debreceen and West Ham. The next 10 games was what probably defined Liverpool’s season. The 10 games resulted in 6 losses, 3 draws and only a solitary win, albeit against bitter rivals Manchester United. Come November end, Liverpool’s title challenge was all but over and their qualification to the knock out stages of the Champion’s League hanging by a thread. This 10 game spell was probably the club’s worst in recent times.


The first half of December brought with it heartbreak; Liverpool were knocked out of Europe’s elite and were consigned to a season in Europe’s Tier-II competition. The players tried to put up a brave face by saying that “winning the Europa League will put a different gloss on the season” but it was there for all to see that they were desperately disappointed that they had let themselves and the fans down. The next few months were again mixed with Liverpool now struggling to hold onto a Champion’s League spot. Their form in the Europa League was marginally better though and they went through to the semi-finals without much difficulty. It was in the semi-final though, that their only chance of silverware was also taken away from them – a strike from Manchester United old boy, Diego Forlan, sent Liverpool out of the Europa League and extinguished hopes of any sort of silverware this season. With last weekend’s loss against Chelsea confirming that there will be no Champions League football next term, 2009-’10 is officially the worst season for Liverpool FC in recent times.


What then is the reason? On first glance, FOOTBALL seems to be the most obvious. What could possibly have gone so badly wrong with the core of the team still intact? The loss of one player could not have hampered them that much, could it? Xabi Alonso was massive for Liverpool, no doubt, but surely his departure was not the only reason. Of the 2 big signings, Glen Jonson really came into his own and has cemented his position as first choice for both club and country. Aquilani, however, is a different story. Heralded as a playmaker with great vision and a fantastic shot, he never really sparkled; probably because he never really played! He was out for the early part of the season with an injury but even after he was fully fit(or seemingly so), Rafa still limited him to 10 minute cameos. With Torres’ hamstrings and knees playing up from time to time, and him unavailable for a lot of the season, Liverpool were pretty toothless in attack with N’Gog hardly a replacement for the brilliant Spaniard. Gerrard too has had an ordinary season with off-field allegations clearly taking their toll.


All through the season, the boardroom battles have waged on with the owners publically disagreeing and sparring. They appointed Martin Broughton to sell the club which was for sale anyway. Rafa too got involved in these boardroom battles and took his eye off the ball – literally. He got in the mix of the power struggle and wanted more autonomy and so on when the focus should have been on the field. Also, the master tactician’s on-field tactics too left many a Kop supporter baffled. His insistence on playing 2 defensive midfielders against even lesser opposition left many shaking their heads. And with Rafa’s future looking cloudy, Liverpool FC supporters are looking at a long summer ahead.


All’s not doom and gloom though. If Rafa does stay, he will probably be working under new management, who will back him in the transfer market and he can get those couple of missing pieces of the jigsaw. With Torres likely to be fully fit and Aquilani beginning to look like the prospect who everyone thought he was, Liverpool could yet put a disastrous end to the noughties and begin the new decade with what may well be the 19th title and with Chelsea looking good to deny United their nineteenth, Liverpool could yet be the undisputed kings of England come May 2011.






Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The season so far: Part 1 - The Italian invasion


The Italian invasion of West London was greeted with a great deal of expectancy. After the Brazilian fiasco followed by the Dutch revival of last season, Stamford Bridge was buoyant after the appointment of one of the foremost tacticians of Italian football. The summer was relatively quiet with the only big money signing being Yuri Zhirkov, and Daniel Sturridge and Ross Turnbull bolstering the English options.


Chelsea started off with a win in the Charity shield over Manchester United on penalties. Carlo’s diamond was unleashed on an unsuspecting premier league and Chelsea romped their way past teams in the early part of the season with hardly a hiccup. The group stages of the Champions league too seemed a breeze with 4 wins and 2 draws in the group stages. They looked unbeatable at times and were ruthless in attack and miserly in defence.


Then came the proverbial “blip” with inconsistency raising its head. Unexpected draws at Everton, West ham, Birmingham and Hull. The turn of the year saw Chelsea sitting atop the premier league perch and looking good for their first title post Mourinho. January and then Februaury rolled on with a few mixed results but Chelsea still held the edge. Then came the heartbreak. Carlo was out thought by his former cross-town Milan rival, and predecessor, The special one. Another year gone, another year Roman has to wait for his elusive Champions League.


The season has almost ended and Chelsea are in it for two major titles; They currently hold a single point advantage over Manchester United going into the last day of the season and they play Portsmouth in the FA Cup final. The double is very much on the cards.


