Monday, September 29, 2008

The Sports Blog : for the common fan has now moved to www.acommonfan.com


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Friday, September 26, 2008

And now the biggest fall in the financial capital of the world

Troubled times continue in the financial capital of the world. The latest casualty is one of America’s most storied organizations - a part of their history and folklore. It was this organization which first made the pin stripes a dress code – something which has now become a dress code across Wall Street.

Their fall comes after 13 glorious years including 4 as the best performers in the whole world. In a performance driven world this organization had the highest salaries and bonuses this year – 207 million dollars in all. And the worst part – they now have to vacate their famous office – a land mark site in the city, nicknamed after one of their most legendry employees.

So is the Federal govt doing something about it?

No, in fact some industry watchers are making fun of the government’s inability to do anything in this case.

God knows what America is coming to



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Thursday, September 25, 2008

FIFA finally gets the World Cup mascot a pair of shorts

The mascot for the 2010 football world cup in South Africa was unveiled on Sept 23. After the shockers that were the last two World Cup mascots, I was expecting something similar or worse than a set of comic alienoids or a half clothed lion football man.

The 2006 mascot - Is it half-clothed or half-naked?

But thanks to I don't know who, we have been spared - FIFA's latest mascot, Zakumi, is a return to sanity and propriety

Such fears never arose in the good old days. Check out all the World Cup mascots till date and the rationale behind each.

Is it a mere coincidence that the mascot horrors have come in the reign of Mr Sepp ' mad bundle of ideas' Blatter. I am wondering what could be an appropriate punishment for him - making him dress like the 2006 mascot probably!!!

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Dempo schools ‘Home’ away from home

Which channel is showing this tournament in India?

After the high of India’s triumph in the AFC Challenge Cup, comes India’s greatest moment in Asian Club football. Dempo Sports Club have become the first Indian club to make the last four of the AFC Cup – Asia’s equivalent of the UEFA Cup. The club achieved this by scripting an amazing away win over Home United of Singapore.Here’s a full recount of how they got to this stage.

I am sure many Indian football fans like me gave this momentous game the slip. Well, time to make up for it and cheer Dempo to more glory. The semis begin on 7th Oct when Dempo take on Lebanese club Safa Sporting in the first away leg. The return leg is at home on the 21st of Oct.

But does anyone know which channel will be showing these games live in India? I haven’t a clue. Somebody please help me out here – for my sake as well as for all the others who care.

Go Dempo

P.S. - The 'Sports Blog : for the common fan' is now moving to a new home. Starting the second week of October, the common fan's views on the world of sports will be found on http://www.acommonfan.com/. Look forward to seeing you guys in our new home.

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HR lessons from the world of sports

This post was originally published on the Workosaur blog. Workosaur is the coolest new job portal around - its a niche site focusing only on 7 figure jobs

The world of sports is extremely performance driven. It’s the hardest “industry” to continually stay at the top. No other industry is as competitive. Winning in sports is everything. There is no place for non-performers – winners thrive and losers perish. Business organizations also aspire to create a similar kind of culture – one which is completely performance driven and breeds excellence. However, few HR teams know how to go about doing so. What they need to do is take a break from what they have been doing all along and start doing what people are doing in the world of sports. So what are the key things that people in the world of sports do?
  • Great players don't always make great managers and vice versa - In most organizations, the best individual contributors are often promoted to become managers. The world of sports runs differently – those guys have long known that the skill set required to become a great manager is drastically different than the skills necessary to be a great player. A lot of great managers have been very ordinary players but in corporate organizations managers have more often than not been great workers also. HR in organizations needs to learn this - to promote based on people and management skills and not just on their ability to contribute individually.
  • To win it is important to focus on the key positions that play the most significant role in securing victory – Sports teams know that it is not possible to have top performers in every position and also that attempting to do so is a futile exercise. HR teams are not so focussed and end up spreading their resources thin. Successful teams have always concentrated on filling the key positions with top performers and HR needs to do the same – start prioritizing jobs by their potential impact on the success of the business.
  • Your performance statistics will never improve if you keep hiding them - The best sportsmen always love to compete and compare themselves against others – by keeping score. The world of sports is obsessed with tracking performance figures and that ensures that non performers have nowhere to hide. Compare that to the corporate world, where the HR keeps all the performance statistics under wraps. No information about target achievements and appraisals are ever made public. This also forces the HR to keep salary increments a secret. Non performers keep getting away. Thus to build a performance based organization you need track, measure and distribute output and performance reports.
  • Rewards and recognition programs should not have a fixation for parity - In sports the best players often get paid many times more than the mediocre performers. In business, the difference is far less. HR uses tools like normalization curves and target percentiles to justify their action of keeping salary differentials low. It is difficult to get the top talent (as required for point 2) if they are not paid significantly more and treated differently than the average performer. It also corroborates the fact that in sports, performance is rewarded and paid for accordingly. HR often has no justification for its payment practises and hence is forced to keep them secret 9 another example of point 3)
  • Firing poor performers is a good thing and not a bad one – In sports, teams are always striving to improve – even if it’s by the teeniest bit – it’s a pre-requisite for teams that want to continue the winning habit. They are always looking to weed out the bottom performers and replace them with better talent. HR managers on the other hand believe that sackings are bad for morale and keep delaying it – giving poor performers’ chance after chance. How’s that for the motivation of the star performers – seeing their efforts get negated by that of shoddy performers, who are not even made to pay for it.
  • In sports, Winning isn’t everything… it’s the only thing – Sports teams are never satisfied with second place. It is this kind of “performance culture” that brings the best out of players. Unfortunately HR departments are quite happy with an above average performance. Average goals often result in below average results. There is no motivation to exceed expectations.
  • Don’t reward complacency with training sessions – Great sportspersons have the personal will and drive to get better. They don’t have to be tutored like school children to work on improving themselves. HR teams are preoccupied with training sessions. They believe that grown up and career conscious men don’t have enough self motivation to improve on their own and have to be sent to training programs to achieve that. Well I have news for them. If you have a company full of such men, you are in big trouble.
Disclaimer – We are talking of teams and organizations that want to win, not ones who are happy being mediocre.

P.S. - The 'Sports Blog : for the common fan' is now moving to a new home. Starting the second week of October, the common fan's views on the world of sports will be found on www.acommonfan.com. Look forward to seeing you guys in our new home.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Ek Khiladi Ek Haseena - what took TV guys so long to come up with this?

Colors, the Hindi general entertainment channel (GEC) from the Viacom18 stable, is launching a new cricket format show - Ek Khiladi Ek Haseena. This will feature “Indian cricketers with ladies from Indian television, to fight it out on the dance-floor”. It hits the TV screens on 26 September and will air every Friday and Saturday at 9 pm.

