Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Football match: Finals SUPER MRSM KKB

(*UPDATED 3 AUGUST 2007. See note at bottom)
My son, Ahmad Syafiq is at home recuperating from a soccer game injury. Rather then lazying around and sleeping all day long, I managed to get him to write about his soccer game. This is his story:

Ahmad Syafiq, No. 21 (Ruby team captain, that's my son)

Ruby Football Team

Sapphire Soccer Association

Last Saturday was the final match for inter-homeroom football tournament at MARA Junior Science College Kuala Kubu Bharu. The match was between my homeroom team, Ruby Football Team, and Sapphire Soccer Association. Before we reached this stage, my Ruby Team had trashed Emerald Football Club, 4-0. While Sapphire Soccer Association beat Topaz Soccer Club, 3-2.

Before the kick-off, my team did some warm up to make sure we were physically ready to do some heavy job. After that, as the captain of the team, I picked out the first eleven players to play for the first half of the game. This was the first eleven starting line up which I picked:

First Eleven: Ahmad Syafiq, Nafis, Abqhari, Akhmal, Suriyong Sayrie, Rashid, Hafiz, Shahril, Hamdi, Poeh and Galuk.

Subs: General, Penyu, Shahzulrain, Along, and Amir.

We stepped onto the wet field with full of confidence to win the gold medal. So the whistle was blown by the referee and we started our game with high hopes. Suddenly, something magical happened. We led the game by the beautiful, superb long-range goal by Hafiz Idris. We celebrated the goal together.

One minute later, came another much more beautiful goal from our player. This time, Galuk the brilliant college’s striker made a curl-shot in front of the goal and the opponent’s goalkeeper could just look as the ball touched the goal net. Pity them.

A moment later, something horrible happened to me. While trying to save a ball, I was kicked in the stomach by one of the Sapphire strikers. It was a very painful experience. I was ruled out from the pitch, and after that could only watch the game from the fans seat. I was substituted by General, the college’s second choice goalkeeper (I am the first choice goalkeeper for the college).

I watched the match full of eagerness to continue play but what can I say. If you were injured, you just have to stop playing and take a rest. That’s all.

However, I am proud to report that the match ended with Ruby trashing Sapphire 5-1.


My brother Man sent an sms saying that getting injured playing football is actually "a family tradition". My father broke his collar bone playing goal keeper in Kirkby, Liverpool. Man also got injured. And now, Syafiq, the third generation. Thus, he says Syafiq "should be proud" to have kept the family tradition alive. Its almost like receiving your badge of honour, Syafiq.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

A slap on the wrist for bloggers

I started blogging in February of this year in order to record my thoughts, express my views and feelings, and – maybe, share my thoughts with anyone who would care to read the blog. Pretty innocent stuff, blogging, I thought to myself.

But a few months ago we saw two bloggers being slapped with law suits. Last week another one was summoned to have his statements recorded after a police report was made against him.

Whoa...what’s happening here?

The worldwide trend is plain and crystal clear for all to see. The number of blogs as of May this year was 60 million – and growing at a quickening pace. According to the blog tracker, Technorati, some 75,000 blogs are created daily. That means on average one new blog is created every second of every day!

Individuals, business people, politicians are blogging, the world over. It’s an excellent medium for expressing views, and an equally good source of information.

Despite of this, Malaysian bloggers are really getting a slap on the wrist, and that's putting it mildly. It’s like we are going backwards in the IT age (the Multimedia Super Corridor notwithstanding). The urge by certain quarters for us to move on and drop our so called “third world mentality” therefore rings hollow. Shame on you.

After 50 years of Merdeka, is this all we've got to show?

As a society, maturity, sadly, eludes us. Sloganeering and hypocrisy rules, OK!

Selamat Menyambut 50 Tahun Kemerdekaan, Malaysia (read: how I feel pity for you).

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Liverpool FC's new, exciting stadium

Liverpool FC today unveiled the plans for the club's new 60,000 capacity stadium in Stanley Park. Scheduled for completion in 2010, the stadium is designed to be able to increase its capacity to nearer 80,000 when needed.

The stadium is testimony to the commitment of the new owners of Liverpool FC, George Gillett and Tom Hicks.

Something very special about the stadium is that it was painstakingly re-designed to put the Kop as its centrepiece – complete with acoustic treatment to make the noise generated by Scousers an unforgettable and intimidating experience by visiting teams.

Here’s to the future!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Nadiah's Barbie Dolls

This piece is written by my daughter, Nadiah. She is 9 years old. She came with the idea of writing about her dolls while watching me posting on my blog this morning.

