Sunday, June 27, 2010

1966, Revisited

Seldom do I write blogs about football, but when the World Cup comes along, I can't not help myself to a couple of posts about the beautiful game. Furthermore, in addition to my appearance on Kick Off last Thursday, I sincerely believe that any footballing analysis that I make is better than the tripe that they say on TV, thereby giving me the divine right to comment accordingly. A case in point is when the presenter asking me questions during my interview mistakenly asked what I would do if I were in Capello's shoes during the Italy game vis-a-vis half-time substitutions - of course, the Italian coach, at the time, was Marcello Lippi.

Anyway, today saw England face off against Germany, in what was undoubtedly meant to be one of the ties of the round of last 16. Instead, however, it transpired that Germany were in inspired form and England were rather pants, resulting in a 4-1 defeat for the English and yet another four years without winning the World Cup. By the time Brazil 2014 comes, they wouldn't have lifted the trophy (the real one, and not any replicas one might see) for 48 years, a streak which will almost certainly be extended considering who the hosts of the World Cup and automatic favourites for their 6th or 7th world titles are going to be. Despite the mauling, however, there was a massively controversial moment in the first half where a ball hit by Frank Lampard actually crossed the line (for once) by a good couple of feet, only for the linesman not to award the goal for some strange reason. Had it been allowed, the teams would have, perhaps undeservedly, gone in for the break at 2-2, and a different game would have been on our hands.

I will now proceed to analyse this incident both subjectively (simply because that perspective is fun) and objectively, and look at the overall impact that the incident had on the game and England's now-defunct World Cup chances.

The Subjective Perspective

For the Italian-supporting Maltese population, this disallowed goal will be seen as justice served for England. Not only have they been punished for being poor in the group stage - no matter how so much poorer Italy was, in all fairness - but there is always some form of delight at seeing one's bitter rivals being bruised, battered, hurt and destroyed. Justice will also be seen as served vis-a-vis the goal that never was in 1966, when, ironically, a goal that didn't cross the line was awarded to Geoff Hurst and gave England a 3-2 lead against West Germany in the World Cup final. That match ended up finishing 4-2 to England, which should have been the score this afternoon too.

This was one hell of a humiliation. Seeing defending as poor as that out there, where even a schoolboy would have been able to do a better job, is practically laughable. Critics and the media will be absolutely justified in criticising and smashing Capello and his team - the fact of the matter is that while there is no shame in losing to Germany, losing 4-1 is firstly embarrassing; and secondly, this was also done solely out of England's own ineptness. In a group containing Slovenia, Algeria and the USA, they should have finished comfortably top of the pile. Had they done so, they would be facing the likes of Ghana in the round of 16, and Uruguay in the quarter-finals, instead of a route to the final consisting of Germany, Argentina, Spain and Brazil. Hardly an impossible route to being among the best four teams in the world.

Yeah, on a personal level, I just can't stop smiling.

The Objective Perspective

Let's be honest with ourselves now - the ball DID indeed cross the line, and this was about as clear a goal as one would have seen throughout the tournament. I think there should be no dispute about this point, and indeed, perhaps, there should have been nothing controversial whatsoever about it.

Inevitably, arguments have come about over how this would have changed the landscape of the game. At the time the incident occurred, England were losing 2-1, which would have obviously meant that had the goal stood, they would have pulled level, no matter how much Germany had dominated the game up to that point in time and no matter how much England wouldn't have deserved it. However, the fact of the matter is what happened, well, happened; and nothing can be done about it.

Would it have raised England's morale and deflated Germany? Would we be seeing England in the quarter-finals instead of the aformentioned Germans? This is all part and parcel of the game - and indeed, no football game in history has been devoid of its what ifs. By the same token, one could ask what if that the goal that never was indeed did not stand in 1966 - would Germany have another world title to their name? What if Italy weren't awarded that penalty that sent them to the quarter-finals in 2006 against Australia - would they have become champions of the world? What if Thierry Henry didn't shield the ball with his left hand three times in the playoff against Ireland? What if Diego Maradona didn't score the "hand of God" goal? What if Ronaldo hadn't mysteriously fallen ill before the 1998 World Cup final? The list is endless for any competition, not just the World Cup.