Carlo Ancelotti’s diamond was the story of the first half of the season when it cut through all in its path but as the season progressed, loss of form and fatigue soon caught up with the ageing Chelsea squad and led to inconsistency. Going into the business end of the season, Chelsea look to be in a fantastic position with most of their players peaking. Drogba is the joint top scorer in the league and “Super Frank” has just had another 20 goal season. Yet, Chelsea’s main man this season has been Flourent Malouda. At the beginning of the season, many were questioning the Frenchman’s value to the team and there was even the talk of an exit at the end of this season. Employed by Ancelotti in both a wide position and in a more central role, he has reveled and has contributed not just to the scoring charts but in the assists column as well. The return of Joe Cole too bolstered the options but Essien has been a big miss with everyone else who has occupied his position struggling to show any sort of consistency.


With both Bosingwa and Ashley Cole out for long periods, Ivanovic has stepped up to the plate and has established himself as first choice. John Terry has not been at his usual brilliant best, off field problems and losing the England captaincy might be the contributors there, but has done well enough to steer the Chelsea ship through.


Two games left in the season now. One’s a cup final and the other may well be called a ‘League final’. Carlo’s team have to now show that they do indeed possess the nerves of steel and the suave that have made them the top scorers in the league. It may not have been a vintage season in terms of consistency but come the end of the season, they are exactly where they wanted to be; challenging for trophies.




Thursday, April 08, 2010

A night of opportunities lost

It was another fantastic European night at Old Trafford; it had goals, red cards, heroic defending and moments of pure magic. At the end though, Bayern Munich emerged with a loss on the night but a place booked in the semi-finals.


The drama unfolded even before kick-off. Wayne Rooney started. Clearly, he was only half fit but Sir Alex saw it prudent to pick him over Berbatov. The decision was certainly risky but what a decision it was! Rooney’s presence seemed to galvanize United who started off with an absolute blitzkrieg that left the Germans shell-shocked.   First, it was Gibson(another surprise starter) who put his foot through a Rooney lay off and squared Hans Jorg Butt all ends up. One nil inside three minutes. Then it was Nani’s turn. Valencia shimmied and conned Badstuder and fed in a ball that was finished off by Nani with a ‘Ronaldo-esque’ backheel. Two nil in seven minutes.


If the Germans were rattled after the first goal, they were literally in jitters after the second. They just didn’t know what hit them. Butt made a meal of a straightforward clearance and it went straight to Carrick who skewed his shot marginally wide. Bayern were looking to get a toe hold in the game but were simply being outplayed. The much fancied duo of Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery were all but anonymous with Ribery well cornered by a combination of Rafael and Valencia. On the half hour mark, Rafael had another glorious opportunity when he ran half the length of the pitch with the ball but poor decision making meant that he could not play in either Nani or Rooney.


Then in the 41st minute, United were at it again. Fletcher played a fantastic cross-field ball into Valencia who squared it to Nani, who unleashed an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net. Three nil and seemingly, game over. Just before half time however, Olic pulled one back for Bayern when he took advantage of some slack defending and beat Van Der Sar. Three one at the break.


The second half started with Gomez coming on for the ineffective Muller. Bayern started the stronger and clearly, the goal had galvanized them. Then in the 50th minute, Rafael pegged back Ribery and the referee awarded a free kick. Initially, the referee did not appear to show any indication of reaching into his pocket but a swarm of Bayern players surrounded him, and he soon showed Rafael a second yellow which meant that United had to play the best part of the half, a man down. United were now effectively playing with nine and a half men with Rooney looking increasingly like a passenger. He was taken off in the second half and was substituted by the returning O’Shea.


Bayern were now firmly in the ascendancy and were putting more pressure on United. United held on till the 74th minute. That was when a moment of absolute magic put United out. Ribery took a corner which he clipped to the edge of the box towards a waiting Robben. The Dutchman showed fantastic technique and finesse to guide a brilliant volley into the corner of the net. Three two, on the night; Four four on aggregate; Advantage Bayern.


Bayern then controlled most of the game, playing it about at will. United did bring on Berbatov and Giggs for Carrick and Gibson but it was too little, too late. Three two at the end. Bayern through on the away goals rule and they now go on to face Lyon in the semi-finals.