Assalammualaikum, saya akan menceritakan pasal permainan BARBIE DOLL saya . Saya mempunyai 3 barbie dolls. Saya suka bermain dengan Barbie saya. Barbie saya sungguh cantik dan saya rasa nak beli lagilah. Tetapi ayah saya tak kasi.

Nama babie saya yang pertama sekali saya ialah Nadiah. Yang kedua pula namanya ialah Ariana, dan yang ketiga pula nama dia ialah Sabrina. Barbie yang pertama sekali tu dia suka sangat pakai baju warna pink. Yang kedua pula dia suka pakai baju warna emas, yang ketiga pula dia suka pakai baju belang. Mereka bertiga sungguh comel dan cantik.

Okeylah sampai sini sahajalah.


Bota Kanan memories

Last Sunday, on my way to Lumut, I stopped by at Bota Kanan, a small town located close by the Perak River. Bota Kanan is where my family used to reside during my pre-school age.

It is quite amazing how this old town has managed to maintain its charm and character even though it has now been four decades since we stayed here. The town still has its two rows of shop houses along the main street. Although many of the shop houses are now rebuilt in concrete, the total number of shops have remained except for the addition of a Lembaga Tabung Haji building. In fact, some familiar shops from yesteryears like Kedai Ahmad Radzi are still standing. The Kedai Ahmad Radzi still retains its all too familiar bamboo blind in front of the shop, with the old style Bata shoes advertisement etched on it still visible.

From the town, I proceeded to our old house located close to the Ipoh-Lumut road and the Bota-Parit road staggered junction.

The house is still in its original condition, except for an iron grill attached to the main front door, that is. It is a sign of the modern times, I suppose. Those days, if we are in, Mak could leave the doors ajar all day long without a single worry about thieves or burglars sneeking in.

A quick survey of the house brought the good old memories flooding back.

There, on the front main staircase, was where my brothers and I would spend time climbing up and down the sidewalls. We had a few photos of ourselves taken on the steps as well by Apak.

The verandah. Oh, yes…another favourite play area. Sitting surrounding our Nyang (great grandmother), that was where we would intently watch her light up her rokok daun. Mmm...I can still smell the aroma. Occasionally she would bring out her gobek sireh. And that’s when my brothers and I would fight to do her the favour of preparing her sireh.

Under the house was where we used to play the more active games like kad gambar, kayu tiga, rubber band and the likes. It provided a good shade from the elements. I remember Apak used to park his bright red Toyota Corona (plate number: AF 8166) here too.

Sometimes a serkap ayam or two could be found under the house also. Mak used to rear chicken and ducks. I remember her going around the house compound looking for the duck eggs under the small trees or behind the bushes and shrubs. Those ducks never liked to lay their eggs in one place. Must have been pretty smart ducks, I suppose. Obviously they've heard the saying "never put all your eggs in one basket"! Nevertheless, it was good fun for us kids. It was like a treasure hunt of sorts for us.

As I stood there, in front of the house, I could also remember all the rooms inside the house. One room for my brothers and I to sleep in. One for Apak and Mak. And then there was one small room where Apak used to keep his work stuffs and our new set of encyclopedia, i.e. the New Book of Knowledge, published by Grolier, New York (1966). I used to sit on the floor flipping through the pages, enjoying the pictures and graphics. Sometimes, with the help of Mak, we would try to do some of the origamis illustrated in the volume “O” of the encyclopedia.

The living room was where our brand new black and white television set was located. I can’t remember what brand it was. But I do remember that it only had a couple of knobs on it used to switch it on and control the volume. A far cry from our flat screens today. Oh, there was another, bigger knob, used to change the channels. Very important to have this, in order to make one’s choice and switch between the many channels available back then; RTM1 and RTM2!

With Star Soccer being a favourite program of Apak those days, the living room was also where I was first introduced to English football. I also remember watching programs like the Land of the Giants, The Samurai and Wrestling from Great Britain. One of the cartoon programs way back then was the Gigantor. Pretty cool stuff.

Yes, those were the days. The carefree, days of early 1960s. How time flies. But alhamdulillah, praise be to AlLah for those good memories.

Bota Kanan main street

Town mosque

The local football filed at the Rais Bakar Stadium, which serves as a flood playground whenever the Perak River bursts its banks those days

The old Post Office, still standing

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Malaysian football: down in the pits

Malaysian soccer is really down in the pits, where one can go down no lower. And it really stinks down in the pits, you know.

