Monday, July 30, 2007

saying hi

Missed me already, I see?

Vincent has been busy. Very busy. And actually very lazy. I was supposed to blog about a lot of things - like the Harry Potter thingy. Like how I went to Kinokuniya at 5am so I could snap pictures of crazy people (although I agree, my actions in itself were crazy too - because no sane person would line up at 5am to get a book, then chuck it aside for two days before reading it). Then I was supposed to blog about that 'child murderer' bloke issue which I will still do, because that story holds dear for me.

Also, I kinda wanted to write something about the boogers in the newspapers and how these boogers seem to be fighting with ministers and everything in the name of free speech. The latest word on the street is that some mad people lodged a police report against the PM for some stuff whachamalit which I really couldn't be bothered about....except that in this one blog some random socialist blogger said that since the PM is a blogger too, we should show solidarity to all boogers and freedom of speech.

Did you manage follow all that? I have no fucking idea what the real juice is. Malaysiakini and Malaysia-today - what's the difference la? Who gives a hoot about certain boogers going to jail or actually being politically inclined (gasp! the travesty! I thought all those articles were unbiased!)? I swear it is easier to keep with the news on Iraqi car bombs than it is to follow what these boogers are doing. I reckon its the same thing.

Nobody outside Iraq really bothers about how many car bombs go off on a daily basis, and nobody outside the 'circle of moronic boogers' actually give a shit about these boogers and their freedom of speech. If you had no idea what that mini-rant was about, good for you mate. Some people really need to get off the Internet just for a few minutes and go watch a live sex show or something. Go the the zoo or Aquaria or heck, go sit on the Eye on Malaysia for a bit la..

Like I always say, be careful when trying to keep an open mind - it might just fall out.

But since time is of the essense and my priorities lie elsewhere, keep yourself occupied with outrage (or glee, whichever floats your boat). Here are pictures of an item sold in the market place in one of the Hicktowns in my side of the world...

I can assure you that these aren't ping pong balls...

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

pointing fingers

Alas, it is that time of the year in the Malaysian Sports Calender where everybody inevitably points fingers, assigning the blame to someone, each one more adamant than the other that somebody else is to blame for the latest fiasco. I am of course, talking about Malaysia's latest outing in the international footballing arena. In our first game against China, we got smacked 5-1, while in the second game, we got whipped 5-0. Even the most optimistic of us can't pray for anything else other than a 2-0 defeat to Iran.

Yes, it has been that bad.

And so, true to the wise words of Homer Simpson (Why blame yourself when it is easier to blame others?) everybody has started pointing fingers even before the tournament had ended. Heck, the blame game started even before the players finished their post-game shower after the first game.

The coach has blamed some players for under-performing. The FAM have blamed the coach for wrong team selection, and the Malaysian football fans (this is a term I shall use very loosely for reasons which I shall elaborate further) have been blaming everybody. The only party involved who hasn't blamed anybody are the players, but that is because they are at the bottom of the food chain, and hence do not have anybody to pass the buck to.

But the sad fact is that EVERYBODY involved has to take some amount of blame. And by 'everybody' I mean the Malaysian football fans as well. Contrary to what we would like to believe, we are the ones sitting on top of the food chain - not FAM, not Sultan Ahmad Shah.

And so let us start from the very bottom.

It is very easy to blame the players. After all, they are the ones who actually determine whether we get a result or not. They are the ones performing, they are the ones who are the professional athletes. But is it fair? If we were Italians or Brazilians, we have the right to blame the players. But we aren't. Our world ranking of 149 is testament enough that we simply are not good enough. Iran is ranked 47, Uzbekistan 58, and China 76. Anybody who expected any other result would either be an eternal optimist, or an extremely deluded soul.

What can they do if they simply aren't good enough? What can they do if they simply aren't big enough or fast enough? When we look at other national sports, we can easily point fingers at the badminton players for lacking the fighting spirit (Hafiz) or being too cocky (Koo Kien Kiet). But for our footballers, or most of them at least, their problem is their lack of skill.

