Category Archives: sports

Every Four Years


Every four years, sportsmen and women gather in some corner of the world to “contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play” (plagiarized or Melania Trumpized from the Olympics organisation).

And every four years, everyone seems to be watching the Olympics, talking about the Olympics or blogging about the Olympics.  Bowing to immense pressure from shareholders, the Lone Grey Squirrel has reluctantly agreed to do an Olympics post to boost flagging blog traffic.

But of course, this squirrel’s nod to the Olympics has a nutty flavour.  Without further ado, here is our tip of the hat to the Olympic sport of gymnastics.

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The Good Ol’ Days


Ah, the good ol’ days.  Will we, in Malaysia, ever see the likes of those heady days again?

The year was 1980.  The nation was not that wealthy but we were rich in natural resources, bolstered by a burning hope for a brighter future and rich because we enjoyed a very special and unique heritage of multiculturalism in which there was much mutual respect and appreciation between the main cultural groups of Malays, Chinese and Indians and also amongst the other minority groups.

It was a Malaysia that many of us were proud of.  And perhaps rather emblematic of the nation’s psyche and indeed the state of the nation at that time, was our national soccer (or football) team.  1980 represented the pinnacle of achievement for Malaysian football.  It was the year that our ragtag team of part-timers shrugged off a couple of years of middling performance, rallied under a new coach, forged a strong sense of identity and defeated the much feared and favoured South Korean powerhouse in dramatic fashion.  They scored the winning goal in the last 5 minutes of the match to win 2-1 and it meant we qualified for the Moscow Olympics.  We even beat Arsenal and held other visiting professional clubs to a draw.

Unfortunately, the team did not get a chance to play at the Olympics as Malaysia joined the U.S. led boycott of the games in protest over the Russian invasion of Afghanistan.  Yet, despite the disappointment, it did not seem to matter cause the country was filled with optimism that better days and greater achievements lay ahead for soccer team and for the country.

As it turned out, Malaysia’s fortunes in the beautiful game declined steadily since then.  Our FIFA world ranking fell from a high of 75th position to 174th position; placing us in the same group as countries like Timor Leste which doesn’t even have any proper soccer facilities.  Critics refer to the end of meritocracy, the rise of racism and political interference as well as corruption as the causes of the decline of the national team.  Sadly, this seems to have mirrored what has happened to the country in general.

This year, a movie was released called Ola Bola which its director claims is “inspired” by the true story of our national team’s glorious march to Olympic qualification in 1980.  In fact, much of the movie seems entirely true to the actual historical events.  The three main heroes of the movie were Tauke, Ahmad Ali and Muthu who were quite clearly based on Soh Chin Aun, Hassan Sani and Arumugum – the real three Malaysian football heroes who also happen to be Chinese, Malay and Indian respectively.  Many Malaysians enjoyed the movie because it reminded many of a better time when racial harmony was not only stronger but in fact held up as an example internationally.

Indeed, many urged Malaysians today to take up the message that Malaysia would be stronger if we were united despite our different backgrounds and not divided along racial lines.

A powerful message indeed and one really worth heeding but sadly, there is also a point of controversy.  The movie changed the winning score of that game with South Korea from 2-1 to 3-2; perhaps for the sake of greater drama. But the movie also changed the identity of the person who scored the game winning goal. If the movie were to be true to history, then the character Eric (who is based on the real life Malaysian soccer hero, James Wong) should have scored the last goal.  Instead, in the movie, Ali is the game winner; leading some to wonder if that decision was made so that a certain segment of Malaysian society would be more willing to watch the movie – which seems to compromise the anti-racist message of the movie.

Ah, Malaysia…..if only we could go back to that simpler, happier and more hopeful time.  I miss it so.

ola bola players
Comparing the actual players and their respective movie characters from Ola Bola
james wong hassan santokh soh chin aun
Some of the Real Heroes today :- (L-R)  Hassan Sani, Soh Chin Aun, winning goal scorer James Wong and Santokh Singh

Another Not Another World Cup Soccer Post


Be warned, this will be a long and wandering post as I am delirious from squirrel pox fever.  But I think you will like it if you make it to the end.  If you are short of time, just watch the videos.

Four years ago, the World Cup was in South Africa and in the midst of the frenzy of postings about the soccer matches on blogs, Facebook and Twitter , I, the Lone Grey Squirrel, boldly stood firm against the tide and posted about rugby in “Not Another World Cup Soccer Post“.

And so, this year, I have decided to do “Another Not Another World Cup Soccer Post”.   And so starts a great new tradition.

