Sunday, November 28, 2010

A lovely day of football

For the last 3 years, the annual tournament of footbal has always thrown up pleasant surprises. And this year, was no suprise!! It was a lovely day for a game of ball and the venue was Poinsur Gymkhana, Kandivili (W). The first half was an intra-vakola (Asian Paints Corporate Office) tournament. There were 4 teams and everyone was quite enthusiastic about the game. The 4 teams had been nicknamed Vikings, Strikers, Warriors and Rangers. The first match threw up the big surprise and the front-runners for the tournament. It also brought to the front likes of Mevin, Raju, Nikhil and Sanket. The awesome 4 went on to play a very important role for their team in the rest of the tournament for their team. The Systems dept overshadowed the other 3 teams and went on to win the tournament. The best part of this entire event was that no one really minds losing or winning but, its a day when everybody has a good time kicking the ball!!! These events and winning the event is just an excuse for us to actually observe people forgetting their daily office issues and letting their hair down to really enjoy themselves. After all, isn't that why we come to work in the first place???

The second half of the day (post - lunch) was the Asian Paints Limited (APL) Champions League. The 3 teams were Turbhe Tuskers (the reigning Champion), Vakola United (last year runners-up) and APPG Gunners (one of most Fair Play teams). It was an absorbing day of football that followed (atleast for me). Vakola United was invigorated with the addition of the four musketeers and with new additions to the line up like RC (Rahul Chaudhury), Ali Bawa et al along with last year stalwarts Vilas, Sabby (Sabyasachi) and Happy (Harshdeep), the team was one of the strong contenders. The first match was closely fought and ended in victory for Tuskers against the Gunners. The following matches involved Vakola United against these 2 teams and ended in skewed scorelines in favor of Vakola United. The final was between United and Tuskers. Tuskers took the early lead but then, it was all in favor of United who completed the rout in the rest of the game. There were flashes of brilliance displayed by the reigning Champions but, the new United proved to be too strong and hot to handle. In the end, it ended in victory for the Vakola United team, the new Champions!!

It was a great of football and I look forward to this day in the coming year. And, what was my contribution... I was the referee for all the league matches. It felt good. We ended with the a lot of cheers for all the playing members, organizers and words of encouragement by our Vice President, Mr. Moukwa. It was a fun day and we hope that in the years to follow, many more such days not just in football but other games will follow. Here's to all the guys who made this day memorable.. Cheers to all the guys...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Beginning of a New Era

June 11 heralded a new beginning with the start of the African WC 2010 FIFA World Cup. It was the first time that the African continent was playing host to the entire world and on such a massive scale. The challenges ranged from funding issues to terrorist or internal threats. The South African nation is probably one of the most developed nations of the continent and responded well. A total of 6 African nations qualified for the main tournament viz. Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Algeria and Cote d’Ivoire. It was sad to see only one of them qualify but, I’m happy that the lone African side, Ghana almost went all the way but, had to concede defeat on account of the most talked about handball in football history. The closing ceremony was quite well organized but, I feel that it was better for viewing on TV than the actual live version on account of laser shows and images which were brought to life on television.
There was a huge amount of cynicism at the start of the World Cup regarding security arrangements and infrastructure management in SA but, they were able to meet the expectations of the world, if not necessarily surpass them. The football grounds were not world class and you could not see the grass turf being uprooted during slide tackles and naked mud exposed. This is not expected from a world class arena but nonetheless, it was still acceptable for the routine matches. Nature played truant but, things were really bad in just one or two matches most memorable to me being URU vs SKOR where heavy rains allowed Koreans to dominate play through small passes but were undone by a Suarez goal in the last minutes of the game.
South Africa, in recent times, has showcased their ability to hold international events such as IPL. Such events have also boosted the tourism industry and overall business environment. Who would have thought that the ‘Vuvuzela’ will have such a strong impact that it will lead to a ban on its use during imposed in Wimbledon (Poor English, the so called golden generation embarrassed themselves on world stage yet again…). There were quite a few African players from other countries who have made their mark on world football such Drogba (Cote D’Ivoire), Toure brothers (Cote D’Ivoire), Assou - Ekotu (Cameroon), Eto (Cameroon) and others. This also allowed us to realize the kind of talent that is surfacing from the African continent and their ability to adapt and play in foreign leagues across the world. The European continent regulars failed to impress but, Netherlands, Germany and Spain lived up to their reputation. My heart goes out to Germany who have made to the semi finals seven times and have almost lifted the Cup in the last three world cup competitions. The Brazilians showed poor temperament and were only impressive against lesser known teams. Their flair and composure was totally broken down by the Dutch and they have only themselves to blame. The English were lucky to win the Cup in 1966 and that’s the first and last time, they will ever get to touch the Cup (India in Cricket and England in Football, same story!!!) It was good fun tracking the entire competition for the month and even though, the team I logically thought would win the Cup actually did win it, I would have still wished for an underdog to take to the mantle…. Well, may be the Brazilian Samba will re – create the magic in 2014… Congratulations to Spain and my respects to the Dutch, well fought and till 2014….. the Beautiful Game lives on !!!!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

