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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Finally some cheer for Akhil Kumar and some for me as well

Finally someone somewhere has had a little pity on Akhil Kumar - the boxer will have physical trainer Heath Mathews by his side in Beijing. I wish all the best to Akhil and hope he wins a medal.

Someone somewhere seems to have had some pity on me as well. I keep ranting all the time and nothing happens. Finally, some cheer and new energy to get going again.


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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Thanks to the Indian Olympic Association, Boxer Akhil Kumar stands the risk of becoming another Sriram Singh

One of India’s genuine medal hopes at the Beijing 2008 Olympics – Boxer Akhil Kumar was extremely unhappy as he boarded the flight to China. His unhappiness was due to the fact that his physical trainer – Heath Mathew was not cleared by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to be part of the Olympics. The IOA had fixed a total quota of 42 officials overall and 3 for boxing. Two places were taken by the coaches, one by a manager and the South African trainer had to be sacrificed.

Heath is one of the best in the world at what he does and has helped Akhil recover from two wrist injuries in the past. He has also worked extensively with the other boxers making the trip to China. His role is critical and the need for a physical trainer in a physical sport like boxing cannot be overstated.

I don’t understand why the manager was not sacrificed. What is he going to do? What exactly is he going to manage there? Is he going to act as Akhil’s sparring partner? Or will he play trainer? What help will he provide if one of the boxers were to get injured? Will he apply a band-aid in that case?

Unlike many of the other members of the Indian contingent who have just about managed to meet the qualify mark for Beijing and have no realistic medal hope, Akhil has a really good shot. I am rooting for him to win a medal and just pray to God that the IOA’s best efforts to de-motivate him and leave him at the mercy of a manager in case of an injury come to no good.

The worrying news is that there is a historical precedent of a similar occurrence. In the 1976 Olympics, Sriram Singh had a great chance of winning a medal in the 800 metres. He finished second in the semi-final heat and made the finals. But he ran the semi-final race on a synthetic track. This was his first experience on an artificial surface and the effort took a toll on his legs. Sadly there was no physiotherapist available to massage and relax his legs. Undeterred, Sriram Singh ran valiantly in the final and led till the 550 metre mark before fading out to finish seventh. The lack of a physiotherapist probably cost him a medal.

I just hope Akhil doesn’t suffer the same fate as Sriram Singh. But if he does suffer from an injury and if that affects his performance, I hope Randhir Singh and Suresh Kalmadi and all the others in the IOA rot in hell forever and get no medical attention for the rest of their lives.


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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Note to budding footballers in India -Want to become a professional player – then do what the Kiwis do

In India, the path to becoming a professional footballer is a rather difficult one. Let’s not even get into what makes it difficult. I can probably write more than a few thousand words about it and we will still not be done. So we will concentrate on an alternate path – one which has been laid out by some footballers from New Zealand and is a lot easier than the current one.

This is what the Kiwi footballers have recently started doing.

They move to US Universities on a football scholarship. Play in the collegiate system and then try getting into the MLS. A good stint in the MLS brings them on the radar of the European clubs – not the big ones but more of the middle of the road variety – which is still far better than toiling in the obscurity of their domestic league or the A-League in Australia

This is why it works

Football is decently popular at the collegiate level in the US and there are enough scholarships on offer. A decent junior from New Zealand has a very good chance of winning a scholarship to one of the numerous universities. The competition is far less intense than what one will encounter at one of the coaching academies in Europe. The infrastructure, training and coaching facilities are world –class. But the competition is not too great – making it easy for someone with a modicum of talent to shine and get picked by an MLS club.

The college system serves as the main feeder for the MLS clubs and again there are plenty of opportunities. It’s far easier to get noticed by an MLS club when you have played in the US. Again the level of competition is nothing compared to the tough trials at European clubs. An MLS career in itself is good enough. If you are really good you have a chance to get noticed by European scouts. The MLS is flush with veterans from Europe who act as pseudo-scouts for their old clubs and also enrich a young player’s football intelligence with their experience.