The game was a fantastic mix of beautiful attacking football and shrewd tactical calculations. Bayern read the situation wonderfully after the sending off and played to the hilt. Nani and Valencia both had stellar games with the former showing his full array of tricks and flicks. After the sending off, he looked United’s main threat and at times, Bayern had 5 men on him. Fletcher ran his socks off, as usual, and the defence held up pretty admirably, apart from a couple of moments of slacking off, which in the end proved costly.


One can’t help but think that Sir Alex’s quite evident lack of faith in Berbatov may in part have been the deciding factor. Starting with a half-fit Rooney might well have paid off with the start United got but bringing on O’Shea and not Berbatov for Rooney probably was where he missed a trick. Sure, O’Shea came in to shore the defence up and shut up shop but he could have come on for the pretty woeful Michael Carrick. Both Valencia and Nani were constant outlets throughout the game but in the latter stages, there was no central lynchpin for them to really play their game. Even with 10 men, United attacked but somehow had to check back on breaks because of the lack of a central figure.


In all, it was a night of missed opportunities. Sir Alex will be fuming, more at the manner of the defeat(over the 3 legs) than the match result in itself. A couple of moments of bad defending over the 2 legs (Olic, the beneficiary on both occasions) will certainly be infuriating. For the second time in a week, united slacked off from being in a position of strength and Bayern made them pay. Another  European season of ‘what if?’ has just ended. The Premier League awaits.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Europe tonight: A preview

Yesterday is history now. Once the dust settled in Spain and Russia, two of the four semi-finalists of the UEFA Champions League 2009-’10 have been identified. It will be a clash of Italian guile and steel against the Spanish flow and beauty.


A couple of massive matches tonight.

First, the battle for France, with Bordeaux taking on Lyon. On paper, it looks to be Lyon’s for the taking. Having lost their crown to Bordeaux last season, Lyon were very much the wounded animal in the first leg and ran out comfortable 3-1 winners. Bordeaux though, will be buoyed by the away goal and its more than likely that Blanc will instill confidence in his charges and a mouthwatering clash may well be on the cards; Lyon out to prove that they are still top dogs in France, and Bordeaux looking to show the world that last season was no fluke.


Old Trafford, the theatre of dreams. The big question tonight will certainly be one of whether the dream for the club from Manchester will continue or will it be a resurgent Bayern who will quash the dream. Their talisman, Wayne Rooney, who has been nothing short of sensational this term and has more than once been the spark that has really galvanized Manchester United’s quest for glory this season. With Wazza on the bench (at best), United look to have their task cut out. With Berbatov leading the line over the weekend against Chelsea, the cutting edge did indeed seem to be missing. For all of his touch, suave and panache, Berbatov has been found wanting on occasion. United’s backline looks to be coming good but an ageing Neville could be exposed. John O’Shea is fit again, but having not played a competitive game since September ’09, it remains to be seen if he will be risked in such a massive game.


Ferdinand and Vidic look to be recapturing the old magic but its early days yet. The midfield is likely to have Nani and Valencia on the flanks with Scholes, Park and Fletcher in the middle.  Sir Alex, over the past couple of seasons has been known to favor the 4-5-1 in the big games but always had either Rooney  or Ronaldo leading the line. It will be interesting to see if Sir Alex opts for a bolder 4-4-2 approach with either Macheda or Diouf alongside Berbatov. However, this appears most unlikely with a 4-4-1-1 with either Giggs or Park supporting Berbatov, looking the most likely option.


On the other hand, Bayern will be full of confidence after a fantastic week which saw them do a “99” on United and regained top spot in the Bundesliga with a win over Schalke. With Robben back In their ranks, their wings look formidable. With a plethora of options up front, Van Gaal looks to have a plan for every situation. Add to that, the return to fitness of Van Buyten, and Bayern look to be at full strength and at their peak.


With United seemingly struggling and Bayern in full force, Bayern look to be the favorites, regardless of what Van Gaal says. Trust Sir Alex to pull the rabbit out of the hat though. One thing is for certain, another glorious European night awaits at Old Trafford tonight.





Friday, March 12, 2010

Adidas takes on Microsoft and Apple

After Puma's foray into the cell phone business with the 'Puma phone', it’s the turn of Adidas to enter the technology industry. Adidas have come with with an Operating System to take Microsoft and Apple head on.

Testing is in advanced stages and industry insiders have said that its "mind blowing".

Adidas has given it to the public for Beta testing but have hit upon a roadblock. None of the users have actually managed to test it.

Adidas officials have been baffled by this but closer studies have revealed that the users were simply not getting past the welcome screen.

