Monday, October 22, 2007

The sun has set

...on the current *dish* *bish*. It may come back again, but could also decide to remain a passive participant of blogosphere.

I've enjoyed doing this, and if I do decide to come back again, Im looking forward to connecting with all of you once again. I've made many friends here - Daniel Gallivanter, Lily The Liverbird, Desparil, 9, the Hantubola fellas, Anttyk, Mong, Mamabola, A Shabby Singh, Visithra, Mirabelle, Doreen, Jemima, etc... and have also deepened my friendship with those I know offline - Mr. D, Metria, K Shan, Mat Kolej, etc.

To those of you who have me on your Facebook - do continue keeping in touch there.

Adios!

Monday, June 04, 2007

For Loga, and for days that have now long gone

Loganathan Arumugam or better known as Loga of the Alleycats passed away at 10.50am this morning at the Mount Miriam Hospital in Penang. He was 54.

Loga (3rd from Right) and the Alleycats will always remain a memory of how cool we once were

I will always identify Loga and the Alleycats in general with their afros (even though only Loga and his brother David had them) and evergreen Malay tunes, which at the time I first heard it as a child really told me that we live in a country truly blind of colour, creed and religion.

The Alleycats, together with P Ramlee, cartoonist Lat, Tan Sri Khir Johari and Sudirman were of a small number of personalities who truly personified the muhibbah spirit we espoused as children, upheld at teenagers, questioned in our 20s and now view with askance and cynicism in our 30s (I imagine a few 30-somethings are reading this).

You know another group that did it for me? The Selangor football squad of the 80’s, with legends of the game like Mokhtar Dahari, Santokh Singh, the immortal “Spiderman” A Arumugam, and group, and other Malaysian greats like Soh Chin Aun and Ghani Minhat – all of whom I was fortunate enough to see in action during the old (pre Semi-Pro rubbish) days and in a number of Merdeka Tournament games my father and uncles used to take me to.


SuperMokh brought the 'fear factor' and a sense that something could happen onto the field

I was a big fan, and I am proud of a childhood and teenage years where I scoured the back pages of the newspaper for the latest news and results on local football (with as much enthusiasm as I do these days with the EPL), and have vivid memories of painting my face red and yellow, trudging along with the many other Selangor fans from Rex theatre to Stadium Merdeka for home games.

Those were days when we really believed we were great on the football field, which we were by virtue of grinding out hard-fought results against South Korea, Japan, and other Asian nations who, sad to say, have far, far eclipsed us in the arena of international football.

'Spiderman' Arumugam gave the centrebacks Santokh and Soh Chin Aun confidence to foray upfield

Those were the days when I truly believed we were a great nation, growing up as I did to influences such as these. I wonder who and where our children these days turn to for inspiration, and what defines their generation. Mawi? Siti? Academy Fantasia? RM6 billion allegedly high-performance sports training academies in London? I’m not weeping for Malaysia yet, but with a list like this, it won’t be long I guess.

For now, strains of Alleycats’ hit Andainya Aku Pergi Dulu Sebelum Mu ring chillingly true these days for Malaysia, as much as it does for the late Loga.

Our condolences to his family, his brother David and the rest of the Alleycats. Rest in peace Loga, and trima kaseyyy for all the memories.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Istanbul revisited

Oh, how much has happened since the last post. Let's take quick stock:

Champions!
My beloved Manchester United are champions of England once again, in spite of all my early-season negativity and cynicism. There we're some tricky moments along the way, and I for one thought after loss against Portsmouth and when Everton went 2-0 up that the dream was over. Thanks to Bolton Wanderers, Bouhlarouz and that Gilberto Silva penalty (not forgetting Ballack and Shevchenko for a variety of reasons), we finally have our trophy back.

FA Cup Final
Which was, admittedly, a big bore. The only encouraging thing from the game was watching the trophy presentation as a trophy presentation should be - from the stands, with the captain receiving it first. I truly hate the new-style trophy presentations on the pitch, which really ruined two great World Cups (2002, and 2006).

Keane-O is back!
And boy am I looking forward to those Sunderland vs. chelsea matches next season, and when Sunderland come calling to Old Trafford. Surely the crowd will give their favourite son the reception he well and truly deserves.


In a suit and behind the touch-line, but he's back, baby!

