Monday, June 14, 2010

Elephants could be the surprise package

By Jugjet Singh

SOUTH Africa has been a hunting ground for fierce predators for millions of years, and when I went there in 2002 to report on the second Champions Challenge hockey tournament, the fear factor was no longer on the plains, but ingrained in the city.

The first sign to greet Malaysian journalists in the hotel room was frank and read: “Welcome to South Africa. And now that we are done with the pleasantries, here is the truth: Don’t bring anyone who you befriend into this room because if you are lucky you will be left with only your underwear when you wake up. And if you are unlucky, you will go home with AIDS.”
It sent alarm bells buzzing like the irritating vuvuzela, and after reading the morning paper which had three pages full of crime related stories, we constantly looked over our shoulders, initially, but then became bolder and did venture into Johannesburg and downtown Soweto.
During the free hunting days, the Big Five that were favourite safari were Lion, Elephant, Cape Buffalo, Leopard and Black Rhinoceros.
But during the World Cup, the Big Five favourites seem to be Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Spain and England.
So when a group of journalists were having a conversation on the World Cup and eventually came to which team one supports, there was muted silence when I picked Ivory Coast over the Big Five.
I don’t expect the Elephants, as Ivory Coast are known as, to win the World Cup, but they should provide some ex citement and romance because all their players are based abroad, and will only be playing in their second World Cup.
The Elephants did not make an attempt to play at the world stage until 1974, and only qualified in 2006 but didn’t get past the first round.
And the fact that they qualified four years later, and have produced one of the best strikers from that continent, is testimony of their determination.
Hibernian, VB Stuttgart, Arsenal, Wigan Athletic, Manch ester City, Monaco, Galatasaray, Lille, Sevilla, Chelsea, Olympique Marseille ... Every Ivory Coast player in the World Cup today has a foreign club as his base and this is where their strength lies in.
The talent was honed back home, but they know that if they do not venture across their borders, they will not be able to earn a decent living, and more importantly, take their country to the World Cup for the second time.
The Elephants football team might not be as strong and ferocious as their animal Big Five but they should be able to give Portugal, Brazil and North Korea a headache in Group G.
South Africa never ceases to amaze visitors to its country so don’t be surprised if a team outside the Big Five lift the title, as you can’t rule out an Elephant stampede if they beat Portugal today.
On a parting note, among the many surprises that jolted Malaysian journalists in 2002, was the definition of Soweto.
When we visited Nelson Mandela’s matchbox house in Soweto, where he stayed during his mining days in 1946 and is now a family museum, we asked the caretaker which tribal language did the word Soweto come from, and what did it mean.
He laughed at us and said, “English my friend, English! It is in short for South Western Township.”

Hit them hard, says MHF

THE Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) views Kelantan’s attempt to cheat at the Malaysian Sports Schools (MSSM) Girls Under-12 hockey tournament as an identity fraud, and feels stern action should be taken against those respon sible.
On Saturday, The Kelantan Under-12 girls team had beaten Kuala Lumpur 4-1 in the MSSM finals, but were then stripped of the title when they were found to have registered an overage player with documents of another girl.
MHF vice-president Datuk Dr S.S. Cheema said even though it is a schools tournament, but it is still sanctioned by the MHF and stern action should be take against those responsible.
“The organisers did the right thing by giving KL the title even though Kelantan had won because identity fraud is a big crime.
“I feel there should be a follow up from the ministry (of Education) to get to the root of the matter because the player could not have done it on her own, and officials or teachers who condoned the act be punished,” said Dr Cheema.
Dr Cheema said such an act must be nipped in the bud: “On the MHF part, we can stop the said teacher(s) or official(s) from officiating at any other future tournaments.
“However I feel the Education Ministry must come down hard on those involved in this embarrassing episode to send a strong warning to others.” It was reliably learnt that after receiving the protest from KL, MSSM officials had contacted the real owner of the doc uments, and her father had confirmed that his daughter did not compete in the tournament, but was on holiday with him.
KL dominated the MSSM meet when their Under-12 boys beat Terengganu 2-1, while in their Under-18 boys beat Perak 3-0.
The only title that slipped from KL’s grip was in the Girls Under-18, which Kedah won 2-1.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

USA tame three lions of England

England's Robert Green insists he has the mental strength to bounce back from his error.

AMERICA the brave — and a television glitch — ruined the World Cup party for England last night. The USA held Fabio Capello’s team to a 1-1 draw while millions missed England’s opening goal because ITV screened a car advert on its HD screens instead.