You can end up getting a direct contract rather than going through the grind of trials. The competition is just good enough to help you improve and too tough to leave you frustrated.

The US collegiate system has already worked wonders for Indian Tennis and Golf and it could do the same for football as well.

The gulf between Indian players and their European or American counterparts starts to really swell around the age of 16 as fitness, stamina, coaching and exposure to quality competition starts becoming increasingly important in a players development. At around this age an Indian footballer still has a fighting chance to win a scholarship to the US. Once he gets there, he will have access to everything that players in the US have and players in India don’t – world-class coaching, fitness and training facilities. He can then compete on an even keel with footballers from other nations and win a spot on an MLS side. That would be more than anything that an Indian footballer has achieved till date. We can have football’s version of a Jeev Milkha Singh or a Mahesh Bhupathi. A path like this will appeal to those who get de-motivated by the road to becoming a professional footballer in India and its rewards.

The mantra is simple. Go the Kiwi way.

This article was originally published on


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Important note to sportspersons who really give a damn about the China –Tibet issue: Do what they did in the 1968 Olympics

Some athletes like Baichung Bhutia refused to run with the Olympic torch in protest against China’s human rights’ violations in Tibet. They were not willing to become part of China’s grand attempt to make a global statement. Sadly, their efforts have barely amounted to anything.

Don’t lose heart. Stephen A. Smith has a solution which could have a lasting impact –something which could really spoil China’s grand party. However, it will take an athlete who really gives a damn about the Tibetans’ plight and one who really has the courage and conviction to stand up to his beliefs.

So this is my message to all the sportsperson competing in Beijing 2008


If you do, then do something similar to what Tommie Smith and John Carlos did in Mexico 1968. MAKE A STATEMENT OF LASTING PROPORTIONS.

Here's a list of options that you have


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Why I don’t want the UPA government to lose the trust vote – so that Mr M.S.Gill can continue as Sports Minister

The Congress-led UPA government faces a massive test when it faces the no trust vote on the 22nd of July. I am mostly indifferent to their predicament and will reserve judgement on the nuclear issue and the state of the Indian economy but there is one thing which makes me pray for their survival – this government has finally given us a capable sports minister in M.S.Gill and as a sports loving Indian, I dread the thought of a new government in New Delhi which will mean a return to the days of good for nothing sports ministers once again.

So what makes M.S.Gill better than the other sports ministers?

M.S.Gill is an avid sports enthusiast and hence he is concerned about the state of affairs of sports in this country.Most others have not known the A B C D of sports and haven’t really bothered about doing anything. More importantly, he is willing to take initiative and actually make a tangible difference. Unlike the previous incumbent, Mani Shanker Aiyer, who was also a ‘sports fan’ (at least he claimed to be one) but a spineless and dormant minister, M.S.Gill is action orientated and willing to use the power he wields

In a short stint of less than six months this is what Mr M.S.Gill has done

  • He first went ahead and forced the supremely dictatorial and grossly incompetent K.P.S Gill to step down from the post of IHF (Indian Hockey Federation) chief. This in spite of the fact that K.P.S still holds a lot of clout in Punjab – home state of both Gills and his sacking could have had far reaching political implications. Mr Aiyer should now be literally forced to wear ‘Chudis’ (bangles) and sit at home.
  • He then incurred the wrath of politicians and film stars by calling for only sportspersons to be allowed as torch –bearers in the Olympic torch relay. He then practised what he preached by refusing the invitation to be a torch bearer himself. The likes of Amitabh ‘UP’s poor farmer’ Bacchan were incensed but Gill cared a damn
  • Mr Gill has lambasted the public broadcaster – Doordarshan for giving the Junior Asia Cup Hockey a miss. Most ministers have let Doordarshan misuse its position and dictate terms to sports federations and private channels but have rarely taken it to task for failing to fulfil its national obligations.
  • Mr Gill has also taken the initiative to talk to Real Madrid President Ramon Calderon and invite him to bring his side to India. The Spanish club are already interested and the minister’s move could give a major fillip to football in India. Compare that to the initiatives taken by another minister in the same UPA cabinet – Mr Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, who is also the head of the AIFF ( All India Football Federation) – he has ensured that India have dropped 60 places in the FIFA rankings in his tenure.