Anyway, on to other things, and tonight we see if Istanbul can indeed be avenged (by Milan) or revisited (by Liverpool). This also heralds a new era for *dish* *bish*, as we welcome our co-writer: my cousin and hard core Liverpool fan, Mat Kolej.

Oh, yes - a United fan and a Liverpool fan can work together at times, and if anything I'm sure there'll be more updates here, starting with the following one:


Istanbul revisited
After 24 months since that crazy match which most probably gave millions a few irregular heart beats and half of those people a really memorable memory to hold on to, Milan and Liverpool are at it again.

This time around I feel that too much has been made about Liverpool putting another one over the red and black of Milan. Every paper that you see on the news stands is dominated by articles on Liverpool - probably a ratio of 3 to 1 in terms of articles published. Normally these days when a person and the media goes over board and starts hyping about a team or a certain player somehow or rather the opposite happens and things do not go down too well - damn all this jinxing!

I feel Gerrard should not have taken a go at the guy he claims scares him like a kitten. Absolutely needless, just look what happened the last time Milan’s President took a go at Liverpool. He just ate humble pie and made a disappearing act after Istanbul. Maybe the two cases differ but you get the point.

We need to handle this psycho better than Carrick did

Despite all those stories from how to stop a certain Brazilian maestro (use Mascherano, Rafa), to tickets allocations not being enough, to people selling tickets at ludicrous prices, to whether Milan avenge their scarring defeat in Istanbul, or whatever you have read on the papers or the trusty net you’ll be a fool to put your foot down and bet your life on which team will triumph because when it comes down to European Nights like this anything is possible…well maybe less spectacular than Istanbul but still special.

Milan remain the favourites but either team is capable of pulling off something.

My three wishes for the final are:

1. That it turns out to be a cracking game of football
2. It does not start raining and Astro doesn't start tripping
3. Zenden does not start for Liverpool (could there be anyone more unfashionable and dull?)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Top 10 Thoughts of the Week

There is something to be said about having a new-born baby: all those sleepless nights means you are supposed to have extra time awake thinking new thoughts.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the lamest excuse for not updating this space in general, and for lazy, half-hearted updates (like this one) when I do eventually get around to it.

That aside, these are my Top 10 Thoughts of the Week, in no particular order (I was too lazy to prioritise):

1. Treble? Quadruple?
... and specifically what must teams like Liverpool and AC Milan think about all this nonsense of a United vs. chelsea final? Come to think of it, what must AC Milan be thinking about people saying they're gatecrashing the English FA Cup?

Something is seriously amiss here, and I think all this talk about bringing the Cup back to England is going to result in some serious karmatacks ('karma attacks', or my feeble attempt of creating an inlusion for Webster's next edition).

2. Roy Keane
It looks like he's coming back up (wiht Sunderland) to where the action is, and the Premiership could do with a bit of this maverick if you ask me. Boy, am I looking forward to the impending chelsea vs Sunderland games, just so Mourinho can see what a real tough guy is like. I'd like to see him try some stunt on Keane, instead of picking on geriatrics like Ferguson, Wenger and lately Senor Benitez.

Let's see you try your nonsense on this guy, Jose!

3. chelsea
My loathing for the club grows deeper and deeper, and it was a real true pleasure seeing them sulk off the field after the goalless draw with Newcastle (thanks Titus Bramble for your performance of the season!).

From now on - purely for the purposes of registering my very poor estimate of this club - I will always type 'chelsea' in lowercase, with the C in chelsea never capitalised (to further mark my protest, I have even refused to colour this sub-header).

Anyone with contact to the Stamford Bridge press room, please do pass along this bit of protest from the Far East.


4. George Boateng
... must be feeling pretty lousy in spite of that 'precious' point, as the Middlesborough captain saw the match finish with Ronaldo's ankles still in tact. Turned out to be all talk, eh Georgey Boy!


5. Christiano Ronaldo
Now he's been good this season, but he's certainly not Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year good? I still think Either one should have gone to another player, either to Drogba for the former (he has single handedly brought chelsea to where they are) or Cesc Fabregas for the latter (the only shining light in a terrible season for Arsenal) .

Sure he's good, but that good?

6. Sri Lanka vs. Australia
The line-up for the ICC Cricket World Cup final is still on the cards, and they square off with New Zealand and South Africa respectively in this weekend's semi-finals. The Lankans lost to the Australians in the Super Eights, but it was a defeat shrouded in strategy; by not fielding their best two bowlers (Mutthiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas) they have effectively not shown their hand and will unleash the two 'secret weapons' in the expected final against the defending champions.

