Sunday, November 21, 2010

God Won't Save The Queen Unless You Do!!

Iker Casillas, the maverick goalkeeper who's spent an eternity at Real Madrid, expressed his sadness in April 2010 that Barca were out of the Champions League, preferring a Spanish side to be in the Final. It surprised me a bit 'cause I thought, hey just wait a minute... aren't Barcelona the fiercest rivals of Real Madrid? This is like Roosevelt condoling the demise of Adolf Hitler, wishing that the German could have had the opportunity to proceed and replicate the exploits of Ghaznavi in the sub-continent. 

I realised the reason for my astonishment was linked directly with my allegiance to the English Premier League: I was surprised 'cause I can never imagine Shay Given opining to the Press that he would've preferred to see Manchester United doing the business in Bernabeu instead of Bayern Munich. 
I can also see that Wolfsburg and Schalke players and officials are buzzing that after years a German team would be featuring in the footballing event of the year. I also reminisced that in the last five years, on both occasions that AC Milan managed to make the Final, their little cousins at Inter did not mourn it. 

I thought maybe it's the other way round in England 'cause of the inherent injustice that the Irish, Scots and Welsh have been subjected to during the course of history. My reasoning turned out to be bollocks, 'cause I was reminded of the Basque in Spain and Turins in Italy. Naples isn't exactly ecstatic rejoicing in its state of equitable status, now is it? 

When Mancs applauded Milan's triumph over Liverpool in 2006, the result was forgotten in the air: the Champions League trophy went to Italy, not England. When the Scousers hailed Barca's domination of Manchester United in the 2009 Final, it was Spain that proudly declared to the world that La Liga and not EPL is the best league in world football.

It is interesting to note how the hatred that fans have for other clubs has completely taken over the sense of national pride. Blogs have millions of comments from English fans blaming the impotence of EPL in Europe and Platini's scathing attitude towards the phenomenal magic that English Football has over the whole world: but aren't you fans the greatest reason why England is weak in the politics of European Football? 

If we research the statistics, Spain has entered 55 competitions to date reaching 21 Finals in total, winning 12 and losing 9. Their success ratio is 22%. During this period, only 4 Spanish clubs made it to the Final, with only Barcelona and Real Madrid emerging triumphant; hence in history, there are only 2 Spanish Clubs which have won Europe's top prize. 

Italy entered Europe a total of 54 times and made it to 25 Finals, winning 11 and losing 14. Their success ratio stands at 20%. As many as 6 Italian teams have reached the Final, with only AC Milan, Juventus and Inter Milan being crowned champions.

For the short-sighted this would be surprising but England's success ratio in Europe is the highest at 23%. Entering the competition 48 times, the English made it to 17 Finals, winning 11 and losing 6. England also boasts the record of having the maximum number of teams making it to the Final: as many as 7 clubs have made that distinction. No other league in the world has had more clubs winning the European Glory either. Four different clubs, Liverpool, Manchester United, Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa have all conquered Europe at various intervals. 

Why is it then that we feel that England has under-achieved in Europe and that the Spanish, Italians and even the Germans have a more glorious history. Few are aware of the fact that England is actually the sole reason why the premier European competition came into being. Gabriel Hanot, an influential sports journalist hailing from France got pissed off that Wolverhampton Wanderers, affectionately known as Wolves and also the only European club that Pele ever wanted to play for, kicked every leading European club's backside in a series of friendly games. Hanot pulled strings and hence what we now know as UEFA Champions League was instituted in 1955, then known as European Champion Clubs' Cup.   

Retrospecting the dominance of England in Europe, for most of the first decade since the competition's inception, England did not take it seriously, incensing Hanot and his ilk further by not even participating. Sir Matt Busby's Manchester United were the first team to make it to a Final in 1968 and they massacred a Eusebio-led Benfica, thereby managing a Final win the very first time an English team had gone all the way. Leeds United lost their final in 1974, but what followed in the years to come was unreal: from 1976 to 1981, only English clubs conquered Europe. These were times when English clubs used to play 42-game League seasons and had more domestic cup competitions than any other league in the world. In spite of their hectic seasons, England made a loud and clear statement, particularly when even a small club like Forest was murdering the Goliaths of Europe. 

It could very well be merely a conspiracy theory, yet the whole of Europe wasted no time in standing united when it came to placing a ban on English clubs on pretext of the Heysel Disaster in Brussels, thereby barring them from participating in Europe. It's just the coincidental nature of the ban colliding with the English dominance that's a bit difficult to digest. It's also amusing that as soon as the English league was reformed into EPL and big money came in the form of broadcasting domination of the world, that ban was lifted. However, all this speculation does not vindicate the English fans of their core responsibility of flying the English flag high. 

The mutual hatred of English clubs reached an all-time low on the second last Sunday of the 2009/2010 season, when Liverpool fans were seen celebrating Frank Lampard's goal against their own team: could you conjure up a similar precedent in European football as retarded and sickening as this one. After a dubiously ridiculous back-pass by Steven Gerrard that looked more like an assist to Drogba, Stevie G definitely assured his eternal legendary status in Liverpool folklore: for losing the last home game of the season, so as to ensure that Man United don't surpass their tally of 18 league titles. While this aspect is not being discussed with the frivolity that it ought to be; however the league itself cannot stoop any lower. The home crowd at Anfield ignored that they have endured one of their worst seasons in recent history - trophyless and ending effectively 7th in the league; yet their supporters were elated at the sight of the Blues scoring against their own team. Is it a wonder then that England was out of Champions League this season at the Q/F stage itself? Fulham, the less-privileged poor cousins of Chelsea were the only club striving in Europe having made it to the Europa League final on the basis of sheer grit and positivity; however losing to the sheer grit and positivity of a Diego Forlan-inspired Atletico Madrid, who by the way must be mocking their rich cousins in Madrid for spending 250 million and winning F-All.