The Americans, who had been staying at a lodge in the bush normally reserved for tourists on safari, refused to be thrown to England’s three lions.
A goal from Steve Gerrard, who took over as captain from the injured Rio Ferdinand, after four minutes, semed to suggest the Americans were in for a mauling.
Their goal in reply, kicked by Clint Dempsey and rolling towards the goal with little more speed than a tumbleweed, was fumbled by Robert Green, England’s surprise choice of goalkeeper, and ended up in the back of the net.
As vuvuzelas boomed high in the stadium, the Americans, who were delayed on their way to a pre-match training session by a hungry elephant snacking on a tree, repeatedly countered England’s trumpeting charge.
The result was meant to be a riposte to America’s alleged unfair play on a different field, the oil wells of the Gulf of Mexico. It was also supposed to be revenge for Rio. Not Ferdinand, but Brazil. It was 60 years since England suffered its most humiliating World Cup defeat — 1-0 to the USA in 1950 — in South America.
However, what one commentator called America’s “sucker punch” floored England’s hopes of starting the tournament on a high. They will be determined to do better when they play Algeria in Cape Town on Friday in front of Prince William, the president of the FA, and Prince Harry, who starts a tour of southern Africa in Botswana tomorrow.
An estimated 15,000 England fans were in the stadium in Rustenburg last night along with 8,000 supporters from America’s “Sam’s Army”.
Tim Farrow, a fan from Buckinghamshire who was at the stadium, said the 15,000 England fans who had travelled to South Africa had been let down in the worst possible way: “This was shameful. A timid display and the fans around me were just sickened. We turned up; our team didn’t.”
Farrow, who is staying in a campsite with a dozen other fans, said the freezing cold nights and the bad food had made his trip miserable so far: "Some of the lads are already saying let’s just go home. We are driving down to Cape Town tomorrow and if we drive 1,800 kilometres to see this kind of performance I will never travel to see England again." As the American team ran to the corner of the stadium to salute their fans, England trudged dejectedly off the pitch as good-humoured chants of “USA ... USA” were greeted with boos by the England fans.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Kelantan Under-12 Girls stripped for cheating

KELANTAN received a slap on the face when they were stripped of their Malaysian Sports Schools Girls’ Under-12 hockey title at the Kuala Lumpur HA Stadium yesterday.
Kelantan had beaten Kuala Lumpur 4-1 in the final, but they were disqualified from the tournament after KL lodged a report that they had fielded an over-aged player.
In the centre of controversy was Wan Norhidayah Wan Helmi, who was alleged to have registered using another girls Identity Card.
KL were awarded the title in default, and it took their total haul to three crowns in the tournament.
In the Boys Under-12 KL beat Terengganu 2-1, while in the Boys Under-18 KL beat Perak 3-0.
The only title that slipped from KL’s grip was in the Girls Under-18, which Kedah won 2-1.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Facts that Figure the World Cup

FIFA's first World Cup trophy, the Jules Rimet Trophy, was permanently awarded to Brazil after they won their third world title in 1970. It was later stolen and was never seen again.
The trophy had already been stolen before when it was taken from an exhibition prior to the 1966 World cup final in England. A dog called Pickles later found it under a bush.
The current FIFA World Cup trophy remains in the permanent possession of FIFA. The winning association receives a replica until the next tournament but this is “only” gold plated.
Red and yellow cards were not introduced until 1970, although cautions and dismissals were previously listed in reports. The first player to be sent off was Peru’s Placido Galindo in the match against Romania in 1930.
Since 1990 only one team has defeated Brazil in the World Cup Finals tournament— France.
Shirt numbers were first used at the 1954 FIFA World Cup.
In 1978 France became the only team so far to play a match in the World Cup Finals tournament wearing another team’s strip. The French had arrived in Mar Del Plata to play Hungary without a change of strip, only to find that both teams planned to play in white. France had to quickly borrow some tops from the local side Atletico Kimberley.
To date the host country has always made it through the group stage to qualify for the second round.
More than 100,000 spectators have been recorded at 17 World Cup Finals matches—all of them played in either Mexico City or Rio de Janeiro.
Telstar was the first official FIFA World Cup ball and was introduced by Adidas for the 1970 World Cup in Mexico.
The most successful teams in World Cup Finals history are those which have participated the highest number of times: Brazil (all 19), Italy and Germany (17 each) and Argentina (15).
All in all 154 goals have been scored from the penalty spot in World Cup Finals tournaments.
There has been 34 own goals!
Finally think on this - a foreign coach has never managed a World Cup winning team -- which implies another penalty shootout heartache for England somewhere along the line!