The way the tournament has been going for the Lankans, they just might get away with it. And deservedly so!

7. Lewis Hamilton
Is this guy every bit as good as the papers say he is. Team McLaren have long been bereft of a worthy champion (Raikonnen flattered to deceive), and the time has got to be now. Between him and Alonso they have got to get it done this year.


This will all be a waste of good bubbly if they both don't land McLaren some serious silverware

8. The Old Trafford injury list
... grows longer and longer, and it now looks like United wll certainly field their 2nd string defence (minus Mikael Silvestre) in the upcoming crunch matches against chelsea, AC Milan and the rest of the Premiership. Has the early seaon chelsea curse come north?

9. Sir Alex Ferguson
Will this be Fergie's last season should he manage to once again win the treble? I certainly can't see him doing any better than this season, whether or not he pulls it off. Would he leave?

And importantly, who are the candidates primed as his successor? I really do think no list would be complete without the names of two managerial prodigies and Old Trafford's favourite sons Roy Keane and Mark Hughes (too bad for West Brom and Bryan Robson).

... and finally:

10. When, oh when will she sleep through the night?
Any parents out there with some good advice?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Ground control to Major Tom...

What a week it has been. This was pretty good:


So was this, a few days earlier (I'm a big McLaren fan, if you didn't already know):


I saw neither the first, nor the second. Because let me tell you that there is nothing - absolutely nothing - that compares with this:

Say hello to my daughter, Isabel Aria Joachim
Born Thursday, April 5th 2007 at 5:30pm. Mother and baby are very well. Father is still somewhere between numb and delirious.

Happy Easter everybody! Normal service resumes once I get back to earth. Soon, I hope...

Thursday, March 29, 2007

In anticipation...

Those of you who know me offline will probably know that these days I spend my entire time tethering on the edge, bouncing off the walls, pondering this question: Will it be today?

It's no excuse for the lack of updates, but between the on-going Cricket World Cup and the three important questions are circling in my head 24/7 (yes, even while I sleep), I really can't seem to focus on updating this space:

Question 1: Will I rise to the occasion and handle it well?
Question 2: Will it all eventually turn out well?
Question 3: Will it be a girl, or a boy?

Watch this space, folks! :)

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Who's going to tell the Americans?

Proud new owners and co-chairmen of ‘the Liverpool Reds’ were said to have been overwhelmed by the monstrous crowd at Anfield for the return leg of the Champions’ League group of 16 clash against Barcelona.

It said something of the sport we all love – irrespective of whether we’re fans of Liverpool, United, Arsenal or lesser clubs like Leeds or Chelsea – that, in this age of commercialism and brand hegemony, football still has the capacity to make men like Gillett and Hicks, owners of sporting clubs the world over, feel humbled at the sheer spirit that breathes life into the game.

The Anfield crowd celebrating before, during and after the loss to Barcelona

Liverpool aides however were heard to have been scrambling around and about the Anfield directors box on Tuesday, thinking about what to say to their puzzled bosses who stood in disbelief wondering why the rapturous Kop crowd celebrated a 1-0 defeat to Barcelona.

Who will tell the Americans?

Those barging Argies
On field skirmishes in England (Lampard vs. Fabregas, Arsenal vs. Chelsea, Scholes vs. Alonso) have been increasing in frequency of late, but none of them could have hoped to compare to the scale and drama of the 2nd leg of the Valencia and Inter Milan game.

And what a gang-fight it was! Those Argentines were at it again: Burdisso, Ayala, Zanetti, Crespo, Cordoba, Cruz and even Esteban Cambiasso (who wasn’t even on the pitch, mind you) were all in the thick of it, as was the infamous Marco Materrazi (suprise, suprise!).

They eventually caught the bloke who was stupid enough to steal their lunch money

Had this been Fenerbache or Galatasaray you could have been sure the powers-that-be from UEFA would have been stirred into action, commissioners would have been woken up from their beds to compose reports, and the continent’s aristocrats would undoubtedly be certainly be clucking their tongues, happy and eager to hand out generous bans to the infidel clubs.