Positivity - the key word required to achieve what's impossible. The same trait that motivated the unbeaten Arsenal squad in 2003/2004. The same attribute that propelled United to achieve the Treble in 1998/1999. The same quality that enabled Nottingham Forest to win back-to-back European Cups in the late 70s. How do you think Bill Shankly would've felt to see the Scousers celebrating their own defeat? Can one imagine the scornful superlatives that Brian Clough would've reserved had Stevie G, the back-passer would've been his captain? The Damned United, a motion picture that highlighted Clough's stint with Leeds United, shows the Leeds team purposely injuring players of Clough's Derby a few days before they're due to clash with Juventus in a European semi-final. Football very proudly and vociferously propagates "Kick Racism Out Of Football" as it slogan, but when will football start kicking out pettiness? Is it really a man's game anymore?

Just a few years ago, Sir Alex Ferguson's Man United squad gave a Guard of Honor to Jose's Chelsea, who had been crowned champions prior to their Old Trafford visit. It must have taken them to swallow a lot of pride, yet they honored the champs like men. Strangely, it became a great motivator for the Red Devils, as ironically the next season, Jose's troops gave a Guard of Honor to Man United, who had been crowned champions prior to their visit of Stamford Bridge. Two seasons later, when United won the league for the third consecutive year, Rafa Benitez refused to even congratulate Alex Ferguson. The same Rafa Benitez whose fans and players have been involved in one of the most shameful displays one can remember in recent history. Isn't it time again that non-British managers are given the boot for spoiling the integrity of the league? Would Shankly or Dalglish have allowed what happened during the Liverpool-Chelsea game at Anfield when The Kop applauded Frank Lampard's goal against their own boys, just so that it would prevent United winning a record-breaking 19th title? 

What really teeters on insanity is the way this domestic rivalry has crept its vicious ways into the great cause of the Three Lions. What can one say when you hear that 'United is better than England.' Whereas the Catalans and the Madridistas unite when Spain competes at the Euro or the World Cup; there are pockets in England that are indifferent to the national team's fate, sometimes for reasons as preposterous as their club captain not skippering the Three Lions.  

From Geoff Hurst to Ashley Cole: read any English stalwart's biography and there is a common factor: cliques within the national team's squad. There are separate Man United and Liverpool dining tables for cryin' out loud; yet astonished spectators all over the world still question why Stevie, Lamps, Wazza & Co. couldn't do the business in Nelson Mandela's backyard. The same faithful of Old Trafford who graciously gave a standing ovation to the Brazilian wizard, Ronaldo in spite of scoring a hat-trick and effectively knocking United out of the Champions League in the 2002/2003 season, would not reserve the same adulation for Norman Hunter of Leeds or Roger Hunt of Liverpool, both members of the World Cup winning England squad of 1966. 

The English Press is not far behind in choosing favorites either. Gazza realised way back in the 80's that in order to win over the opinion makers in London, taking the mickey out of Bryan Robson and Remi Moses on the pitch wasn't enough: he secured a transfer to Spurs. Rags in North of England would rip you apart, even insinuate you of shagging various species, just because you wear the colors of Arsenal or Chelsea. 

So long as fans are unable to free themselves from the Club vs Country debate, feel free not to expect miracles from the national team on the International Pitch. 

Friday, April 30, 2010

The Under-Rated

The world we inhabit loves to rate - cars, watches and houses have prices, exams and ACRs have grades, music and film reviews have stars, sports performances have points: we are continuously being assessed ourselves or involved in judging others. So far so good, but do we really, in today's times know the difference between price and value? Price is an assessment of a rank of an object or even person, since we are after all corrupt, whereas value is the true worth of one's contribution. Let's take our country: you can proudly put a price on Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, since it can be assessed how much it cost us over the years, but can one assess the true value of the Electro-Weak Theory that Dr. Abdus Salam invented? Our nukes can destroy a few cities of people we don't like much, hence it's mostly tangible and we are all really impressed, but can you honestly measure the precise spread of humanity that benefited from Dr. Salam's tremendous contribution? No one needs to agree with me really, 'cause end of the day, let's also look at what we valued and what we priced: there were hordes of people unsure of where to provide the next meal to their children, governed by a Prime Minister who gave them the very pragmatic solution of eating grass actually, so as to compensate for the nuclear tests integral to our sovereignty and yet those hordes rejoiced on streets, indulging in dances that would make Elvis turn in his coffin and instead of buying that meal for their children spent the money on purchasing sweets to distribute to random strangers on streets. After all, they took the PMs advice seriously and now aspired to compete with horses for food resources. On the other hand, Dr. Abdus Salam: we decided he wasn't good enough for us, primarily because he belonged to a particular sect and we forced him into an unwanted exile. When he wanted to establish a state-of-the-art Research Facility at par with the then contemporary standards in Europe, he was refused amidst fabricated allegations of treacherous intent. It's no wonder then that we didn't end up inventing Hotmail; instead we are churning out me-too darlings of the hacking industry. 