Is there a scenario where the BJP could just settle for making the likes of Das Munshi the scapegoats for everything and let the others like Gill carry on?

Or can the Congress offer Das Munshi’s head to pacify the Communists in West Bengal in return for their support?

Just imagine what all Mr Gill could achieve, if he was allowed to continue. Based on the above points we can say with reasonable confidence that M.S.Gill is easily the best sports minister that India has had in living memory. I would be very pained to see him go and be replaced by a total jack-ass in the next cabinet.

It’s the possibility of that pain that forces me pray for the UPA government to survive their acid test. I appeal to all the sports-loving members of parliament to forget their party loyalties and vote for the greater good of sport in this country.


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Sunday, July 13, 2008

A question for Mr Lalit Modi – what’s happening to all the money made from the IPL?

Dear Mr Modi

First I would like to thank you for giving us the IPL.We got to see some great cricket and also witnessed a professional franchisee format for the first time in India. It was also a good opportunity for me to write and talk a lot. As promised by you, the league also unearthed some new talent and gave the first-class players a chance to rub shoulders with the top international players. That they got some pocket –money for doing so and also managed the occasional stay in five –star hotels was an added bonus.

But there is one small IPL-related matter that I still have no clue about. It’s about all the profits that accrued from the league. If I remember right, the money was supposed to have been utilized to develop the game at the grass-roots level in the country. More than a month has now passed since the IPL got over. We have heard a lot about the proposed Champions League but I haven’t heard any announcements made about the launch of new initiatives to develop cricket. We heard about the BCCI building a world-class gym for the parliamentarians and giving 50 crores to the IOA to aid other sports in their preparation for the Olympics. But have heard absolutely nothing about cricket and about the game's development at the grass-roots level.

You are generally not averse to press conferences and mega announcements. Why are you quiet now

I tried googling but couldn’t find anything - At least not in the first 100 odd search results. It’s possible that the announcements were made in far flung small towns (the grass roots) and the newspapers in those small places don’t have online editions for Google to index. But still, the country’s 24 hour news channels should have covered the announcement. They don’t miss even a dog’s bark in this country.

So then the only explanation is that these announcements have not been made public. I am sure you (Mr Modi) have already launched multiple programs to develop the game at the grass-roots. And we will soon see lots of new stadiums, practice facilities, coaching clinics and fitness centers coming up all over the country. And as usual you don’t want to announce it to the world and get credit for developing the game. But we are a country of skeptics and always want to know where all the money went, unless we see something tangible happening.

So, for the benefit of skeptics like me who will falsely tarnish your name, I request you to kindly announce to the world where all the IPL profits are being spent. I and many others who are interested in the development of the game would be forever grateful.


Common fan


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Friday, July 11, 2008

Was Federer-Nadal 2008, the greatest men’s final at Wimbledon in the modern era - Don’t think so

The final between Federer and Nadal was an outstanding tennis match and as expected many experts including the likes of John McEnroe were caught up in the present and forgot the past; calling this the greatest men’s final in the post-modern era. I beg to differ. And I will go ahead and list all the men’s finals that I think were better. I will include the matches since 1980 (a period that we can safely call the modern era of tennis)

I have watched all the finals since 1980 (either on live TV or recorded) and will use a simple criterion for determining whether a particular final was better than the 2008 final or not – will I prefer that match over the 2008 final if I had a choice to go back in time and watch one of those two finals, live in person. If I would, then that final was better. I ran the test for the 28 finals from 1980 to 2007 and the four matches made the cut

