Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The reply from the Northeast

After writing a letter of application for the vacant manager's job at Sunderland A.F.C. 13 days ago, and not receiving any communication from the club since then, I thought that Sunderland really would treat my application as the hoax that it really was and that there would be no chance in a million years that I would even get a reply from them. To my utmost surprise, this wasn't the case and today, I received a reply from Sunderland in the post! Obviously, I haven't been considered as an a genuine applicant for the job but I'm extremely happy that the club took the time to reply to that email that I sent them. Hereunder is a reproduction of what the letter stated:
Private and Confidential
Address Only

(My address)

10th December 2008

Dear Matthew,

Thank you for your recent letter regarding the vacant managerial role at Sunderland.

The number and calibre of candidates for the role has been very high and unfortunately will be unable to progress your application further on this occasion.

Thank you for your interest and may we take this opportunity to wish you every success in your career in the future.

Yours sincerely,

Sunderland AFC
If there was only one thing that I had to complain about though it would be the fact that my letter has not been signed by anybody! However, I know that it is official because it was printed on a paper demonstrating the Sunderland club emblem at the top, and the club sponsors and address of the club at the bottom. Further to that, the envelope was stamped by Sunderland A.F.C., fully affixed with a return address, and the letter left the UK via the Royal Mail office, fully paid airmail, at Newcastle-Upon-Tyne on the 12th December.

Thank you Sunderland - even though the expected reply came along, you definitely made my day by acknowledging that that I wrote!

God Bless You all,

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Matti applies for a Job (at long last!)

... and believe me guys, you're not really going to believe the job that I did apply for...
(My address... don't want it to show here, do I?)

The Sunderland Stadium of Light,
SR5 1SU,

To whom it may concern:

My name is Matthew Borg. I am a 19-year-old second year law student at the University of Malta, and I am interested in applying for the current vacant managerial post at Sunderland A.F.C. following the resignation of former boss Roy Keane.

I believe that I am a suitable candidate for the post having had three years of experience managing my school team in my homeland of Malta, to which I managed to lead my side to an inter-college tournament final in 2006 (which my side lost 5-4 on penalties after a 0-0 draw), this apart from countless hours of playing the acclaimed game Football Manager, which has given me a deep insight with regards the tactical side of the game. Indeed, my resume with whatever team I have managed within the game has always been impressive. I consider my greatest achievements to be winning league championships and UEFA Champions Leagues with Inter Milan (Italy) and Paris Saint-Germain (France), as well as winning the Barclays Premier League with Everton and taking them to the Champions League final, shamelessly losing to Chelsea on penalties. While at these clubs, I also have developed an eye for young talent, who, with the right nurturing, became superstars for my clubs. Among these players one can find Sherman Cardenas, Nicolas Millan and Jose Luis Silva, among others.

I believe that the current crop of players at Sunderland are of a very good nature, but understand that if I am appointed as manager of the team, I will need to work hard to command their respect. I feel that the side's most identifiable players are Djibril Cisse, El-Hadji Diouf, Kenwyne Jones, Steed Malbranque and Kieran Richardson, and that these players can propel the team to survival this term and to greater things in the future. Such players must be considered as an investment for Sunderland, as the team can continue to build around them in order to strengthen the team considerably in the remaining departments. I also believe that the current weak-link within the squad is its defence. The team's best defender being Anton Ferdinand, I am of the opinion that he needs a quality fellow centre-half to accompany him. Perhaps, in the short term, I would look to loan out Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic, who is well down the pecking order at Stamford Bridge when first team defenders Ricardo Carvalho and John Terry are fully fit. Apart from investment in this area, I feel that Sunderland also need a classic right winger to provide crosses for the likes of Cisse and Jones. In this regard, a move for Liverpool's Jermaine Pennant might be realistic for the team. He seems to thrive when given the opportunity to play regular first-team football, as his season with Birmingham in 2005-2006 showed, and a move to Sunderland could suit him greatly in order for him to rediscover his potential and become, once again, a well-established player within the Barclays Premier League.

With regards tactics, I am a firm believer in the classic 4-4-2 approach, with two attacking wingers and two midfielders, one in the holding role and one given the liberty to attack defences and open up and create spaces for the attackers. I believe that this tactic, when employed, gives stability at the back as well as allows the team to liberally attack. Of course, such a tactic can easily be adapted to a 4-4-2 diamond shape, for instance, with Dwight Yorke being used as a defensive midfielder (in order to bridge the gap between defence and midfield) and Malbranque being used as an attacking midfielder. While I believe that defending is important within a game, I am also very much in favour of attacking football, and placing constant pressure on the opposing teams' defences. In my opinion, players should be ready to adapt to whatever the coach and his staff believes is the best method to attain the best results possible.

I hope that this letter finds you in good stead and that you will consider my application for the vacant managerial post. I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.

Kind regards,

Matthew Borg.
And just for the record, I did send this in to Sunderland A.F.C. Now, in all fairness, I know I'm not going to become their manager, but even if I get a reply from them, I'll be delighted! I'll keep you updated with any communication from the club...