At the welcome screen, the adidas logo along with the name of the Operating System, 'AdiOS' comes up. Users were bewildered to see a good-bye message- 'Adios' at the opening screen and were constantly retrying to start up the machine by pushing the power button.

Adidas has planned a high level meeting to address this pressing issue. Watch this space for more.

                                                                                                    -By our Staff Reporter

Monday, January 25, 2010

India Works

Thousands of castes, lakhs of sub-castes and countless divisions within them. Each community with its own identity and customs; customs that offer differ from household to household! Customs that often lead to conflicts, not just between communities but also within them. Caste tensions; Communal tensions; Religious tensions; Riots here; Stampedes there; Death everywhere. Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Parsis,  Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, to name a few. Yet, we are the largest democracy in the world, and a pretty well governed one at that. So how then, does India work?
The immediate reason that comes to mind: Well, as a people, we are a pretty satisfied bunch! I mean, think about it. In general, we are by and large happy with what we have, and if not, we simply don’t bother. We look around, shrug our shoulders and say, “Oh well! That’s life.” To quote V.S.Naipaul, “as long as the environment around us doesn’t change significantly, we are quite happy to let things be.” Corruption is rampant; power is grossly misused; politicians take undue advantage of the facilities and privileges available to them. All this happens in broad daylight, and yet in spite of all this, India grows at 8% economically year on year. One word: ‘WOW!’ Or maybe another: ‘HOW?’
Let’s start from the top. The top brass of the country generally make the right noises but do very less (I guess barking dogs do indeed seldom bite). We are quite satisfied to hear of all the grandiose plans chalked out for our future and live in the euphoria of it all. Then, after a while, we start to realize that nothing substantial has happened. We start to make noises. Soon enough, some of the so-far-dormant-plans spring to life and before we protest about the delay and inactivity, newer and grander plans are unveiled. This fuels us to continue our ‘slumber’. The vicious circle goes on and on. Oh, and if you see a public proclamation of the wonderous achievements of the recent past, be sure that an election is at hand!
Next, how is everyone kept happy? It’s simple really; horses for courses. A policy is adopted. As soon as it outlives its usefulness, a newer one is made; just like that. No questions asked. When the minorities revolt, give them a longer rope to chew; in other words, increase reservation. When the ‘upper’ or ‘privileged’ classes revolt, issue a ‘formal warning’ against such acts being ‘not in the country’s best interests’. If they continue to revolt, increase their number of seats or jobs; easy as you like it!
Politics is quite a force; a reality show to beat all reality shows. Forget ‘Big brother’; this is the big thing, brother! “Oh! Why bother?”, you may ask. Yet, we do bother and the agent we should thank for this, is the media. Sensationalism has made the country, and indeed the world what it is today, but that’s for another discussion.
We want to unite the rivers of the North and South when we can’t reach a consensus on water sharing between neighboring states. We want to build a road network to connect the four corners of the country when highways connecting adjacent cities are in tatters. We want to touch the stars, without getting up off our comfortable couches. Yet, the country blossoms and blooms.
Only in India! Only in India!
Footnote: This was actually written along while ago. I actually wrote it and was just simply too lazy to type it out. With India completing 60 years of becoming a republic, I figured that it was indeed the right time.  Here’s to India.


Monday, January 18, 2010

To Reuben

He was 95.
He had a multiple organ failure.
He led a full and fruitful life.
He was loved by many, loathed by quite a few as well.
He had his entire life to look back on.
He was mourned by many, with full press coverage.

He was all of 23.
He was hale and healthy.
He led a good life, until then.
He was loved by all, loathed by absolutely none.
He had his entire life to look forward to.
He was mourned by many, albeit silently.

Spare a thought for all those lesser known people but who have equally touched many many lives as the famous ones.

To Reuben Javvaji,
Rest In Peace.
21 Oct 1986 - 16 Jan 2010

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Treble - A Decade On

It’s been ten and a half seasons since the glorious treble of 1998-99 and so far the season hasn’t quite gone according to plan. On the face of it, the season so far doesn’t look too bad; Only 2 points behind Chelsea in the Premier League with half the season to go; Into the knockout stages of the Champions League (albeit, a daunting meeting with AC Milan lies in wait); The semi finals of the FA Cup (against Manchester City and with the blues hungry for any silverware that they can lay their hands on, and Sir Alex insisting on playing a youthful squad,  it does not look too rosy) and of course, the defeat at the battle of the Roses (listless display; no excuses there whatsoever). So what then has been the difference between that all conquering team and this team of “superstars”? My findings:

Leading from the front

The front three this season have scored 28 goals between them (Rooney 15, Berbatov 6 and Owen 7) so far, while in the treble season, Yorke had 29, Cole had 24 and Ole had 18 at the end of the season. Add to this Sheringham’s 5 and that’s a total of a whopping 76 goals between the front four. SAF had three top strikers, any two of whom he could start with in any match and an impact sub in Sheringham. In comparison, his team today has 2 top strikers and Owen, the supposed impact sub as the third striker. Agreed that United’s style of play has changed and that there is a different system employed but whatever the system is, goals are goals; and goals must be scored.