I have one question for the people who run television in India

What took you so long to come up with this?

This was such an obvious idea that even I had thought of it

The six teams are S Sreesanth with Surveen Chawla, Harbhajan Singh with Mona Singh, Irfan Pathan with Ashima Bhalla, Dinesh Karthik with Nigar Khan, Nikhil Chopra with Barkha Bisht and Vinod Kambli with Shama Sikander.

While this is a decent line-up, I have a dream cast for any competing channel that wants to steal their thunder.

And trust me; if this one materializes I will take a break from this blog to watch the show. The line-up is that good

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Why I have dared to do a Nostradamus for Indian Tennis

Nostradamus’ prediction on Indian men’s tennis

“At the height of the game’s glory in the land of the Aryans civilization, a great warrior will be born in a place known for its shrubs that produce a brew of unmatchable purity. The warrior will be named after the moon god. He will travel to the land of the game’s origins and train in the ancient learning grounds. He will conquer all and became the most accomplished fighter produced by the training grounds. He will return to the land of his birth and find it shorn of most of its past glory and eclipsed by other regional powers. His people have been consumed by internal strife and the last link to the magnificent past is also fading away. The warrior will answer the call of his long deprived people and bring back the glorious days.”

How the prediction has panned out


In the 1980’s (the best period for Indian men's tennis with the combo of Vijay Amritraj and Ramesh Krishnan) in India (land of the Aryans), a tennis player (warrior) will be born in the tea (brew) producing state of Assam (a place which produces the best tea). The player will be named SomDev (the moon god as per Hindu nomenclature). He will go to the US (place where tennis originated) and play in the US collegiate system (formerly a breeding ground for all US players). He will become the collegiate system’s most decorated player (most accomplished fighter). He will come home to find that India haven't been to the World Group in ten years (lost past glory) and have no half decent singles player – Thailand, Japan and South Korea have far better singles players (eclipsed by other Asian powers). The team has been suffered from infighting (internal strife) and the last of our Davis cup heroes – Leander Paes (last link to glorious past) is close to retirement (fading away). Somdev will bring new hope for long suffering Indian tennis fans (long deprived people )and become India's next great singles player. He will lead us back to the Davis Cup World Group and also bring back the days when Indian players were regular features in the main draw of grand slam events and other top tournaments (bring back the glory days).

Ok, fine, Nostradamus made no such prediction

Mr Nostradamus couldn't have done a better job with this prediction

But Iam willing to put my head out and take ownership of this prediction. And you know what, this is the safest prediction that I have ever made, really. Somdev is that good.

Good enough to have beaten a bagful of top-100 players even before he turned professional. One of them happens to be Sam Querry – the guy who gave Rafael Nadal a real scare in the US Open.

In Somdev we trust, completely

And we haven’t even come to the best parts yet

Somdev’s stint in the US collegiate circuit has ensured that he is supremely fit and athletic and has an all-court game with no glaring weaknesses. This is a rare combination for an Indian player – we haven’t had another one who wasn’t lacking on at least one count.

Ramesh Krishnan had a serve which acted merely as way to start the point. He was taught by his father who in turn was taught by a father who was self taught. Vijay Amritraj’s lack of stamina was his undoing in countless encounters. Leander’s singles game was extremely one-dimensional – chip and charge at every opportunity. Sania Mirza has also suffered from a lack of a good serve and technical flaws which cause frequent injuries. Somdev on the other hand is well equipped to face the challenges of the modern game.

Additionally, he has a very mature head on his shoulders. He could have turned professional a year earlier after his first NCAA title. But he resisted the temptation to do so, preferring to stay on for another year to finish college and work on his game. Such maturity will hold him in good stead – he will not get carried away by the fame that has already been bestowed upon him and also not get disheartened by the growing pains of finding his way around in the tough world of men’s professional tennis.

Is there anybody who still doubts that chances of my prediction coming true?

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

The BCCI gets a little more marginalized in its war against the ICL

It just keeps getting better for the ICL. Immediately after making a major inroad into Bangladesh, the league has now won new friends in SriLanka. The Lankan board has agreed to allow players aligned with the rebel Indian Cricket League to compete in the country's domestic tournaments. Sri Lanka thus becomes the second country after England to do so – more will follow and the clamour for lifting the international ban will also gain a stronger voice. Additionally the ICL gains a new audience – which will create more cash flows and significantly improve the League’s financial health.

And there is more. A strong bitterness is brewing against the BCCI in New Zealand as well. Glenn Turner’s recent interview clearly echoes the sentiments of his country’s cricketing fraternity.

The key excerpts from the interview

Drifting to a different topic, how do you see the current crisis in New Zealand cricket?
Yes, with the emergence of the Indian Cricket League, we have lost some of our top players. Our provincial cricket is getting weakened and it is getting reflected in our performances in the international circuit. I think it’s time the ICL affiliated players are allowed to play international cricket.

Is the NZC putting the issue forward to the ICC?
I don’t know about that, but what I don’t like is that it’s the Indian board which is calling all the shots in the matter. If somebody’s ego and the power of the mighty dollar are put ahead of the game, cricket is bound to get a beating.

Here’s a list of ICC member countries who would be quirt relieved to see the ICL win (a victory means official recognition and an end to losing players to a rebel league) or the IPL lose (emergence of a strong rival league to seriously diminish the BCCI‘s clout in world cricket) - England, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh. That’s quite a list – The BCCI is either making a lot of enemies or losing a lot of friends. Either ways Subhash Chandra isn’t complaining.


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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The ICL plays to its strengths and secures a significant win in its war against the BCCI

Just when everyone thought the ICL was done for and Subhash Chandra and gang were ready to pack their bags and leave, India’s first professional cricket league is back and not just literally speaking.

They have been pushed to the background by IPL but have continued to do the various small things, which ICL fans’ hope, will ensure the league’s survival for this year and beyond

They needed to expand to newer centres in the country and they have done just that by expanding to Ahmedabad. This expansion has come at the cost of a 10 crore investment towards the development of the stadium. They have quite clearly stuck to their commitment of doing their bit for the development of the game at the grassroots and reaped a few benefits in return. In addition to the expansion, they will also have a much better stadium to play in this time round.

The absence of any quotas or restrictions is the League’s major advantage. They have gone ahead and used it to their advantage by recruiting half the Bangladesh national side. The ICL is fast becoming a haven for those international cricketers who have missed out on the riches of the IPL – and this is quite a list – Mohd Yusuf is close to being the most high profile member of this club. The ICL will benefit from this disgruntled bunch to substantially improve its player quality. While it may not match the IPL, it will have just enough star power to be in business.