The disallowed goal however beggars belief as to what the linesman was doing at that time. As mentioned before, the ball was at least two feet over the line, which in ordinary terms means that anyone would have been able to see it in the net. I just wonder whether the linesman was either extremely badly positioned, or rather whether his vision was obstructed in some way or another. Either way, in reality, there should have been no excuse - the goal was there to stand. One however cannot really blame the referee, who was probably too far back to determine whether the ball had indeed crossed the line or not.

This also once again reopens the debate vis-a-vis goal line technology. This afternoon's shot was so glaringly obvious that technology, per se, would not have been needed, but with the linesman on Mars, perhaps it might have indeed been useful. In a day and age where technology is so advanced and yet the football the best players in the world are using at these finals is so crap, it has already been proven to not be impossible to insert a microchip into the ball which would determine whether such a ball has fully crossed the goal line or not. It would also put those lovely big screens that many stadia have in this day and age to good use.

Other sports have progressed and embraced technology readily, even if some players aren't too happy about it. Tennis, for instance, has adopted hawk-eye technology, which determines whether a ball has clipped the line or not, rendering it 'in' or 'out' for that point. While an identical concept wouldn't be ideal for football, something along these lines could be conjured up and modified accordingly so as to avoid such incidents in the future. Another solution that would have undoubtedly been beneficial in today's match is UEFA's famed goal line assistants - someone placed on the goal line obviously would not have missed this incident.

But thereagain, what is the beautiful game without controversy?

God Bless You all!

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Joys and Hurts of the World Cup

It only comes about once every four years, but when it does, a football feast and fan frenzy obviously ensues. The World Cup has, over the years, provided its fair share of frills, spills, drama and excitement, and the South African edition of this seems to be no different - not for the abundance (read: 'lack') of goals that its producing, as a general rule, but because of the various storylines developing both on and off the field.

Of course, while the French continue to hog the headlines for being the most dysfunctional team of the whole tournament (judging by the way things are going at the moment, coach Raymond Domenech won't have any players at his disposal for the match against South Africa and have to play himself in the match!), English and Italian supporters have also had their fair share of heart attacks till now, and if recent form is anything to go by, then they might be going back home quicker than they expected. Both sides were expected to stroll through their groups, but both sides are massively struggling and can't hit the back of the net to save their lives. England, for all the hype surrounding Wayne Rooney's fantastic season, haven't seen their strikers hit the target yet; while Italy have fared precious little better - they've scored two goals in total, one of which was a penalty (and no matter how soft it was, it indeed WAS a penalty, just as much as New Zealand's goal was offside - stop whining about it!!)

While the English have looked toothless all over the pitch, as well as relatively uninterested in troubling the opposition; the Italians have at least attacked with some intent but have the worst bunch of strikers ever taken by their national team in World Cup history, which obviously doesn't help their cause one bit. Indeed, something positive to draw from the Italian performances is that they've showed some form of resilience in both of their games so far in order to come back from losing positions. The English, on the other hand, relied on a customary goalkeeper howler to let the USA back into their first match, and parked the bus in front of the Algerian assault on goal. Perhaps Don Fabio wasn't exactly the saviour that the English were hoping for - so far. In any event, both teams still know that in reality, due to the equally appalling performances of the other teams in their groups, they still have their fate in their own hands - win their matches and they get through to the last 16. But that too might be too much of an ask for these nations in their current form. And that's obviously not to speak of Capello's confident admission that England would reach the final of the tournament.

Having however seen some big nations falter, it's been the World Cup of the underdog so far. Shock results have been recorded pretty much across the board - Italy's draw with New Zealand, England's draw with Algeria, Germany's loss to Serbia and Spain's loss to Switzerland have all been unexpected, to say the least. That's not to say that each of these nations will now go on to win the World Cup - on a personal level, I still believe that the Spanish suffered a minor setback in that game against the Swiss and have the talent and the overall team to win the title - but at least, we're seeing that the minor nations of the tournament have managed to really close the gap on these superpowers. A group comprising England, the USA, Slovenia and Algeria definitely does not send any shivers down one's spine, but look at the position England are in at the moment, despite being predicted to steamroller one of the weakest groups, on paper, of the tournament.