Certainly, some of them can take the rap for throwing in the towel before the final whistle had blown. In the game against China, we conceeded a soft late goal because the players couldn't wait for the game to be over and fell asleep. Against the Uzbeks, we conceeded two late goals because their minds weren't on the game anymore (more on this later). And yes, a certain portoin of the blame has got to go to the mindset of some of them.

Our star player, Akmal Rizal once had a stint in Germany but was unable to hold a place in the team. He later claimed he was homesick, couldn't get used to the weather and the food, and hence came back to be the Jaguh Kampung he undoubtedly is today. He, along with a few others failed to make the most of the chance given to them to improve their game and came crawling back to their comfort zone.

Then, if you listen to the FAM president, Sultan Ahmad Shah, the coach Norizan Bakar is to blame for our disastrous start against China. He claimed Norizan had messed up with his team selection, leaving Indra Putra and K. Nanthakumar on the bench.

Sure, it is easy to hurl such accusations with the power of hindsight. It isn't just in Malaysian football, mind you. Coaches all over the world get blamed for wrong team selection all the time, but the fans fail to realise that the coaches sometimes make these decisions because they know more about the players than the fans do. In this case, it was very obvious that Indra Putra did not start because he just came back from a long injury, as did Akmal Rizal. Starting with two half-fit strikers is never a wise thing to do.

I do not wish to be in Norizan's shoes. I am totally and utterly convinced that being the head coach of our national football team is the worst job in the country. You have nothing to work with, you have everybody shitting on your head, and you are expected to perform miracles. It is not a job even God could do. Being a national team coach isn't quite the same as being the coach of a club team.

If Sir Alex Ferguson identified an area of his squad that was weak, he could go out and buy players to strengthen that area. If he fails to do that, or makes a wrong signing, his head would be on the chopping block, and fairly so. Encik Norizan Bakar has no such luxury. These players are the best of the lot. These are the players he has to work with whether he likes it or not, or whether they are good enough to face Iran. What do we expect him to do when none of our central defenders have the ability to control the ball and keep possession?

But of course, he still must take some blame for the drubbing. It was suicide to play 4-4-2 against technically and physically superior teams. Realistically, we had no chance of winning, but if the players could keep it tight and frustrate the opponent, we could have nicked something from a set piece (which we are bloody good at). In Jose Mourinho's words, we needed to 'park the bus in front of the goal'. We needed to play 4-5-1 and put 10 men behind the ball at all times. Hit them on the counter attack, hit them with a set piece. We could have at least put up some sort of fight if we made it to half time still level, even if it meant that their keeper didn't need to touch the ball once.

Then there is the favourite bash toy of the fans - the Football Association of Malaysia. Of course, it is simple enough to blame them. They are the ones who run the game in the country. When all goes pear shaped, they should take the heat. And rightly so, for many issues. We have a piss poor youth development programme. The national league is in shambles as are the the State FAs. They are the ones who are responsible for hiring the coaches, setting up the training facilities and scouting for talent so when everything fails, it is most convenient to blame the FAM and the involvement of politicians in the scene.

But politicians have always, always sat at the helm of the FAM. From our beloved Tunku Abdul Rahman right to the present day, the FAM president has always been a politician or a Sultan. And when you think about it, it is not as if the FAM has not realised that the current state of affairs is dire. They have - and they have taken countless number of steps to prevent it from declining further. They have revamped and restructured the league system countless of times in the last few years. In fact, it was the current FAM president Sultan Ahmad Shah, who turned the league from semi-pro to professional.

And when all conventional methods had failed, they tried unconventional methods but to no avail. They tried to piece together a team of youngsters to try to qualify for the 2000 Olympics. More recently was the silly MyTeam competition(not sure how much the FAM was involved in this - but still..) It was a sorry excuse of a scouting programme, but nonetheless efforts were made. What can you do if at the end of the day, when all you have are players that are simply NOT GOOD ENOUGH?

Which makes me wonder...