God Bless You all!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Lyons of Change

France may have reached the World Cup Final in 2006 but since then they have been in decline. Their league is even worse. Matthew Borg reports

If one had to look at the list of past champions within the French Ligue 1, one would see that Saint-Etienne are the most successful club in the country, with 10 league titles to their name. Marseille and FC Nantes Atlantique are joint-second on 8 titles, while next up are Olympique Lyon on 7. With the French football league running since the 1932/33 season, it would be suffice to reason that Lyon are amongst a host of clubs within the league that are steeped in history, be it past or present. Alas, that isn't the case; as all of Lyon's 7 titles have come, admittedly remarkably so, in the last 7 years.

It could have been worse, as Lyon could have also won the title in 2000/01, but finished 2nd in the title race to Nantes, losing out by just 4 points. And yet, it probably will become so by the end of the 2008/09 season, as Lyon are currently - ominously - 7 points ahead of their nearest rivals, Marseille, after just over a third of the season gone. If we take this into consideration, then Lyon would have won an even-more remarkable and unprecedented 8 consecutive league titles; a feat that has almost certainly never been matched in any European league, at least for a long time.

This is therefore a team that has dominated the French league to an unparalled extent for nearly the last decade. And, to make matters worse, this is often done with considerate ease; and an occasional change of coach does nothing to destablise the rhythm of the team. Lyon are so good that they even managed to win the league last season with possibly the worst coach in their history - the unfancied Alain Perrin, who had a terrible spell at Portsmouth FC in England in 2006, and often seemed clueless and fazed by the big occasion. Indeed, nearest rivals Bordeaux did make a title race last to the final day of the season, but then also capitulated when it mattered, losing their final match in order to give the league to Lyon on a silver plate (and a little bit more).

Lyon's success means that they are constantly in a league of their own when it comes to everything - competitions, players, youths; the works. A testament to their success comes in the form of selling off some of their best ever players to massive European clubs. Michael Essien left Lyon for Chelsea in 2005 for €40 million; Mohamadou Diarra headed to Real Madrid in a €26 million deal in 2006; Florent Malouda and Eric Abidal moved to Chelsea and Barcelona for €20 million and €15 million respectively in 2007. And who's not to say that French starlet Karim Benzema won't be on his way to Madrid or Barcelona for a similar fee come 2009? All Lyon will then have to do is find another starlet with bundles of potential - Kim Kallstrom being a great example - and subsequently nurture him until he becomes a superstar. They've done it before, and it's reaped it's rewards, and they'll do it again.

These sales have hence left Lyon in a stable financial situation; as they also know that they don't really have to break the bank in order to ensure that they win their league. However, when it comes to the Champions League, one believes that this is the case. But what already-established superstar would want to move to Lyon in order to play in a league that, year after year, sees the odds on who is going to win the league at the beginning of the season tumble even further? This is the reason why Lyon will never really seem to be a credible Champions League outfit. Indeed, however, Lyon might be dominating this era, and their domination - based on financial stability - could see them further dominate the French game for years to come.

God Bless You all!

Sunday, November 9, 2008


Many a time, it's those singular words that mean so much to a multitude of people. One word can potentially have a thousand definitions - for example, to us, God is the ultimate, everlasting authority in our lives, but to other people, God might be a deity, a Buddha, or, indeed, before I discovered Him, even Jose Mourinho (scarily enough). It's a case of words being subject to interpretation in all cases.

Hence the reason why I think 'change' can also fall into this category. In our everyday lives, when we speak of change, we often refer to receiving the remnants of the money that we regularly spend, or even giving away these remnants simply because they're a massive inconvenience. Most of us think in that manner as it is the most easily applicable theory. Many also see 'change' as a political slogan, such as that that US President-elect Barack Obama used in the recent White House elections, as well as that that the Malta Labour Party is currently promoting itself under. However, how many people have ever thought of the concept of change in terms of ourselves and our attitudes towards God and our faith? What can we do if the way how we perceive our relationship with the living Christ is stale, or if we feel distant from God?

The answer is simple: we have to pray. Through this, the following will happen, as listed in the Scripture:

The Spirit of the LORD will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person. - 1 Samuel 10:6

One might easily state that it's simple to pray to the Lord: just say an Our Father, a Hail Mary and an occasional Glory Be, and everything is done and dusted. However, although God hears all prayers, no matter how short, quick or detailed they might be, I feel that there has to be a certain purpose within that prayer itself for it to be truly effective. One cannot pray just for the sake of praying, as that defeats the purpose of entering into communication with God in the first place. One might also argue that if his/her relationship with God is stale, or if they feel distant from God, then how can they take heed of such advice, i.e. simply to pray? Here, I believe that personal experiences from other people should also come into play - testimonies could be used to show that the power of prayer does indeed change people into different ones to the ones that they previously were.

The Bible also tells us that if we constantly sin, then it is also best that we change our ways, for there could be severe consequences:

Give glory to the LORD your God before he brings the darkness, before your feet stumble on the darkening hills. You hope for light, but he will turn it to thick darkness and change it to deep gloom. - Jeremiah 13:16

No one is perfect in life, and, indeed, we all do sin, but we have to be man enough to realise that when we do so, we should own up and confess that that we did. If we don't, we will continue to stumble, as it states in Jeremiah, to the point where there literally will be no return. If we continue to sin but realise that it is too late to rectify that that we've done, then we will continue to fall into the abyss. However, this doesn't mean that the 'deep gloom' that we will pass through cannot be forgiven, for our God is an ever-forgiving God and an ever-loving God, and welcomes back everyone into His Kingdom with open arms, even though He doesn't need to. Therefore, this is another reason why we need to take the notion of change seriously, as otherwise, there is a real possibility that we will not end up in God's Kingdom at the end of the day, and that will definitely be the point of no return.