So what will this post be about?  Well, not rugby cause I did it the last time but suffice to say that England lost again to the New Zealand All Blacks; losing three out of three games.    So it’s not just soccer that England sucks at.

England sport lose

No, this time, the World Cup is in Brazil and though I have never been to the Land of Samba and Carnival, Brazil is very special to this squirrel.

One of the reasons is  “Brazil – where the nuts come from“.  That phrase which is music to a squirrel’s ears is actually a line from the farce, Charley’s Aunt which was written by Brandon Thomas and first performed in 1892. Some consider it one of the best farces ever written and it is built round the concept of an aristocratic English nobleman being persuaded by one of his University friends  to play the role of a rich aunt of that friend.  It is in that capacity that he identifies himself as Charley’s aunt from Brazil – where the nuts come from.

Jack Benny once played the strange looking aunt.
Jack Benny once played the strange looking aunt.

 

And these are the nuts that come from Brazil. Really.  Brazil nuts. Yum Yum.
And these are the nuts that come from Brazil. Really. Brazil nuts. Yum Yum.

 

Another reason I love Brazil is because of the movie of the same name by Terry Gilliam from 1985.  This dystopian satire rails against bureaucracy gone mad and made all powerful.    The movie is wonderfully crazy, romantic and tragic.  I recommend it.

In the scene I have included in the video below, the Government has issued a warrant for the arrest of one Mr. Archibald Tuttle for committing acts of terrorism against building plumbing and air ducts.  Unfortunately, while the arrest warrant was being printed, a fly falls into the printer and causes it to misprint the name as Archibald Buttle.    The video now takes you to the home of Archibald Buttle just before Christmas………

Haha.  I love it when the wife is asked to sign a receipt for her husband!  Wonderfully bureaucratic.

And did you hear that tune at the beginning of the video? That’s another reason I love Brazil…. the wonderful song called Aquarela de Brasil or Watercolours of Brazil which was written by Ary Barroso in 1939.  i love the infectious rhythm.

The  English lyrics are as follows:

Brazil
The Brazil that I knew
Where I wandered with you
Lives in my imagination.

Where the songs are passionate,
And a smile has flash in it,
And a kiss has art in it,
For you put your heart in it,
And so I dream of old Brazil

Where hearts were entertaining June,
We stood beneath an amber moon
And softly murmured “someday soon”
We kissed and clung together,
Then tomorrow was another day
The morning found me miles away
With still a million things to say

Now when twilight dims the sky above,
Recalling thrills of our love,
There’s one thing I’m certain of;
Return I will
To old Brazil.

Enjoy the song which was also the theme song for the movie, Brazil.

South America 8 North America 1


So hey! It’s World Cup time again and 32 nations are battling it out on the football (or soccer as the Americans insist on calling it) fields of wild and wonderful Brazil.  More than 3.2 billion people are expected to watch one of the 64 matches which makes it the second most watched global sporting event behind only the recent Olympics.

Many Malaysians and Asians have developed “red-eye zombie” – like symptoms from watching the live broadcasts of the games in the wee early hours of the morning.  But not me.  I am not a rabid football fan and am content to just catch up with the highlights at a more civilized time.  So I remain bright eyed and bushy tailed.

No, the World Cup was not responsible for my short absence from the blogosphere.  I have actually been busy with work.  Still I keep an eye on the results and there have been some interesting games like the following;

  • Brazil 3  Croatia 1   (Brazil gets the Samba party going.)
  • Netherlands 5   Spain 1  (The Dutch humiliate the reigning World Champion)
  • Costa Rica 3  Uruguay 1  ( now that was a surprise for everyone including the Costa Ricans and a nasty one for the Uruguay fans)
  • Italy 2   England 1  (Not really a surprise for any long suffering English fans who claim that “it was England that gave the world the modern game so could you kindly stop giving us a thrashing” ).

But the one result that I really enjoyed watching was

S. America 8   N. America 1

I refer to the battle royale between the Official World Cup Song  “We are One” and Video by Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull (Team North America) versus the “other” song, “La La La” and video by Shakira and Carlinhos Brown (Team South America).

