Friday, June 27, 2008

Substance Not Symbolism

In the horror and destruction that has engulfed Zimbabwe and its people over the last few years the condemnation of that country’s leadership has been loud and clear, at least amongst the Western democracies. Political and economic sanctions have been imposed, perhaps justifiably, as its citizens are subjected to a continued onslaught of brutality.

As the reports cascade out of Zimbabwe reporting murder, rape, torture and a general imposition of destruction of a once healthy, economically structured nation. Opposition from outside has swung from the (failed) gentle nudging of South Africa to the more (failed ) confrontational approach of the EU and USA. Today’s election is clearly nothing but another oxymoronic addition to those gerrymandered and corrupt elections witnessed the world over.

So with the reek of fear, death and a bleak future, at least in the short term, how does the British Government respond, what meaningful sign of Britain’s determination to stand up for the people of Zimbabwe is declared? The Queen announced that HE President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe will be stripped of his honorary knighthood. Is that all the British Government has got?

What seems even more shameful is that this motion was discussed and debated in the House of Commons. Surely, a person of the most simplistic humanity could declare that there are far more effective sanctions that can be imposed by the 5th largest economy in the world. It is meaningless and an embarrassing statement of Britain’s opaque foresight in world affairs.

Modern Britain is burdened, somewhat unjustly, with alleged sins of empire. Any former British colony, especially one that has fought a divisive civil war against a racist and minority government, is bound to be sensitive to British involvement in internal affairs. But the current state of affairs in Zimbabwe has gone beyond colonial sensitivity. Britain, the European Union and the wider world should be more aggressive in their condemnation of human rights abuses. An Iraqi life, an Afghani life, a Jewish life, an African life, a European life and an American life is not worth more than a human life. Real intervention is required, peacefully by all means possible, decisively when required and with humanitarian ideas at all times. The people of Zimbabwe deserve more than an empty symbolic gesture of an outdated relic by its colonial rulers. Blood is still more expensive than oil.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Two on the Trot

In five seasons of playing for DEH FC never have we started the season as well as this year, played 2 won 2, scored 3 conceded 1, 6pts from 6. Remarkably we are currently only 1pt shy of our total for last season and have already outscored the previous season (our “relegation” one) by 4pts. Things are looking on the up!

Our 2nd game was played at the same venue as our 1st, out in the wilds of Hiroshima state. Whenever it takes more than one hour to get to a ground, spirits are usually not too high, but with the missus driving and with an adventurous air we managed to arrive at our destination in good spirits.

I managed to get to the ground 5 minutes before kickoff comfortable in the knowledge that games always start later than scheduled, and thankfully I was not too be disappointed as I ambled up to be the 12th and last man of the lineup.

Missing from our last game were our new manager and regular keeper to be replaced by our irregular, and freakishly tall sticks-man from the last couple of years. In fact we seemed to be missing a few other bodies from May, but during the warm-up (obviously mine consisted of kicking the ball against the wall a bit) they seemed to be pretty good.

The game itself was a close, end to end affair with DEH dominating the scoring chances and even though Honkawa FC shaded the midfield with two rather robust players not afraid to put the boot in. I hovered around the front line providing support and allowing my partner to zigzag dynamically across the pitch, like a fevered terrier. It worked as we went in at half-time 1-0 up.

The goal had been coming, only minutes before a great move was only just thwarted by the out-rushing keeping getting some part of his anatomy to deflect the goal bound shot. When finally DEH did find the back of the net, it was a well worked move, a fast zipping cross into the D of the box which was volleyed first time by Jaime, saved acrobatically and then rolled into the back of the net by my terrier like partner. Coming only a few minutes before the break Jaime pattered himself on the back and was content that he could be substituted at HT having contributed towards our lead. Except….

After telling Yuiji, our skipper, that the old legs needed a blow in the summer heat and a wonder off to sit in the cool shade of the veranda to peruse the 2nd half in comfort would be ideal, I was somewhat shocked to be told that our “12th” man was a defender and didn’t need know how to attack. Well I resisted the temptation to suggest that I wasn’t exactly knowledgeable in the department either – turkeys don’t volunteer for Christmas. So as the whistle blew, I strolled on hoping the noggin wouldn’t get too burnt from the sun…

The 2nd half was another tight affair, with DEH wasting two glorious opportunities to make the game safe. The team did resort back to some bad old days of “pussyfooting around” (as my mother likes to condemn any team who pass the ball without an end result) whilst not actually shooting much. Still, as the final whistle blew and I could still move my lower limbs without pain, a very satisfactory feeling embraced the whole team.

I strolled off to find the missus, who had spent the game time eating and cleaning the car, rejecting the opportunity to watch her other half tutor the younger team members in the art of preserving energy on a football pitch.

On the journey home we spotted a sign advertising a Sri Lankan restaurant, which seemed too good an opportunity to reject. We still suspected we would be presented with a Japanese interpretation of Sri Lankan cooking, but to a great surprise, there plopped in the middle of nowhere was pucker Sri Lankan chef, who was very pleasant. He was also an excellent cook and the food was both outstandingly tasty and ridiculously cheap. Another visit is planned.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Some Random Thoughts

To revel in someone else’s misfortune does not seem a rather gentlemanly occupation to partake in. And yet, I must admit to a degree of satisfaction whilst watching Italy lose on penalties to Spain in the QF in Euro 2008. I have no real grudge against Italy, indeed I am rather fond of their wine, food and history. However, I do have a personal enmity towards a certain Italian football player who should have been banned for a long time after his brutal attack against the USA’s Brian McBride in the 2006 World Cup. Due to FIFA weakness an initial 5 match ban was reduced to 4 games allowing the miscreant the opportunity to play, and score a penalty that helped Italy become world champions.

So it was with a contented grin that Daniele De Rossi missed a penalty that contributed towards Italy’s elimination from Euro 2008. In the ways of karma I suppose it doesn’t quite balance out, but nonetheless maybe a small act of the Gods applying a degree of retribution for that savage injury.

It should perhaps be noted that Brian McBride, who to this days suffers from nerve damage in his face publicly called De Rossi a “classy” guy for apologizing to him after the match. I think it perhaps says more about the class of McBride than anything else.

The Euros (and by the way, when did that moniker start being applied?) have been entertaining in a distant sort of way. I don’t buy in to either of the approaches being adopted by exiled England fans and pundits. Firstly, it is not “more relaxing” because we don’t have to suffer the ineptitude of 11 Englishman trying to find each other win a football before crashing out in a penalty shoot-out. Nor do I wholly accept that “it is short term pain for long term gain”. Yes England have a smart, tactically aware, star non-obsessed (and Italian) coach, but look at the small print – 34% of the Premier League are English qualified. It is just painfully embarrassing that England are unable to qualify for a major championships – winning it may be beyond us, but hell qualifying? Richest league in the world - not in English talent it isn’t. But I have beat that drum many times before…

So Cristiano Ronaldo is off to Real Madrid in a “world record fee”. I am torn, he has been a great player for my beloved United, but if he really wants to go to Real then take as much money as you can get and re-eneregise the team with the cash. Then again, why should United acquiesce to a player and a club (Madrid) that have acted beyond the pale? This, considering we are talking about modern football, is concluding quite a lot! Say no to his increasingly petulant demands and tell him not to instigate a move 6 months after signing a 5 year contract. Sadly, the inevitable seems, well inevitable and he will be off, but it is a gamble for the player, Real are hardly the most stable environment to grow as a person and player. Ronaldo could yet regret his haste in moving, even if his hangers-on, agent and bank manager disagree.