Watch World Cup at Olympic Hotel

By Ajitpal Singh

Olympic Sports Hotel is a treasure trove for all World Cup fans.
The sports-themed hotel, located at Wisma OCM in Kuala Lumpur, is displaying authentic sporting memorabilia and some reproduction world cup items.
Among the items on display are the autographed jerseys from Argentina’s Osvaldo Ardiles, Brazil’s Ronaldo, Ger many’s J├╝rgen Klinsmann and also a pair of gloves signed by decorated goalkeeper Oliver Kahn.
Hotel director Ow Soon Kooi said the items have been on display for the past three weeks.
“A friend of mine brought up this idea about three months ago. We decided then on decorating the hotel with World Cup memorabilia in conjunction with the World Cup,” said Soon Kooi, a former national hockey captain.
“We have on display some of the most valuable World Cup collector’s items dating back from the 1960s.
Patrons will be greeted by posters of Diego Maradona including one on the player’s infamous “Hand of God” in the 1986 World Cup upon entering the hotel lobby.
“We managed to get these exhibits from their owners. It will be on display even after the World Cup.
“However, the most valuable item here is the framed autographed photos of Pele. The Brazilian is my favourite football player.
There are also glass showcases items such as the boots of Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer, who won the World Cup both as a player (1974) and coach (1990) and also the gloves of Oliver Kahn, which he used in the 1994 World Cup.
Football fans can also opt to watch the World Cup matches live at its cafe, which will be operating extended hours throughout the tournament.
“The hotel caters not only athletes but the general public and tourists.
“Among our recent guests were the officials from the Asian Youth Volleyball tournament as well as foreign media representatives covering the Thomas/Uber Cup Finals,” said Soon Kooi.
Olympic Sports Hotel is unique in many ways as it has conference rooms dedicated to former local sports personalities such as the late Ho Koh Chye, a former national hockey goalkeeper and local football legend Mokhtar Dahari.

Tragic start to World Cup

JOHANNESBURG: The death of Nelson Mandela’s great-granddaughter cast a shadow over the opening day of the World Cup on Friday, dampening the spirits of a nation proud and excited to be hosting the world’s most popular sporting event.
Zenani Mandela, 13, was killed in a car accident on the way home from a World Cup concert in Soweto on Thursday night, where tens of thousands of people had sung and danced with headline music stars Shakira and the Black Eyed Peas.
On Friday morning, streets in downtown Johannesburg were filled with cars and pedestrians waving South African flags and blowing vuvuzela trumpets as news that one of Mandela’s nine great grandchildren had died was emerging.
Heavy security was evident in Johannesburg and in Soweto, near the Soccer City stadium where South Africa was opening the tournament on Friday afternoon with a game against Mexico. Armored Personnel Carriers were seen on the streets, with armed troops watching traffic and stopping cars.
Johannesburg police spokeswoman Edna Mamonyane said the driver of the car involved in the one-car accident, a male, had been arrested and charged with drink-driving. Mamonyane said the driver, who police would not name, could also face culpable homicide charges.
“The Metro police found that he was drunk,” Mamonyane said. “He lost control of the vehicle and it collided with a barricade.”

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Malaysia out of (Club) World Cup!

MALAYSIA blew their chances of playing in the Club World Cup in Barcelona next year when Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC) lost 2-0 to Wapada of Pakistan in the final of the Asian Clubs Championships in Sri Lanka yesterday.
KLHC held the Pakistan side 2-2 in the pool match, but let in one goal in each half in the final.
The Malaysian side did not win a single penalty corner in 70 minutes, and officials claim they were robbed of three penalty strokes.

Argentina wins (Miss) World Cup!

Jennifer Scherman is posing during the "Miss World Cup 2010" contest on Friday evening, June 4, 2010, in Rust, southern Germany. The 17-years-old student representing Argentina won against 31 other competitors.

Journalists robbed at World Cup

BEIJING, June 10, 2010 (AFP) - An armed gang stole money and a camera from four Chinese journalists in South Africa to cover the World Cup, state media reported Thursday.
Several men attacked the journalists when their car stopped on the side of the road as they returned to Johannesburg after an interview, the reports said.
The thieves made off with a small amount of cash and a camera worth about 1,500 dollars, the Beijing News said.
“When you go out, you have to be careful, put all your valuables in the boot and no matter what happens, don’t open the windows,” one of the journalists was quoted as saying.
The paper said it was also trying to confirm a report that a Beijing journalist was robbed in South Africa ahead of the opening of the World Cup on Friday.
China’s consulate in Johannesburg has issued a warning to Chinese nationals attending the World Cup to remain alert and refrain from carrying large sums of cash, the newspaper said.
On Wednesday, an armed gang stole electronic equipment from a team of Portuguese journalists during a robbery at their lodge near Johannesburg, police and one of the victims said.
The gang broke into the lodge at Magaliesburg, northwest of Johannesburg, while three journalists covering the Portuguese team were sleeping.