Also before you start roasting me for this list, let me make it very clear that this is based on my personal parameters of deciding the greatness of a Wimbledon final. And those parameters are

The level of competition and the amount of drama in the match
The personality quotient of the match-up
The quality of grass-court tennis on display and by that I mean the serve and volley and the passing shots. After all this is Wimbledon
The history of the rivalry
The story line associated with the match

The 2008 final saw some intense tennis with lots of drama. The match was eagerly anticipated and the rivalry is already one the greatest ever and could be the greatest by the time all is said and done. But this wasn’t a signature moment for grass-court tennis. We had two guys largely slugging it out from the back of the court. We have seen better and cannot label this as the greatest final. Additionally this was a game between two well-behaved good boys and that scored poorly on the personality quotient.

Now for the four that scored better

1980: Bjorn Borg def John McEnroe (1-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (16-18), 8-6)

I would go one step ahead and call this the greatest final of the era. The two personalities involved – one an ice–cool sex god from Sweden and the other a wildly temperamental American. The clash of styles between a baseliner and an out an out serve -and -volleyer produced grass court tennis of the highest order. The drama was gripping - the fourth set tie-break is probably the most memorable ever - McEnroe was diving for volleys with Borg one point away from a win. This rivalry was the focus of all attention in that time and produced many memorable finals.

1982: Jimmy Connors def John McEnroe (3-6, 6-3, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4)

This was a 4 hours 14 minutes scuffle between two ‘bad boys’ who couldn’t stand each other and were always at loggerheads. Connors hated the young upstart for taking his crown and once told McEnroe at a changeover that his two-year-old son was more mature. Fuelled by immense hatred the two men produced a match which was fiercely brilliant. There was high drama and match just kept swinging back and forth. This was another memorable day for grass court tennis. The only reason why this match doesn’t match up to the last one is because McEnroe- Connors never developed into a full-blown rivalry on the courts

1990: Stefan Edberg def Boris Becker (6-2, 6-2, 3-6, 3-6, 6-4)

In the late eighties, Wimbledon fans were divided into two halves – one half who supported Becker and the other who loved Edberg. This rivalry between two dyed-in -the -wool serve and volley exponents was the poster child for grass court tennis and produced three finals in a row. The last one in 1990 was the best. Becker made an amazing comeback from two sets down and led 4-2 in the final set before Edberg fought back to win. Needless to say the tennis was a Wimbledon lover’s delight – I still yearn for the good old days of Becker and Edberg.

1992: Andre Agassi def Goran Ivanesevic (6-7 (8-10), 6-4, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4)

Goran served brilliantly and volleyed well. But for once we were caught up in the sheer beauty of Agassi returning serve and passing the Croatian at the net. This was a once in a lifetime display of genius from the Las Vegan. This match-up of two lovable characters - Andre Agassi and Goran Ivanesivic produced an epic five setter in 1992. This final was also the culmination of a fairy tale for Andre – he turned up for his first Wimbledon and won the title upsetting a gaggle of Wimbledon legends on the way. This match suffers on account of the build-up and the rivalry between these two but I’ll still take it.

Other finals which are noteworthy even though they failed to make the cut

1981: McEnroe – Borg
1998: Sampras – Ivanesevic
2001: Ivanesevic - Rafter


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Saturday, July 5, 2008

What will be the lasting memories of Euro 2008

The final of the Euro 2008 was played last Sunday and most soccer fans are already over it and involved neck deep in the transfer activities that will go a long way in determining the destiny of their favourite clubs in the coming season. It is therefore a good time to look back and try and identify what could possibly be the lasting memories of Euro 2008.

After all, the euphoria is already over (except for in Spain) and we can no longer re-collect the amount of tiny details that we could do a week back. The short-term memory bank of Euro 2008 has already been wiped clean and the condensed reminiscences that are still with us are finding a place for themselves in our long term storage.