The problem is that the superpowers have also underestimated their opponents. It's clear that a laissez-faire attitude is unacceptable in tournaments like these, where anything can pretty much happen. It also means that teams must be willing to go out there, fight for every ball and not enter each match thinking that they've won it from the start. Teams have become plucky over the years and are no longer willing to just roll over because the likes of Italy, Argentina, Brazil, France and England have come to town. Actually, for them, it's an opportunity to create a shockwave that the rest of the world will get to know about and even justify their places at the tournament. Perhaps it is for this reason, for the sheer unpredictability of it all, that this World Cup could be classed among the greatest at the moment.

God Bless You all!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

It's Time to Set the Record Straight

It's ironic that a year ago to the day, I wrote a blog about the very same topic that I'll be writing about this evening but alas, nothing has changed since that very day and with the way things are indeed going, it doesn't seem as if anything is improving either! Of course, a small blog like this read by a select bunch of readers is obviously going to have anything but an influence on either the public policy as pursued by our government, but using this medium as a method of venting against the inadequacies that a system currently presents will never do anyone any harm.

In recent days - scrap that, since around the beginning of the year, actually - Malta has been having various power cuts that are actually more reminiscent of a country such as Mugabe's Zimbabwe than a Member State of the European Union. Worryingly, there have been three blackouts on the island (of course, the glorious PL decided to compare this to one of Malta's most shameful days in history, Black Monday, by calling it Blackout Monday) since Tonio Fenech took over the electricity portfolio from Austin Gatt, something which is unacceptable in this day and age. Too many faults have developed at the Marsa Power Station, which subsequently sends the Delimara Power Station into overload and makes that collapse as well, meaning that Malta then has no electricity for it is not yet connected to the European grid. But while there are problems with the country's electricity supplier, there are also major problems with the policy that Malta has adopted over the years and seems to not be willing to change.

This problem is that there is a monopoly of electricity supply, meaning that Enemalta, for all their "negotiating skills" when it comes to buying oil and fuels, have the right to charge whatever rates they want to their customers because obviously, Malta cannot choose between different providers of fuel and electricity. And then you wonder why our electricity bills are among the highest in Europe. This leads to an inadequate service overall - bills aren't sent on time (many a time, actually), customer care is among the worst on the island (they probably top the list, with Melita a close second) and rates are sky high. The problem however accentuates when you realise that Malta is currently entirely fossil fuel dependent*, and therefore having another electricity provider would also mean having the accompanying industry surrounding it - something which Malta's size cannot possibly permit because it would mean the further industrialisation of the little land that we have left, something which the country cannot afford. Furthermore, putting another power station down in the South would only serve to irk such people on even more than they currently are, confirming their thoughts that they are treated like second class citizens.

Therefore, as the expansion to the Delimara Power Station might indeed not be the way forward, what is the solution? I'm by no means an economist or an energy expert, but I believe that the first thing that the government should do is continue to look at connecting Malta to the European grid. This will help eliminate all those extra power cuts that we've been having of late and ensure a constant supply of energy. Automatically, I believe, the government should also look to liberalise this sector of the economy in order to allow foreign companies access into the local market by means of stations that are set up on mainland Europe, this by means of another connection from the European grid towards Malta. This would allow Italian electricity companies to supply electricity to Malta, for example, and be in competition with Enemalta. It is only then that Enemalta would no longer be able to abuse of their dominant position in the relevant market and subsequently be forced to lower their prices accordingly, as otherwise they would lose their clients faster than the credibility that they've already lost.

We'll see if come June 17, 2011, I'll have to write yet another entry about the pitiful state that we're currently facing.


It's great to see my writings having a bit of an effect, albeit minimal.

Today, I was approached on Facebook by a Masters student, who asked me if a blog that I had written on The Times about the Presidency of Malta, in early 2009, was my own work and whether it could possibly be used to form part of the content of his thesis.  I was also asked if there was any other information which could be found on the President, but unfortunately, I could not help him in that regard.

It may be something small, but it sure did make me feel smart for a little while.

God Bless You all!

*Not taking into account any electricity produced by solar panels, which is minimal.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The End of a Journey

So yesterday afternoon, we finally realised a dream when we came to the end of what has been a long, winding road. A journey that has had its ups and downs, its good times and bad times, but a journey that has probably made most of us better and more mature men and women.