Down the flanks

In David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Jesper Blomquist, Manchester United had three fantastic exponents of wing play. All three were excellent on the flanks and all the three of them could cross the ball. Set pieces too were more than taken care of. In comparison, today’s squad has one ONE genuine winger in Antonio Valencia, with Nani flattering to deceive, Tosic deemed not good enough , Gabriel Obertan, who is one for the future but is certainly by no means the finished product and Park Ji Sung, who is not an out and out winger. Clearly, this has had a bearing on the team. Even if the crosses do come in, the natural poacher is not quite there in the box.

The false Nine

With the arrival of Dimitar Berbatov, it was well and truly established that Sir Alex had also converted to the philosophy of the ‘false nine’. Until then, there was at least one out and out Number 9 but since the departure of Louis Saha, there has been no real pivotal figure up front, who could be called on to play route one when required. And with Berbatov not quite having the desired impact, and with the departure of Ronaldo, there appears to be no alternate route this season. In the treble season, there were both Yorke and Cole alternating as the front man with the other dropping off.

The waning of eighteen

If anyone watches the highlights of the treble winning season, one thing will scream out; Paul Scholes. If his long rangers were absolute belters, his toe pokes from knock downs inside the box were equally important. He was always in the periphery of the box and joined in the attack with aplomb. With the passing of the years, his dynamism has also been impacted and although his range of passing remains as good as ever, there is no doubting the fact that he is no longer at the height of his powers and that he can no longer produce stellar performances week-in week-out, as he has admitted himself at times.

Oh! Sweet Sixteen

If there was one man the United faithful would love to see at the heart of the midfield even today, it has to be the skipper. Chants of ‘there is only one Keano’ still echo inside the theatre of dreams. Such is the impact of the man. When he was driving United, it was rest assured no one could afford to slack off, even for a minute. That was the stature of the man and the respect that he commanded. More than anything else, it was the winning mentality that was instilled in the team that made him the legend he is today. While United today do have a box to box midfielder in the rejuvenated Darren Fletcher, its Keano’s drive and ambition that they lack. The only one in the current team that comes close to that is a certain Wazza but there can be no comparison really on the influence wielded.

The reinvention of Eleven

Ryan Giggs is a legend. A living legend. A playing legend. When years ago, he burst into the scene with mazy runs and blistering pace, he was hailed as a phenomenon but people seriously doubted what his contribution to the team would be once he had lost his pace. The past two seasons has been as much about the reinvention of the Welsh wizard as it has been about Ronaldo. Giggs has made the transition from an out and out winger to a playmaker capable of more than ably filling into the left midfield or up front (or even at left back on one occasion). His most sensational displays have come from the center of midfield where he has used his dribbling skills to fantastic effect. He has well and truly shown that what he has lost in pace, he has made up for in guile. Looking at him playing today, you wouldn’t guess that he is all of 36 years of age. Yet, for all his brilliance and guile, his passing into a playmaker has left a huge void on the left flank.

The riddle at the back

With a multitude of injuries and the compulsion to play midfielders at the center of defence has severely hampered Sir Alex’s tactics this season and have made United look very vulnerable. Had everyone been fit, it might have been a lot different but one can only speculate. The treble winning team had Jaap Stam and Ronny Johnsen at the back with a young and brilliant Gary Neville, and the ever dependable Dennis Irwin on the sides. Only one defender has been ever present this term and he has been truly outstanding. The small Frenchman has been the stand out performer on many an occasion this season and has been a constant menace to the opposition going forwards on the left flank.

All things considered though, this season still has the possibility of turning into yet another “treble” year but the possibility is quite remote. Yet, with half a season gone and United yet to peak, you do begin to wonder if they will indeed peak. One thing is for certain though; there are exciting times ahead at Old Trafford and the reaction of Sir Alex to this season’s stuttering and struggling will be intriguing to watch indeed.