So lets pick out the memories which will define Euro 2008 and remain entrenched in our minds forever – much in the same way as the Van Basten volley of 1988, the double strike of Olivier Bierhoff in Euro 96, the Danish fairy-tale of 1992 or the heroic performance of the Italian defence in Euro 2000.

To ensure that the process is robust, I am not going to be relying on the internet and I saw enough of the tournament to not miss anything important.

So here goes (in no particular order)

The ‘wonder goal’ scored by the Dutch against Italy

Most of us never saw the ‘Total Football’ of the 70’s (in person that is). But we caught a glimpse of what it would have been like as the Dutch scored a spectacular counter-attacking goal against Italy. Holland had a disappointing exit from the tournament but their performance in the first 270 minutes was a thing of sheer beauty. We should be hearing more of Van Basten the coach in the future.

The ‘heart-breaking’ Turks

Grabbing one win with a sensational late goal is usually gratifying enough. The Turks managed three in a row!!!. Their late comebacks were heart-breaking for the opposition fans - the Swiss, the Czechs and the Croats. No one would have broken so many in the course of one tournament. Their exploits could usher in a new term – doing a Turkey, every time someone gets a late winner. And all this with nearly half the squad injured or suspended.

No suffering as an English fan

I am an Indian. But we identify a lot with the English – having been ruled by them for so long and then from watching the comprehensive coverage of the EPL week in and week out. Not having our home nation India to cheer for, we invariably end up supporting England at most major tournaments and needless to say, we are a dejected lot when all is said and done. Therefore for once, we could watch the tournament in peace without the threat of a heart break looming large (I am not counting the 1994 World Cup as we had no EPL coverage then). Unluckily for us and luckily for England (now that Capello is on board) this might be a one off. The memory will surely last.

For once the Spanish were victors

Will not delve too much into why this would be a lasting memory. We all know why

The ‘Master Coach’

It takes a really special manager and an outstanding coaching job to pass the ‘lasting memory’ criterion. Guus Hiddink and his effort with the Russians got full marks on both. The most accomplished manager heading into the tournament was also the ‘best manager of the tournament’ – like a top seed who also ended up winning – doesn’t happen too often in major tournaments. We’ll always remember the Dutchman who brought the Dutch juggernaut to a grinding halt and did that with such attacking verve that we almost forgot that it was the team at the receiving end (Holland) which had been winning hearts for their attacking play. As a neutral fan (who just supports good football) I had been rooting for the Dutch yet there was no sadness when they went out.

The blunders and the ‘what if’ discussions

There is a chance that we might forget the guys who did well but rarely are the villains forgotten. Usually their blunders have a decisive impact on their teams fortunes and spawns a ‘what if’ discussion for the ages. Romanians will talk about Mutu’s missed penalty and what could have been. Same goes for the Czechs and the horror goal conceded by Petr Cech. Portuguese fans will debate the impact of Scolari’s Chelsea announcement and then there will be the regulars – the referees and the usual set of refereeing decisions which could have gone either way.

And finally

Euro 2008 did not have a single player who took the tournament by storm – a clear cut ‘player of the tournament’. Many like Ronaldo were expected to do so but failed. There were some wonderful performances no doubt but no player stood out like a colossus. We will not be associating this tournament with the brilliance of any player. Rather we will remember the team efforts. The ‘total football’ of the Dutch. The crisp passing of the Spaniards. The boundless energy of the Russians and the indefatigable spirit of the Turks.

This article was originally published on

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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Why Andrey Arshavin should not go to FC Barcelona

Arshavin and Barcelona should avoid a repeat of Riquelme's frustrating spell at the Spanish giants

Andrey Arshavin has openly expressed a desire to join Barcelona. While players do this all the time, in this case the Spanish Club has opened negotiations with the player’s current club, clearly showing intent to add the player to their squad.