Consisting largely of internationally ‘banned’ cricketers, except for those playing in England, the ICL has their players at their disposal for the full year – which is huge advantage. The BCCI and other boards are already having trouble finding a window to stage the IPL on a regular basis. As a consequence of the conflict of interest - like in the case of the next IPL clashing with Sri Lanka’s proposed tour of England, the BCCI continues to invoke the wrath of other boards like the ECB, who, are none too pleased at the gaps appearing in their international calendar.

The signing of the Bangladesh players like in the case of the Pakistanis last year has two more advantages for the ICL. One it opens up a huge international market in Bangladesh – the population of that country will be quite keen to watch their home grown stars – which is almost like an alternate national side perform in the ICL. The ICL might not be able to compete with the IPL in India, but can surely give them a run for the eyeballs in Bangladesh. A case in point being ICL’s popularity in Pakistan – where matches of last edition where shown live on their biggest broadcaster Geo TV.

Additionally, it hurts the Bangladesh Cricket Board who lost some key players. They will have good reason to support the ban being lifted from the ICL players – they have nothing to gain from the IPL-BCCI-ICL fracas and only important players to lose. They will also be sore that the beneficiaries of the ban – the BCCI haven’t lost any national players to the ICL. And not that they are alone – NZL and Pakistan are also peeved. And then there is the ECB. This small bunch can soon gain enough critical mass – enough to influence the ICC. The international body is still struggling to find an answer to ICL’s petition and if pressurized enough by the victimized boards, will surely succumb.

But when is the question. It will be a huge victory for the ICL. But till then they continue to lose money and just about survive. The IPL hopes the moment will never come and even if it does comes late enough, so that the ICL is crippled by its losses and has to close before the salvation happens. At the moment it continues to be a battle of attrition between the Essel group and the BCCI. The ICL though just gained a small but significant victory.


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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Most memorable moments of Indian sports – Tennis

This will be a series of articles where I will be trying to list the five most memorable moments from each of the many sports that we play. I was looking for some similar information once and could not find it. So I thought, why not make the effort myself. So here I am starting with tennis. The moments are in no particular order. And as I am only putting down five for each sport, I am sure I will have to leave out a few moments. And remember these are the memorable moments not simply the greatest moments. This is a subjective exercise. So rather than criticizing the list, help in enhancing it. More glory to Indian sport.


This one counts for more than anything else

  • Leander Paes’ bronze medal effort at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics – The greatest singles effort ever – on the largest stage for all sports – an individual medal after 44 years. This event has no prize money and no ranking points, just national pride and honour. Not surprising that Leander was at his very best.

261th ranked Amritraj stunned 30th ranked Masur to get India off to a flier in 1987
  • The run to the Davis Cup final in 1987 – this one stands out for the amazing semi-final victory over the mighty Aussies in Melbourne. We had our opponents on the ropes at 2-0 but they roared back to 2-2. And then against Wally Masur and a raucous Aussie crowd Ramesh Krishnan guided us home.
  • The Davis Cup final of 1974 that never was – India reached the final but refused to play against South Africa in protest against their apartheid policies. Was it a missed opportunity to rue forever? No, it was a show of uncompromising opposition to colonialism and racism – anything else would have been an affront to our own struggle for freedom and dignity.
The Giant killers of 1993

  • The quarter-final victory over the French in 1993 – Another Davis cup moment against a far superior opponent. Played on red clay – France’s favourite and India’s least favourite surface. Started on a disastrous note when senior pro Ramesh Krishnan was thrashed in the opening match. Leander showed indomitable spirit to keep India in the fray and Krishnan returned to win the deciding match in a marathon five setter spread over two days. This campaign also included another upset - over Switzerland in Calcutta.

The Indian Express captures Wimbledon
  • Leander and Bhupathi winning the Wimbledon doubles title in 1999 – This victory is probably the greatest moment for the Indian Express also – as they were lovingly called before they split up. These guys made all 4 grand slam finals that year and as long as the Indian Express rolled at full speed it was one heck of a ride for the Indian tennis fan. It’s also a sad reminder of what could have been.

Other notable efforts

The Davis Cup side of 1966
The Davis Cup final effort of 1966,

The win over Yugoslavia in the Davis Cup with Leander beating Ivanesevic

Ramesh Krishnan’s win over World number one Mats Wilander at the Australian Open

Ramanathan Krishnan’s semi-final efforts at Wimbledon in 1960 and 1961 and

All of Vijay Amritraj’s near misses – losing in 5 sets to eventual champion Jan Kodes in the Wimbledon quarters of 1973, losing to Jimmy Connors after being two sets up in the Wimbledon quarters in 1981 and losing to Bjorn Borg at Wimbledon in 1979 after leading 4-1 in the fourth and being two sets to one up– a victory in any of those would have surely cracked the top five.


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Sunday, September 14, 2008

These guys should not be in their jobs

The guys in goal that is. Is there anything more embarrassing than this. They are like a policeman who got mugged by an 80 year old granny !!!




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And we always thought baseball and basketball were the most popular sports in America

We (meaning most of the non-American sports loving population of the world) think basketball is one of the most popular sports in the USA

Because

We keep hearing about these global superstars – Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal and now LeBron James

We get to see a lot of NBA on TV and can see the mad crowd support

We see all the attention the US basket ball team gets at the Olympics

We also think that baseball is one of the popular sports in the USA

Because

We keep hearing about teams like the New York Yankees and see a lot of people all over the world wearing their merchandise

We see some MLB on TV and see the support baseball teams get

We know that there is another sport called American Football which is also very popular but don’t think it’s as big as basketball or baseball

Because we don’t see a lot of it

We are so wrong

Rick Reilly
of ESPN enlightens us by making a list of the most popular sports team in 18 major American cities and this is what his list has to say

NFL (Professional American football) teams rule 12 of the 18 cities with the NBA (Professional Basketball) and MLB (Professional Baseball) following far behind with 2 and 4 respectively

And we thought we knew about the Americans



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Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Commonfan’s Indian Sportswomen poll – please participate – these ladies deserve more respect

I have a new poll on Commonfan – to pick out the most popular Indian sportswoman from the current lot. I had expected this poll to get as many responses if not more than the previous polls on this blog. Sadly no one seems to care and the response has been bad. This is bad and we need to show more respect for Indian sportswomen . So to get more participation for this poll, I am writing this post and providing more information about each of these ladies. I hope this information generates a little more interest and a lot more in terms of participation. So here you go. Let the most popular lady win.