The notion of change is something that is therefore omnipresent. We have to subject ourselves to change in order to understand and appreciate the full glory of God, and perhaps, even more difficult than this, we have to be ready to subject ourselves to this change if we want to enter into a meaningful and blossoming relationship with the Father. The road towards salvation is never a straight path, but it is tight and twisty, narrow and often very bumpy. This is what models us into becoming good Christians.

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. - Matthew 7:13-14

God Bless You All!

P.S. Would those who read this blog and have Blogspot kindly subscribe to my blog by clicking 'Follow this Blog' on the right hand toolbar - I want to have a general idea of who reads this. Thank you!

Monday, October 27, 2008

ELSA Goes to Sicily - A review, an overview, my thoughts

Before I start, I just want to categorically state that I will, or am, by no means going to defend any actions that went on during the course of the weekend in Sicily. It is clear that certain elements of the trip could be very controversial in their nature, and hence I will not defend the actions of anyone who was subject to such controversy. Having said that, I will try and make sure that such controversies are not mentioned in this blog.

Relax u ek™
Needless to say, there were a host of protagonists throughout the course of the trip, but perhaps there were none bigger than Alex. Hell, when you have a t-shirt dedicated to yourself spanning across no less than 12 people (10 when you consider that two didn’t make the trip to Sicily), you know that you’ve reached a certain level of fame in the group. Alex, you see, is the epitome of ‘relax’. He is about as happy-go-lucky a character that one can have amongst them, and one that seems to be ready to attempt anything. Well done to him, then.

Most of the ‘relax u ek’ ideology came through the massive consumption of alcohol that occurred during the weekend. ELSA is synonymous with its drinking feats throughout the course of the three days in Sicily, with some people even sticking to a strict diet of alcohol for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Most times, this was combined with a delicious side plate of puke. Or, in Analise’s case, a piss in poor Mark’s hard-hat.

International Law… u ek
Of course, Sicily isn’t all just about the alcohol. It’s about the educational aspect as well. Which is the reason why the Government – yes, I did vote PN – were big enough suckers to pay for this trip out of their own coiffeurs via the Smart Card (and most people accepted this gift gratefully), all simply because we paid a visit to Catania University for a 20-minute lecture on International Law. Now, if I was the University, I would use the term ‘law’ in conjunction with ‘lecture’ very lightly, because this was anything but that. Speaking about Model United Nations, with a flyer being distributed in Italian, may cover the international foyer, but it certainly does not give an outlook to any legal spheres whatsoever. Indeed, I’d rather class this as a comfortable sit down in order to give the government a good reason to pay for this trip. Brilliant.

Perhaps we were chicken enough not to rent a car between us, especially after we found out that Krista and co managed this feat quite comfortably. Indeed, maybe only Mickey and myself were really up to the task of driving on the horrendously congested Sicilian roads, other than the girls who rented out a vehicle, but the end result remains that we still didn’t even try getting one. Perhaps it’s just as well, as apart from the roads being congested, the drivers there are worse than Malta. I swear.

Well, the sightseeing journey was not plentiful, primarily because we only visited three places in total – Catania, Acitrezza and Taormina – and secondly because the majority of us were too pissed to realise what was going on most of the time. However, a brief outlook on all three would not go to waste. The centre of Catania is a joy to behold with its historical buildings, long roads and numerous fashion establishments. However, there are a couple of downsides to this – there are quite a few pesky beggars, obviously wanting money. When we were having lunch on Friday afternoon, we must have had at least three different people coming up to us all and asking us for money. And needless to say, they get quite angry if they don’t get what they want – just ask Mark, who had a knife pointed at his throat by this brat of an (approximately) 8 year old child, just because none of us gave him what he wanted. Throughout the course of the day, we must have encountered such people at least 6 times. An answer to this? Do what Stefan was doing – offer them a cigarette, and they’ll go away with immediate effect.

Acitrezza, on the other hand, is the place where we were staying, and is a 15-20 minute drive from Catania. It’s a relatively small and peaceful fishing village, and here I’ll just give a small bit of credit to our hotel manager, who, despite providing us with two rather inadequate meals for dinner on Thursday and Friday, was very patient with us all as many held after-parties going on till even half 6 in the morning. And of course, a brief word on Taormina is also due – it’s a beautiful place perched on the top of a hill; a very picturesque pedestrianised place that gives beautiful views of not only the underlying sea but also of the historical landmarks situated within the town.

Strut your stuff
Of course, another integral part of ELSA is none other than the parties. And, to my great despair, I have to say that these were a disappointment, for the most part. I’m not saying that our first night was bad, or anything of the sort, but when you pay €27 to enter a place that should house at least 600 people, and then leave at half 12(!!!), then you have to be slightly disappointed at the very least. Perhaps even worse was the fact that we got lost on the way due to the sheer inadequacy of one of the bus drivers (not Luca) – it permitted many of us to end up by questioning what on earth was going on, and sobered many people up!