Surely we can’t expect the same retribution for Inter Milan and Valencia. The watching mob of industrialists American billionaires with football clubs on their summer shopping lists will be puzzled indeed, and nobody wants to buy a club on the throes of a serious knuckle rapping from the authorities.

Who's going to explain all this to them?

Believe me, it ain’t over!
... at least not until the fat lady sings. She may be gargling her throat and indulging in a bit of a sing-song in the shower (oh, the fright of that scene), but she’s not quite ready to belt out the hit that would sink the adversaries of my beloved Manchester United.

Not yet. Not by a long mile. Not when the fixtures are showing some really tricky home (Bolton, Blackburn and Middlesborough) and away appointments (Everton, Manchester City and Chelsea) still to go.

And certainly not when the crock list at Old Trafford seems to be getting longer and longer with each passing day. Saha, Solksjaer, Evra and now Silvestre (not that he really mattered anyway) have all been given sick-notes by the club doctor.

Add that to Rooney’s sputtering form, Scholes’ upcoming suspension, the nagging uncertainty behind Ronaldo’s future, Larsson’s journey home and, err... Michael Carrick, and it all means that the Devils’ camp can’t really be in the high spirits that many have said surrounds it.

The Glaziers however are the sort of gullible folks who like to believe their own press, and United have been at the sharp end of the media coverage of late. The Old Trafford lackeys will certainly be working overtime to make sure their bosses believe every word of it.

"Daddy will be so pleased! Next year I'm asking for Leeds United."

But there’s something amiss, and I have a sneaky feeling all this recent good fortune will come undone in no time at all. I shudder at the possibility.

And when that happens, what do we tell the Americans?

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The "alleged best player in the world on current form"

The points stand at the conspicuous number 69, a good nine points clear of Chelsea (who indeed have a grand one game in hand), but let’s be very honest, I could have well been just 67 points after the game against Fulham. Indeed, it could have stayed at just 66 had a certain Edwin van der Sar not have anything to do with it.

Cue Christiano Ronaldo, who at the 88th minute showed his peers, his manager and the staff and board of my beloved Manchester United exactly why he deserves – demands even – a salary reflecting the club’s estimate of his talent.

What a difference 8 months make

In his shoes not many would play it differently; if United were to own the bragging rights to the alleged best player in the world on form, then they had better put their money where their mouths are. From Ronaldo to Ferguson, Gill et al: “Show me the money!”

Few would have interest to argue with the caveat-laden tag of ‘best player in the world on current form’ that Ronaldo has been said to warm up to of late. This time last year Thierry Henry would have easily deserved this, had it not been for the deserving Ronaldinho; I personally would have handed it to Henry who single handedly inspired and led his team of fledgling prodigies to within 13 minutes of Champions’ League victory – a large portion of the game played with only 10 players - only to be thwarted by the Brazilian's more accomplished team-mates.

Didier Drogba’s goals aside, it would be a tough argument for anyone to put the Ivorian in contention for this tag. Ronaldo’s goals on the other hand have spurred United on to where they currently are in the Premiership. Cesc Fabregas has been immense for Arsenal (I still think he should have taken a good swing at Lampard), but again Ronaldo’s influence on the growingly confident United team has been truly immeasurable. And great results aside there certainly doesn’t seem to be anybody from Liverpool – including Steven Gerrard – who can hope to compare with the twinkle-toed Ronaldo – on current form.

United will need more and more from him, in the light of Larsson’s return to Sweden in 10 days, and in clear and honest consideration of Rooney’s decline in form.

Without meaning to jinx it, the team seems to be peaking just at the right time though, and Giggs, Scholes and Saha are really coming into their own. Still, it only takes a rash or malicious tackle or an uneven pitch to throw the boy wonder from Medeira into the Old Trafford injury list, and along with it perhaps any chance of United wrestling the title they last won four years ago.

Best player in the world? On current form, definitely. Show him the money United!

Golf lessons this Saturday
The ‘current form’ phenomenon continues, and I for one will not begrudge Liverpool their recent results against Sheffield United and Barcelona, coming as it did in the wake of the slightly-too-exuberant night out in Portugal.

Rafa seems to have built a dream midfield, and new-kid-on-the-Kop Javier Mascherano looked the solid player he was at last year’s World Cup. That aside – on current form – he still isn’t their best central midfielder, and neither is Gerrard or Xabi Alonso. That honour belongs to Momo Sissoko, who was simply phenomenal in the Barcelona game. Another foray to the right wing for Gerrard perhaps?