The poll is on the top right of your screen in case you haven’t noticed.

Saina Nehwal – Badminton - Currently ranked world number 14, Saina is the first Indian woman to reach the singles quarterfinals at the Olympics.

Anju Bobby George
– Athletics - Made history when she won the bronze medal in the Long Jump at the 2003 World Championships in Athletics becoming the first Indian athlete ever to win a medal in a World Championships in Athletics

Koneru Humpy – Chess - Her October 2007 FIDE Elo rating was 2606, placing her at number two in the world for women (behind Judit Polgar) and becoming the second female player ever, after Judit Polgar, to cross the 2600 Elo mark

Sania Mirza - Tennis - Is the highest ranked female tennis player ever from India, with a career high ranking of 27 in singles and 18 in doubles

Anjali Bhagwat – Shooting - She won four golds in the 2002 Commonwealth Games

Dronavalli Harika - Chess - She has won three World Youth Chess Championship titles: in 2004, she won the Girls U14, and in 2006, she won the Girls U18. In 2008, she took the Girl's title at the World Junior Chess Championship

Neha Aggarwal – Table Tennis - Qualified for the Olympics at the age of 18

Dola Banerjee
- Archery - Became world champion in archery by winning the gold medal in the women's individual recurve competition at the archery world cup in November 2007

Mithali Raj – Cricket - Became famous for her score of 214 runs in a test match against England, which broke the record for the highest score in women's Test cricket. She led the Indian team to the finals in the Women's Cricket World Cup of 2005 where the team lost to Australia.

There are three options that you can choose

Other – If you think someone else is more deserving. Please post a comment with the name

I didn't know women played sports in India – This is self explanatory. I hope this post helps you to become more informed.

No sports woman is good enough to be my favourite – Again self explanatory. I am sure you have very high standards. Tell me who your favourite Indian sportsman is?

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Is the Indian Tennis League on?

Back in May, AITA secretary Anil Khanna announced plans for an Indian Tennis League. An inter-city competition on the lines of the ICL and the IPL, this was supposed to feature tennis greats from the days gone by - Boris Becker, Mats Wilander, Bjorn Borg, Goran Ivanisevic and company.

Although I am not a huge fan of Khanna, I have to admit that this was a brilliant and highly original concoction – the inter-city format might not be a new idea but the ploy to get veterans involved is masterly.

My generation grew up on a regular dose of these players and all of them are almost household names in middle-class India – the class which couldn’t see them in flesh and blood when they were at their peak but would surely love a chance to do so now. Moreover with the packed tennis calendar it is impossible to get hold of the current players for a six –week period. No such problems with the veterans.

But now I have serious concerns whether the original thought will be followed by efficient execution on part of the Tennis federation. There have been no subsequent announcements (unless Google failed to take note of it) and the AITA website also fails to offer any information on the proposed ITL.

Does anybody have any clue – is the Indian Tennis League really on?



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Is this the same guy who owns the Bangalore Royal Challengers in the IPL?

Vijay Mallaya went from one “I put my foot in my mouth’ moment to another in the inaugural season of the IPL. So much so, that a few awards were bestowed upon him. But now the ‘King of good times’ seems to have matured as a team owner.

Cheer up Royal Challengers. This calls for a few rounds of Kingfisher !!!



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What happens if Lance Armstrong really gets back for an 8th Tour de France?

Does Lance have enough in the tank to win an 8th Tour de France

Seven time Tour de Champion Lance Armstrong has declared his intention to get back in the saddle and mount a challenge for his 8th title.

I am absolutely delighted by this – he is the only reason that I have bothered to watch an event that I have boycotted off late. And if he really gets back, I will start watching the race once again, I promise.

But I am not jumping with joy, yet - in spite of the declaration and in spite of the subsequent announcement of the great man’s new team.

I am still not sure if Lance will be there as a competitor when the race is flagged off from Monaco next year.

This because in doing so, he will put his entire legacy at stake – and going by the kind of legacy that he has already established that’s risking a lot.

What if he fails miserably – the doubters will have a field day – ‘he was successful earlier as the doping norms were lenient and he won with the aid of chemicals and now that they are stringent he cannot do the same and hence cannot win’. His position as one of the greatest sportspersons ever and probably the greatest cyclist of all times will be considerably damaged. Unlike other greats like Michael Jordan who attempted ill-advised comebacks but still got away with it, the drug –tainted nature of cycling will ensure that Armstrong’s legacy takes a serious beating.

That also partially explains why the race organizers are not too thrilled about the comeback. They have been on a constant damage control exercise to maintain the sanctity and sanity of their sport with riders failing dope tests left, right and centre. They fear that if Armstrong fails one of the newer far more stringent tests the proud history of the tour and the future of the sport will be damaged beyond repair. They also stand to suffer if Armstrong’s comeback is a disappointment - for the reasons mentioned above.

So why is the great man making a comeback. What does he have to gain from it? Does he know no other life other than that of a cyclist? He has had success with his book and with the Armstrong foundation. He has sole ownership of the ‘maximum titles’ record and his attempt is tantamount to a comeback by the likes of Borg and Jordan (which was a failure) or a Sampras (which was called off)

I can think of only reason – he is attempting to do the exact opposite of what I am dreading. A successful comeback will put the doping theories to rest once and for all. It will also do a world of good for the Tour and the sport itself. And finally it will make Armstrong greater than the greats – the likes of Jordan and Sampras. He will stand alone in the pantheon of the greats as one who risked everything to make a comeback and prove the honesty of his efforts.

So what are his chances?

I for one will not bet against him. I will look forward to watching the Tour de France once again.


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Sunday, September 7, 2008

Mirror Mirror on the Wall – who’s the richest club owner of them all

For a long time the owners of Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan were the richest owners in football. Technically, Barcelona and Real Madrid had no owners but had purses which were just as deep.


Then Roman Abramovich came in. He took the battle to the Spaniards and the Italians giving Chelsea more financial muscle than any other club. The likes of Man United, Liverpool, West Ham, Aston Villa and Man City have since got billionaire owners of their own but nobody has quite matched the Russian oligarch.

The Russian is the current big daddy of super rich owners

This was followed by the part ownership of Queens Park Rangers by Laxmi Mittal. Mr Mittal is the richest man in Britain and has more billions than Roman but unlike the Russian he hasn’t quite got down to throwing his millions around. While his disinterest in football is bad news for the club, people in India don’t mind – as long as the Mittal Champions Trust continues to be endowed magnanimously. There are other super-rich part owners as well – but minor compared to Mr Mittal – the likes of Alisher Usmanov and Bernie Ecclestone.