Everybody seems to ramble on and on about our so-called 'past glories' and how far we had sunk since those days. Just what kind of 'glory' are we talking about here?! We never made it to the World Cup and only made it to the Asian Cup final twice ever in 1976 and 1980, where we didn't even make it past the first round. We go on and on about how it was such a great achievement that we had qualified for the Olympics in 1972 and 1980, but if you need a short history lesson, here's one. Before 1984, Olympic football was for amateurs. Professionals weren't allowed to participate because FIFA was afraid that it would cheapen the World Cup.

And if you look at the timeline, it is obvious that our period of 'dominance' only lasted about 10 years - that is one whole generation of players. This is our equivalent of Portugal's Golden Generation. For Luis Figo, Rui Costa and Fernando Couto, read Mokhtar Dahari, Soh Chin Aun and Arumugam. Malaysian football had never seen bigger stars and probably will never see bigger stars. Sometimes, as much as it belittles their achievements, the pure fluke of having a whole generation of great players growing up together and playing together will never be replicated. It was a one-off. Zainal Abidin Hassan and Dollah Salleh aside, there wasn't anybody to replace them, so in truth, Malaysian football had started its decline a long, long time ago.

And that brings me to the chief culprit in this whole football fiasco - the Malaysian football fans.

As I said earlier, that is a term I am forced to use very loosely because the sad fact is that Malaysians do not make good sports fans. We are 'glory hunters' in every sense of the term.

I never had the privillege to watch the great Mokthar Dahari. I never even had the chance to watch the 1989 SEA Games - the last time we actually won something. But the most common excuse people give these days is that we have had no success. It seems we only support our teams when they win, and abandon them when they lose. Sometimes I wonder whether we deserve world class athletes. In squash and bowling we have world champions, world beaters, but we do not support them much. Instead of watching Nicol's games, all we do is pick up the papers the next morning and go, "Oh, Nicol won again. Cool!" and then go back about our business as usual.

The stadium was less than one-third full for the China game and absolutely deserted for the Uzbekistan game. Where was everybody?! How can we complain that our team isn't performing well when we do not even bother to turn up to support them? As football fans, we all know the 12th man phenomenon is extremely important. But instead of being the 12th man for our own national side, we only serve to demotivate them.

Picture this. You are playing for your country. You are already losing 3-0 and fighting with your inner demons, trying your hardest not to cave in. Nothing has gone right for you all night. You have been outplayed and outgunned. The only thing left that can possibly motivate you is the knowledge that you are representing your country and that you do not want to let your fans down. And then you look up and look around you and find the whole stadium is deserted. And whatever 'fans' you actually have are morons who turn up just to boo and hiss at you. The fans who, instead of supporting you and your teammates, turn up with banners to proclaim how much you suck. Fuck it. What is there to play for?!?!

And it's not just the Asian Cup we are talking about. Our players have ZERO experience playing in the big stage. Was it any wonder why we lost to Singapore in the penalty shootout in the ASEAN Cup the other day? The famous Kallang Roar turned our boys' knees into jelly. They were faced with a full-house stadium screaming and taunting them. It is safe to say that most of them, if not all of them have never, ever played in front of a packed stadium before. Nobody supports the local league.

Nobody bothers going to the stadiums to watch the league games. We all thought that the league was getting better a couple of years ago when people flocked to the Shah Alam stadium to watch Selangor. Turns out they were all Indonesian workers going to see Bambang Pamungkas. Imagine that sort of patriotism - hoardes of them going to watch a football game, week in week out just because their fellow countryman played for a team which they should have no alliegience to.

We blame the FAM for not being able to deliver. We expect them to devise a programme that can bring us success in 5 years. And when they try to do that, they inevitably fail - because we are too impatient. You cannot change the whole system in 5 or even 10 years. The whole system needs a revamp. Somebody needs to say to them, "We give you 15 years. Tear up everything. Start from scratch." But no, we expect results and we expect them today.

And without us, without the football fans watching the games, where on Earth are you going to find sponsors? You can talk about youth development and all that boo-hah but if there is no sustained interest from the public, where do you propose the money comes from? Have a nice look at the American NCAA. I never went to an American university but I hear the fan base is fanatical. The games are even broadcast live on TV and people tune in to watch! Then ask yourself if you would ever consider watching Malay College Kuala Kangsar versus Kolej Tunku Jaafar.