Here is a play by play:-

  1. North America scores early by getting their song recognised as the official World Cup song (GOAL!!)
  2. Pitbull starts but his efforts are impressive.  He doesn’t seem to be working hard at the game.  His lyrics and his moves seem lazy and uninspired.
  3. North America’s top player, J. Lo, did bring some pace into the play but in the end was out danced, out sung and had no  way of keeping up with Shakira’s rapid  hip movements.
  4. As a whole the North American effort was predictable and uninspiring.
  5. Playing for South America, Carlinhos is actually Brazilian, (GOAL!!) and he brings along an infectious rhythm to the game.
  6. Shakira is their superstar and she delivers with her performance (GOAL!!)
  7. Team South America gives us a great catch phrase in “Leggo” (which is street slang for ‘Let’s go’) which is trending on cyberspace and being shouted in the streets. (GOAL!!)
  8. Shakira teamed up with Activia to raise funds for the World Food Programme and feed chidren through its School Meals initiative (GOAL!!).
  9. Team South America’s video includes  actual football players (GOAL!!) and children (GOAL!!) and people from all around the world (GOAL!!).
  10. In the court of public opinion too, South America held the advantage.  On the opening day of the World Cup, Shakira’s video has already had more than 100 million times, some 25 million more views than J. Lo’s video.  There is actually a Twitter campaign to get Shakira’s song adopted as the official World Cup song.  A poll taken by ET showed that 75% of respondents prefer Shakira’s song.  (GOAL!!)

Anyway, this squirrel is all out for Team Shakira!

Here is her video and you really don’t have to be a football fan to like it.  Enjoy.  Squirrel signing off……la….la…..la…..la…..leggo.

Winter Olympic Sports for Dummies


I haven’t been sleeping much.  This form of insomnia afflicts me once every few years, whenever the Olympic Games are on.  Currently, it is the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games which is the source of my insomnolence.    The time difference means that I need to stay awake from 2 to 4 in the morning to catch the best events live.   Events such as the USA-Canada Gold medal women’s ice hockey match earlier today which incidentally was everything you would want in a game if you were an ice hockey fan and a Canada-phile like me – less so if you were rooting for Team USA.

This was really a heartbreak for the Americans who went 2 – 0 ahead and were generally having a much better game than their rivals.   Victory was within grasp.  But even as the Americans already had one hand on the gold, the Canadians drew one back with just 3 min 36 seconds remaining in regulation time.  Still, USA just needed to keep the Canadians out for just a few minutes.  Ah, but Canada gets another goal with just 55 seconds left, sending the match into sudden death overtime where they sealed their remarkable comeback victory with a goal at the 8 minute 10 second mark.

It had thrills, excitement and drama.  It was great.  It kept me up into the wee hours of the morning and now I walk around with dark rings under my eyes – and them be Olympic sized rings too!

Have you been watching the games?  Many of the events in these Winter Games are strange to a non-skiing tropical squirrel like myself.  Perhaps they may also be strange and unfamiliar to some of you dear readers?

As a public service and after intensive and exhaustive research, the Lone Grey Squirrel presents “Winter Olympic Sports for Dummies” to provide enlightenment and better appreciation for these weird and wonderful sports.  Here I try to give simple and concise descriptions for each sport.

Ice Hockey – A smash and crash, check and deck, slash and dash fest involving a puck, fights and men (and women) with false teeth.

Curling – Stone throwing

Bobsled –  A sport where you jump into a coffin and slide down a frozen Wet n Wild ride at breakneck speed.  Don’t know who Bob is though?

Skeleton – That’s when you do the same thing but can’t afford the coffin.

Ski Jumping – “Oh, I believe I can fly, I believe I can touch the sky” A cruel sport where spectators yell out “Jump! Jump!”

Skiing – The sport is just going downhill all the way.

Speed Skating  (Short Track) – A great sport for watching spills and multi-person pileups.

Speed Skating (Long Track) – a sport that seems to really only involve orange clad Dutchmen standing on the winners’ podium – so it really hasn’t anything to do with the rest of us.

Biathlon – Sport endorsed by the NRA.

Figure Skating  – This genteel and graceful sport involves kneecapping and death threats (see Tonya Harding video).

Well, that’s all folks.  Must try to sleep now.

 

 

 

Squirrel Nit Picks the London 2012 Olympics


 

Well, at last the London 2012 Olympics is over -maybe now I can return to my normal sleeping schedule.  Malaysia came away with 1 silver medal from men’s single badminton and 1 bronze medal from women’s diving 10 m platform.  Many thanks to those of you who sent messages of congratulations. I am particularly proud of our women’s bronze medal won by Pandela Rinong Pamg as she was not expected to medal at all.

Many thanks also for those of you who sent messages of condolences.  It’s true. 2 medals is not much of a tally.  But in a way we have been robbed of Olympic glory by the choice of sports in the Games.  For example, Malaysia’s Nicol David rules the squash courts.  She has won 6 of the last 7 World Squash Open titles.  Unfortunately, squash is not a recognised Olympic sport.  Despite lobbying efforts, it will also not be introduced during the Rio 2016 games.  It was nudged out by the introduction of golf and Rugby 7’s.  Now I love Rugby 7’s but find it hard to believe that it has more fans than squash.