Just a while ago we got clobbered 5 – 0 by Uzbekistan in the Asian Cup 2007 match. That follows on the 5 – 1 slaughtering at the hands of China two days earlier.

In the 1960’s and 70’s Malaysia was a power to be reckoned with as far as soccer is concerned. We were the first Asian nation to organize an annual cup tournament. The Merdeka Cup – mooted by the Tunku as a celebration and reminder of Malaya’s independence in 1957 – was duly emulated by a string of other nations.

Those days we used to trash Japan and Korea. They might have had Kim Jae Han and Kamamoto as weapons in their armoury. But we had our Super Mokh up front, and a stable back ably marshalled by Towkay Soh Chin Aun.

The Malaysian team was well supported, in fact adored, by the public. I remember making the long trip to Kuala Lumpur all the way from Bota Kanan, Perak, with my father just to catch our heroes in action. If not, then we would be huddled around our trusty old transistor radio, together with our next door neighbours, to follow the games live.

But just look at where Japan and Korea are now. They have reached the World Cup Finals several times over. Whilst we are left, nay, stranded, behind. The likes of Vietnam and the Philippines who never even knew what a soccer ball looks like up until a few years ago have all managed to beat us. While we were once feared by Korea and Japan, nowadays even tiny Brunei fancy their chances whenever they meet us.

Shameful, embarrassing, scandalous. These are words that come to mind when we talk about the current state of Malaysian soccer.

How have we come to this? In one word: MIS-MANAGEMENT.

When the current head honcho and his band of merry men took the helm of Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) in the early 1980s, that was the day when the rot started. They are not footballers. Never have been. They just fancy themselves as football aficionados. They don’t really love soccer. To them it’s just a hobby, something to muse them. It has all to do with the fat salaries and allowances, and power, that go with helming the biggest sporting body in the land.

I would say get rid of them. The whole lot! They’ve had their chances. They’ve been at it for more then two decades, and they’ve outlived their ‘sell-by’ dates. So it’s getting to be really stinky.

Please go. Malaysian soccer fans deserve better.

Monday, July 09, 2007

20 Top Most Liveable Cities

Karlsplatz in the Munich City Centre

On June 19, 2007, the International Herald Tribune reported on the “World’s Most Livable Cities,” (read the full article here).

The top 20 cities are as follows:

20 Geneva - Switzerland
19 Paris - France
18 Hamburg - Germany
17 Singapore - Singapore
16 Auckland - New Zealand
15 Vancouver - Canada
14 Kyoto - Japan
13 Barcelona - Spain
12 Montreal - Canada
11 Melbourne – Australia

10 Madrid – Spain
Culturally, Madrid has undergone a renaissance. It now attracts international theatre, dance and music, and will be the seat of the new Royal Spanish Ballet.

9 Honolulu – USA
Honolulu fits the definition of a global city - a palm- fringed metropolis with a population as diverse as its flora.

8 Stockholm – Sweden
This city has ordered, mature beauty. The beauty of its people, of its buildings, of its waters and parks.

7 Sydney – Australia
Perpetual blue sky, the harbour, the stunning beaches, the bushland humming with wildlife... Sydney's natural beauty is relentless.

6 Helsinki – Finland
Over the past decade the European fashion chains have arrived, while smart bars have replaced the old beer cafés. However, the city retains a distinctly Finnish quality. The fashion, music, film and art scenes are blooming, and the Nordic welfare model guarantees a high quality of life for virtually everyone.

5 Vienna – Austria
European grandeur meets modernity in the new Vienna. The Austrian capital, famous for its rich cultural heritage, also has a progressive eco- friendly municipal government. Smart white and red trams cover 30 routes, and the metro is punctual, smooth and clean

4 Tokyo – Japan
Integrated transport, breathtaking technology, great service and the best bars make this a top big city. The real Tokyo for the most part confounds expectations. Visitors are rarely prepared for the other side of the city, so unlike its raucous alter ego: the quietness of the subway, the peaceful residential streets, the old-fashionedness of the place.

3 Zurich – Switzerland
Small and perfectly formed

2 Copenhagen – Denmark
A new wave of Danish architects, designers and chefs, plus some joined-up thinking by city officials, has seen Copenhagen reborn to the extent that locals now refer to it as the gateway to mainland Europe

# 1 Munich – Germany
A winning combination of investment in infrastructure, high-quality housing, low crime, liberal politics, strong media and general feeling of Gemütlichkeit make it a city that should inspire others.