Somebody I talked to just now was ranting about how Malaysian football sucks (it really is the flavour of the day). I asked him if he watched the game and he replied he didn't. "What for support them la? They suck so bad!" I replied, "So why do you care if they suck if you don't bother supporting them?" I remember our Rugby Sevens team getting smacked 73-0 a few years ago. But nobody gave a hoot about it because nobody cares about Rugby Sevens. Similarly, if you don't care enough to watch the game, why do you care enough to complain?

Who in their right mind wants to play for the national team at the moment? Who in the right mind wants to be a footballer in Malaysia? You play in front of empty stadiums, get a crappy paycheck and at the end of the day get a barrage of abuses no matter how hard you play. People like Hardi Jaafar and Hairuddin Omar spent the last two games running after every ball, back tracking when the team needed them, playing to their strengths but instead of hearing people say, "At least you did your best" they get people spitting all sorts of abuse on them. That is assuming the public even knows their names, which I am willing to wager a jug of beer that none of you reading this can name our Starting XI.

Don't complain unless you are part of the solution.

Start going to the local league games. When we fill up the stadiums, sponsors will come. The money will inject just a little bit more glamour into the game. The players would know that they have something to play for. The kids, the 8 year old kids will look at footballers as their idols and that might inspire them to want to be footballers when they grow up. How do you propose a youth development system when the kids do not want to be part of the system in fear that they will grow up into a dead career?

The blame can go to the players, the coaches and the FAM. But as the fans, we must take responsibilty for abandoning the game in the first place, and then expecting it to flourish after we ignored it for years.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

another day, another lesson

Come to think of it, I haven't written something real in a long, long time. I just spent the last 5 minutes trying to think how I should start this post, and yet this is the best I could come up with. Something's not right. So let's try again.

I just came back from Bangkok a couple of days ago. It was an impromptu business trip that my boss was supposed to go but sent me at the last minute. All that isn't really important except for the fact that I observed many things that confirmed my faith in the flaw of the human character. There are a few stories, but some of them very sadly, can't be shared here. Still, enjoy these few...

One night after dinner and feeling particularly bored, I called up my Thai friend from my uni days. He said he would take me out 'for a drink'. I soon found out that the 'drink' was actually a special clubbing event where drinks were free flow and where you needed an invite to get in.

Apparently, this buddy of mine now hangs out with 'high society people' (his own words) which was an image he never seemed to portray in uni. I have been to events like this, but this was the real deal. As one of his big shot buddies said to me, "Welcome to Bangkok man. Have fun, you are partying with celebrities." I should stress here that celebrities is a term I use loosely. There were famous Thai singers, actors and actresses. I was also introduced to a couple of hot chicks who were apparently famous models (in Thailand anyway). But besides the conventional celebrities per se, there were loads of corporate big shots, all young, and all loaded with cash.

And I learnt a couple of things there:
  1. When you go to a party and notice that EVERYBODY is good-looking, it either means you are drunk, or more likely, everybody is loaded with cash. This is because cash buys you clothes that can make you look sexy, skin-care products that does wonders, a great haircut, and more importantly - plastic surgery.
  2. Pompous people are everywhere. Some of the big shot dudes were speaking to each other in English (flawless, I might add) even though pretty much everybody speaks to each other in Thai. English, after all makes you seem more....upperclass.
  3. Thais are extremely proud and supportive of their local entertainment industry. The whole night, the DJ spinned Thai songs and when the live bands came on, they were all local celebrities - everything from Thai rock, pop, rap and hip-hop. People were singing along to almost every song that came on, which was pretty much an indication of how well they knew their local music.

At the party, my buddy pointed out this chick who he claimed he shagged 2 weeks before that. After which, he conveniently forgot to call her until 5 days after the event, where he was annoyed that she didn't want to pick up the phone and was ignoring him. At the party, she came with her friends and danced around near our group (because they have mutual friends too) and kept ignoring him when he called out to her. That said, I did catch her glancing over at him a couple of times when he wasn't looking. Mid-way through the night, she was busy sticking her tongue down one of his friend's throat - a guy she just met that night.

