This is absolutely ridiculous.  Ben Foster, the Manchester United goalkeeper used an iPod in training to learn up penalty-taking habits of Tottenham Hotspurs players leading up the the League Cup final last Sunday.  This apparently “had the potential to exploit a loophole in the laws which should be referred to FIFA", according to former Premier League referee Graham Poll.

It was such a game changer in fact that the English FA has had to come up to dispel any notions of wrong-doing in a statement, according to fourfourtwo.com.

It’s amazing to me that this should even be brought up at all.  Should anything and everything related to technology used in conjunction with football training be scrutinized as well?


read more

There is always a danger when you start to believe your immortality. Granted, Roger Federer has more cause to believe in his own hype that most, seeing that he is indeed one of the more dominant figures in his sport. However, there comes a time when you have been completely and utterly beaten that maybe it’s better to be gracious about it and let the worthy winner bask in the sunlight for a bit.
Modesty has never been Federer’s forte. Some would say he can pretty much say whatever he wants, and I totally agree. The man is entitled to his opinions. But perhaps he should start looking at the stats and concentrate on bettering his winning ratio against Rafael Nadal than to keep offering up excuses for his defeats.
After a while it becomes tedious to hear him complain about his shortcomings rather than to praise his conqueror. Like in the case of the Aussie Open mens singles final 2009, where he said things like, “In a fifth set, anything can happen. That’s the problem. Not usually the better player always wins. Just a matter of momentum sometimes” just comes across like the musings of a sore loser. And what about the disbelieve when Federer found out that Andy Murray has been installed as the favourite at the start of the Aussie Open?

“He’s playing well and finished well last year. But I’m surprised that the bookies say he’s the favourite. He’s never won a slam, it’s surprising to hear.”
“He’s playing with good confidence. But winning a slam is a different animal, not many guys have been able to do it.”

Murray, of course, beat Federer in their last three encounters, including twice in January alone.
Nadal and Federer have great finals, and both times now Nadal has denied Federer his chance of making his mark in history. This is no fluke – against all odds, Nadal pushed arguably the best player of his generation to another gruelling 5 set epic in a Grand Slam final, and most importantly, winning it. Nadal is only 22, already has 6 Grand Slams and has nowhere to go but up. At that age, Federer only had 2 Grand Slams titles. I won’t be surprised if Rafael Nadal, one of the most gracious, humble and grounded top athletes I have seen, overtakes Federer’s achievements.
I much prefer Federer’s game to Nadal’s – it’s more varied, nuanced, and is simply entertaining in a way that Sampras’s game never was, and much better than Nadal’s constant power play. But Nadal has the better temperament – he shows a maturity that goes way beyond his years. I wish I would be that matured and gracious at 22 (I know I wasn’t, since I can’t play tennis. Aaaanyway…).
Roger, maybe graciously accepting defeat, giving Rafa his due and generally letting Rafa his time in the sun is in the long run a better thing for you than to always point out that the other won because you didn’t play your best. This has the effect of having the media pour their attention to him, moving the pressure off your back, allowing you to improve away from the harsh spotlight that’s constant and distracting. This is a good thing, and it’s something you may need to get things back on track.
Face it, your time at the pinnacle of tennis has past. It’s now up to you to claw your way back, without looking like a prune doing it.


read more

Sometime ago I actually wrote a piece about lovely chess players who added a touch of glamour to the game, but then the damn thing got buried under the sea of unwritten materials lying around in my brain.
Then something like this comes along and revives my interest in it. The story’s about a British Grandmaster who punched the World No 3 Men’s chess player for dancing with Australia’s No 3 woman chess player. Yeah. When you read someone’s just walloped somebody else over a chess player, you know you wanna check it out.
I’ll spend some time to really write about this, but a quick background – many a moon ago, I was in a chess reacquaintance phase, I actually came across the lovely Alexandra Kosteniuk, the Women’s Chess World No 3. I thought it interesting that it never occurred to me before that beauty and brains (well, chess anyway. I know a lot of idiots who plays good chess) can combine, and in Alexandra, combined well.
I hope Alexandra doesn’t whack me for this, but seeing that there really are only 2 people who read this blog (yes, mom, you too), I think the Russion beauty wouldn’t mind me posting by far my most favouritest picture of her.