All things said, this game has all the makings of a classic; but as all predicted classics go, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised with an eventual stalemate.

Liverpool vs. Manchester United
LIVE from Anfield. Saturday, March 3rd, 2007. 7.45 pm.

This is the match of the week!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Manchester United juggernaut rolls on

Without sounding too proud, I'm delighted to say how much I enjoyed seeing my beloved Manchester United zoom past a hapless Tottenham Hotspurs on Sunday.

The first half was a frenetic affair, and there was a sense that if Spurs came up with the opening goal it could have been a difficult evening for United. But when Ronaldo scored (from a dubious penalty claim, I accept) there was only going to be
one winner.

To be honest though, Larsson had a reasonable claim to a penalty from that careless Gardner tackle earlier on, which the referree didn't award. Another claim at the other end was also ignored, but in the end Spurs took home exactly what they brought to the game, which is to say precisely, nothing!

Many would say that the momentum is on the side of United at the moment, and their movement, squad depth and most importantly team spirit is at an all time high. It is their title to lose indeed.

The critics though will continue to go to town claiming United can win a title only at the expense of other teams' misfortune. These are those who say that had Cech, Terry and Joe Cole not been injured, Chelsea would definitely be ahead at this point.

Why the long face, Jose?

These are also those make the erroneous claim that United have been strangely fortunate to not have injuries in the course of the season, myopically ignoring the fact that Vidic - by far United's best player this season - didn't start the season. They will also conveniently forget that Giggs, Neville, Heinze and Saha have all had their spells with injury and needed to have been deputised time and again by their able replacements.

And they resolutely forget that Solksjaer made a two-year recovery before returning to the field and popping in the goals the way he has. Or that Alan Smith is still shrugging off the effects of a horrendous injury. Or that Scholes and Rooney were unavaiable for four matches at the start of the season, serving time for a longer than necessary suspension.

Worst of all, they can't seem to remember what the club with all the rubles in the world and their special manager once boasted - not too long ago - that they have enough so much strength in their squad, they actually have two first team players for every position.

... and on...
In recognition of that claim, let's all take a look at how things look like at the United bench (or indeed, the plush, Audi-branded bucket seats, as the case may be). I don't ever remember United going on a buying spree in past seasons - and I did indeed bemoan the
bleak team sheet when the season began - yet it looks like there somehow seems to be enough to field another strong team in the Premiership.

Consider if you will: Kuszczak, Silvestre, Heinze, Brown, O'Shea, Fletcher, Richardson, Park, Smith, Dong, Solksjaer. Could a team like this sit well about... Spurs?

... and on...
I watched the
Addicks play Chelsea over the weekend, and if not for that fortunate strike by Frank Lampard, Alan Pardew's men could have come away with a result of sorts.

Charlton stand a good chance as the other relegation candidates to stay up in the Premiership next year. Which means all is not lost for them. Which means they'll be playing like hell to save their skins. Which can only mean a tough afternoon at Old Trafford.

Previous Premiership aspirations have always been scuppered by poor results against bottom teams, which means United will have to be extra resolute to get maximum points in this game and keep the blue bastards at bay.

Manchester United vs. Charlton
LIVE from Old Trafford. Saturday, February 10th, 2007. 11.00pm.

This is not the match of the week though. That game is at St. James' Park, where
Newcastle take on Liverpool - two teams battered and bruised from their weekend mis-adventures, and very eager to get a result.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Bruce Springsteen, and the club that never walks alone

I like Bruce Springsteen - The Boss. Nobody tells a story in a song as well as The Boss does. Nobody throws a concert like The Boss throws them. And nobody can don a pair of overalls and pose unshaven for a photograph like The Boss can.

Here's the thing: anyone who has listened to a Springsteen album will understand that The Boss is probably the world’s number one working class hero, no matter that he's probably rich enough to buy El Salvador. Which is all very curious when you consider how lousy he makes the blue collar life sound.

He has spun countless stories about simple folks with complex problems - almost all of them involving a car that runs badly, a lousy job that they're about to lose, or a girl named Mary (most Springsteen songs have a girl named Mary).

His stories are filled with empty highways, decaying factories, workers on strike, smoggy industrial skylines, wood paneled taverns, and rustic characters who once had it all going for them, but through life's cruel turn now find themselves with no money, no car, no job, and a wife (named Mary) that's about to leave them.