As an opening salvo, the player’s current employers have agreed to let the player go provided Lionel Messi goes in the opposite direction. The offer also includes a payment of 20 million pounds to be made to Barcelona. While the offer sounds preposterous, there is actually some logic to it. But in spite of the logic, which I will come to later, it will be in Arshavin’s best interests if Barcelona rejects the offer outright and there are no further negotiations.

And here’s why

There is no place for Arshavin in the Barcelona playing eleven. A player of his class and age (at 27 he’s not a youngster exactly), should not be wasting his time getting frustrated on the bench. He will hardly have a role to play for Barcelona. And that is precisely the reason why the club should not be wasting their time chasing him and should concentrate on their other more important transfer targets.

Why there is no place for Arshavin in the Barcelona playing eleven

Arshavin can either play as a playmaker or as a second striker. Provided he joins Barca, he will be denied a chance to play in either role by Lionel Messi (the reason why Zenit’s offer could actually improve his chances of playing), Bojan Krkic, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta. These guys are proven performers at Barcelona and Pep Guardiola would not break a settled combination. And remember we are assuming both Deco and Ronaldinho will be leaving and not competing for the same spots – something which could still not materialize and worsen Arshavin’s chances.

Additionally, Arshavin is at his best when the attack is built around him; like it is at Zenit and the Russian National team. There is no way he will enjoy the same luxury at Barcelona. In a best case scenario, Arshavin will be forced to play out of position or in a role that he is not too comfortable in and therefore there is little chance that Barcelona will be able to fully benefit from his talent.

Arshavin and Barcelona should learn from the past

In their recent history, Barcelona have had an embarrassment of attacking riches. Many wonderful players have borne the brunt of this surplus. The name which comes most easily to mind is that of Juan Roman Riquelme. He never got a decent chance to show his worth at Barcelona but prospered on moving to Villarreal – a club which built their attack around him. Arshavin with his close control is in many ways similar to the Argentinean. Playing at Barcelona is a privilege but the Russian would be wiser to move to a lesser club. Not only will he get to play regularly, he will also get to play to his strengths.

This article was originally published on

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Open Challenge to all cricket fans – Can anyone solve ‘Times Of India’s Cricket Trivia Quiz

The following trivia question appeared in the Chennai Edition of the Times of India on Sunday, the 29th of June 2008. It is also available online on in the section marked PLAYFULL

I will first repeat the question in the picture for you

Question - This dashing Indian batsman put the Pakistani attack to sword as he scored a swashbuckling 119 to help India chase with ease in the Asia cup clash in Karachi on Thursday.

The options are
A) Sourav Ganguly B) Sachin Tendulkar C) Rahul Dravid

As a hint, they have provided a photograph of the lower half of the cricketer’s face – a pair of specs and a light moustache is visible. The player also happens to be chewing on his nails. Looks very much like a cricketer who once took his shirt off on the Lords balcony but wait there’s another hint.

The picture has been captioned as “Dadagiri Continues”. The first word reminds me of a very popular cricketer’s nickname. I am fairly certain that I know this one. But wait, it says Asia Cup in Karachi in 2008. I guy I was thinking about isn’t playing for the national senior team and as far as I know isn’t part of any rebel league or tournament going on simultaneously with the BCCI-approved Asia Cup in Pakistan.

I give up. I should’ve watched the Asia Cup more closely.

The reward for the lucky winner - to have his name published on the same trivia section the following day. Well, now I have an additional prize for whoever has the right answer. I will be his slave for the rest of my life. And I will build two monuments in his honour – one on the moon and one on the Lords cricket ground and name them as “this is to celebrate the Genius who correctly answered Times Of India’s quiz”

There is no time limit to answering this question. Keep trying. But please don’t come up with inane answers like – the options are all wrong or there is a typo error or that this was done to celebrate National Media Horrors Day or something.

Thanks to Aneesh Deepak for noticing the unsolvability of this question

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