A word has to go to poor Stefan here though, who really managed to strut his stuff after getting out of the shower. His clothes stolen, he had to emerge from the bathroom with a towel covering himself and looking very much like a prima donna. Needless to say, the very notion of himself coming out of the bathroom, naked, with this towel just covering him, was hilarious. I’m just wondering at which point he thought it was a good idea to come out of the bathroom in this manner, not rinsed (he still had soap on him), with all his friends waiting for him(!!!)…

My thoughts on Smoking
As the majority already know – word spreads and photos on Facebook never do anyone justice – I was subject to having a couple of cigarettes while in Sicily, something that seems to have become quite a talking point among many of my friends. Firstly, I would like to clarify the situation – what happens in Sicily stays in Sicily – it has been done, and I cannot revoke that that has been done. Secondly, I am not going to be taking up the habit of smoking – I know what type of a person I am and I know that it is not in my character to do so. Thirdly, I feel that such ‘condemnation’ over this topic is unjustified, undue and unjust – as it says in the Bible, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her" (John 8:7). No one is perfect in life, and neither am I. So that’s that aspect all cleared up, I hope.

Final Thought
So as to not make this blog too lengthy, I have decided to conclude here. Most of that that I said has covered the duration of the trip, anyway. All in all, Sicily was a pleasant experience spent with some good friends. Without going into the merits of the case, I believe that there could have been aspects of the trip that could have been better than those that evolved throughout the duration of the three days, but overall, it was a better and more worthwhile trip than last year’s. However, a trip to Sicily next year could verge on the repetitive – indeed, I strongly suggest to the organisers to find another place next year.

God Bless and Take Care,

Thursday, October 9, 2008

If Only I Had Some Thoughts...

Well, go figure. I, prime thinker, have nothing to think about. So, well, I decided that now is an opportune time to think about God's love for us. I actually have something of the like on my laptop, which I might upload later if I deem it appropriate, as it was essentially a doodling of my thoughts during my quiet time at STRONGER. The reason is that because it was a 'doodle', it won't make much sense. And that's exactly the opposite of what the aim of my blog really is... I don't want to lead my readers into thinking that I'm just a bullshitter par excellence. Which I am, anyway.

Well, I decided to Google (!! - yes, I was feeling lazy and tired when writing this!) some Bible quotes with regards God's love for us, as I felt that these could really be attributed to STRONGER (for those reading who don't know what it was, it was Y4J's recent weekend live-in). Anyhow, in my opinion, this was the strongest verse that emerged of all:

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." - John 3:16

This quote managed to make me further reconfirm the love that God has for us all. God has no plans to abandon us when the going isn't good, because He knows that He can pull us through the hard times. God loves each and everyone of us so much that He gave us His only Son, who then subsequently died for us in the ultimate form of suffering - on the Cross. God loves us so much that we will be saved simply by believing in Him, nothing more, nothing less. He promises everlasting life to all of those who do so, it says it clearly in the Scripture! STRONGER was an opportunity for us all to reconfirm our belief in the Lord, and hence quantify not only our love for Him, but also His love for us.

Then I came across another quote that I thought was really applicable to the weekend as well:

"The LORD opens the eyes of the blind: the LORD raises them that are bowed down: the LORD loves the righteous." - Psalm 146:8

I thought that prior to STRONGER, we might have perhaps been blinded by circumstances that took priority in our lives. I'm not perfect, and based on personal experience, I was definitely one of these people as well. Times would pass where I wouldn't pray or spend some quiet time with God, and hence, start to become 'blind' once again. On the other hand, our faith might have grown stagnant and hence we might have needed to 'recharge our batteries'. This is what STRONGER enabled us to do as a group - it enabled us to realise that living in God's light, or, to use Andrew Consiglio's term, boarding and being part of the "ark", was the righteous thing. I felt that this weekend really helped a lot of people, myself included, to see this once again, and to get back on track with God firmly rooted in my life. Once again, I stress though, I'm not perfect... and indeed, there have been times this week where I have slipped back into being blind! However, I believe that living in this light is a growing process that one has to evolve through with time. Which brings me to wrap up this section with a verse from Deuteronomy, and is the reason why I believe in such a God...

"He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He." - Deuteronomy 32:4

Moving on now. Something of a landmark (I was really going to say the word 'judgement' after 'landmark', seeing how many times I've heard it during law lectures!!) nature also happened for the first time in a long time at STRONGER... I went to Confession. Only God knows how long I hadn't gone prior to last weekend, and judging on my calculations, it must have been around 4-5 years ago. (EDIT: It was actually around 2 years ago. Honestly.) While I don't think I had anything in particular to confess about, I did somehow feel as if I had managed to take a huge weight off my chest after this happened. Now, suddenly, while browsing through other websites, I came across this and understood why fully...

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." - 1 John 1:9

The priest that I confessed to then told me that as a penance, I should look at Psalm 23 and reflect on it. I decided that to do such an 'analysis', I should write down what I think about it on a piece of paper (as I didn't have my laptop with me at the time). Needless to say, I found Verses 3 and 4 of particular inspiration, and the following is what I wrote regarding this:

"You guide me along the right path for the sake of your name. Even when I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm for you are at my side; your rod and staff give me courage." - Psalm 23:3-4

There are many periods in life where we encounter walking through such dark valleys. Most times we know about them and are conscious of the wrong that we are doing, but sometimes we slip into such darkness subconsciously, without knowing it's there. It could be for various reasons, which need not be mentioned. In such circumstances, we have to try and realise the wrong that we are doing - as difficult as it may be - and rectify that wrong. (Knowing that we have the Lord by our side, in all circumstances, whatever the situation may be, makes us stronger.)

