FIFA Worldcup 2010 – A Preview

Football as a sport has captured the imagination of people around the world for decades. For the first time in history, grand carnival of football – FIFA Worldcup is set to be staged in the African continent bringing hope and happiness to people of Africa.
In this article I would like to offer my insights on 32 teams vying to lift the much coveted trophy at the Soccer City Stadium, Johannesburg.
Group A (South Africa, Uruguay, Mexico, France)
My prediction – France, Mexico
No host nation has ever failed to reach the knock out rounds of this competition. South Africa would have to do much better than their recent past performances to avoid being the first host nation to be eleminated in the group stages. French team are the favourites to top the group even though the tactics and decisions made by Domenech are not convincing. Uruguay has a  potent strike partnership of Forlan and Suarez. Mexico has been on the rise since Javier Aguirre has taken over the mantle and will compete neck to neck with Uruguay for second spot.
Group B (Argentina, Nigeria, Korea Republic,  Greece)
My prediction – Argentina, Nigeria
Argentina with a strike force of Higuain, Milito, Tevez, Messi and Aguero, managed by inspirational Diego Maradona has the ability to beat any team on their day. However their inconsistent performance in qualifying rounds, questionable decision to drop efficient Cambiasso and ever green Zanetti etc demonstrate Maradona’s naivety as a manager. Korean teamwork, defensive discipline of Greece and Nigeria with their colourful support ensures interesting battle for second place. 
Group C (England, United States, Algeria, Slovenia)
My prediction – England, United States
Even with all the injury worries, it would be a massive surprise if Capello‘s pupils couldn’t top this group. Key players like Rooney and Lampard are peaking at the right moment for them. US has the potential for an upset as they demonstrated against Spain in Confederations cup. Algeria and Slovenia will have to do exceptionally well to reach the knock out round.  
 
Group D (Germany, Australia, Serbia, Ghana)
My prediction – Germany, Serbia
People who relish physical battle rather than flair will find this group as the ultimate showcase of grit and strength. Mannschaft over the years has performed consistently in big tournaments and are the favourites to top the group. Defensive rocks such as Vidic and Ivanovic of Serbia will have their hands full dealing with hard running midfielders of Ghana such as Essien and Muntari. I expect Serbians to come out on top as they look more like a unit and played exceptionally well in the qualifying rounds. Socceroos most probably will fall short.
Group E (Netherlands, Denmark, Japan, Cameroon)
My prediction – Netherlands, Cameroon
Netherlands had an amazing qualifying campaign and boasts of attacking talents such as Van Persie, Robben, Sneijder and Kuyt. They are one of the dark horses to win the tournament. Cameroon will have to battle it out with the Danes for second place. Form of their strikers Samuel Eto’o and Nicklas Bendtner in the tournament could be crucial in determining who will reach the knock out rounds. Japan will look up to their inspirational set piece specialist Shunsuke Nakamura to work a magic.
Group F (Italy, Paraguay, New Zealand, Slovakia)
My prediction – Italy, Paraguay
Reigning world Champions under Marcelo Lippi has rebuilt the side with some new faces. A lot is expected from their key striker Gilardino. Paraguay had a decent qualifying campaign and will come second. Dashing youngster Marek Hamsik is central to the hopes of Slovakia progressing to next round. New Zealand will need a miracle to get to the next round.
Group G (Brazil, Korea DPR, Cote d’Ivoire, Portugal)
My prediction – Brazil, Cote d’Ivoire
Brazil is the most successful and only country to win world cups in every continent played so far. Relatively cautious approach of Dunga has added resilience and toughness to the brazilian flair. Cote d’Ivoire is the strongest team from Africa with their Attack spear headed by Didier Drogba. Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal will consider this tournament as an ideal platform to showcase his wide array of tricks and flicks. Korea DPR is a mystery team with little known about them to outside world. This group is righly termed as ‘Group of Death’ as three way battle between Brazil, Cote d’Ivoire and Portugal promises an exciting contest.
Group H (Spain, Switzerland, Honduras, Chile)
My prediction – Spain, Chile
Spain along with Brazil has to be the favourites to win the tournament. They have the strongest squad with atleast two world class players in each position. Swiss topped their qualifying group despite losing at home to Luxembourg. Their inconsistencies may prove costly when they face a well disciplined Chile side in a match which could potentially decide second place in the group. Honduras are the underdogs in this group which has a trio of spanish speaking nations along with the Swiss.
 
It’s all about me now….
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Delicacies From The City Of Thrissur

Thrissur pooram

Thrissur pooram

I hail from Thrissur, a beautiful city in the heart of God’s own country Kerala. Eventhough I had the privilege of tasting a wide variety of dishes from the sub continent, every time I step outside the city I feel a sense of loosing appetite for food. I am scribbling down a few delicacies from Thrissur which would delight gourmets planning to visit the city.

 

Vellepam

Vellepam

‘Vellepam’ is a very soft form of appam which goes well with mutton stu. In Thrissur there is a street called vellepangadi where women cook vellepam continuously on a stove outside their houses to cater to mass orders. We can buy it hot right from the stove and take it home.