The world is ignorant of its ignorance of value. I see everywhere that something or someone is under-rated. I see everywhere that brilliance is undermined. I see everywhere the Devil not getting its due: no wonder he's mighty pissed off.

Jay Jay Okocha, the dead-ball specialist from Nigeria played the majority of his career at Fenerbahce, Paris Saint Germain and Bolton Wanderers prior to having short stints at Qatar SC and Hull City. A versatile footballer, who played as both attacking and defensive midfielder and when needed even as a winger or forward, Okocha was the hands down star at PSG, even when Ronaldinho had spent his first season with the club. A tremendously talented team somewhere around 2001, the main football club of Paris could have been one doing the business had it retained major talents like Okocha, Ronaldinho, Pauleta, Sylvian Distin, Gabriel Heinze, Pochettino, Rothen, Alex and Nicolas Anelka - surprised? It's true; this was the Paris SG line-up at that time, which amusingly included Anelka, born and bred at Paris SG, sold to Arsenal for under 1 Million, transferred to Madrid for 16 Million and then back at his home club for 22 Million. The club instead chose to start selling players, which began with Jay Jay being sold to Bolton. Jay Jay really did the business once he started playing in England. He would score complicated free-kicks making them look as easy as Gazza's IQ. He was the cornerstone at Bolton and groomed the home-grown talent of Kevin Nolan, who went on to become one of the most reliable midfielders in England. It was Jay's step-over skill and technique that earned him the name Jay-Jay, as was the renowned chant of the Bolton fans. Prior to that, he was simply J Okocha. Throughout his career, he preferred to be the anchor of the teams he played for rather than be one of the options, which explains why any move to a gigantic club never materialized. Perhaps, had he strutted his stuff at Madrid or Barca, the natives of La Liga may have set some high standards and players like Yaya, Lass and Mahammadou, in spite of their talent, would not have been so over-hyped and over-paid. This guy was a gem that the world has forgotten about; however even in his playing days, he was never rated like he was the business. He would give most of the African players today a frantic run for their money and when one sees Madrid paying over the odds for Lass, it does beg the question: it isn't always about phenomenal talent really, is it? With our perception building holding the status of reality in today's time instead of the truth, it's hardly a surprise.

Playing By Heart was one of the rare movies even in the career of its maker, Willard Carrol who hasn't made anything else that you would even call good, which rises above its particular genre and hooks the viewer without resorting to any shenanigans. With an ensemble spearheaded by Sean Connery and including Angelina Jolie, Ryan Phillippe, Dennis Quaid, Madeleine Stowe and Jon Stewart, this narrative takes a cynic like myself by surprise, 'cause one look at the DVD artwork and you may just pass it off as another chick flick. The narrative is intelligently built up and the episodic attribute of this feature catches you unaware at the end of it all. Ryan and Angelina come up with great performances and Connery is well, Connery - that effortless charm very much intact. It's a movie that not many have seen and I know of a few far inferior cinematic products that have walked away with Oscars. This interesting tale that takes a look at relationships at different stages of life is grossly under-rated, pleasantly unpretentious and definitely recommended, err... if you can find a DVD - you see, this isn't The Devil Wears Prada.

Gary Oldman is the single greatest actor in the history of mankind. This isn't a matter of taste or opinion - I shall prove it scientifically. The intention is not to diss others to big up Gary, but I absolutely adore Brando, Olivier, O'Toole, Michael Caine, Nicholson, Hoffmann, De Niro, Pacino, Day-Lewis, Hanks, Hopkins, Freeman, Denzel, Russell Crowe, Hackman, Kingsley, Newman, Redford, Spacey, Geoffrey Rush, Sean Penn, Adrien Brody - these are all Oscar winners, right? Some of them with prized possessions of multiple Academy Awards. Ok, Redford won it for Best Director, but he makes the list to keep the ladies excited, in addition to his terribly under-rated performance in Spy Game. But the key question is: Where is Gary Oldman's oscar? Christ, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Sinatra have theirs. Sid and Nancy, Romeo is Bleeding, State of Grace, Immortal Beloved, Dracula, The Contender, Hannibal - not good enough? Let's pick out one. Most of the world who's mainly seen Pacino only in Godfather, Scarface and Carlito's Way went ballistic when they gave Al an Oscar for Scent of A Woman. Sorry to break your hearts children, but that was a disaster; because the same year Gary Oldman was nominated for Dracula and I'm sure the small percentage of population whose IQ is still above 120 can easily testify that it's a no-brainer. Oldman's turn as Count Dracula in Coppola's masterpiece is historic - nobody has played it better and nobody ever will. You can gladly bet your mam-in-law, 'cause you sure as hell won't get her back. People enamored and mesmerized by Al's Scent probably forgot to see And Justice For All and Dog Day Afternoon - that is where Pacino was robbed and not given an Academy Award. If you liked his blind act so much, then watch him chanting "Attica, Attica", that was Pacino's true essence, not Tony Montana or what he did thereafter. Oldman gets tremendous respect from a lot of quarters, but isn't it a bitch that had to do Harry Potters and Dark Knights for the world to actually start knowing who he is. We rave over Brando 'cause he revolutionized the style of movie acting from the theatrical dramatization of Bogart, Tracy, Gable & Co. to what we watch today - the De Niros, Pacinos, Nortons all of them. We adore Nicholson 'cause he's seldom done a bad movie in his distinguished career. We idolize De Niro and Pacino for bringing integrity to the cinema of Scorsese, Coppola and De Palma. We respect Di Caprio, Pitt and Depp for not replicating Titanics but trying earnestly to contribute towards the evolution of today's cinema. Yet, we conveniently forget what Oldman has done quietly: he has, in his own way revolutionized acting. Watch him switch from Sid Vicious to Beethoven. From a lunatic Irish gangster to a conniving Congressman. From Count Dracula to Sirius Black. If you aren't an Oldman fan and follow his career, you would not know in a million years that this is the same guy enacting all those parts. This quality of his is unchallenged in his generation of actors and I don't see anyone in the future as yet either. The only ones in world cinema I rate close to him for the same quality are Geoffrey Rush and Naseeruddin Shah, ironically both of them criminally under-appreciated in proportion to their amazing talents - in today's superficial era, these thespians choose to be characters, not celebrities. These chameleons get into the skin of those roles; in fact literally become those people. They take no pressure that others with all their undoubted talent do - I love Pacino as a gangster but I see flashes of Pacino in his parts, whether it's Corleone, Montana or Carlito. When De Niro visits Casino as a Good Fella, I see him in both those parts. When Nicholson is exploring Terms of Endearment, As Good As It Gets, The Shining or even as Hoffa, I cannot see his persona disappear. Watch G Rush as Peter Sellers and then watch him as Captain Barbosa in the Pirates and then watch Shine - I see characters over there. Watch Naseer in Bombay Boys and then experience A Wednesday. Had Bachchan played that common man who decides to blow up terrorists on A Wednesday, we would still be hearing superlatives of as to how his performance has taken the craft of acting to the next level. But this is what we are. There is no fairness or rationale in our assessments and appreciation. Orlando Bloom and Elijah Wood make hundred times the money that Oldman does. I don't see this as injustice; it's just retarded. If these are the standards of reward, then this world will be sucked deeper into the quicksand of mediocrity that we see all around today. Somewhere along the line, we just forgot to appreciate and reward these guys in accordance with their talent and when history will look back at the maverick chameleons, who elevated the craft of acting, Gary Oldman will top that list. Always. 