I think that's all I have to say... I'm sorry if my post has, for one, not come across in a clear and structured manner and secondly not made sense at all, and can hence be classified as bullshit! Ironic now, isn't it, that the title of this blog is If Only I Had Some Thoughts...

God Bless You all!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Where it All Stemmed From

The inspiration for this blog comes from a simple phrase - 'Thank you'.

Well, as I've written what is now around 6 blogs on this site (either I have, or haven't, or don't feel like counting the amount written!), I think it's finally time for me to give (part of) my testimony. It's taken me some time to actually get down to writing this, but I think that it should now be out in the open, once and for all.

In my previous blog, I wrote a few 'character profiles' for a select group of people who come to Y4J. As I mentioned, or more like as she mentioned(!!), I was requested to do this by Bettina and, over and above that, well, an angry mob of people who threatened to kill me if I didn't do so! (I joke). However, what I didn't mention was the fact that I placed my best friend Mark at the top of the list for a reason. It wasn't a case of favouritism - those who know me well know that I don't give preferential treatment to practically anyone (though I'm sure that it has happened in the past and will happen again, in some form, in the future). It wasn't a case of further proclaiming that Mark is my best friend. Indeed, that would be taking the easy way out, wouldn't it?

Of course, the latter is invariably linked to what I'm going to say, but I believe that he is someone who has managed to change my life for the better. I'm saying this because Mark was the person who brought me, and hence introduced me, to Y4J. Unfortunately, I tried finding the message that he sent me, which was around two days prior to the Lenten talks, to no avail, as otherwise I would have quoted it here. However, it roughly stated that it was an invitation - directly to me - to attend these talks as they might be good for myself. At first, I was extremely dismissive of the message, and in fact I remember asking Mark why on earth he had bothered sending it to me, stating that he knew I wouldn't come because I wasn't into these things and that it was a waste of 5 Euro cents. He responded in a similar fashion to "We [at Y4J] were told to send this message to people who don't attend and maybe don't believe... Cu there" (loosely quoted).

To cut a long story short, I had nothing to do the following Monday evening, and decided to head off to these Lenten talks, simply to see what they were about. However, I first checked whether any of my friends were going - to be honest, I wouldn't have dared to go had I been alone. Initially, like everyone else, I'm presuming, I needed that support and that encouragement to keep on going to the talks and indeed, later on, even Y4J meetings. Now, 8 months down the road, I obviously don't need this assistance any longer as I'm confident that I'm doing the right thing, but primarily, I'm now confident in my faith. Such a confidence and such a belief was lacking back in February; I can't say that it's lacking now.

So as the first line of this blog states - The inspiration for this blog comes from a simple phrase - 'Thank you'. Yes, thank you to everyone for being by my side when I needed it the most; but more specifically, thank you to Mark for making me believe once again. Without that SMS that he sent, I wouldn't be the person I am today. I may have already told him this a few nights ago when online, in a rather random statement, but I felt that it needed to be made public.

To conclude, I chose two quotes - one from Romans and one from the great philosopher St. Augustine - to show us how even though we might drift away from the Lord, He is always willing to welcome us back with open arms.

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:8

"God loves each of us as if there were only one of us." - St. Augustine

God Bless You All & Take Care,

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Character Profiles (as Requested!)

After being asked by my Y4J group of friends to resurrect my infamous character profiles - not that the majority of them knew they existed in the first place, but anyhow - I have finally decided to do so, simply because right now, I have absolutely nothing to do. For those who don't know what I'm on about, these are essentially 'snippets' of what I think about various people that there are within a certain group. Back in the days when I was at St. Aloysius, this was seen as a pristine opportunity to either really boost somebody's morale by me telling them what a great person they are, or else the total opposite - me giving a fully-fledged attack on a specific person's character, and subsequently, most of the time, getting a lot of stick for it. Well, without further ado, I shall do the same here... but will, in all fairness, keep it as 'nice' as possible.

Please note that some of the people who I have listed here - principally the first few - are those that I have known for quite a while, but still form part of Y4J.

Mark - Words can't describe how great this guy is. I've now known Mark (Mose) for 3 years and I'm proud to say that he's my best friend, and an irreplaceable one for that matter. He is one of the most patient, genuine and caring people that I have ever had the privilege of knowing and spending my time with, and I often consider him as the brother that I never had. I have never come across a person who has had a bad word to say about Mark and rightly so - while everybody has their faults, it is almost impossible to find faults within him. A great friend not just for me, but for everybody.

Jaccarini - Over the couple of years that we have known each other, Jaccarini and I have become very good friends. Always someone who you can count on, no matter the circumstance, she is the kind of person that you simply can't dislike due to her bubbly and warm personality. She's also of the belief that Liverpool - be it the city, be it the football club - is the best thing that has happened to the world since it's creation. If she could marry the city, she would - that's how much she's in love with it! On a more serious note, I'm very much honoured to have someone like Jaccarini form an important part of my life - as Mark is like the brother I never had, then she is like my sister.

Lanfranco - Having known him for around 2 years now, and always been very good friends with him, it's no surprise that I feel that he is one of my most trusted friends at Y4J. He is one of the people who I feel I can confide myself in, and has a heart of gold as he is willing to help people out whenever possible. He also does like to go with the flow sometimes, but is not afraid to be a leader in certain situations and help point people in the right direction. He does, however, have a tendency of becoming slightly agitated occasionally.