 

 

thattukada

thattukada

‘Thattukada’ is a miniature restaurant which essentially consists of a four wheeled cart which can be pushed around and a stove. This kind of thattukadas are present in every nook and corner of the city. Largest pulling factor for the thattukada is the aroma which could tempt people with in a radius of 100 metre towards it. But don’t get confused, taste is equally good or better at these places. Most sought after dish at these thattukadas is ‘bottiyum kolliyum’ or in simple words tapioca with roasted kidney of a cow. This is a very spicy dish served on banana leaves. Porotta with your choice of meet is a favourite for many people frequenting thattukada. Another prominent dish at these thattukadas is omelette and green peas with added spice.

 

kodampuly ittu vatticha meen curry

kodampuly ittu vatticha meen curry

‘Aama Curry’ or Tortoise curry is a very delicious spicy meat prepared with lots of pepper and onion. Fat just melts in your mouth like cheese. Thanks to idiots who call themselves animal right activists, it’s hard to get these days. ‘Kodampully ittu vatticha meen curry’ is a type of fish curry prepared in a typical manner where the curry is boiled with a type of tamarind giving it a unique taste.

 

Drinking kallu with friends

Drinking kallu with friends

‘Kallu’ or toddy is a drink made from coconut trees. Experience of drinking toddy with friends in a peaceful place surrounded by greenery can hardly be described by words. You just got to feel it! ‘Kaada irachi’, a deep fried meat of bird Kaada is a cuisine which goes well with toddy.

 

 

This list never ends…

2008-09 season – A Manchester United Perspective

Manchester UnitedFor Manchester United fans the season started with the news of fantasy team the local rivals Manchester City are trying to build with the money of their new billionaire owners. Christiano Ronaldo’s flirtation with Real Madrid and Manchester City’s attempt to hijack the year long chase for Berbatov’s signature made rounds in prominent news papers. Manchester United got an outcome they wished for in both the cases. Season started badly for Manchester United with an injury for Ronaldo and club dropping  points. Chelsea made a great start to the season with some attractive football under the leadership of new manager Luiz Felipe Scolari. After some point of time Manchester United found themselves trailing bitter rivals and surprise league leaders Liverpool. In the mean time Manchester United made a successful journey to Japan and won the Club World Cup. United youngsters including the likes of Danny Welbeck, Gibson etc fashioned thmeselves to a well deserved Carling Cup victory. United slowly climbed up the table and snatched the top spot from Liverpool. Van Der Sar and United Defense started to look magnanimous with a domestic clean sheet record. Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez recieved a lot of stick from media for his attempted mind games with Sir Alex Ferguson. By this time Chelsea became disillusioned and Guus Hiddink was called up to replace Scalari and revitalise the sleeping giant. For Arsenal youngsters it was familiar story of underachievement with Aston villa snapping their heels for the last Champion’s league spot. Media started to use new terms like quintuple in their football lexicon referrring to the possibility of Manchester United team winning all the five trophies and expectations grew sky high. Manchester City plans for building a dream team recieved a serious setback when Kaka rejected a 100M+ deal. Manchester United season touched its low point when they were thrashed 4-1 by Liverpool. Quintuple dreams were shattered when United youngsters were knocked out from FA cup on penalties by Everton. United held off challenge from Liverpool and a revitalised Chelsea side to seal third successful EPL crown. Future of Carlos Tevez became a topic of constant media speculation as Manchester United refused to meet the price tag set two years ago. Finally stage was set for an epic UEFA Champions League final with worthy rivals Barcelona. After all the media hype about the match, Manchester United were beaten comprehensively by Barcelona. The season althoughwas a success with Club World cup, Carling cup and EPL victories it fell short of ever rising expectations set by the club. As the new season is ready to unfold, it brings back the hope and more dreams are being weaved at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ Old Trafford.

Indian Elections 2009 – Political Melodrama Continues

politics-essence2‘Advani inaugrates gym tries his hand at dumbells’-Hindustan Times, …………………………….’Sonia Gandhi dances with AP tribals’ -www.mypopkorn.com………………………surprised!?…….wait for many more news of this kind to dominate newspapers in the weeks ahead. Yes, the time is ripe for the usual political melodrama to take centrestage. Politicians across all political parties cancel their foreign tour programmes and their love for the poor common man starts to slip through their mouth as they warm up for Indian Elections 2009. Political alliances start to look like jigsaw puzzles with every party trying to get more seats and ministerial berths. Principles of the party, ideologies etc have no significance here as they look  to form alliances. It’s all about who gets what. Political parties hire professionals and looks at vote banks like marketing professionals looking at target market.They spend crores on their promotional campaigns and very often succeeds in making people believe in their void promises and colourful pictures of future. A glance at the history reminds us that revolutions often started when people lost faith in the prevailing political system. I pray that such a scenario never materialises for my beautiful country. We should look inwards and change the system before it changes us. For a start I have three suggestions for mandatory requirements of a candidate. First a candidate should have atleast a graduation as a minimum educational qualification. This could be implemented step by step. Seasoned politicians above 55 years of age may be exempted in the first phase. Gradually after a prefixed time frame the rule should be applied for every one. Secondly people against whom criminal cases are proved beyond doubt should not be allowed to contest in elections. Finally parties with separatist agenda in the name of religion, caste or language should be disqualified. Cleansing the current political system could be one giant step in building the ‘Great India’ where the fruits of development are distributed across the population. Arise, Act and Accomplish.