Rio 2016 is also replacing windsurfing with kite surfing.  Well, if we can replace games, I recommend  replacing floor gymnastics with parkour.  Talk about bringing the sport out to the people!  The second sport that I would recommend is competitive 100 m bungee jumping to replace  10 m diving.  In 10 m platform diving, there is only a few seconds for the competitor to entertain the audience with all kinds of twists, turns and somersaults before they hit the water where it is deemed that the less of a splash made when entering the water the better.  Well, in 100 m competitive bungee jumping, the competitor has at least 10 times more time to do his/her stunts and then gets to do even more during the rebound and subsequent bounces.  Now that is value for money!  Also, there is no splash at all unless the bungee cord snaps!

Squirrels would do very well in the sport of nut picking but again, it is not a recognised Olympic sport.  Well, if I can’t “nut pick” then by George, I’ll nit pick.

Lone Grey Squirrel’s Nit Picking Report on the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Well, the entire London 2012 Games, including the starting and closing ceremonies and even the stadiums cannot hold a candle to the visual and financial extravagance of the Beijing Olympics.  The London Stadium seemed so pedestrian compared to the Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing.  Still, this squirrel actually liked the more down to earth and less extravagant approach which seems like a sensible thing to do in these difficult economic times.  The stadiums and venues may not have been spectacular architectural marvels but they were comfortable, functional and did a good job of showcasing the athletes and their sports.  Maybe London 2012 has set the standard for practicality and common sense.

I enjoyed the opening and closing ceremonies but then I have a certain understanding of the history of British culture.  I could not help thinking that many global viewers may not know many of the British icons feted in the two shows.  The closing ceremony also seemed a bit indulgent to the baby boomers.  Much of the music is probably a little inaccessible and even alien to many of today’s young people.  For example, I am a fan of the band,  Madness, but their heyday was over 30 years ago.  My personal favorite was Mr. Bean playing the theme from “Chariots of Fire”.

Many people have said that these have been very friendly games and this does seem to be the case.  The whole scene when China’s Liu Xiang (the favorite for gold), pulled his Archiles tendon and crashed out of the 1st heat of the 110 m hurdles competition represented everything good about good sportsmanship.  Despite the pain, Liu Xiang hopped along to complete the course long after the race was over and his fellow competitors helped him to his bench after he crossed the finish line.  Good show all around.  This is also the games in which a double amputee successfully makes it into a semi final race in competition with full abled competitors.

The saddest and most shameful scene involved the South Korean fencer Shin A Lam who appears to have been robbed of her place in the women’s epee final by what appears to be a mistake made by the timekeeping official which allowed Shin’s opponent to score a point after the time should have expired.  She was such a forlorn figure sitting on the stage by herself for close to an hour because of rules that say that she would forfeit her appeal if she left the stage.  The final decision was also unsatisfactory and the offer to give her a medal for sportsmanship very insulting.  A sad Olympic ending for an athlete who had trained hard for 4 years for a medal.  Shin, I applaud you and say shame to the FIE.

 

Overall, despite some early screw-ups, these have been well executed games that impressed by showcasing the sports and athletes instead of fanciful infrastructure and that is a good thing I think.  So City of London and the British people win by a unanimous decision over Mitt Romney.

 

 

 

Athletic Squirrel


Gabby Douglas (U.S. Olympic Gymnast) nicknamed “Flying Squirrel” (Photocredit: Reuters)

With the London 2012 Olympics permeating the airwaves and holding court in the newspapers, it is perhaps not surprising that I have decided to write about the Athletic Squirrel.  In this post, I shall regale you with tales of my athletic prowess and sporting achievements.  My wife rolls on the ground laughing when she hears me tell of my days of glory in the basketball team and doing the high jump. This annoys me but I realise that her disbelief may have something to do with the fact that these days, I am kind of short for my weight and my centre of gravity is rather low.  Nevertheless, I hope that you gentle readers will be more gullible..believing.

Competitive Monkey Bars

My earliest foray into the sports arena occurred when I was in kindergarten.  I was trying to beat my personal best time on the monkey bars when there was this slow poke holding up traffic on the apparatus. Being highly competitive and motivated, I pulled his hands off the bars to get him  out of my way.  The little twerp fell heavily to the ground, started crying and went to complain to the teacher and I was pulled off the monkey bars, disqualified and banned from the sport.  And so from an early age, I was traumatised for being punished for being competitive and I think this had a lifelong impact which reflected in my lack of future success in sports.  Yes, that’s probably the reason.