The Sheikh has quickly taken ownership of the British transfer record

Now a real challenger has emerged – in the form of the Abu Dhabi group which has bought Manchester City. While the full extent of their money power will be known only during the January transfer window and much beyond that, they have already shown a glimpse of their ambition and their recklessness. Their last-ditch signing of Robinho can beat anything that Abramovich has expended for thus far.

The premiership is the perfect platform for Anil to display his global ambition

And then there are more pretenders. Anil Ambani – the fourth richest man in the world lurks. The Ambani has great ambition and will hold nothing back (meaning no expenses will be spared) in his quest for success.

Paul's an old hand at money games and knows no limits

Paul Allen is another – Microsoft’s co-founder has been linked to Southampton in the past and can be counted upon to make an entry if some other club becomes available. He has less money than Mittal or Abramovich but is far more profligate – has already contributed to changing the money dynamics in the NBA and the NFL.

While the likelihood of the richest man in the world – Bill Gates – jumping in the fray is quite slim, we cannot rule out two others – men who have more money than any of the current owner or the pretenders – the Mexican Carlos Slim and Anil Ambani’s brother Mukesh. Carlos Slim could do on a far larger scale what Thaksin Shinawatra dreamt of - use a premiership club to boost his own popularity in his football-mad homeland. Mukesh Ambani has already tasted blood with the IPL and always loves to take on his younger brother. So Anil’s entry into European football could quickly lead to a purchase by the elder brother as well.

The battle of Britain could be like no other. That there is a fair correlation between spending and foot balling success has already been proved and is a fact known to all the rich guys. The coming times could well become a battle of the purses. I now wonder - If it ever comes to a ‘let the richest man win’ win kind of situation - then who will be the winner? What do you guys think ?

This article was originally published on Goal.com

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Just for arguments sake – why the Americans should re-look at their gun laws – an Olympic perspective

First the facts
America is a sports mad country and extremely competitive at most sports. Even in a sport like football – a sport most citizens snigger at – they have now managed to reach a fairly decent level

A lot of Americans have guns and use it a fair bit. They have no shortage of ammunition or practise facilities – like Indian shooters do.

Therefore we have established that the sport of shooting has a high participation level in a nation where sporting excellence is part of the DNA.

Now the Olympic fact
American shooters stink – India could beat the Americans any day.

Has there been lack of motivation
No. Historically the Americans and the Russians (or the Soviets) have always gone toe-to-toe in most major sports and a win over the cold war foe has been highly coveted in both nations. Look at basketball, volleyball, athletics, wrestling, boxing, skating, tennis, gymnastics, swimming, diving and many more.

Shooting is one sport where the Soviets have excelled and won a bagful of medals whereas the Americans have been horrible. So do you think the Americans would have lacked the motivation or the ambition to excel at shooting? Wouldn’t they have been totally driven to beat the old enemy?

But in spite of that they have stunk.

What does that prove?
The Americans are hopelessly bad with a gun in their hands - for all their motivation and all the participation in the sport.

So should so many Americans be allowed to roam free with a gun in their hands - When it’s a known fact that they are hopelessly bad at taking aim and in most likelihood will end up shooting the wrong target?

That’s some food for thought for the lawmakers in the US


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Muhammad Ali - the greatest heavyweight boxer of all times ?

Forget what the great man thinks about it. Graham Houston of ESPN makes an effort to pit Ali against the greatest heavyweights of different eras.

Houston is not a nerd who's written a computer program to simulate this. By his subjective analysis Ali would have toyed with the likes of the unbeaten 'Rocky' Marciano. But one guy gets to edge past the boxer formerly known as Cassius Clay. Funny coz this guy got knocked out by two guys ( Hashim Rahman and Olivier McCall) who find no mention in the article otherwise.

Muhammad Ali remains and will forever remain the greatest heavyweight in my eyes. And I entertain no debates on this one.

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Why are we Indians so bad at football – the mystery of 153 - part 2

This is part 2 of the article. You can read the first part here.

Indian parents and careers in sports

Indian parents play an extremely important role in defining the careers of their children. Usually their approach is to take the safest, most proven path to a great life i.e. through education. When the child is 16 or 18 and its time to make your first career related choice, the parent of a talented kid will look at the worst case scenario of a sporting career before letting his child take the sporting path. There is an exception if the parent is an extremely successful sportsperson (or associated in some other capacity) and is more open minded about sports as a career and can also groom and guide his child to improve his chances

Other than that the parent will only let his kin take up sports as a career if

  • The child is extremely gifted at sports and has already made quite a name for himself by the time a decision has to be taken. He is certain to go all the way and have a wonderful career.
  • The child comes from a poor background and has little chance of getting an education. In such a case, sport is the only way to get away from life’s miseries. The parent usually has no choice in this case. The poor kid will at least land up a decent job in the sports quota of a public company
  • The child’s sporting achievements can actually improve his chances of getting a good education. This happens a lot with middle class families who know the ancillary benefits of sports like securing a college admission or a scholarship.
  • The child excels at a sport which is adequately rewarding even for those who fail to reach the top of the pyramid and therefore there is no risk of failure
Now to understand why, other sports have an advantage over football when it comes to parental support.

Few footballers qualify for the first situation. It comes down to precocious talent and except for Baichung Bhutia; we haven’t had one in years. On the other hand look at the amount of junior talent in cricket, tennis, football, chess, golf, badminton and squash.

The second scenario is common to most sports including football in India. Football still has a slight disadvantage as compared to cricket, hockey, athletics and boxing as the large public entities like the services, railways and the police are active participants in these sports and recruit heavily but not so much in football. Sometime back there were two exceptions in Kerala Police and Punjab Police which had strong sides in the national arena and encouraged football a lot. Sadly for the sport, that is no longer the case.

The third scenario largely applies to sports which are popular in the US. A young golfer, tennis player or squash player has a great chance of getting a US scholarship based on his sporting achievements. The strong support system in the US gives the player a better chance of making it big. Additionally he has his US degree to fall back on if things don’t work out. Look at most of the top players in these sports in the recent past – Jeev Milkha Singh, Mahesh Bhupathi, and Shiv Kapur – they have all benefited from this option and so has their sport

The last option is available in sports where even the second and third rung talent can make decent money from the game. This can happen if the domestic structure is cash rich and players can make good money through playing/coaching/managing/scouting/reporting/commenting/amalyzing or if similar opportunities are available abroad.