Supertramp, my namesake, a cult British band that talked about stuff forty years ago that the world occupies itself with today. Their special reverence for the spectacular medium of Television is very gently dealt with in their lyrics. They envisaged the Fast Food Nation long before any of us could even imagine what the invention of Satellite would do to the world - well, other than spreading GSM cancer and other incurable physical diseases, promoting mediocre travesties in the name of art to fill up airtime and enabling donut munching, robotic IQ slaves to peep into my shower time paying exclusive attention to my increasing belly and cracking jokes about it with each other to amuse their regressive, useless purpose of continuing to remain alive; there isn't much that Satellites have done for us. Today, in the midst of Plant, Page, Jagger, Freddie Mercury, Ronnie James Dio, even Axl, Slash, Tyler and Bon Jovi - most of us are unfamiliar with Roger Hodgson, the soul of Supertramp. Download Crime of the Century and Breakfast in America, listen to the unreal orchestration and vocals in Child of Vision, Gone Hollywood and Lord Is It Mine and maybe you shall begin to fathom what the real business is. The art of music is an interesting invention of man to explore oneself to understand life better and enhance the process of self-evolution. We have reduced that process to emailing each other Wall Papers of Britney and jerking off to Hilary Duff. The revolutionaries of the 60s and 70s have been systematically erased from our combined conscience - 'cause they were our conscience. They had something to tell us, which certainly wasn't I Was Born to Make You Happy or Bitch, I Wanna Bitch-Slap You. So long as generations current and generations to come will remain estranged to Supertramp and the ilk, the conscientious of contributing something concrete will continue to remain oblivious to us. Life in performing arts is a bit more than looking ugly like Lady Gaga. No wonder, The Arrivals accuses Madonna and the ilk to be bitches of Mr. Satan: delusion or not, if you stunt the growth of minds with crap, then conspiracy theories is all you shall get. No wonder, this world has ceased to produce the Dalis, Woody Allens, Bergkamps and Kishore Kumars of the times gone by. How will you produce them when there are no aspirational models of real talent? If Madonna is the supreme epitome of music, then is it a surprise that we have ended up with Britney Spears and Lady Gaga? If James Cameron is the Orson Welles of our times, then don't fret when all you will see on celluloid is size enhancement of computerized graphics. Supertramp, in a twist of irony named an album of their Crime of The Century - lest they knew it would apply on them more than anyone else.

Juninho Pernambucano and Marcos Assuncao - Brazilian compatriots famous for their stints at Lyon and Betis respectively. Both dead-ball experts, while Juninho is a versatile attacking midfielder able to play anywhere in the middle, Assuncao is a free-scoring defensive midfielder. Shining to prominence in the early 2000s, both players lit up the Ligue 1 and La Liga. Assuncao, as captain of Betis earned them Champions League qualification twice, which was a huge achievement in the club's history. During the same period, Juninho was at the heart of Lyon's superb run of winning six consecutive Ligue 1 titles. The French club could've perhaps realized Juninho's ambition of conquering Europe had they not sold several talents like Tiago, Essien, Benzema, Malouda, Abidal, Edmilson, Mahammadou Diarra and Ludovic Giuly. Combining with the ultra-majestic Denilson at Betis, Marcos Assuncao made his team on the most attacking and entertaining teams to watch in Europe. Had he played for a bigger club, he would probably be revered like Dunga. Nevertheless, the connoisseurs of football are well aware of the incredible talent both these guys have - the problem lies in the fact that most of the world can't even spell connoisseur, let alone know its meaning.  