Roller Skating

I took up roller skating when I was about 12 years old.  In those days, roller skating was in its infancy in Malaysia.  The roller skates were not like the sleek roller blades of today but more resembled something assembled from spare parts found in a car chop shop.  In fact, my pair came with its own set of spanners and tools.  It was the good old days before safety helmets or knee pads.  Heck, our skating rink was the school car park.   I got pretty damaged with many scrapes and bloodied knees.  But as I recall, it was damage done to teachers’ cars parked there from collisions with the soft bodies and brains of hurtling student skaters that resulted in the sport being shut down.

Fencing

This is even an Olympic sport!  And I picked it up at school when I was just 13.  We were fortunate in having a teacher who was a fencing enthusiast.  He single-handedly set up the school fencing club, buying much of the necessary equipment including the swords, masks and protective clothing out of his own pocket.  Like many other youngsters at that time, i jumped at the chance to play at being a swashbuckler like Errol Flynn ( I guess the current equivalent would be Capt’n Jack Sparrow aka Johnny Depp).  We poked with the foil, slashed with the epee and did all sorts of nonsense with the sabre.  The teacher held a school-wide fencing competition and I made it to the semi-finals.  I eventually won the bronze.  Unfortunately, during the course of the competition, our over enthusiasm cause many blades to be broken.  So, fun was had by all except the teacher in charge.   Left with only a couple of functioning swords, the broke and broken teacher had to shut down the fencing club after only one year of running.

High Jump

This one always cracks my wife up but it is absolutely true.  When I was about twelve, all the kids in that year had to take part in sports tryouts.  So I tried out and rather unexpectedly, after a little coaching, I was able to make the cutoff mark in high jump.  The coach gave me a letter asking me to join the athletics team to train for high jump.  I took that letter excitedly home to show my parents.  My mother immediately penned a letter to the headmaster in which she requested that I be exempted from  high jump practice because I was already soft in the head and  could not risk further injury.  That was the end of my high jump career but what could have been…what could have been…

Basketball

This was really the sport of my childhood.  I played it every week and whenever I was free when I was growing up.  However, in Malaysia, a cager was a dime a dozen and I did not really stood out.  It was only when I went to UK (in those days, basketball was not quite as popular as it is now) that I had a chance to be chosen to be part of the school team.  Unfortunately, I was in the reserves and probably had less that 15 minutes on the court during the whole season.  Ah, well. It meant some traveling and missing some lessons so it wasn’t a total loss.  Almost getting killed on a basketball court during a showdown of rival school gangs kind of took the shine off the game a little for me. Still, the main reason I dropped out in later life was the lack of easily accessible basketball courts.

Cross-country Running

My days at a British school just before University, also introduced me to a number of sports.  One that I always remember is the 10 km cross-country run.  We were all required to run and train for this 10 km race which took us along the beaches of Brighton, then up along some white chalk cliffs before proceeding inland towards the rolling hills called the Downs.  We ran on pebbles, on roads, through country lanes, through pathways crossing farms and even along a horse racing circuit.  Being in England, it could be hot and dry, and wet, cold and blustery all in the same day.  I was not among the top runners but I ran the race twice and I am happy to say that I made it.  I completed the race and I wasn’t even the last one to finish.  It was embarrassing to have been caught trying to catch the local bus along part of the route on the last year I took part.  In my defense, it was raining and that stretch  is just uphill all the way!

Rugby

That same school also insisted that I play rugby and so I did.  I can honestly say that in my entire rugby career, I probably never held the rugby ball more than ten times, never successfully scored any points nor tackled any opposing player.  Let’s face it.  I sucked at rugby.  Most games, my highlight was getting to at least slap the opposing player on the stomach as he ran past me on the way to score.  Today, I am still involved in rugby but my proper field position is that of “spectator”!  I am a very good spectator and rugby fan.

Cycling and Swimming

On a more serious note, cycling and swimming are perhaps two sports that I actually a little proud of.  The first time I took up cycling was when I was about 14 and I almost got myself killed on the road that same year while cycling.  But despite the shock, I still loved cycling.  When I was in Ottawa, Canada for my postgraduate studies, I took to cycling to my University as a way of saving money and got quite good at it by the end of my stay there.  Among my adventures was cycling in the snow (wonder if that will ever be a Winter Olympic event?) and completing a 20 km  ride.

I can swim but then again I suppose 80% of everybody swims.  I did swim reasonably well in my youth though again not at any competitive level.  Unfortunately, today, I probably swim more like a frog than a dolphin.

Well, that is my fairly embarrassing tale of my sporting achievements.  Don’t you just hate all those over-achieving Olympic athletes.  Always support the under-dog.