Sam - Once again, Sam is a person who I've known for 2 years but contrary to Lanfy, prior to Y4J, I didn't know him all that well. It's only through this that I've come to realise what a great person he is. When you need a shoulder to cry on or some consoling in one way or another, he's there, conscious of that fact and understanding towards it. He is very much a person who demonstrates excellent leadership qualities throughout and also has a humorous and even daredevilish side to him.

Stephie - Like Sam, Stephie is a person who I've known for quite a while yet hadn't really made friends properly with her till I started coming to Y4J and, in particular, went to Soul Survivor. She's also a person who demonstrates very good leadership qualities - she directed Hairspray at SAC Soiree 2008 - and, in my opinion, is someone who is constantly sensitive to many others' needs.

Analise - Even though many of those born in 1990 have become my friends, it was almost inevitable that (due to Mark) Analise would also be one of them. A caring, loving character with an impressive voice that could potentially shatter your glass windows, Analise may come across as being slightly bossy at first sight, but when you get to know her, you realise what a great person she is. She too is a person who you can thoroughly rely on when something is going wrong, provided she doesn't have any problems herself at the time!

Paul - Y4J's resident goofball is one of those people who can crack you up in an instant with his polar opposite character(s). At one moment in time, Paul can be the most serious individual in the house but then, at the flick of a finger, he can throw people into hysteria. A downside to him though is that he has the tendency to whine quite a bit, as illustrated quite aptly when we were filming our skit for the Talent Show! However, this does not take away anything from the fact that he is a great person with excellent values.

Bettina - Sam's sister, Ms. Goldilocks is the epitome of Jesus shining through her. She never has a bad word to say against anyone, no matter who it is, and is an immensely talented and intelligent individual. She has the tendency to 'act blonde' sometimes(!!) but that's a small price to pay for her caring and loving character. She is a genuine person who ultimately has a heart of gold.

Achie - It's hard to use relatively simple terms to describe this girl. You see, she's a bit like me in the sense that she doesn't know how to not complicate matters in the way that she portrays her (rather theological and sometimes philosophical) ideas. In my opinion, she possesses an intelligence that belies her age, as often illustrated by her argumentation. She's also not afraid to answer back - in particular with me - whenever someone challenges her viewpoints. This often leads to a long and tiring debate and heated discussion. She's a very nice person, but here's a tip - stay out of any debates with her! (For her sake, I really hope she takes part in Mini EU next year.)

Rob - Having known Rob for the best part of 8-10 years now (I honestly forgot when I first met him, but I remember it was at scouts!), and not having spoken to him in such a lengthy time, he and I have been reunited as friends at Y4J. A computing guru and around 4 years more mature than when I last met him, Rob has grown by keeping his head on a solid pair of shoulders via the various experiences he has passed through. He is very passionate about Y4J and, more importantly, praising Jesus.

Ok, I've really had enough of writing. Many apologies if your name wasn't 'listed' here, but I chose to do the first ones that came to mind and, well, I can't keep on writing for eternity! This doesn't mean, in any way, means or form that this is some kind of 'elite group' of people - I think that everyone knows that in one way or another, they are all special, and that they are also my friends.

And now, for the talking point... after I've written about you, what do you think about me!? Leave comments (if you want) in the comments form below.

God Bless You all and Take Care... the blog will return next month!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Is the World at a Standstill?

Not a very long post tonight, folks. I only have 15-20 minutes free time on my hands (as of now) and just need something to do, and this is it.

Well, I've been noticing of late that there really hasn't been anything worth noting on the international scene. Strange beyond belief to be honest, but I feel as if the same old stories have been circulating round and round all the time. The Zimbabwe crisis - and what a crisis it is, with inflation standing at a reported 14 million percent (yes, you're reading correctly!) - has been making headlines since the country had their rather farcical set of elections. The race for the White House in America is slowly gathering momentum but is still in its early stages. The war in Georgia has now stopped completely as Russian troops have been withdrawn from the region. There's just absolutely nothing of substance to speak about in terms of current affairs worldwide, unless you consider the headline Italian consumers stage 'bread strike' (Reuters) to be the biggest thing since the invention of the toaster.

And Malta is just as bad, to be honest. All the political fanfare that surrounded the country in the early stages of the year has obviously died down, and now we are yet again stuck with the same old statements coming out from various Ministers' mouths - "We can't guarantee that such and such an electoral promise will be fulfilled this year or indeed even in 2009". The highlights of the last week have been a murder in Hal-Qormi, where the accused gave himself up to the police at the Law Courts but then pleaded not guilty at his trial; a Proton (not the particle that forms part of an atom) car blowing up and killing a man as he was trapped inside, also at Hal-Qormi; and finally, a motorcycle accident on the road linking Rabat to Zebbug which has left the two motorcyclists involved in a critical condition. Things just couldn't be any brighter... Hell, even Jenny leaving the island could have made front page news this week!

It seems as if everyone, everything and everywhere is in the process of a post-summer hangover. And that truly is the case, I believe, as the rain starts to fall on the Northern Hemisphere of the globe and autumn settles in.