Adam Sandler in Reign Over Me is a largely unnoticed, generally under-appreciated acting performance. Enacting a post 9/11 ex-family man, who loses his wife and child in the WTC attacks and now suffers a post-traumatic permanent distress situation, this performance touches upon the loss of human life, rather than jingoistic sermons that the Americans usually impose on us. Playing a perfect foil to Sandler is Don Cheadle, who struggles to bring him back to normal. This is one of those wonderful enterprises, which does not have a specific plot but yet manages to interweave an interesting screenplay with the its inherent aura of emotion. Sandler rises way above the script and ends up not even winning a nomination at any award farces - because he's well Adam Sandler, the guy who's supposed to play only Madison and Gilmore and not attempt to explore new territories. I'm quite certain that if Tom Hanks had played the same character in this movie, he would've been in serious contention for a third Oscar, with the world raving over his human portrayal of the agony that 9/11 caused to the average American household. You can experience the same when Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind chews up the scenery with a remarkable show portraying a lover who undergoes a unique procedure of having his memory erased, so he doesn't get hurt because of his emotional relationships. With Kate Winslet matching him in the histrionics, Carrey delivers a career best performance departing completely from the facial wizard that we saw in Liar Liar and the Ventura movies. Although Carrey already had Man In The Moon and The Truman Show to his credit, with Eternal Sunshine, he just takes it to the next level, as there's no stylized acting but just a natural display of varying emotions. Similar to the apathy of Sandler, had this part been portrayed by Russell Crowe, the bookmakers would be placing all their bets on the Aussie to rock the Academy Awards. Jim didn't even get a nomination, although Kate did. Why do we treat actors like labels? Just 'cause Leonardo did Titanic, our pseudo intellectuals to date do not rate him. Did you watch Gilbert Grape and Basketball Diaries that released way before James Cameron's over-rated monstrosity? It's a pity that marvellous actors like Sandler and Carrey are discouraged in this manner and then compelled to continue churning out the predictable trash that is great injustice to their vast internal reserves of talent.

Tony Scott committed the cardinal sin of directing Top Gun - for the rest of his life, the world will continue to berate his creative genius. I have incessantly explored the option of thinking up another film-maker as versatile; can't come up with one. Scott's repertoire includes Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop, Revenge, The Last Boy Scout, True Romance, Crimson Tide, Enemy of The State, Spy Game and Domino - he made films written by mavericks as diverse as Robert Towne and Quentin Tarantino. The aura of his films is strictly with relevance to the subject matter and no one can point out similarities. He has in his own way set trends for others to follow - do you remember a film with the feel of Top Gun prior to its release; however they were plenty after it. The fast-paced, whacky Black Comedy genre explored in films like Go, The Grifters, Grosse Point Blank, 51st State: where was it before. It all began with True Romance. The slick, 50 events in one minute, gadget personified treatment that are a common practice today started with Enemy of The State. And I've yet to see anything like Spy Game almost a decade since its release. Yet for all his achievements, Tony Scott is not as appreciated as his elder brother, Ridley. There's another stereotype in this case, that Tony Scott, being British is expected to make either period sagas or Guy Ritchie/Danny Boyle type progressive cinema. Whereas, Ridley opted to make epics like Blade Runner and The Gladiator, Tony Scott has in fact been the trend-setter for shaping and updating commercial escapist cinema the way it is today. The educated, narcissistic, pseudo intellectual inside of us can easily write off that achievement labeling it trash, but in reality it isn't child's play. The startling evidence is the fact that before Tony Scott, the standard escapist cinema was formed of Chuck Norris flicks. Tony Scott changed all that. As with others, he will seldom be remembered for it.  

You worldly boobs - take it up the batty. For so long as you don't learn the essence of value, true evolution and growth will continue to be stunted. 

Signing off with the wishful aspiration that in years to come, I won't need to make additions to this list.

Till the next chronicle, adieu.



Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Dream Team

This team has no resemblance to the documents released by FIFA every centenary. Any insult directed at or offence caused to anyone living or dead, virgin or molested, hung-over or sober is completely deliberate and thoroughly enjoyed.

We shall be playing the 3-4-2-1 Formation.


Claim to Fame: Soviet Union, Dynamo Moscow.

Yashin invented GK sweeping. The only goalie in history to have won European Footballer of the Year, Lev saved over 150 penalty kicks in a distinguished career in which he also played an instrumental role in winning a Euro Championship for the Soviets. With this monster in goal, to score the opposites would need to bring a few lasses to flash tits. 

Paolo Maldini - DEFENDER

Claim to Fame: Italy, AC Milan, Bonded Slavery.

If the Yanks were to have forced intercourse with football and introduce separate attacking and defensive teams in MLS, Paolo Maldini would feature in both of them. The younger ones may remember him as a robust defender, but this bloke started his career as one of the most swashbuckling fullbacks. Put him anywhere in defence and he would give a performance of the best specialist in history. His place in the squad is a no-brainer.

Daniel Passarella - DEFENDER

Claim to Fame: Argentina, Fiorentina, Inter Milan.

Argentina's very own Captain Majestic, Dani Pass is the unsung hero, whose exploits in Argentina's 1978 World Cup victory as player and captain are grossly under-appreciated compared to those of Diego Maradona in 1986. Who wouldn't want a rock solid defender who scored around 200 goals in an accomplished career. A born leader, who made Maradona feel extremely insecure.

Ronald Koeman - DEFENDER

Claim to Fame: Holland, FC Barcelona, Ugly as Shite.

