My Top 11 Predictions for 2011!

A mixture of Political and football related predictions and everything in between.

11.  Ballon D’or Pick: Xavi, Messi, or Iniesta? Xavi!

Both Alj and I agree that Xavi deserves it, it is hard to imagine both the Spanish National Team and Barcelona not being held together by the Catalan. Messi is still the goal scoring onslaught but Xavi doesn’t only make average teams great, he makes underachievers disciplined enough to be historic for their finesse. 2010 was the year he held both of his teams on the other end of his strings. Iniesta may have scored the winning goal and is the telepathic brother of Xavi in attack but if you really watch a game without Xavi, the difference is palpable, a significant lack of chances and possession. The man holds the ball for 25 minutes on average, that’s roughly a third of the game that the opponent can’t score.

With the omission of Wesley Sneijder, the debate becomes more obvious, Sneijder conqured the midfield to have Inter win the treble and for the Netherlands to reach the World Cup final. I personally would really consider Sneijder, but in the end it’s not only a question of skill, it’s the contribution, which on that alone would probably put him in the top 3 in place of Messi or Iniesta at least.

10. When Blood Screams Justice: The Fate Of the Maguindanao Massacre Trials

In 2010, the Philippines trumped out Iraq as the number one worst place to become a journalist, according to International watchdog group Reporters Without Borders, thanks in part to the slaughter of 32 journalist and media staff last November 23, 2009 in Maguindanao which is also considered as the worst single attack on journalists ever.  The journalists were there to cover the filing for candidacy of the Mangudadatus in the then upcoming 2010 elections, a move which saw them in a bad light with the Ampatuans the reigning Political Dynasty in Maguindanao

As bad as it was, a year later the trial for the accused Ampatuans has only just began, what with a series of delays and pinpointing and witnesses backing out and coming back in, some even shot dead. Unfortunate as it is given the current political climate and with the Filipinos attitude to quickly forget, any formidable step to attain justice this year is abysmal (c’mon it took them one year just to start the trial). Nevertheless never has the call for press freedom and the fight against Extra-judicial killings and impunity been more resonant and relevant. Justice will come, for democracy’s sake it has to, but not this year. It would be a slow and painful process.

9. No Money, Mo Problems: Philippine economy to take another set of suicidal blows

Budgets cuts, toll hikes, tax hikes afloat; the massacre of the Philippine economy will not stop. President Aquino is proving to be everything the United States hoped for, underneath the rhetoric people are dying. While the Military are showing no signs of getting their act together other than exalting their glorious schemes for counter insurgency, 2011 will be a year fraught with socio-political tension, we won’t need a hostage crisis to see how rotten the regime is becoming. P-Noy is finding it impossible to make the right economic choices.

8. Transfer conundrums

Ibrahim Afellay’s arrival at Barcelona spells the dilemma of their future players from the youth system, particularly, Thiago Alcantara; the “next Xavi.” A suitable replacement for Xavi handed to someone outside of the traditional Barca training? Xavi Hernandez who embodies the passing game and orchestrates the play in Barca unlike any other club means that Thiago either leaves (which seems to be an option) or Afellay’s arrival is an attempt to weaken his former club’s (PSV) momentum. Personally I think someone like Keisuke Honda would be better, to give them Free Kick capabilities that they currently lack in terms of converting it to goals.

Kaka’s place at Real Madrid has sufficiently been filled by Mesut Ozil and his likely options are Chelsea or Inter. While Beckham’s reported talks with England’s Tottenham Hotspur could just be the fire to ignite his place in the National Team. Lastly an Arsenal without Fabregas, who is being courted by Real Madrid and Barcelona, has no chance.

7. Philippine football resurgent?

Ever since the Philippine National Football team made it into the semi-finals of the Suzuki Cup, the country took notice of football despite the predominant allegiance to basketball. There are so many things to discuss with regards to Philippine football, for instance how does its newfound popularity relate to basketball? Many including columnist Conrado de Quiros of the Philippine Daily Inquirer point out that the debate is one concerning the question of identity; basketball is an imposition from our colonial masters, USA. Football on the other hand encourages all nations to develop identities based on the expansion, domestication and social climate of a nation. Spain is tika taka, Italy prides itself on tactical defensiveness, Argentina and Brazil adhere to the beautiful game; in fact there are more nations involved in FIFA than the United Nations.  FIFA president Sepp Blatter has always expressed his interest in expanding football past the traditional European playing fields, as manifested in the choice for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA world cup for Russia and Qatar respectively, the former not even having its own domestic league but likely to create one in response. He even personally saw through the ouster of the corruption in the Philippine Football Federation by president Martinez and the instalment of new president Araneta; something President Noynoy ignored despite the anti-corruption rhetoric.