Guardians of the culture

guardians-of-the-cultureLast few years witnessed the rise of a new version of moral policing who portrays themselves as guardians of the culture. Recent Mangalore pub incident got much public attention where a mob justified its actions after vandalising a pub and beating up women by claiming that they were trying to protect Indian culture. It is not an isolated event as similar outbursts happened across the country. I smiled in agony when I saw people arrested for these attacks waving to the cameras as if they were war prisoners returning home. Kudos to the Indian media for glorifying the violent acts by streaming it 24×7 like a live reality show with spiced up features such as opinion polls, celebrity opinions etc. Now it is crystal clear for organizations and individuals who have vested political interests about what they need to do for cheap publicity. It is to attack the weakest and hapless in the society and glorify the act in name of culture and tradition. I really hope that a day won’t come when people will throw widows in to funeral pyre claiming Sati as an integral part of Indian culture. People should come forward and condemn  public acts of violence and try to find a solution to social issues in an amicable way. We should respect the Legislation and Judiciary of our country and bring the anti social elements who take law in to their own hands to justice. There are more grieve issues harming our culture than a few women enjoying a drink like child labour, human trafficking etc.  I hope that our future guardians of culture will prefer to look in to these issues than to cheap publicity stunts by staying with in the laws of the land. As an ending note I would like to remind that Indian culture is special because  it has evolved over centuries by continuously assimilating good aspects of other cultures and refining its own. Changes are not always bad and it has to be embraced if it is for the welfare of the society.

Sir Alex Ferguson – A Tribute To The Legend

 

Sir Alex Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson

The famous old saying “Love it or hate it; But you can’t ignore it” is very much relevant for football lovers while speaking about Sir Alex Ferguson. It is not the fact that he ranks highly amongst the most accomplished managers in the history but it is the attitude of craving for further glory with every success that  makes him special.  His meteoric rise from being a ship mechanic and a part time player to be one of the managerial greats in the history of the game have inspired many including me. With Aberdeen he broke the monopoly of the Glasgow clubs by winning the league title. Following the sacking of Ron Atkinson as Manager of Manchester United, the Old Trafford hierarchy moved quickly for his services in on 6th Nov 1986. He broke Liverpool‘s decade long dominance of English football or knocked them off their fucking perch as Fergie quotes. He created a dynasty of players at Manchester United who brought success after success and made Manchester United the most popular club in the world. He has been a tough disciplinarian through out his life dishing out his own ‘hair dryer treatment’ to his super star disciples. It has earned him a nick name ‘Furious Fergie’ during his time in Scotland. His victories didn’t confine to the trophies he had won managing teams alone but also included proving celebratred pundits wrong (Fergie’s Fledglings of 1995),  mindgames with rival managers (Like the Kevin Keegan Affair of 1996) and transfer battles (Including most recent Ronaldo – Madrid – Berbatov – Spurs tug of war). Even after 50 years in Football his love and spirit for the game remain untarnished. Apart from numerous team and individual honours he was rightfully Knighted in 1999 for his services in developing football in UK. He stands tall amongst managerial stalwarts as a gladiator conquering arenas one after the other and capturing the imagination of millions on the way. My salutations to him being a lover of the game and a Manchester United supporter.

Slumdog Millionaire – A Critical Review

For the past few weeks Slumdog Millionaire dominated the television channels and newspapers. Media celebrated Golden Globe awards with much fervour and hailed it as a big achievement of Indian cinema. But I was disappointed when I saw the movie and didn’t justify the hype and media circus around it. I think we had much better movies inthe past. Even in case of A.R.Rahman who deserves recognition has done better with tracks in movies like Bombay (Tamil, Hindi) and Minsara Kanavu (Tamil). These factors prompted me to think about what is different in Slumdog Millionaire which suddenly grabbed the attention of the western world. The answer is simple. It is portraiting pain, misery and poverty in India conforming their image of India. I believe western world is finding it hard to come in to terms with the fact that India is developing. They like to think about India as a place dominated by beggers, people practicing black magic etc. It can also be seen in other English movies like ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’. In the hindi movie ‘Namastey London’ there is a scene where a foreigner is shown referring India as ‘a land of snake charmers’. This phenomenon is not only restricted to movies but also to other art forms like painting, photography etc. On a totally unrelated note calling people living in the slums as ‘slumdog’ only because they are poor is not right. I guess producers of the movie would have to pay millions in law suit if they had referred to some one in US as a slumdog. Finally when I read a news paper article which said producers of the movie Slumdog Millionaire are planning to start a television spinoff in which millionaires from UK will visit Mumbai slums to help them in front of the cameras, I was left wondering…….. What next?!