From which, I confirmed my already extensive and extremely accurate knowledge of the human species, which can be summarised by just two sentences:
  1. Men are assholes.
  2. Women are attention seekers.

On the flight home to KL, we were on the same flight as a few of our national badminton players who had lost the previous day in the Thailand Open. Among the famous names were Wong Choon Han, Chan Choong Ming, Roslin Hashim, and Rashid Sidek. There were also a few other unknowns - some of whom were fat and didn't resemble athletes, never mind national ones. There was this one dude who looked extremely familiar who was talking to Wong Choon Han near the check-in counters.

I nudged my colleague:
Eh, who is that ar? Very familiar..
Yeah, can't remember.
I know he plays doubles, his name is on the tip of my tongue..
Doubles ar? Nolah I can't remember..
And then some busybody asshole passerby butted in:
NO! He plays singles.
Issit? Singles meh? I thought doubles.
No, singles (he smiles and gives me the most condescending look)
What's his name?
Wong Choon Han
.... =_=" .....
Yes, everybody knows Wong Choon Han. I meant the other guy la!
Oh, him...sorry dunno.
Seriously kids, when you grow up, don't be an asshole. Don't butt into other people's conversation if you don't know what they are talking about. Especially when they other person's name is Vincent.

But back to the athletes who didn't look like athletes. After checking in, I went looking for lunch at the departure lounge and found Burger King. To my horror, some of them were actually having lunch at Burger King! Professional athletes eating Burger King?!!?

In the top European leagues, professional footballers don't even touch a chocolate bar or a pack of potato chips. They eat crappy tasting food like soft mushy pasta and steamed chicken. Freaking fast food burgers are certainly out of the question! How the hell can you call yourself a professional athlete? That said, among the group that were having lunch in Burger King, I didn't recognise any of them except Roslin, and so now we know why he sucks ass...


Monday, July 02, 2007

transformers was rubbish

Okay okay...quick quiz before I proceed.

1) What was the difference between Pirates 1, Pirates 2 and Pirates 3?
2) What was the difference between Spidey 1, 2, and 3?

The answer??


All three pirates were cool. All three spideys sucked ass. Seriously, what is wrong with you people?!? They all had the same style, same characters and same theme. In Pirates, you had Jack Sparrow (awesome as ever) and in Spidey, you had er, Tobey Mcguire (bapuk as ever). So why do you people complain that Spidey 3 sucked when in truth it was no different from Spidey 1 and 2, in the fact that that whole franchise sucked ass from the start?

The point here?

Micheal Bay still sucks camel's dick.

I just walked out of the cinema hall, utterly underwhelmed and annoyed (to be fair, I get annoyed at pretty much anything, so that really isn't anybody's fault) because Transformers was dissapointing like hell.

You, you, and you.....all your reviews only served to dissapoint me. This is like a pimp promising you that you get to screw Angelina Jolie when you walk through his door. You walk in, and sure enough Angelina Jolie is lying naked on the bed. Of course she looks gorgeous, but throughout the whole performance she does nothing but lie there and in the end you go home dissapointed. So much hype, such an awesome presentation, but nothing to show for. Potong stim saja. If you had ever critisized Pearl Harbour for being shitty, then so is Transformers. The premise is all the same. Big bangs, big effects, big story, big dissapointment. Its not horrible, its just very dissapointing.

Transformers was a cool movie. Period. It served its purpose as a high budget summer blockbuster. I will remember it as a cool and entertaining movie, just like Pirates, just like Spidey, but that is it. Yes, the Autobots transforming and rolling out was cool. Transforming sound was cool, but that all just means that there is an awesome special effects team working behind the scenes in this movie.

Awesome? Please, you need to get yourself a dictionary before you can qualify yourself to use that word. Did anybody even manage to follow the fight scene properly? Who the fuck is fighting who? Who the hell was that that got ripped apart? Hey, wait a minute, what the hell happened there?

At least I know Die Hard 4.0 will improve my mood. Problem is, it only get released on Thursday in Hicktown. Till then, yipee-ki-yay motherfuckers..