Another predicament is the feasibility, with global capitalism in disarray, nations caring less and less about basic social services (health, education etc) does football development have a place in Philippine society?Similar to rich people condemning the poor for drinking or other small luxuries because of the little money they have the argument is flawed, it’s like asking a person not be a person just because he does not receive the same opportunities; though of course those opportunities were ironically robbed from them by the same rich people. Football is by definition in the grassroots sport and while SMART, Globe and other companies are expressing greater interest in taking the reigns in terms of funding, football’s actualization domestically will depend on the people. If the kids on the street are arguing about the Jabulani in place of a basketball ring on every corner it will not be ignored. Commercialization and taking football to similar financial problems of big clubs is a possibility from the private sector, in which case, Blatter save us.

6.Refining the Propaganda Machine

Critical of Aquino? You just might be an Arroyo loyalist. For 2011, Akbayan will probably turn into the more refined propaganda machine for the Aquino regime. Akbayan among others have lumped up the left and their genuine claims into the same category as that of the Arroyo regime which of all groups, has done significantly less than the national democratic movement to combat Arroyo. The so called “Coalition against the Poor” that Walden Bello coined is not very far from many crusaders of the administration who continuously point out that the “progress in economic and democratic space” would never have happened before well in fact they are the same. The bogus land reform, enormous budget cuts, political killings (1 activist has died in every week of Aquino’s reign) and incompetent officials who mis-tweet often.  These overbearing similarities proves there is actually no Villarroyo as was popularly used during the election period but a Aquinoroyo which P Noynoy inadvertently clings to in the context of global capitalism/imperialism and austerity.

The lack of media coverage of legitimate issues raised against the administration, the sexist overemphasis on the succeeding dates of the president and Kris Aquino’s misuse of airtime to seduce reporters into castrating themselves in favour of the pointless details of this new regime contribute to the over assurance that everything is fine. It’s all looking as if Aquino’s most staunch opponent was Arroyo, in truth it was probably getting up in the morning considering his lack of output. He fancies himself a martyr in the making (wonder where he got that idea) who vanquished the villainous Arroyo. In order to do this, every member of his court must comply, and nobody more important than ABS-CBN. I remember the resigned Department of Tourism Undersecretary Enteng Romano  saying “this wouldn’t have happened in the previous regime” regarding his resignation over the “Pilipinas kay ganda” fiasco.

All of this proves the growing insecurity of the regime, none too incomprehensible since with everything that’s going on there are plenty of reasons to be insecure. With progressive movements growing in number and influence, 2011 promises to be a propaganda war not only on who is wrong as was the previous case; but of who’s got the better plan, in which case the left “won’t trade humanity for patriotism.”

5. Scudetto in Sights for Juventus FC and AC Milan

With a slew of semi-retired greats, a club with more injury problems than most in mid season, having hardly any money to rake in new talent and without the least international superstars (opposite to Inter), the Italian club are still looking the most determined to win the Scudetto/Italian league title. Starting the season poorly in one of the most competitive football leagues in the world, the Old lady/ Juventus has bounced back gloriously, even beating the current top of the league AC Milan in their away game. Even with Leonardo taking over from Rafa Benitez at Inter and the Cassano addition to AC Milan, the Cinderella story that has yet to disappoint of Italian football is Juventus. Inter’s ace has always been Mourinho and without him they are vulnerable to the traditional weaknesses of any club, Cassano is loose cannon, no matter what anyone says and can likely do more damage than good to the AC Milan.

With legendary goalkeeper, Gianluigi Buffon coming back to training, things can only get better. Not known for their flashy football unlike Barcelona, the discipline and experienced by Del Piero and the others who still seem to run like young men at times are leading the team to the end of an era in of which they would like to be champions.

4. Premiere League title race between Arsenal and Manchester United

My Premiere League fearless forecast puts Arsenal up against Manchester United for the title. Chelsea have reached their peak and their lack of creativity in changing tactics, unreliable bench have put them where they are now. Man U haven’t lost a game and generally look to win the title but of all other clubs Arsenal boasts an excellent bench, unparalleled imagination on the pitch in England and are lagging behind leaders Man U. However, Arsenal’s weakness seems to be their inability to sometimes cope with the pressure and consequently buckle in their defence. Manchester City remains the wild card, but the overall trend depends on the next meeting between Arsenal and Man U and the performance of Man U against other big clubs to test their arrogance. Also if Arsenal can go past the injury excuse and fully utilize their rotation policy.

Alj however believes that Arsenal cannot win the title (comparing Arsenal’s level of improvement as the same as that of Sunderland) with the transfer window etc, though it must be known that she purposely distances herself from anything Premiere League.