When we entered the law course the best part of three years ago, we all were thrown in at the deep end, right into the unknown. Some of us didn't even know each other. However, we all knew that there were tough times that did lie ahead, but obviously, we didn't know how tough they would be until we encountered them ourselves. "Obligations" was merely a subject we had heard about, and occasionally told about how difficult a subject it could indeed be. But as first years, our worry was not about Obligations; it was about the likes of Constitutional Law, Roman Law and Philosophy of Law - all 'failing subjects' back in the day, and probably still no different now. That tag was indeed justified - by the end of first year, a course that initially started out with 185 prospective lawyers had whittled down to around 115 by the start of second year. The decrease was just extraordinary. Some couldn't handle the pressures that the course presented and called it a day, others decided to seek pastures new either abroad or in another course, and others, unfortunately, just failed and didn't make it. Perhaps they tried again and succeeded; perhaps they tried again and once again, sadly, didn't pass.

What I found strikingly accurate is that the advice that people who had passed through the course before us would present. A good friend of mine told me that Family Law aside, second year would be a breeze and indeed, nearly everyone would get through it with flying colours, which was nothing less than the truth. Indeed, Family Law was one of those subjects, alongside Roman Law and Obligations this year, which completely did not merit the accreditation given to it. When you have tons of information piled up that necessitates hours on end of studying for the end of year exam, giving such subjects a value of 6, 6 and 8 credits respectively is criminal. Moreover, the swearing that goes on when indeed studying away for these subjects probably merits at least 2 credits in each case! Which brings me to a point aside - what is it with Civil Law exams being so underrated?

And this brings me to third year. Second years who might read this please note, this one is for you in particular. Everyone knows that this is the year where you go to hell and beyond when you enter the course, but yet again, on a personal level, I thought this was all the hype, at least initially. How wrong I was. The content that had to be studied was probably around four times the amount we had in second year - no joke - with Obligations constituting the biggest chunk in this increase of material. Indeed, while we were all encouraged to work and study throughout the year, never before had I imagined that I had to start studying things properly so well in advance in my life. Indeed, had I not done the wise thing, I think it would be safe to say that I'd be in a hell of a lot more trouble than I probably am at the moment! Each subject in third year is demanding beyond belief - even Commercial Law, for example, sees a massive increase in the amount of material when comparing it to what was done in second year (and please note, both years are awarded the same accreditation!!). Each subject demands a particular amount of time and attention as otherwise, one might find it very difficult to get through. On a personal level yet again, though, having had to encounter the above with the constant chasing of bricks and absurd noises coming out of the construction site next door for the past year or so, I feel I'm prepared for anything that might be thrown my way in the future!

So that's that, and hopefully, following yesterday's horror show, LL.B. is over. It's been a long journey, but it's been a colourful one. It's a been tough but together, we've managed to get through it. So people like Stef, Carla, Mickey, Gerd, Dalli, Stefan, Andrew, Hannah, Kurt, Nicola, Felicity, Krista (both of you), Emma, David, Clement... the list goes on, but last and definitely not least, of course, I'd have to mention you, Mark; thank you for the memories and thank you for helping me get through it just as much as, I hope, I helped you get through as well.

We'll hopefully all see each other in LL.D... will it be the beginning of a new journey together?

God Bless You all!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The (Real) Final Stretch

Four exams down, one to go. And it's only the toughest one left... I'm however glad that they're nearly over, I think this has been the most hellish year at University by far. So far I believe I've done alright for myself, especially considering the criminal lack of studying I put into certain subjects. I don't want to predict my grades though because what generally happens is that I end up by predicting wrongly and thereby disappoint myself when I see my confirmed grade! Having said that, I had a study plan, which I decided to implement, and I believe that for the most part, it paid off.

Certain papers have been more difficult than others; a case in point being the International Law exam (surprisingly!!) yesterday and our Economics exam (not so surprisingly!!) today; the latter especially being hard on us law students for a multitude of reasons. One, we only really had half a day and a bit of the morning (unless someone did an all-nighter) to study for the subject, considering that there was International Law - which had a minimum content of 100 pages worth of notes - to do the day before it. Two, with all due respect to the EDRC, its staff and its students, it was our (final?) subsidiary exam and therefore did not merit half the amount of attention that our law examinations required. Three, the majority of us were clueless on the subject. Four, and perhaps most critically, the majority of us also couldn't give two hoots about it, knowing that a Compensated Pass would be enough for us to get through!