Cricket and hockey players have been playing in the foreign leagues since ages and now there is good money in the domestic game as well. Golf is another sport which has a cash rich domestic circuit. Running a coaching academy is another money spinner for tennis and cricket players. Even chess has many prize money events and offers scope for coaching. But what about football. The only time you make money is when you play and only the top club stars make good money. The sport clearly lags behind cricket, hockey, tennis, golf, and chess when it comes to making a livelihood out of sport.

As we have seen, Indian parents don’t a have very good reason to let their children take up football as a career. At least most of the sports have one scenario in which the parent will encourage his child to go all the way.

Therefore the answer to my question is this

Indians are fundamentally not very well endowed to play the sport; have no system to nurture the precocious few; have a cultural issue which afflicts a team game like football; have no ‘real’ support for the game (our passion is misleading); have not developed a football identity in spite of having played the sport for so long; and most importantly our career planning mechanism usually vetoes football as a profession owing to its poor ‘livelihood quotient’.

The journey to 153 is now complete


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Why are we Indians so bad at football – the mystery of 153 - part 1

This article was originally published in the Advanc'edge magazine brought out by IMS and was written before India's stunning AFC Cup win. This is the first part of the article


The idea for this article came when a friend asked me this – why does a country where so many people stay up nights to watch and be passionately involved in football cannot attain global standards in the game

The simple answer would be that football is the most popular sport in the world and our passion for the game is nothing compared to the passion exhibited by fans in South America or Europe or even Africa for that matter. If there was some way to rank nations in terms of their passion for football, India’s ranking would be in the neighbourhood of their FIFA ranking of 153. Therefore my friend, we have nothing to complain about our failure to attain global standards as our passion for the game is not at par with global benchmarks.

But then , there is another side to it as well- we are a nation of 1.2 billion and even if a small percentage of the population was dedicated to the sport, we will have a large enough pool of players (more than the population of many nations) to be able to field a quality side.

Also the fervour for football in India compares favourably to most sports. A tournament in faraway Europe evoked such passions that national dailies were forced to give cricket news (involving the national team no less) second class treatment in favour of football news. Few sports can claim to have matched football in that regard but most of them can make another claim – India fares far better at them as compared to football. Therefore my friend’s original question can now be reframed as

A) Why are we ranked number 153 in football in spite of our huge population (and supposed ability to have a large pool of players) and all the passionate support for the game

Or

B) Why for all the passion, our football team fares poorly as compared to teams in many other sports which enjoy far less viewer interest?

Now for the answers. First the ones to do with the nature of the game itself

Football is a physically demanding sport

Top quality football requires a high level of stamina, strength, speed, fitness and agility – Indians are typically lacking in all of these. We typically fare better at sports whose physical demands are far less - like cricket

But how come we do a lot better at tennis and hockey which are also very physically demanding. Well we could have done a lot better at these sports if not for our physical ineptness. Our decline in both hockey and tennis has coincided with these two sports taking on a more physical nature. We have always depended on the dribble in hockey and on touch play in tennis

Run of the mill African players manage to become stars in Indian football owing to their vastly superior physical conditioning as compared to the Indians. Other sports where we have done well in the recent past – Chess, Golf, Shooting, Billiards - none of them are very physically demanding

Indians don’t have a lot of natural football talent

Extravagant talent can make up for lack of physical prowess and a lot of other things as well. Like it does in the case of the South Americans. The dribbling and juggling skills of average Brazilian kids would put International players from other nations to shame.

Sadly for us, we don’t have the natural talent to cover for our physical shortcomings. I have never seen an Indian player, not a single one, whose natural talent could take my breath away. The fact that there are more than a dozen Indian-origin players playing county cricket but a mere one (Michael Chopra) playing in the premiership is also proof of a genetic lack of talent.

As compared to football, we still mine outstanding talents in other sports – Vishy Anand in Chess, Sachin Tendulkar in Cricket and Dhanraj Pillay in Hockey. Very clearly, we aren’t naturally blessed to play the game of football.

These two reasons are primarily why India can never be placed in the top 40 of FIFA’s ranking. But we are ranked 153. So obviously there are other reasons which help us cover the distance from 40 to 153. Time to look at them now


The lack of good coaching infrastructure for young kids with talent for football

Suppose you are the father of talented young footballer in India. Where will you send him to hone his football skills when he is eight years old - A football coaching centre in your city? Chances are that unless you live in a Mumbai or a Kolkata, there will be no such centre available in your city. Your kid can either learn from you or pick up another sport. He will have a far better chance of sporting success if he was into cricket or tennis or chess or even golf for that matter.

So what does a lack of good early coaching do to a potential footballer?

The footballer will suffer from poor technique, all his life. And most Indians, even national and international players actually do. The next time you watch a national tournament or see the Indian team in action, watch the players struggle with the most basic stuff – trapping a ball cleanly, heading and executing a simple flat pass. Most players develop their own make shift technique and manage with it somehow, till, they get exposed by a technically superior opponent.

The footballer also suffers from lack of football intelligence. Football involves a lot in terms of formations, positional sense and tactics. The team is usually more or less, than the sum of its individual parts depending on how well it does in these departments. A good coach exposes his wards to all these different aspects of the game and prepares them to adapt to different situations in their future football life. Sadly, young Indian footballers are not so well educated.

The fact that football is a team game and not an individual sport makes it worse

Prakash Padukone went to Denmark and practised regularly with Morten Frost. Both players improved tremendously. In an individual sport you need just one good practise partner to improve. Now consider the case of a team sport like football.

First, your team needs to have a lot of good players for you to get better. You will never learn to become part of a cohesive unit unless you do that. And then for this cohesive unit to get better you need to play against good opponents. So, a young footballer needs to play with 21 equally talented players to improve in all aspects of the game. This could only happen at well run youth clubs or coaching academies. Sadly, young footballers can’t do what Eklavya did in the Mahabharata – practise alone. This problem is something which afflicts hockey also.

And then there is the problem we have as a nation when it comes to team sports

Fundamentally all team sports have a problem in India because as a nation we always aspire for individual glory and are rarely willing to sacrifice it for the greater good of the team. The only team sport where we have improved is cricket and that is hardly a team sport in the truest sense. The need for teamwork and synergy is far less in cricket.

But forget cricket, other true team sports like hockey also have some advantages over football

Hockey has an identity but football doesn’t

The whole hockey world and sports fans all across the country know that Indian Hockey teams play in a 5-3-2-1 formation. This attacking style is adopted by teams all over India; at all levels. This is the bedrock of Indian hockey. Young players grow up with this formation in mind.