God Bless and Take Care,

Friday, September 12, 2008

Perfect Man (Under Construction)*

*Title shamelessly taken from Mark Galea's polo shirt bought from Soul Survivor

As I look back at a rather hectic beyond belief last week or so (and by golly gosh, how quickly it flew by), I have found some time to sit down, relax, and just write those thoughts that are flowing through my mind at the moment in time. Which, in all honesty, aren't too many and aren't too complex or philosophical either, but just worth writing down over here.

I saw this week as a challenge right from the word 'go'. It's only today that I've really had time to put my feet up and relax totally, and I suppose that it's a deserved rest to say the least. It's been a week full of temptation, a week full of running around from one point of the island to another (literally!), a week full of officiating tennis matches and a week of penning articles and speeches. Yes, it's been a very busy week by anyone's standards, let alone my own - and I can only help but wonder what it's going to be like as soon as I get back into the routine that I like to call University.

As I reflect on what's been going on, I took this opportunity to offer this rather challenging time to God yesterday afternoon. I realised that in the hype of everything, I didn't have time to just stop and stare, and just pray to Him. Now I know that in hindsight, one might say that if I'm making my time for everything else, then I should be able to dedicate at least a fraction of my time to God, but that simply hasn't been the case. Maybe, this week, it's a case of 'better late than never', and that from now on, I'll learn from my mistakes more. Well, I'm human, and judging on human nature, I won't learn a thing until something great affects me in some sort of negative way.

To put it into context, at last Monday's Y4J meeting, Tutzi told us that as soon as we wake up in the morning, we should kneel down besides our beds and just pray for a while. At that moment in time, I made that my challenge for the week - just to dedicate 2-3 minutes out of a grand total of 1,440 daily - to God. Needless to say, possibly due to my reckless nature or my urge to get on with things as soon as I get up in the morning, I failed to do this on Tuesday, Wednesday and till now, today (Friday) as well. I didn't pray as soon as I got up on Thursday, but did dedicate those specified two minutes to God in the afternoon, so while that is a partial failure, it in itself is not entire doom.

Which brings me to my talking point - why did I choose such a title for this blog? Well, I believe that we are all trying to attain the mantle of being a perfect man or perfect woman, irrespective of what we do. We try to be perfect in our own eyes and in the eyes of others and sometimes, this 'vision' does indeed work. For example, generally those who are in a relationship see their better half as the perfect match and perfect person for them (until something goes horribly wrong, that is). Our parents possibly see us as perfect too... albeit with plenty of imperfections. Therefore, this is the reason why this state of perfection is constantly under construction - we know that despite how good we all think we are, we have to work towards becoming truly perfect. Indeed, no matter how hard we work towards this ultimate goal, we - in all probability - will still not be able to achieve it.

I feel that God doesn't expect us to be perfect; far from it, actually. I think that our imperfections are a critical part of us and God acknowledges that, simply because through these imperfections we can grow and mature by means of experience. It is such experiences that lead us closer to Him. Perfect man? Perfect woman? Yes, but constantly under construction, till our demise, without a shadow of a doubt. And on a final note, it is perhaps when we leave this earth that we are, in God's eyes, truly perfect.

God Bless You all!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Sound the Alarm! It's a Mexican crossing the border to the USA

There are times in life where you feel that things are simply slipping away from you. These can come by means of various events - a death, a change in lifestyle, or indeed someone dear leaving your side for good. Of course, in terms of the latter, the internet has facilitated our lives to the extent that we can even see one another via webcam despite being thousands of miles apart. However, one thing for certain is that despite these technological advancements, and efforts to make even more progress in this field, nothing can substitute the feeling of being physically close to another person.

I, like a few others, find myself in the rather precarious position of having dealt with one friend already departing for the abyss that is called British Columbia, Canada and having to deal with another friend who is going to study and live in London (both know who they are, obviously, and certain readers will know that too). While the first was quite a blow, it's the second strike that's going to be the killer; this despite the fact that I value both these friends equally high. It's hard to acknowledge and indeed even accept this fact that somewhat lies on my doorstep and is approaching my room upstairs at an increasingly rapid speed. These two people who I perhaps took a bit for granted have now gone or are going as fast as a Mexican would travel across the border to the USA.

Of course, as I previously said, it's not the end of the world - first and foremost (Gabriel Galea please take note), there's the internet, a fantastic tool which has facilitated all communications greatly. Secondly, while my two friends have gone to study abroad on a permanent basis, it's not like they won't be returning to Malta at some point in time in the future. Provided I'm still alive (I always seem to associate death with myself, I think it's just something stuck in my nature or else I am the new Albert Camus) I will obviously see them when they come back to the rock. So yes, all is not lost - it never has been.

Having said that, and on this note I will conclude this short and sad blog, I'll miss them. Both of them. Greatly. Always.

God bless in your journeys,

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Yes We Can - The Politics of Faith

Before I start, I want to make this very very clear - I am not blogging about Barack Obama. As many of you know - I hope you do, let's put it this way - the slogan for the Democratic candidate's Presidential campaign is indeed these three words, three words that have a very strong meaning attached to them. Having said that though, inevitably, I will be making references here and there to Barack - there really is no option.

In Obama's various speeches, two things he said in particular have really struck me heavily - "Yes we can to opportunity and prosperity" and "[these are] three words that will ring from coast to coast; from sea to shining sea". The inevitable questions obviously follow - why have they struck me, and what meaning do these specific words have to me? Well, while thinking about it, I thought that these two phrases could really tie in with our faith... not just the Christian faith, actually, but to any worldwide existent faith. In as clear and concise a manner as possible, I will now try to explain what I mean by this.

