Categories
Sports

Galeano on Di Stefano

The entire playing field fit inside his shoes. From his feet it sprouted and grew. Alfredo Di Stefano ran and re-ran the field from net to net. He would change flanks and rhythm with the ball, from a lazy trot to an unstoppable cyclone; without the ball he’d evade his marker to gain open space, seeking air whenever a play would get choked off.

He never stood still. Holding his head high, he could see the entire playing field and cross it at a gallop to pry open the defense and launch the attack. He was there at the beginning, the during and the end of every scoring play, and he scored goals of all colors:

Watch out, watch out,

here comes the arrow

faster than all get out.

The crowd would carry him off on their shoulders.

Di Stefano was the engine behind three teams that amazed the world in the forties: River Plate, where he took Pedernera’s place; Millonarios from Bogota, where he sparkled alongside Pedernera; and Real Madrid, where he was Spain’s leading scorer for five years in a row. In 1991, years after he retired, the magazine France Football bestowed on this Buenos Aires boy the title of “best European player of all time.”

Categories
Movies Random Sports

Random Notes #171

** Correctly predicted 4 of 5 major Oscar awards this year. Not too bad, or as Sudeep put it, Oscars were just too predictable. Just too point out a small thing. The Social Network, while being a really good movie, is not an Oscar material. And I personally think its a little hyped. Eisenberg and Garfield were really good though.

** As I think more about it Black Swan grows more on me. The entire movie revolves around Natalie Portman, and she carries it off really well. Leon, V for Vendetta, and Black Swan all feature her starting off really unsure of herself, and discovering herself with the help of someone else.

** Watched The Inside Job finally, and I feel that it is one hard hitting documentary. It makes no bones about pointing fingers and pointing them at big and important people and institutions. Good job!

** Also, there was a discussion on the BITS alum mailing list over The Inside Job, Rajat Gupta, and the financial meltdown and the role the Wall Street played in the crisis. Though some really good points were made, I really did not see anyone come out in support of the financial industry. Maybe its just not fashionable. Though I am myself not a huge fan of the industry and its bonus system, I would still like to point out a few things. The financial industry still remains the place to be in for people who want to be close to the action and make shit loads of money. Someone said they don’t make anything, but I do believe that a number of products they create are really innovative and require as much technical inputs as say designing a search algorithm. And as for greed, its the same across industries. The pharmaceutical industry is no stranger to not such smart decision making. J&J (they have a case study in BSchool on them and they ethos) has had more recalls than probably the entire industry together, and that is almost in the last year or so. I guess the BP fiasco is still fresh in people’s memory. Intel, and its anti-competitive practices are well known, and so are the mistakes made with user data by Facebook. The energy industry, the mineral industry, the diamond industry, the automobile industry. You name it, and they have made some very stupid mistakes. People praise successful people and deride ones who aren’t. I am pretty sure that most of us would have given anything (and most would still do) to work for Dick Fuld, and now we wouldn’t touch him with a 10 feet pole. Hindsight, as the say, is always 20/20. To make the call in real time, while the shit is happening, is what it is about. May be one day we will stop the shit before it hits the fan.

** The post number is England’s score for the match today, and as the Gods would have it, yet again, SA have… well, choked!

Categories
Sports

Random Post #11746

Less than an hour before the start of the Common Wealth Games 2010, Rahul writes about biased media coverage, and the Indian concept of Jugaad. Further read the thoughts of Ms Adlington on the CWG Village, which I must confess even I find hard to believe. Also, as it usually happens, my thoughts are in the comments below the post. Unusually, Rahul and I agree. The MBA must have had some impact!!

***

So the Ayodhya verdict is out. While many are happy, and some others not so much, most people agree that the common Indian really doesn’t give a fuck about it. I was about ten when it happened, and almost have no memories of the event. The then sleepy town of Siliguri was mostly peaceful if I remember correctly. And most of India’s youth would have been even younger, and couldn’t care less. I guess.

Personally I feel that the output of the civil case is nothing to write home about (except the preludes to the judgement, they are awesomely written – read them here), I would be more interested in the criminal case linked to the event.