read more

What champions are made of

I’ve finally figured it out.
Actually, not true. I’ve known about it for a while now. But there is a palpable sense of ‘knowing’ that hit me recently that tells me the answer to the most pressing question that is plaguing all our minds, messing with our sleep patterns, and generally causing us general discomfort.
The question is, of course, what does it take to make a champion? (See? Doesn’t this question bother you?) By champion I don’t mean some evangelist or something that IT companies nowadays keep tagging their most enthusiastic personnel i.e. Java Evangelist, Microsoft Vista Product Champion, etc. No. I mean the ultimate in sporting excellence. Champion with a capital C.
I mean, take a look around you. Roger Federer is at the top of his game, and nobody comes close within touching distance of what he has achieved. Tiger Woods is another prime example. Now him I’ll talk about a bit later. And in my favourite sport badminton, the top dog happens to be a rather arrogant chap named Lin Dan. Women’s golf – Annika Soremstam. All these people have something in common – they win. And they keep winning.
You see, I’m baffled by the inadequacies of the Malaysian badminton team. The Malaysian hockey team. (I’m tempted to say Malaysian football team, but let’s be honest here – whom are we kidding? I’d sooner pay more attention to MyTeam than to bat an eyelash at what the national team is doing).
I simply do not understand. For years I’ve been puzzled by this weirdness. Take the badminton team. Our players are brilliant. Let’s face it – they are actually pretty damn good technically. They have all the strokes, footwork, wristwork, skills, shots, even the damn t-shirts down to pat. I’m of the opinion that our best players are as good as or even better than the top players of the world. Actually, I believe this to be true of all head-to-head sports – the top players of the world are separated in the skills department by a factor of less than the width of a molecule. They are so close it doesn’t bear mentioning.
HOWEVER. However, there are people like the ones I mentioned above who keep on winning. What is it that keeps tipping the winds in their favour?
The answer: mental toughness. Champions simply think differently. They have a different mindset. They don’t exist on the same plane of consciousness as lesser players (okay, that was stretching it a bit. I’m rambling okay, stick with me).
I believe that the difference between a champion and a wannabe champion is the way they think their way through a match. It can be very simple – the champion focuses on the prize, and blocks everything out except the prize. Like Rand Al-thor in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, they focus on the ‘flame’. Or it can be the ability to withstand pressure – especially when matches come down the wire. Or it can be more complicated that that, although I can find no examples for complicated champion thinking because I think simply and I’m not a champion of anything yet. But you get the point.
Tiger said something recently at World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational 2006 that resonated with what I was feeling: “My body took me out of the tournament and my mind will bring me back in it,” he said, when asked what his attitude had been after a very bad second round. “I didn’t hit the ball good and my [putting] speed wasn’t good early, but the mind is powerful enough to tell the body what to do.” He went on to get within 1 shot of the leader the next day, and won it eventually.
And I just (just! The power of the Internet…) found out that he has won his fifth straight golf tournament in the Deusche Bank Championship, bringing his total to 53 career wins thus far.
In fact, I think the very definition of a champion is how he/she can overcome difficult or almost insurmountable resistance to rise above it all and win. I can’t count in my hands how many times I’ve seen Roger Federer dig a whole so deep for himself (or the opponent digs it for him) that he is sure to lose, but somehow he finds strength from deep within to still come back and win it. Lin Dan can surely come from behind for a famous win. He’s done it so many times.
Champions don’t sweat it when they are behind. They *know* they’ll catch up. This is what’s missing from the Malaysian badminton players. They think ‘oh, I’m losing, but it’s okay because the person who’s whipping my ass is better than me, and I’m already in the semi-finals’. That’s not the attitude to have!
Granted, there are those who focus on the flame so intently that it may as well be a freaking bonfire and still not win anything. Now that is the skill of the champion mind. I acknowledge this happens – sometimes not everyone can simply ‘think’ like a champion to be a champion. That is the conundrum of the situation, and a secret I know no answer to. If I knew the answer to that you’d be watching me wipe the smirk of Lin Dan’s face, I kid you not.
But truly the key to greatness is in the mind.
I think there should be fundamental trainings on the mind for all our atheletes, especially our badminton players (because I love the sport and they break my heart everytime. I hate that feeling). They should be trained to think like a champion (yes, even though I said they may still not be champions even after such a training, but training is better than no training). They should learn not to buckle under the pressure.
I’ll talk about Tiger and the power of his mind later. I’m supposed to go to sleep. Champions have to sleep too, you know.


read more

I don’t know about you, but it seemed to me 2 years ago, after Michael Schumacher kept winning race after race after race, that Formula 1 needed some breath of fresh air.
Once I went on walks in the park and a total stranger on his cellphone said, “What, go to Sepang to watch the race? Why, so that we can see the same bloke win again?” Yes, things in F1 is getting way too predictable.
There were a few things Mr E (too lazy to spell out his full name, and risk getting it wrong) could do to inject some excitement back into Formula 1. Here is a recreation of a checklist that he probably had stapled on his desk at work:
1. Hire more chicks, er, ladies to perform on the tracks as the cars speed by. Hazardous, but what’s entertainment without a little risk?
2. Impose ridiculous rules that restrict engine changes and other technicalities previously allowed in an attempt to level out the playing field (oh, wait, we’ve already done that)
3. Ask everyone to license the Ferarri engines.
4. Tell Schumacher to lay low, swallow his pride for a season or two. For the good of the sport, you understand. So what if you get extend your record for consecutive podium finishes, if nobody turns up to watch you spray champagne? So restrain yourself for a couple of years. Relax. Then turn on the heat again when the prevalent feeling is that there are worthy others aspiring to your throne.
I’m inclined to believe Mr E chose option 4. What else could explain the timely drop in Ferarri’s performance just in time for the new season two years ago? Coincidence? From being totally dominant, and completely out of the competitive picture the next season?
Schumacher says, “Alonso, that upstart, now has two championships!!! It’s time to get mine back!” And promptly wins two races in a row.
I wonder how many think along the same lines?


read more

I don’t know if I wished this would happen, but I certainly didn’t feel too surprised when Nadal beat Federer –
again. This time marks the third time Nadal whacks the No 1 in a final, and what a game it must have been. I didn’t watch it, but I sure wished I did.
You see, I love Federer’s game. He is mentally strong, and his game is almost flawless. Even when he’s hanging by the skin of his teeth, he can claw his way back and win the match. I’ve seen it happen a couple of times already. The other times he just won outright.
Until this Nadal chap. He is the antithesis of a good tennis player for me: total power. Sure he wins matches, but it’s a damn boring way to win. That’s why Federer always gets my view time, while Nadal doesn’t.
So anyway, I wanted to say that it’s great the Federer’s been beat, because despite all his talent, he is getting too arrogant for his own good. Amazingly, if you read the post match interview, he didn’t exactly give credit to Nadal for winning, rather his disappointment at losing to himself. Ah, well, actually that’s not too bad. But I’d rather see him humbled a couple of more times to that he’s a little more down to earth.


read more