Let me primarily tackle the first quote, as that seems to be the simpler of the two to decipher. While Barack is obviously making reference to the USA as being the land of opportunity and what not, I think that we have to see our faith as an opportunity - an opportunity to show that God's message is being transmitted to us and also, over and above that, an opportunity to get in touch with and subsequently get closer to God. The term "opportunity" can also be seen from the perspective of an 'outsider', someone who might not be a Christian but wants to become one. God's family is never complete, He always leaves the door open for new arrivals into the family, and hence there is always this opportunity to join His family and indeed, follow Him. Subsequently, this leads to prosperity - the more people become Christians and follow God, the more the Christian family will prosper. I feel that God is always looking for more people to follow Him, and the more people do so, the stronger our beliefs and our faith will become.

Now, for a focus on the second quote. Again, I see this as an expansion on the basis of prosperity of our faith. "Three words that will ring from coast to coast; from sea to shining sea - Yes. We. Can" - God is always telling us that yes, we can indeed get closer to Him. He is always welcoming us, He wants us to feel close to Him because He is our principal refuge; He is with us through the good times and the bad. The significance of "coast to coast" and "sea to shining sea" is immense though. It means that we have a God who is not just there for us and us alone, but is there, present, from one end of a country to another and indeed from one sea to the next; essentially confirming that we have a God who cares for each and every person who He has placed on the face of this Earth. If God didn't love us or indeed care for us, then we wouldn't be here, simple as. In a totally different fashion to what one might find while taking public examinations such as O or A Levels, to God we are not just a number - we are all specific individuals, each with separate characteristics but more importantly, each with our own personal relationship with Him. This is what makes God so great.

I don't know if I've been clear in my argumentation but I've tried to bring out what I think about two quotes that personally really have a deep and thoughtful meaning.

God Bless You all!

Once Bitten, Twice Shy

Whatever the circumstances might be and whether you like him or not - you have always got to give credit to a man who not only defies the odds, but slaps them in the face as he comes out triumphant. Take Jason Micallef for instance. He is a man who has been vehemently criticised by those in his own party, including his predecessor Jimmy Magro, and has also been named as one of the main reasons why the MLP lost the last General Elections. Yet he still succeeded in getting himself re-elected as the Secretary General of the Labour Party. Emerging victorious with 44.2% of the delegates votes, not only was his election surprising, and perhaps shocking to some, but the majority margin of votes in his favour makes us question this whole image of a "new" Labour since so many within its ranks seem content and supportive of that which was there before. Congratulations to him for managing to achieve what he has, and for doing to so with such flying colours, however, now that the voting is over, and looking back on all that has been said and done, would we be completely irrational if we asked whether Labour has made a great mistake, by putting its faith, for a second successive term, in the 'teethy' man behind the smirk: Jason Micallef.

When Alfred Sant resigned as leader of the MLP following a third consecutive loss, the prospect of a real ‘Bidu Ġdid’ started to seem like it might actually be a viable reality. A new leader would mean new ideas and possibly even a new approach to politics. It was clear from the offset that Joseph Muscat was the favoured candidate within the party, and when election time came along, this was proven. Although George Abela, his main rival for the post, took the elections to a second round of voting, evidently Muscat was all but set to becoming the new leader, which he ultimately did. In many ways, he is Alfred Sant's polar opposite, for he is a young and energetic leader and although still fresh, he has had the time to learn the ropes of local politics, and he is someone reaches out and appeals to the people. He made us question our doubts, for perhaps he was the right man, and perhaps he signalled the new beginning which once seemed so far off.

But that, unfortunately, is where it all ended. When Anglu Farrugia and Toni Abela were elected as deputy leaders for parliamentary and party affairs respectively, it was yet another case of déjà vu for the MLP – replacing the bad with the worse. It seemed as if conservatism once again reigned supreme amongst the voting delegates of the party; a case of sticking to and voting for who they are familiar with, rather than he who brings the best package to the table. This is also the case with Jason’s re-election: through him, the delegates have reinstated the supposed weak link within the party, the person who many love to hate due to his arrogant nature.

Everyone within a political party knows the importance of a secretary general – he is essentially responsible for the party’s day-to-day running, and also plays a central role in the party’s administration come election period. While I cannot judge his actions with regards the former, it is in the latter that he comprehensively failed last time out. While Joe Saliba was knocking on people’s doors asking for them to vote for the PN, Micallef was confident that the MLP were going to win the election by a considerable margin. While Joe Saliba knew how much work the PN had to do in order to remain in government, Micallef believed that the election was won even before it started. While Joe Saliba acknowledged that the government had made mistakes in the past legislature and was willing to improve and not repeat the same errors, Micallef refused to accept past mistakes and showed his arrogant ignorance, not even knowing basic facts like how many new voters there were in last March’s election.

With time I may be proven wrong, but to be quite honest, I sincerely doubt this will be the case. The bottom line is that Joseph Muscat intended his leadership to mark the beginning of a new era. His intentions were for a fresher Labour and a clean start. He wanted a team made up of new faces, but what he's ended up with is firmly the opposite. And as far as faces go, you've got to feel sorry for the man, having to go to work every morning and be greeted by that smirk.