Evidently, nobody in Springsteen's blue collar hell ever gets promoted to manager, or even able to afford a decent Toyota. They instead exist in proletarian hell where mortgages are foreclosed, transmissions leak, and wives have a "headache" every night.

I feel your pain, brother Scouser...

The Boss knows how it feels to be a Liverpool fan
Here is a club that has once won - at some point in its tumultuous history - every prize worth winning in club football. 18 league championships, 7 FA Cups, 7 League Cups, and importantly 5-time winners of the European Cup / Champions' League.

And almost every Liverpool fan you meet will not hesitate to remind you of just that - the statistics. Liverpool fans live and breathe the history that once was. The great 80's with Souness, Hansen and King Kenny – and a bit later with Rush, Barnes, Beardsley and the rest - when they took all of Britain and most of Europe by storm, weighing in as number one contenders on almost every major competition.

Later years saw them unearth the prodigious, predatory talents of Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen. Current captain Steven Gerrard and his deputy Jamie Carragher embody the very spirit of the club: resilience, passion, thirst for glory and a never-day-die approach on the field. A friend who is a die-hard Liverpool fan – and I am close to many of these, in spite of my allegiance to my beloved Manchester United – once said “if Liverpool had six Gerrards and five Carraghers we could again be the club we once were.”

And therein lies the conundrum of the Liverpool fan: in this day and age when strategy, inventiveness, technical ability, panache, wizardry, flair, elegance, flamboyance and style are the sort of buzzwords used by so many to describe a modern football club, all of these don’t matter as much to the Liverpool fan as much as the heart does.

They say if the heart is empty, the rest don't matter (and rightly so).

Truth be told they have had many nights where the heart eventually won the day. Last year’s FA Cup final against West Ham United was one such occasion; on their day, the most tactically astute team don’t have a hope in hell of walking past a Liverpool team that turn up feeling all heart and blood and sweat and tears.

And nobody ever needs reminding of that glorious night in Istanbul. Hand on heart, I will say it meant more to their fans who for over a decade were bereft of any notable achievement, vis-√†-vis Manchester United’s dramatic Champions' League victory in 1999, when many of the club’s fans were already used to close to a decade of winning everything.

It’s heart, and blood, and sweat, and tears. Very working class indeed. Why Springsteen has not yet written a song about them is beyond me!

Standard Scouser stance: Heart on sleeve, hand on head / mouth / eyes

But blue collar romanticism aside (and I’m actually referring to the red half of Merseyside), we shouldn’t ignore the real essence of being a protagonist in a Springsteen song: he’s always a loser and a bum, no matter how much you feel for him.

And that my friends, is Liverpool in a nutshell. You tend to feel for the poor chaps. Close to 17 years of absence on top of Britain’s league is a long time indeed. Some of the babies born when they won their last league title have grown up to be teenagers who unlike their parents prefer the modern appeals of the game: strategy, inventiveness, technical ability, panache, wizardry, and all that nonsense. Heck, many of them probably even support Chelsea. Or worse, Everton!

So you would please excuse me my dear Scouse friends if my genuine wish is for you to pull your bloody socks up and start the damn season properly next year. For goodness sakes go on and win the blessed thing so you can finally sing about something worthwhile.

Or don’t. I mean, what the hell would The Boss write about then?

Monday, January 15, 2007

The wild west beckons for David Beckham

After seasonal items on his missus, metatarsal and misfortunes for England, David Beckham is once again making the headlines in the back pages of our daily reads. Now he’s off to America to tantalize the other side of the Atlantic with his celebrity, charisma and charm. Even Rocky is backing him to get back over the top once again in his new home.

The papers are already
full of it. They’re all saying that Europe’s big loss can only be America’s big gain.

I say: Good riddance!

A lot of shit on that roof, and not just from the birds

I am part of many who really think that America offered the altogether best option for Beckham, a player who in spite of all his alleged talent and his so-called place in the pantheon of footballing greats is already in the darkening twilight of his career at the grand age of a mere 31 years.

Conquering the final frontier
When the great Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto and a few notable others joined the
New York Cosmos in the late 70s, FIFA and the world projected a period of unprecedented growth of the sport’s popularity in America. Almost 30 years later, it is Africa and Asia that is recording the success many expected to see from America.