However, some have said that the decisions do not satisfy them. To those, sane people who are dissatisfied by the decision, I ask – are you folks unsatisfied about the civil outcome, or are you dissatisfied that the criminal case has not yet been decided upon?

***

I have kind of recovered from Conjunctivitis, which is an irritating disease, both metaphorically and literally.

***

The post number was generated by using the RAND function in Excel, which means only one thing – I am clearly spending unhealthy amounts of time with the application.

Categories
Books Review Sports

Soccer in Sun and Shadow: Mini Review

You can’t write enough about a book that begins with, “We lost, we won, Either way we had fun.

In the book, Eduardo Galeano takes you through a brief history of football (soccer to him) through the last century, inter woven with a lot of social commentary. You get goosebumps reading his description of certain goals, matches, and individuals. Though not as intricate in social details as CLR James in Beyond the Boundary, you can clearly see the viewpoint of a South American in a game that was then managed by the Europeans.

To choose a few highlights from the book would be a travesty, given that every short note (the maximum length of a chapter is three pages) is a masterpiece in itself. You would have read authors describe players, plays, matches, or rivalries, but have you ever read an ode to the stadium? Read what Galeano has to say of it when a goal is scored.

“… the stadium forgets that its made of concrete and breaks free from the earth and flies through the air.

There is nothing more mute than the stands bereft of people.

At Wembley, shouts from the ’66 World Cup which England won still resound, and if you listen very closely you can hear groans from 1953 when England fell to the Hungarians. …… The Stadium of King Fahad in Saudi Arabia has marble and gold boxes and carpeted stands, bit it has no memory or much of anything to say.”

Or what he says of idols.

“Sometimes the idol doesn’t fall all at once. And sometimes when he breaks, people devour the pieces.”

And of course, he writes the most (for a player) about Maradona, who he felt has not been fully understood and punished too often for speaking out his mind.

“Maradona charged a high price, and paid one as well. He charged for his legs – and paid with his soul.

Diego Armando Maradona never used stimulants before matches to stretch the limits of his body. It was true he was into cocaine, but only at sad parties where he wanted to forget or be forgotten because he was cornered by glory and couldn’t live without the fame that wouldn’t allow him to live. He played better than anyone else in spite of cocaine, not because of it.”

If there is only one soccer book you will ever read, let this one be it!

Categories
Sports

In defence of Nadal

Let me begin by saying that I am not a huge Nadal fan, or a huge Federer fan. Nah! That spot remains reserved for Agassi,  my all time favourite – the flawed genius. This post is inspired more by a long discussion that Parul and I had last weekend while watching Nadal steam roll his way to his fifth French Open title.

Nadal is not the most graceful player we have seen. Nor is the most skillful. But he is one helluva hard worker and all his matches reflect this where he seems to carry on despite all the sweat and grunting. 7 Grand Slams, including one on hard court, and an Olympic Gold, along with numerous ATP titles, are a testament to his game. Add to this the fact that he is perhaps the only player to have a upper hand against Federer, and that too consistently. Even on grass, Federer’s favourite surface, Nadal has proven to be a worthy competitor.

To say that he isn’t a tennis great as he hasn’t won much else on surfaces other than clay is akin to saying Bjorn Borg isn’t a great as he hasn’t won the Australian or US Open. To be fair to Nadal, his style of playing isn’t too conducive for the hard surface, or for that matter a long career. Despite that, he went on to win the Australian Open in 2009, beating none other than the great Federer. Says something, no?

In fact, he has beaten Federer to win 5 of his 7 titles just proves how good he is. To be a worthy competitor to Federer when no one else has come close is an achievement in itself. When the two have met in Grand Slam finals, Rafa has won five times, losing thrice.

I don’t know if Rafa will be counted as an all time great, but I know for sure that if I am asked to list players I enjoy watching play, he would be on it!

As he says often (hat tip Jabberwock), “We gonna see, no?” – Yes, we are!!

PS: What is it with tennis and men crying on court?? Federer, Murray, and now Nadal. I know you need metrosexual fan following to sell all the products you guys advertise. But for Christ’s sake, stop being sissies!!