But, where are the Malaysian cities? If Singapore can make it to No. 17, then perhaps (I mean surely) Kuala Lumpur, or even Putrajaya, should be somewhere up there in two or three years time.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Sakinah ready to roll

I'm ready to roll! Are you?
(Sakinah in the car, getting ready to stay behind at the Polytechnic)

Today Sakinah got enrolled at the Politeknik Sultan Azlan Shah, Tg. Malim. No doubt it is an historic day for her, setting out to undertake tertiary education in her chosen field, accountancy.

The brand new polytechnic campus is located in Behrang, one and-a-half hour's drive from home. Although the campus was choked with traffic, the registration went very smoothly.

Sakinah shall be here for the next three years. Insya Allah after that she'd take a shot at the degree course. Last night we had a heart-to-heart talk with Sakinah to get her mentally prepared for this part of the journey of her life.

All the best Sakinah. Abah will miss waking and dragging you out of bed every morning to do your suboh prayer. And I'll be missing you too to help clean my dirty plate after dinner every night now. And, oh, who's gonna feed the guppies? Sigh...

Registration went smoothly

All made up, and ready to study

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Torres for Liverpool

Things are finally looking up on the players transfer scene at Liverpool FC. The BBC has reported that Atletico Madrid striker Fernando Torres, 23, is poised to fly into Liverpool to undergo a medical on Tuesday before completing a £26.5m switch to Anfield.

Meanwhile Luis Garcia is moving the other direction. Garcia has been good to Liverpool. He has scored in crucial matches - the goal in the CL quarter finals game against Chelsea in 2005 probably being the most memorable one. All the best to you Luis. And welcome on board Fernando.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Good for the 'Seoul' and mind

I was in Seoul for the past three days. This was my second visit to Seoul. And it’s nice to be back. Although this time it was too brief a visit and not enough time to walk around and experience the city as planners would often like to do.

My visit this time was to give a talk and share the planning and development experience of Putrajaya with the Koreans are building their very own brand new administrative centre soon.

Seoul is one of the largest capital cities of the world, with a population of around 10 million. This figure accounts for about a quarter of the total national population within an area of 605 square kilometers, or 0.6% of the entire country. This makes Seoul one of the world's most densely populated major cities.

Seoul became the capital of the nation in 1394 and since then its population has grown 110 times, turning it into the primate city for Korea dominating over other regions in terms of economic, social and cultural development.

The city has eight subway lines that connect every district of the city with one another and with the surrounding area. The system is used by some 8 million passengers a day! But is said to be already bursting at the seams due to rising demand for travelling, no doubt. Traffic congestions are quite bad, as I found out first hand.

It was partly in response to these issues that the Koreans are anxious to disperse development to other parts of Korea through promotion of growth of hinterland cities. One of these shall be the soon to be developed Multifunctional Administrative City located some two hours drive out of Seoul.

Although the proceedings of the symposium was quite hectic, there was one place which I was very determined to visit and have a look. So it was with a little bit of persistence on my part, and loads of Korean hospitality, that I managed to visit (after 9.30 p.m.) one of Seoul Metropolitan Government’s major urban beautification and river revitalization project in the form of Cheonggyeccheon (pronouned: Cheong-gek-cheon).

Cheonggyecheon is an old stream which flows through Seoul city centre. For many years, the stream had been covered by concrete, and later a highway built running over it. For all intents and purposes, it was regarded like another sewage line. That was until the authorities dismantled the elevated expressway and the road over the stream. I was told there was a lot of opposition to it in the initial stages, especially from business communities affected by the project.

But today, it is an asset which Seoulites are proud of. It has introduced a natural ecosystem at the heart of an urban metropolis, a green linear corridor with clean water running through it.

On the night of my visit to the place, there must have been hundreds of people along the stream having picnics, resting, taking a stroll, or watching small fishes in the stream. I was told by Dr. Im Seung Bin, Professor of Landscape from the Seoul National University, that the project has even managed to reduce the average urban temperature in the vicinity of the project by about 3 degrees Celsius. With the world facing rising temperature, this means a lot for the comfort of Seoul urban dwellers.

I hope those in charge of up-keeping our rivers will take a leaf out of this Seoul experience. Enough talk of channeling rivers or building over them.

The benchmark is to open them up and turn them into amenities for all to enjoy. “Jalan biar ke depan” dan”Jangan Pandang Belakang” for goodness sake!

Photo notes: From top - Seoul skyline; downtown Seoul; daytime at Cheonggyeccheon (photo from internet); night time at Cheonggyecheon - people dipping their feet into cool clear water (photo from my visit).