No defender in history has more goals than Koeman. Much before we learnt about the existence of a certain Roberto Carlos, this Dutchman had made the art of devastating free kicks very much his own. There still isn't a defender in the game who created side-splitting passes for the attackers as beautifully as this guy effortlessly did. 


Claim to Fame: Portugal, Benfica.

Did you read the name Eusebio? That's more than enough. Oh, you guys don't understand till materialistic evidence is provided. How about 727 goals in 715 games? When your Messis and Ronaldos do that playing in mediocre teams, then come to me and we'll talk about greatest ever footballers.


Claim to Fame: France, Juventus, Real Madrid, Marco Materazzi. 

While we're on greatest ever footballers, for me it's this man. Pele, Romario and Puskas have over 1000 goals, Maradona won single-handedly for Napoli and Argentina, Cryuff introduced Total Football, Platini is UEFA President - but none of these guys were dictators like Zizou: I've yet to see a player who would play with 21 other much quicker footballers and yet they would all be compelled to slow down just to acclimatize to the pace that Zidane had dictated for the match. This man did that till the last game he played at the age of 34. Who else but him would make Buffon look like a joke in a World Cup Final and score a penalty like it was his mam-in-law between the sticks. The cornerstone of any Galactico squad.


Claim to Fame: England, Lazio, Rangers, Vinnie Jones.

The cheeky midfield wizard who loves to make the world believe that he's daft; well he isn't. Just check out his goal against Scotland in Euro 96 and you'll know what I mean. There's absolutely nothing that needs to be said about his phenomenal talent, but he's just a character to be around the squad. Err... just make sure he doesn't set your pubes on fire.

Juninho Pernambucano - ATTACKER RIGHT

Claim to Fame: Brazil, Lyon

This man is a living testament to the age-old belief that there is no justice in this world. When we were bigging up the Kakas and Robinhos of this world, this man was winning the Ligue 1 for Lyon 6 years in a row. Just look where they are as soon as he left. If you go searching for the epitome of the Unsung Hero, look no further - this is your man. Phenomenally skilled footballer.

Dennis Bergkamp - SHADOW FORWARD

Claim to Fame: Holland, Arsenal, Nwankwo Kanu.

You've heard and looked up the dictionary for the meaning of sublime: they're making new additions to it - Dennis Bergkamp. I've heard of people who've scored 1250 goals; only some of them were spectacular. Dennis scored 125. Each one of them spectacular. The best link-up player you'd ever want in a squad.

Ferenc Puskas - SHADOW FORWARD

Claim to Fame: Hungary, Real Madrid.

The greatest player that Manchester United never had and why? 'Cause he didn't speak English. When the team was recuperating from the Munich crash, that was the logic of the Assistant Manager. Puskas instead signed for Real Madrid aged 31. Sir Bobby Charlton said of Puskas, "I remember when Pele scored his 1000th goal. The pictures went round the world and I mentioned it to Puskas. He replied, 'I scored my 1000th goal five years ago' - and he wasn't being boastful." The rest you should know and if you don't, Wikipedia it. This guy's career deserves to be studied in detail. Nothing more to say.

Gerd Muller - STRIKER

Claim to Fame: Germany, FC Bayern Munchen, Err... Goals. Lots of them. 

I won't say nothing. Gerd will just appear for the game. He will score. Probably more than once. Have no doubts about that. Period.

RESERVES: Gordon Banks, Lothar Matthaus, Garrincha, Sir Bobby Charlton, Alfredo Di Stefano, Eric Cantona, Romario. 

VERY DELIBERATE MISSES: Pele, Diego Maradona, Michel Platini, Johan Cryuff, Franz Beckenbauer. An interesting observation once upon a time made by Romario, "Pele is a poet when he keeps his mouth shut." It applies to all the deliberate misses. Doesn't work for me if great footballers are petty men.

Hence, the Dream Team:

Lev Yashin
Paolo Maldini
Daniel Passarella
Ronald Koeman
Zinedine Zidane
Paul Gascoigne
Juninho Pernambucano
Dennis Bergkamp
Ferenc Puskas
Gerd Muller

CAUTION: This team is very agile. Handle with flair. But corn aside, don't play us. We'll fuckin' humiliate you.

Feel free to post your Dream Teams and critiques on the above choices.

Long live Champ Man. But only the 1999-2002 editions. 

Till the next Chronicle. Adieu. 

Friday, April 23, 2010

It's Different In Milan. Very Different.

"Agent admits AC Milan contact for Juventus striker Trezeguet."

"Real Madrid, Chelsea go head-to-head for AC Milan striker Pato."

"AC Milan to dump Leonardo, sell Pato and Ronaldinho."

"Huntelaar plus cash offer for Berbatov."

"AC Milan ask Maldini to reconsider retirement decision."

The ordinary me also thought the same what all you scholarly literati are thinking right now, but here's the whole gist of it: these headlines that we all just read were not the proud cover feature of; err.... this is serious. AC Milan, as per their tradition mean business.

I really like the Premio Italiano, not because of the beach-house activity (although that seriously qualifies him to be idolized globally) but for the remarkable work Senor Berlusconi has done as the proud owner of AC Milan.