3. ASAP-Katipunan will win the Student Council Elections in UP Manila

There is something different in the campus air of UP Manila, the red scare has continued to become a red hope. AK has signalled more hope for campus and national politics than any other political party in 2010 in recent years. Giant mobilizations, unending discussions in classrooms, campus hotspots among others have propelled UP Manila to new heights of political engagement. Much like football, the winning side is looking to win and is faced with some dark horses that hope to steer the relevant back to popular obscurity. Leading the fights against the budget cut, participating in lobbying efforts in congress, launching the historic strike, participating and helping to create venues for students to be consulted and informed has been the political highlight of student politics. In short, campus politics has become synonymous with both the studentry and AK. Due to the fact that there is largely an absence of any other alternative, 2010 has been a year in which the alternative meant the defeat of student rights.

Could the virtual non-involvement of other political inclinations in the fight against the budget cut and to generally set Aquino straight on genuine people’s policies be linked with the fact that conjuring up some confusion will only put them in a bad light? I think partly so, meaning that they were held to a political standstill by their refusal to cooperate in burning issues of the students and people and their inability to embrace progressive truths altogether. Moreover it is the inability to recognize the power of the students and the broad masses in the UP Community to be able to unite regardless of whether there are political positions held by certain people. Council elections always reflect on how the previous year was pieced together for what people are talking about; and come miting de avance the questions will be pouring in: how did you serve the people in 2010?

2. FC Barcelona still looking to win everything, especially the Champions League

Taking off from the dismantling of Real Madrid at Camp Nou earning them a 5-0 victory of which has not been seen in more than a decade, and Pep Guardiola’s side having not lost to Los Blancos/Real Madrid since he took over, Barca have arguably played the best football for the better part of the century. This predictions however is not grounded on the current standing or form of the Barca team which is a factor nonetheless with hardly any of them not featuring due to massive injury problems or lack of confidence. What is more important is that not one team with the exception of Rubin Kazan has been able to break through or trouble the tika taka/possession football that Barcelona employ; speaking of course from my own biases. They keep the ball the longest, create the most chances, pass the ball around nearly 4 or 5 times as much as a regular team, and have great players up front. 2011 for club football is a year for tika taka, of which holding out as long as you can has seemed to be the only available option that offers a chance of victory.

However, despite the brutality of El Clasico for Real Madrid, of all the Managers in club football, Jose Mourinho looks to be in the best position to take down Barca, with wins in the past managing Inter Milan and Chelsea. Real Madrid have also more or less done better in the Champions League group stage, beating out AC Milan, and Ajax. “The Group of Death” of the Champion’s league as Alj likes to call it ended with Real on top and undefeated only not taking maximum points from a draw with AC Milan. The most arrogant manager/persona in football, self styled the “Special One” is largely capable of changing it up to win the next El Clasico which will most likely determine the La liga title. He is a politician, constantly in the news to promote himself and his aura of greatness, a tactic to either boost Real’s confidence to unrealistic heights or to offer a distraction for his master plan. He and not Real Madird per se is Barca’s biggest threat.

There is also the fact that Real is the most successful club in the history of European football, AC Milan being the 2nd. What all of these point to is that European football at present is a competition between Spanish superpowers who apparently have only (or are vulnerable to) significantly slipped up against themselves and no one else considering the tight title races in Italy, England and Germany.

1. A World to Win: Stepping up global protest

Apart from the massive protests across the Philippines, in 2010 we were also witness to the unending flow of students, faculty and administrators to protest the effects of the austerity measures in Europe. Since the last slump in the global capitalism, education has been a major target for imperialist powers to save face and generally prioritize the survival of the system, the decent future of the youth is apparently not included. Nobody wears desperation well, Europe is no exception in resorting to this. We must make no mistake, there are no coincidences between the significant rise in protesters locally despite Noynoy’s “renewal of hope and change” and the colossal wave of movements for democratic rights such as the National Union of Students in the UK among others.

The £9,000 increase per year in the UK in tuition fees, the injection of private sector schemes and reduction of the education budget in Italy by 280 million Euros along with similar cases in the rest of Europe, Greece, Ireland etc more closely adhere to the American system of education, a nation who is arguably the center of global capitalism. Aquino’s K12 program and budget cuts are unsurprisingly similar.

Students face police in downtown Milan, Italy, as they protest against the government-proposed education reforms which are being voted in the Italian parliament, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010. Thousands of students across Italy have occupied university buildings, bridges and piazzas to protest education cuts and reforms proposed by the Education minister Mariastella Gelmini. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

The point is, all over the world, reactionary forces are forced into a position that they feel is necessary and unavoidable and yet exposes them and their naked desires. 2011 will offer more of the same scenarios to elevate capitalism’s more barbaric form of prioritization. The level of organization expressed globally is consequently reducing its spontaneous character and lays in wait at the next attack of reactionary retention. Global austerity is a frightening road that reactionaries cannot refuse.

Read more at http://www.thefirstpint.co.uk/2010/12/08/student-protests-in-europe-how-does-italy-compare-to-the-uk/

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