On the other hand football has no identity in this country. Even the biggest football buffs would be hard-pressed to answer questions about India’s style of play or its formation on the field. And not just about the current crop; questions about more successful teams of the past will also be difficult to answer.

An identity is important as it gives the young sportsman a clear path of his sporting life ahead. A hockey player can settle in a playing position at a young position and will possibly live with it for the rest of his playing life. He gets accustomed to a style and is already living and breathing it by the time he comes to the senior level. An Indian footballer on the other hand never learns a system. Every successful football nation has an identity. Dutch kids take their first steps with ‘total football’ on their minds while Italians are imbibed with the principles of ‘catenaccio’ from an early age.

Sadly, we have no football identity of our own in spite of the long history of the sport in this country. Getting closer to 153

But what about all the passion. Well time for another harsh reality of Indian football

Indians are passionate about football but only of the kind played by the very best

We don’t love football as such. We love top quality football – the kind played in the World Cup or the Euro tournament or by the top clubs in Europe and South America. Our passion is a seasonal occurrence. We are not football romantics who would stop on the road to watch a bunch of kids run after a ball. Except for some ardent souls in West Bengal, Kerala, Goa and the North-east, we do not have any local affiliations. In Europe, fans are crazy about their local side, even if it is the worst side in their country. In that sense we are football connoisseurs (who appreciate the finest quality) and not football lovers who love the game itself.

The unadulterated madness for cricket has created a cricket revolution in this country. Football, sadly, will never see a revolution as the passion is selective and highly diluted. The influx of foreign leagues on TV has been a bane for the domestic game. Earlier football lovers looked forward to watching top domestic tournaments like the Durand Cup and Federation Cup. Now you reject it as sub-standard and don’t care

But, In spite of everything, 153 is unjustified. So, we now come to something which is critical to the popularity of any sport in this country – the livelihood factor of a sport. This is the final step to 153

The second part of this article is in the next post.


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Sunday, August 17, 2008

All hail Indian Football, Indian Boxing and Indian Chess

This one is all about celebration. So please leave your skepticism at home. Forget what we had been doing as a nation of 1.2 billion. Just enjoy what we have done in the last one week.


Just when the heady feeling of basking in the feats of Jeev Milkha Singh, Abhinav Bindra and Saina Nehwal was wearing off, there was more sporting joy in store.

First the much maligned national football team capped off a memorable AFC Challenge Cup by routing the Tajiks in the final. Its probably Indian football's finest moment since I was born - and after years of joy with my favourite club side ( Man Utd) , I have reason to cheer for my national team. All the credit has been rightly bestowed upon coach Houghton - Indian football joins the bandwagon of sports which have benefited from having a top quality foreign coach and increased international exposure.

The same could have been said of Indian Hockey but alas. Rick Charlesworth who wasn't considered good enough to coach Indian will soon become coach of the Australian men's side - replacing Barry Dancer, a highly successful coach who won the Olympic gold and the Champions Trophy with Australia. So its fitting that Indian Football's high has coincided with Indian hockey's lowest point.

Then there was a landmark achievement in Chess. Dronavalli Harika and Abhijeet Gupta gave India the unique distinction of becoming the first nation to win both the women's and the men's individual title at the Junior World Championship. This is something which even the mighty Soviet Union could never manage. If only Chess could become part of the Olympics - we would become a permanent fixture in the medals tally.

And finally the most adrenalin rushing event happened in boxing. Three Indians and three super victories. Akhil Kumar set the tone by toppling a world champion and then Jitender and Vijender followed with comprehensive wins. And the best part is that these guys were bursting with confidence before the bouts and are setting their sights on nothing less than gold. The chances of a second medal are extremely high and I am keeping my fingers crossed. Like these boxers I also want gold.

While all this was going on there was a setback in tennis - the much heralded pair of Paes and Bhupathi failed in what was probably their last attempt at an Olympic medal together. But it hardly mattered to me. These guys only have themselves and their super inflated egos to blame for it. Their coming together , their success and their break-up will forever remain one of the biggest 'what ifs' of Indian sport.

We will talk about the 'what ifs' on some other day. This day is to celebrate the new stars of Indian sport. Forget cricket, tennis and hockey. Lets raise a toast to football, chess and boxing

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Monday, August 11, 2008

For an Indian sports fan it doesn't get any better than this - Will remember 11th August 2008 for the rest of my life

I got up this morning and checked the scores for the PGA Championship. I am a die-hard Jeev Milkha Singh fan and even though the rest of the country and the media doesnt give a damn, I do. The golfer finished 9th and thereby became the first Indian to finish in the top ten of a Major championship. This was a huge achievement and will further boost an already flourishing game in the country. As an Indian sports fan, it was the best way to start your day.

Then the day got ten times better by the time I got settled at work. Thanks to a friend who provided live updates on gtalk, I followed Abhinav Bindra's gold medal-winning effort shot by shot. And what an effort it was. As an Indian sports fan, it was one of those OMIGOD moments - the kinds you will probably have ten times in your lifetime.

Suddenly, the entire nation knew that the Olympics were on in Beijing. Half the people on my gtalk list had a status message which had something to do with Bindra's feat - right from NRI's in the US to middle aged aunties in India.That is something which I have never ever seen happen - the enormity of the shooter's achievement is loud and clear.

And the most ironical thing is that on a massive day for Jeev,even his father had no time for him and still the golfer will probabaly not mind. Milkha Singh called this day the happiest of his life and meant every word of it.

Emboldened by the gold, I decided to check on how the other Indian's were faring at the Olympics and soon chanced upon another moment of pure sporting joy - Saina Nehwal's stunning upset of the world's fifth best player. An Indian beat a Chinese player, ranked in the top five, in badminton, at the Olympics, in China, in an extremely close match. Thats a combination of six rare things.

She is now just one win away from a medal. We could end up with two medals for the first time since 1952. Take that. How much more do you want in one day.

Then someone reminded me of a cricket match taking place in Srilanka. When I checked the score, the host nation needed 122 to win - a fairly easy thing to do. But when Sangakkara fell and the Lankans were reduced to 25 for 2, it looked as if Indians were not supposed to lose on this day. A comeback victory by the cricketers could have stolen most of Bindra's thunder.

But then the bubble burst. India lost the test match and the best part was that nobody bothered. Who cares for a bunch of over-paid and over-hyped losers when we have an Olympic Champion in our midst. And the best part is that the youthful and good-looking Bindra also has the potential to do what Rajyavardhan Rathore couldnt - become a media and brand endorsement darling. That he has a steady head on his shoulders and will not get carried away is another matter altogether

The day was not over. Late in the evening I found out about Sania Mirza's disappointing exit from the singles event. And again I didnt care. I stopped caring for her when I discovered on opening night that she didnt know how to wrap a sari. She has enough time to learn now. And importantly Saina can have all the attention for once.