This time for the Dark Horse

After Vettel's victory at Valencia after edging out Hamilton, Germany had gone one up on England in the day's fixtures. However, as the main battle shifts to South Africa for WC 2010, people are likely to make a lot of comparisons. With a lot of history, both sporting and otherwise, between the two teams, things were always going to be interesting. However, a great deal of interest in my opinion has been because of the presence of the lesser known footballing nations. I meani would have never imagined the in house supporters of Chelsea, ManU and Arsenal coming together to cheer for Slovakia as they ousted Italy. But that too is not the big story. Its about New Zealand, the lowly ranked nation remained unbeaten and finished above Italy. Honduras vs Switzerland decided who went through from Group H. It wasn't about France crashing out, it was about South Africa equalling Mexico on points table. It was about Ghana making it to the quarters. In a way, it was the about the underdogs. And who knows we may have another Greece in the making !
Like today's race, this Cup will be known for a lot of things including some sloppy decision making by the officials. Like today's race, the Kobayashis could upset the apple cart for others. And like today's race, the second fastest race lap could be set by the man who finished 16th. (Well, an Englishman did beat a German to that one !). All of which goes on to show that sometimes, with a little heart, you can go far ! Or can you ? ;)

Round of 16!!! Heart breaks and Celebrations

The group stages concluded on Friday and there were heart breaks for the teams who did not make it to the knock out stages. Both finalists from last WC were unable to reach the next stages. A lot has been said about the French team and its misgivings; the Italians fared no better. A lot of hue and cry was made about Italy's exit too, but there were no internal bickerings in the Italian side. The team just couldn't start its engines.. age, pressure, and the like took its toll on an aging side. Managers for both sides have left, for French, the World Cup was an event of shame while for Italy, it was bad form.. One of the reasons cited has been the lack of available talent in both nations, too many foreign players crowding the club levels leaving very little for home grown talent.

The round of 16 had 2 and 1 representation(s) from the Asian and African continents, respectively. South Korea led by MAN - U star, Park Ji-Sung and Japan, from Asia; and Ghana, comprising of Kevin P. Boateng who turned up in the Ghana jersey two months prior to WC 2010. The first match between Uruguay and South Korea made for good viewing. Both sides attacked well. Uruguay opened the score line early in the 8th minute through Suarez with a major faux pas by the S. Korean goalie and defense line up. The Uruguayans tried to play defensive in the early part of second half but, failed to absorb the S.K attacking pressures leading to a 68th minute equaliser. But, Uruguayans were back on top with an 80th minute curler from Suarez sealing the win for his team and a place in the quarters since 1970s. Both teams played an attacking game and fought well. Congrats to URU and thumbs up to S. Korea who fought hard and go out with their heads held high.