When Senor Perez was busy spending Togo's entire fiscal budget on building the Galacticos of Madrid, Senor B was developing the famous Scientific Academy in Milan: it's a logical and well-researched tangible form of the vague idea floated by Mel Gibson in the early 90s through Forever Young. Incidentally, the star club of Milan also serves to be, in true Monopoly tradition, the GET OUT OF JAIL FREE card for the star club in Madrid. Proof (s): Redondo, Emerson, Ronaldo, Becks (he wouldn't have moved to LA if Milan didn't have a pre-nuptial of taking the enormous burden of 28% of his wage bill) and almost Ruud (well, he's a greedy Dutchman who wanted a weekly salary unheard of - 40 grand.) It's just a coincidence that the average age of these players in football years was similar to what Tommy's age at 20 would be in dog years. (Tommy is an alias for Senorita B's poodle. To avoid risking legal action, it would be difficult to disclose the true identity).

When the Glazers were unnecessarily waiting for Fergie to waste three seasons on grooming Ronnie, Wazza, Fletch, Park, Vidic & co., Senor B dedicated his energies to humanitarian causes. Proof (s): Jaap Stam, Cafu, Favalli, Vogel, Amoroso. This is, in fact, a model that has recently been very successfully adopted by Tottenham. Their entire team is structured around discards or former reserves of other clubs, which begs the innocent question: why are they called Spurs; shouldn't it be Spares?

When Abramovich was employing the Rent Boys, our beloved Milan was preaching the virtues of loyalty. What can possibly be a more authentic and sacrilegious testament to the Holy School of fidelity than ensuring that every long-serving player in the team continues to play till he announces his retirement out of fear of natural death on the football pitch. Proof (s): Costacurta, Leonardo, Maldini, Sebastiano Rossi, Boban. Forthcoming Attractions: Pipo Inzaghi, Serginho.

When the entire football universe is entangled in transfer wars, not having the first clue of who they would finally manage to lap up within the transfer window, AC Milan have clearly identified the players they want: Joe Cole, Michael Essien, Carlos Tevez, Dimi Bebratov, Stevie G and yes the sublime Lionel Messi shall all be joining AC Milan - in 2022. Of course, these will be free transfers. What an amazing experience it would be for a 35 year old Messi to see the 42 year old Stevie G getting treatment for his arthiritis problem at the Scientific Academy just hours before the crucial European qualifier with Red Star Belgrade.

It is my sincere belief that the Farrelly Brothers got it all wrong: they should have dumped Mary and created a motion picture titled There's Something About Milan. I say this respectfully, because the only club dafter than AC is ironically, but not surprisingly the club that is to them what the noisy neighbors are to the Red Devils: the prized possession of Senor Moratti, the San Siro sharing, Inter Milan. Have you ever heard of two clubs, both European Champions at different times and title holders of Serie A countless times, having a global fan base going into millions for decades and yet sharing the same stadium? Well, welcome to Milan. It's different. Very different.

I have already illustrated my deep admiration for Senor B. You know what? It's nothing compared to how strongly I feel for the Morattis. To translate a famous idiom from the very respectful Punjabi language, AC and Inter share a bond: that of the dog and brick; each of them also believes that he/she is the brick. So while we are at the beautiful relationship that they share, let's look at some of the business that the Morattis have done with Senor B's club. Can you recall an Argentinian called Andres Guglielminpeitro? I thought that you won't know. Let's try again. He was also known as Guly: for fans of Championship Manager 1999-2002, if you ever play the 5-3-2 Attacking formation, Guly is the first player you want. He's just wicked. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case in real life. He strutted his stuff at AC Milan for 3 seasons. Senor Moratti was blessed with some form of Divine Telepathy and resolved to snatch Guly from AC at all costs: AC Milan received cash plus Andrea Pirlo. To be honest, that's not too crazy. Just a season before this, Inter had acquired the services of Coco from AC: in a straight swap deal in which two-times Champions League winner, Clarence Seedorf left Inter. The Dutchman went on to make AC Milan the 3rd club with which he won the most coveted prize in professional football. In true Milan tradition of hospitality and not to be left behind AC, the great thinkers at Inter did not hesitate at all in favoring Madrid either. In fact, AC Milan imitated their neighbors in this respect. Way back in 1996, Inter signed the 30 year old Chilean striker, Ivan Zamorano from Real Madrid for 1 million plus err a 23 year old Roberto Carlos. Is this the end of generosity? Not quite. While, they were on a give-away spree, Inter also successfully managed to sign Fabian Carini (who's he, are you thinking that?) from Juventus. This time the free swap player was Fabio Cannavaro - leaving Inter at 26 years of age.

I'm also deeply in love with the Milan fans - both clubs. Elsewhere, there are exceptions to a certain rule: let's say Paul Ince can play for Liverpool after being a Red Devil, but then there was a stint with Inter Milan (who else?) in between. Or someone inconsequential like Silvestre can move to Arsenal after 9 years at Old Trafford, so that Man United can avoid arranging a testimonial for him in his 10th year. But can you seriously imagine a 25 year old Henry wearing a red shirt displaying the logo of Sharp/Vodafone/AIG just a year after he did a domestic double with the Gunners? How about this? I buy Torres for 33 Million, he scores braces against Everton for 6 years in a row and then signs for them on a free transfer? Not possible? Think again, because Milan is different. Very different. What Torres cannot do, Christian Vieri can. The fans in Milan hate each other quite reminiscent of life in Liverpool and usually pelting the other team's players, breaking the windows of their houses, smashing their cars with baseball bats - these are socially acceptable, mild ways of expression in Milan; it is after all the fashion capital of Italy, hence the population is more evolved. It's actually the Romans, fans of Roma and Lazio that like to stab, particularly during derby games and European matches. The rest of Italy is quite civilized. Well, if constant death threats are a form of civility. However, the day a player of the opposing team, whose children you harassed just a few hours ago, signs for your club, the lovelies of Milan become the living testimony to the age-old adage: to err is human, to forgive is divine. Google the famous players of AC and Inter and you will find out that there are almost 100 footballers who have played for both teams. It's easy. You live in the same city. You play in the same stadium. Just a different shirt. Football transfers were never this easy. Only in Milan.