The day was bittersweet. But the sweet part was so damn good that I really didnt care how the bitter half felt. More glory to Indian sport !!!

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Commonfan’s Football Poll – What should Man United do with Cristiano Ronaldo

The statistical relevance and bias prevention steps for this poll are the same as the last Commonfan Poll. So if you agreed with that one then read on. If you didn’t, I hope you are wiser the second time round.

Poll – What should Man United do with Cristiano Ronaldo?
Results - Send him to a first division club on loan – 35%
Sell him to Barcelona to spite Real – 28%
Sell him to Real for a fortune – 21%

I am totally sick of the Ronaldo – Real Madrid saga and I am sure other United fans are too. Forget United fans, I think every football fan has had enough of it. The voting clearly shows what they think about the three protagonists in the drama

The biggest villain as clearly shown by the votes is Ronaldo himself. He is full of himself and probably thinks he is god’s gift to football; a mediocre Euro 2008 notwithstanding. Every morning he makes a new statement and then sits back to enjoy all the attention that brings. He surely feels he is at the centre of the football universe right now. So it’s not surprising that the fans would love to give him a taste of some solitude and isolation, away from all the media glare. How about a little club in the English first division - preferably some place cold where Ronaldo is forever wrapped in mufflers and woollen caps and the media can barely identify him. That will serve him right!!!

The other villains quite obviously are Real Madrid – who think they can get away with anything. They think they have a divine right on every footballer on the planet – they will just make a wish and the player will come running to them. They might have the seal of Spanish royalty but we aren’t ready to treat them as kings. Man United could spite them real bad by offering Ronaldo to Barcelona. As part of the deal, Ronaldo should be allowed to take all the penalties Barca get against Madrid. I would love to see Calderon’s face when Ronaldo scores against Real at the Bernabeau.

United should let Real Madrid have Ronaldo if they can get a fortune in return

And finally, a fair portion of fans also think that United could do well to make the most of this opportunity. I guess most of these are United fans like me, who can see the benefits of a mega transfer kitty - which Ronaldo’s move to Real could bring. United could use that money to buy a right-back, a striker and also pay for Carlos Tevez’s transfer fee. They haven’t managed to ad a single player to their squad this year. The heavy expenditure made last year seems to have tied down Fergie’s hands this season. And how good is a disgruntled superstar. And nobody will pay more for Ronaldo than Real Madrid. The first two options will give us (United fans) a lot of wicked pleasure but option three is most beneficial for the club. Man United and their manager should just shed their pride and sell Ronaldo to Real Madrid for a fortune.



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Monday, July 28, 2008

Farewell Ric Charlesworth – We will never know what a top-class international coach could do with all the hockey talent in India

Long ago, legendary German hockey coach Paul Lissek had commented that, with the kind of natural talent available in Indian hockey, any top-notch international coach including Lissek himself, would give an arm and a leg to coach the Indian National team. Modern hockey calls for high levels of fitness, preparation and tactical manoeuvring and Indian teams and their home-grown coaches have always been found lacking. According to Lissek, a top coach could change all that and roll back the glory years.

Like a true sporting romantic, I was in total agreement with Lissek. I really hoped that his words would come true and India would be an all-conquering hockey nation once again. I had read a lot about our glorious past and yearned for a magnificent future under the tutelage of someone like Lissek. The fact that Lissek himself was ready to take up the job, if offered by the IHF was further proof that he really meant every word that he said.

Unfortunately for Indian hockey and sadly for fans like me, the IHF was not interested in what Paul Lissek had to say. They continued to hire and fire ‘desi’ coaches and Indian hockey continued its downward spiral.

Usually, former hockey greats are extremely critical of the IHF but they were fully supportive of the federation’s policy of not hiring a top international coach. They behave as if a foreign coach is like the second coming of British rule and are totally oblivious of the short comings of Indian coaches. I really hate them for that. It’s nothing but false jingoism.

Then Gerhard Rach happened.

One fine day the IHF went ahead and appointed an unknown German, Gerhard Rach as the Indian Coach. They claimed that they had pursued Paul Lissek but he was too expensive for them. So they got another German coach instead. The IHF’s logic was flawed and their explanation pathetic. Rach was not even worthy of being called a poor man’s Lissek. He was probably an impoverished, malnourished, critically ill man’s Lissek.

The move was a horrible blunder from day one and ended in acrimony- Rach was sacked unceremoniously and accused the IHF of not paying his full wages. Forget Lissek, the IHF could not even afford the third –grade German coach.

The Olympians were delighted though. They had been vindicated. A foreign coach had failed miserably. Nobody cared for the fact that he was a hopeless coach in the first place and then a foreigner

It’s interesting to note that around the same, Pakistan managed to hire a world-class coach in Dutchman Roelant Oltmans and found great success with him.

Indian hockey fell a few more notches and then Els van Breda Vriesman happened.

For years the FIH has been accused of systematically trying to kill the Asian style of hockey with constant rule changes in favour of the more physical Europeans. But that changed when Dutch woman Els van Breda Vriesman took charge. She took a personal initiative to help Indian hockey. India was awarded the 2010 Hockey World Cup. It is hoped that this mega event would revive interest in the sport in India. But more importantly she made my wish come true. She ensured that India would finally have a high-calibre coach. At least that is what I thought

Australian Ric Charlesworth arrived in India to take charge of Indian hockey. Thankfully, he was funded by the IHF and the IHF didn’t have to bother. His role however was not clear. He was called a consultant by the IHF and entrusted with the task of working at the grass roots. Ric wanted a more active role with the national side. I hoped that sooner or later the IHF would see the fault in their ways and make Ric the national coach. And then Ric would do what Lissek had prophesized long back. For once we would get a chance to see what a top –coach could do with all the natural talent that India has. I kept waiting and hoping as the IHF and Ric continued to tussle.

Then the Australian finally threw in the towel and resigned. The IHF called him names and abhorred him for his unprofessional behaviour. The Olympians rejoiced and some went to the extent of calling all former Australian greats turned coaches as money hungry mercenaries. The obvious reference was to Greg Chappell. Not that it mattered. What mattered to me was that my dream was over - After having come tantalizingly close to seeing the light of day. This was the closest we would ever get to having a world class coach. Lissek claims would forever remain a theoritical hypothesis. We would never get a chance to see the marriage of Indian talent and foreign coaching. Let the assembly line of desi coaches be set in motion again.



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