And so it boils down to the famed Obligations. Weirdly enough, it's the exam that I'm the most unmotivated for at the moment, despite it being the make or break scenario, the subject which has given many students many a sleepless night. No wonder, what with those 120 odd cases to study by heart! And then, following that, comes the reward of summer - at long last - until I start working, yet again, at EF. I prefer calling it Oestrogen Central, due to the overwhelming female teacher ratio vis-a-vis males, but nothing can be done about that! In any event, it's been a long road this year, but one that's been travelled full speed ahead. If only this theme could be repeated until Monday, I will be forever grateful!

Till Monday, 12.15pm: Obligations... "Till Death do us Part."

God Bless You all!

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Cardinal Sins of Facebook

Facebook. Oh Facebook, what a worldwide phenomenon it has become. It is practically an indispensable tool in everyone's life now, with over 400 million people worldwide (putting it into perspective, that's 80% of all of the EU's population and nearly one-twelfth of the global population) subscribed to the website. But for all its positives and its universal approach, Facebook can be the source of all things massively annoying as well. Or just plain lame. Hereunder, I've decided to list what I believe are the ten most annoying things that one can find happening on "FB" on a daily basis...

10. Photos
Let's face it, whenever one is randomly snapping away with a camera, there's always the odd photo which would have transpired to be extremely... horrible. And yet, you could be morphing your facial features into something resembling a dog and the photo will still find its way onto Facebook. When it's there and you're dissatisfied with it, and subsequently ask for it to be removed, your lovely friends will not remove it, even if it means them parting with their lives in the process. Untagging such photos is just as useless though, because such photos obviously are still uploaded... and will remain so until the person who put them up decides to either delete the blessed photo... or leave Facebook (though technically speaking, one can never leave the website when their account is activated).

9. Advertisements
Ok, so any advert on Facebook isn't, in all fairness, really an in-your-face kind of thing, but still - the persistent presence of those adverts that I'd rather not see on the side of my screen, with sponsors trying to milk money from search engines and the like by means of the views they collect from such clicks is just downright irritating. This can be excusable to a certain extent as Facebook is free of charge to all those who subscribe to the site. However, what makes this notion even worse is the fact that one can 'like' these adverts. So yes, I have the option to like being ripped off by someone... how lovely.

8. Liking One's Own Profile Picture
Isn't it obvious that there's no need to like your own profile picture... if you put it there in the first place? I mean, come on - doesn't that tacitly imply that you think that the photo is a good one in the first place, or do you need to reaffirm this by clicking that wretched 'like' button? (And hoping that others like it for you too?)

7. Notifications
This would have been ranked higher in the list had there not been the facility to disable the function of receiving emails for every little event that happens on Facebook. Nonetheless, even if you do opt not to receive such emails, you could find yourself filtering out the various things that people have done to you over the last second, minute, hour, day or week. Or God forbid, if you don't use the site often enough, over the last year. Every little activity that happens on your profile is accounted for and you are duly told about it, whether you like it or not. Now lump with it, dear.

6. Suggestions
"You and [person X] have 123 friends in common." Just because of the high number of mutual friends, it by no way means that I know the person who Facebook is suggesting I connect with. Furthermore, I don't need Facebook to suggest who I should become friends with, thank you very much - if anything, first I'll meet the person physically and then add him/her as a friend, or vice-versa. Facebook is a great way of maintaining communication, but shouldn't be a way of initiating it.

5. Applications (in General)
"Which political guru are you?", "Who do you resemble most?", "Pick Who" etc... what a waste of time. Useful in times such as these, when entertaining oneself is at an all time low level, but quizzes and applications such as these spring out of nowhere one day, are the latest trend for a week or so, and then become as dormant as anything. 'Who has the Biggest Brain' is now history, 'Pet Society' was popular back in 2008 and has now also been confined to the dustbin, while 'Farmville' seems to have lived its time in the spotlight as well. For the most part, that is, for I know of someone who has actually messaged his parents - while out - to cultivate his crops. Oh dear.