The hosting of the 1994 World Cup was mooted to be (yet another) watershed milestone; the eventual result was a very flat souffl√©, both in terms of in-event audience participation and post-event momentum. Japan and South Korea on the other hand hosted a wildly successful World Cup in 2002, and all indications are that Africa’s turn in 2010 will record the same, if not a greater, level of success.

So where does America stand on the football world map, then? And importantly what will Beckham bring to the sport in a country that already ranks the world’s number one game a lowly seventh after baseball, American football (do they even use their feet?) basketball, tennis, golf and ice hockey?

Beckham is first and foremost a figurehead, and being a footballer comes a distant second. He is the proverbial catalyst of the materialistic world, symptomatic of the greed and decadence that has besieged the sport in the past two decades.

While he may not be responsible for much of it happening, if you accept the philosophy of supply and demand, in himself he embodies the reasons why there are more and more empty seats in football stadiums all over the world, and really – when you think of it – the very reason why children all over Britain wait till a few days before Christmas before asking daddy for a Manchester United or a Chelsea shirt (or indeed, a Real Madrid or a Barcelona shirt) under the tree on December 25th, depending on who is on top at that time.

Hero worship is not wrong in sport. Not when the they are about stalwarts like Diego Maradona, Pele or Zinedine Zidane. Or Muhammad Ali, Tiger Woods, Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher, Sachin Tendulkar, Boris Becker or Roger Federer - men who brought so much to their game.

But when players like David Beckham enjoy so much from the sport for the very little that they bring to it, there has got to be something very wrong.

Now, let not all of this detract from the fact that come May, we can all expect to see and hear more of football (the ‘real’ football) from America. That can't be bad for the sport. Already there is talk of Ronaldo and Luis Figo heading stateside, at the invitation of their former Real Madrid colleague, and a few more notable names may follow. The newspapers and Nokia Football Crazy are sure to afford America a few cursory column inches and footage respectively. For a while, we may even believe Beckham and America are on well on their way to making good on the previously unfulfilled promise

But with his 32nd birthday coming in May, Beckham's peak as a player is well behind him. Most would say his zenith was reached in the years between 1999 and 2002, with the crunch of Aldo Duscher's boot on his metatarsal in a Champions League tie between Manchester United and Deportivo La Coruna being the moment that stopped the Beckham juggernaut dead in its tracks.

The fact is Beckham was perhaps never all that. All he had was a very good right foot at a time when right feet weren’t very fashionable, and he brought a sense that something could seriously happen if his team won a free-kick at the edge of the box. He could not tackle, he could not dribble, he could not head, he was atrocious at penalties, he did absolutely nothing with his left foot, and to say that he was a captain would still be too kind; the man simply couldn’t lead a kid into a toy store with an open door and a handful of twenties!

A crying shame: He was very good at turning on the waterworks, though...

So you would please excuse me if I think the whole damned thing is a bit too farcical. Give it a year and let’s all see how big a joke it actually turns out to be.

For now, good luck America. Good luck David Beckham. God bless us all!

*******
Finally, for the benefit of any American who might read this: In Malaysia, and the rest of the civilized world, we refer to the sport as football, and rightly so. None of this soccer nonsense!

Pray tell me, anyway: Why on earth do you call it American Football, when all you’re doing it throwing the pigskin about? With your hands!


I don't want to jinx it, but...
With Liverpool hosting Chelsea at Anfield on Saturday, there is a sense at Old Trafford that this is a weekend that seriously offer my beloved Manchester United a chance of stretching their legs over the dreadful Chelsea, if (and it’s a big ‘if’) we get things right against Arsenal.

If Rafa Benitez needs help motivating his players, he need only show them the videos of the games against Arsenal, and the photographs of the Liverpool bench
holding their heads in despair after that 6-3 drubbing. My bets are on Liverpool, if only because they definitely need this win, and also because I desperately need them to!

I’ve always been grudgingly impressed with Arsenal.
On their day they can really play the opposition out of the game with a display of jaw-dropping finesse and flair.

That said, when Man Utd turn it on, they are simply irresistible, and we’ve seen that a number of times this season already. And the 85th minute goal and the resulting defeat at Old Trafford earlier this season will not be forgotten, for sure.

Arsenal vs. Manchester United
LIVE from the Emirates Stadium. Sunday, 21st January. 11:55pm.

This is the match of the week!