If you are still wondering about those headlines - why would the average age of 24 in the form of Pato, Ronaldinho and Huntelaar be sold and replaced by a 33 year old Trezeguet, then fret not.

It's different in Milan. Very different.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

19 Titles, Messi and Bernabeu

When Robbie Blake scored that absolute bullet in the 3rd game of the season against the Red Devils, Burnley were safely placed 4th in the points table with United lurking at 15th. Fast forward to March 2010, Old Trafford is totally buzzing: United is topping the EPL table having already done the business in Carling Cup Final at the cost of Mikey Owen and now preparing to fly to Munich for the CL Quater Finals against a resurgent Bayern Munchen side, which boasts of a mental midfield with Ribery and Robben on the flanks and Schweinsteiger and Van Bommel providing service from the centre to Miroslav Klose upfront. In the often prophetic words of Fergie, in fact just a summary of it: he doesn't care even if his team plays Beckenbauer's mam-in-law. Of course, Fergie didn't say that precisely, but I just thought if he somehow reads this, it may come in handy for his pre-match Press notes.

What United must avoid are the disasters of Rome last year and San Siro in 2007, when they just didn't show up against Pep's Catalans and Carlo's Senior Citizens respectively. In fact, it would be apt to observe now that those two games have instilled a cautious discipline in them starting from this campaign. Wazza, Giggsy, Scholesy and co. are not allowing any team to stifle them anymore. In the recent past, whenever stifled though silky, short passing, United have succumbed fatally. They're struggling at 8th in the Coca-Cola Championship now, but rewind to 2006 and Boro thrashed United 4-1 in a game at Old Trafford in which Gaizka Mendieta reminded the world why he was one of the best of his generation. Chelsea battered them 3-0 the previous year and in the same campaign, Milan scored solitary winners in both legs only to go on to lose to Liverpool in arguably the greatest ever CL Final. All these defeats had the same cause: United were stifled by opposition and had no response. Imagine, if they had a counter strategy in 2007 and 2009, only 3 victories and today there would have been banners in the 'Pool vs United game saying, "We matched your 18 and we matched your 5 and now we gonna get 19 and we gonna get 6." It would've killed the Kop's morale till Eternity and definitely could have propelled Rafa's personal ambition of ensuring relegation for Liverpool ala Newcastle, so he could contest the Championship with his prized duo of N'gog and Voronin and finally win a league trophy in England.

Why it has taken at least 4 seasons for United to solve the 'stifling' problem is anyone's guess, but Keano pointed out 'a lack of response' in an outburst during a MUTV interview that was never aired. Many believe it's the reason he ended his career in Glasgow. Should we choose to remain in the CETERIS PARIBUS mode, this year's European Final should be a repeat of the last one and Fergie must acknowledge an absence of responsiveness the sole reason for that 2-0 loss. The midfield is usually the culprit in those 'stifled' scenarios, which can possibly beget the question that maybe United need genuine class in the centre. Iniesta, Xavi, Puyol and in 2007, Kaka and Pirlo played riot in the middle of the park with United. Fletch is going to be the key and Fergie must start relying more on Gibson from next season: he's got all basic ingredients that made the mould of Messrs Robson and Keane. Should the Red Devils manage to take a flight to Bernabeu in May, the midfield has to step up to ensure they don't put extra pressure on Rio and Vidic. In a one-off game and one as important as the CL Final, defence is prone to making more mistakes. In such games, the key is always possession and United need to stop playing aerial in European finals. It was Barcelona, not Scunthorpe United.

Who is to say who the greatest ever footballer is? The entire universe and its mum gifted the title to Messi last week for his exploits primarily during the last two seasons. But, is it really that simple? Pele and Romario share 2200 goals between them, Cryuff gifted Total Football to the world, Eusebio ensured that Benfica and European Finals became synonymous, Maradonna single-'handedly' won a World Cup and single-handedly won Serie A titles for Napoli, Georgie Best taught strikers of the game that they're not merely poachers but if needed, can give Richard Branson a run for his money in terms of diversity, Gerd Muller showed the world that 'games played' and 'goals scored' can be the same; sometimes 'games played' can be less, Bergkamp proved that each one of 125+ goals scored in a career can be counted among 125 best goals scored ever, Zizou compelled 21 players to adjust and play at a pace that he decided and dictated: who else but Zizou would stand in front of Gianluigi Buffon in a World Cup Final and score the penalty with complete disdain.

Would Messi be as effective if playing in an era when the exploits of Lawrenson, Butcher, Fashanu, Vinnie Jones and co. playing in the English League would make WWE look like Sesame Street? Would Messi be as potent if playing for a cash strapped Napoli side with F-ALL for service? Would Messi do the business if he was earning 10 pounds a week like Dixie Dean and scoring 60 goals in 42 league games? Lionel Messi is a gem, but till the time he invents a bicycle kick of his own and contributes something new to the rich history of football, let's not belittle the great achievements of his predecessors. Its too soon for him to be dubbed the greatest ever footballer. Period.