4. "Become a Fan"
Or, so that I live with the times, I should entitle this bit 'like'. Pages, as such, are useful on Facebook - they can be an excellent source of promoting business, seeing how many fans a particular artiste might have, etc. However, liking such pages, as it is now called, is a downright nuisance. Why should I see, on my live news feed, that person X likes ABC Ltd? Is this person X an affiliate of the company? A shareholder? Does the person have a vested interest in it? What has the company done to person X so that he/she repays the favour by liking it? It's all a bit senseless, don't you think...

3. Liking One's Own Status
Perhaps this is more of a cardinal sin than liking one's own profile picture, simply because everyone sees this event happening. On the other hand, not everyone sees the former event. Liking one's own status and whatever is written in it follows from the principle in point #8: if you wrote it, you're bound to like it. You're not going to write down something that you disagree with. You're not going to write down something that isn't of significance to you. But pressing that button after doing this is just wrong, and indeed, is the epitome of lame. "Person X is on summer holidays but can't wait for his friends to finish!" Like. Just... no.

2. Top Friends
Shamelessly stolen from a video clip that I once saw on Youtube, loads of people have this little box showing their top friends in some corner of their profile. However, many - probably including myself - take this as a ranking system for our friends, in what way we rate our friends depending on how close they are to us or we to them. And furthermore, if a friend really pisses you off or is unpopular in your books at a point in time, then you open the application and start shuffling around and rearranging your friends, in terms of the scale you want to place them. Come on, admit it, you've done it at a point in time in the past. I sure have.

And finally... *drumroll*...

1. Poking
The creme de la creme of Facebook cardinal sins however is this. Indeed, this is so pointless, so useless and so annoying that it practically merits a category on its own, over and above this list. What is the point for 'poking' people...? Firstly, you're not physically poking them and secondly, all you see is a tiny notification on the side of your page stating "Person X poked you. Poke back?" "You're about to poke Person X back." And that didn't hurt one bit, but consumed fifteen seconds of your time that you will never get back. Just over two ridiculous clicks which really didn't even have a purpose in the first place. Well done.

God Bless You all!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Earn Your Stripes

Nothing's ever easy in life, and as time passes by, I'm starting to realise this more and more.

There was a time when education was easy, where one would have to learn the basic principles of long multiplication and that would come out in an exam; or where one would read 'My Family and Other Animals' as a form of English literature. Those were the days, although in all fairness, at the time these things seemed hard too, in their context.

I look at where I was 10 years ago - that's really far back but, at the same time, not - and look at where I am now, and I notice two things in particular: how quickly those 10 years have passed and how much nothing learnt back then really applies to what I'm learning now. Hell, nothing that I learnt in Sixth Form even applies to what I'm doing now. So has my education, till University level, just been a waste of time, although it's often stated that whatever is learnt never goes to waste?

To reach University, we've all had to earn our stripes, but in a course such as law, with the (lack of) entry requirements being a haven for countless people and countless idiots to enter the course accordingly (especially if such people did not attain sufficient grades to get into medicine and did not want to resit their exams, and hence opted for law as their 'drop-out' option), haven't our stripes been earned for pretty much nothing? So what if I have a certificate stating that I got a 'C' in English and French that enabled me to commence my tertiary education... what use does that have now? At least, for those people studying Biology A Level, their knowledge will be built upon at University when doing a course such as Medicine, Pharmacy or BSc Biology and Chemistry.

Something like this, in my opinion, really defies logic. Education is meant to be a building up process in one's life; and till Sixth Form, it indeed was. But the discrepancy between post-secondary education and education at tertiary level is enormous, and has (perhaps justifiably) led me to think that prior to reaching law school, I just wasted 18 years of my life beating around the bush and satisfying the authorities to get there. Certain things have to be learnt, naturally, as otherwise we would all be unknowledgeable at the very most, but I find myself much more likely doing certain basic additions now than using Pythagoras' Theorem anytime soon; and much more likely trying to converse in Maltese as opposed to learning the latest poems as written by Ruzar Briffa or Dun Karm Psaila. Or, god forbid, Mario Azzopardi - the morbid creature.

God Bless You all!