Ghana - USA was fast paced match with Ghana playing good holding football especially in the midfield frustrating the US. Bradley (US) failed to make an impact and Donovan - Dempsey combo up front tried to create some good chances but, the Ghana defense held firm. Fielhaber introduced at the start of the second half played aggressively but, could not create any major hassles. Landan Donovan is a class apart, hope to see more of this player (in EPL, presently with LA Galaxy.. lovey dovey with Mr. Beckham he..he..) in the coming future. Gyan's goal into extra time was an amazing goal and reminded me of Tshabalala's (South Africa) goal in the WC first match. Ghana played better possession football but, the Americans were extremely agile and fast in carrying out counter attacks. It was great game to watch.. both were sole representatives of their continents.. as of now America loses out to Africa. Congrats to Ghana... feel sorry for USA but, they should remember that they are now among the top 16 of the world.
The final scoreline -
USA 1 - GHA 2
URU 2 - S KOR 1

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I'm not superstitous, Touch Wood !

Monday's Indian Express carried a photo of the South African conventional faith healers performing prayers for the success of the Bafana Bafana. And at the time of going to the post, it seemed that the voodoo seemed to have worked with SA leading 2 goals at HT. Apparently Ray Domenech's picking players based on astrology didn't work out much to the benefit of the Blues. (though i wonder he would have played Evra and Henry even if their stars were in the right alignment ;P). Which brings me to the topic about soccer stars and their favourite superstitions. Apparently Kolo Toure believes it would bring his side luck if he is the last man to walk out of the tunnel. Which apparently meant that Arsenal started off with 9 men after half time in a match when Gallas was receiving treatment for an injury and Toure waiting for Gallas to walk out before him ! Apparently former Argentine coach Carlos Bilardo made his team shake hands with a bride as brides bring luck. (btw, is the new found beard on Bilardo's star player in that world cup, Diego Maradona, also some kinda goodluck charm ?)
But perhaps the best one comes from Italian Giovanni Trapattoni, who coached the Republic of Ireland, Germany, Austria, Portugal as well as his home team, and was often seen sprinkling holy water given to him by his sister, who's a nun! But he made sure to sprinkle it only on his part of the field!

Meanwhile, voice your opinion on whether Feng Shui or vaastu of a certain stadium also play a part in the team's fortune ? :P (Check out the details of the 10 stadia to be used in fifa 2010 here.)

Goal !!! :))

Ha..ha.... of all the goals, this is the best one... Ronaldo's first goal in 2 years for his country!!!!!!

Monday, June 21, 2010

French Revolution, Spanish Quest, Theatrics.. et al!!!

There’s been a flurry of activity in the event so far. All teams have completed their first 2 matches and the last matches in the group stages seem to be all the more critical. The Germans to come out with a winner against Ghana; the French can still make it provided they win handsomely and the match between Uruguay and Mexico has a winner with a small margin; Brazil beating Portugal and Ivory Coast beating DPR handsomely can still statistically throw a surprise; Its going to be an all important week ahead.
The French team seems to have lost all interest in WC 2010 and is unable to come together as a team. Anelka’s expulsion coupled with their training boycott clearly indicates a shift in priorities. The South Africans are also rumored to have infighting in the team among different tribe members.
The Spanish team bounced back well from their defeat against the Swiss. The Spanish team attacked quite well and created a number of chances. David Villa made his intentions clear in the initial minutes when he hit the cross bar. David Villa, on the left and J. Navas on the right exerted a lot of pressure on the Honduras team who were found wanting in the front of the Spanish goal. Torres missed certain good chances and seems to be struggling on the pitch. David Villa’s performance overshadowed Torres’ presence on field.
One of the main attractions or spoilsports has been theatrics on and off field. Terry’s comments, French boycott, a lot of playacting on field (Brazil vs Ivory Coast stands out as one too many) and poor refereeing have been the dampeners till date. I sure hope that players and referees give something to cheer in the round of 16.

I love the beautiful game and hope that this WC also showcases the game and not all things but the game. Portugal vs DPR ended in 7 – 0 score line in favor of Portugal. The reviews suggests Ronaldo played beautifully… hopefully, I’ll be able to catch the highlights on the weekend.

Till then, looking forward to the last round matches.. Go Portugal, Go Spain…