Year of the Boomerang

Too many trends are consistently characterizing the University of the Philippines- Manila student elections, and consequently these trends are giving birth to a spectrum of advocacies and offers to the students. In the context of society’s chronic crisis especially in our basic social services however it seems to serve as a distraction. ASAP-Katipunan (AK), Bigkis and Jamie Balgos as the independent candidate for USC chair paint the picture of a continuing struggle for identity and relevance and the university, an identity that has endured the test of time thanks to ideals that AK still holds. Conversely we must note how both Bigkis and Balgos fit into university politics as an unnecessary product of a certain period.

The Balding of Britney

Like many trends, Bigkis will eventually fade away. Combining the advocacies of environment and misplaced reform they take flight from popular worldwide political fads of trying to find different solutions to the same problems. Foreign monopolies still influence the general economy and politics particularly education, the forced detachment of Bigkis from these truths puts them in a position of attempting at a “change” that is too “multi”-directional that it goes nowhere. In short, they are not out to fight for our rights, they focus on particular things that try to be unconventional when there is no need to be. In effect their choice of action is either extremely localized or non-existent, the latter being the usual.  Like the anti-nuclear movements, luddites, certain advocacies last for only a period of time and never seem to transcend those periods; and as exemplified by the decreasing visibility in the university it’s very probable for Bigkis to follow the same pattern. Besides the general perception of the campus community of the organization of being elitist and exclusive the organization prides itself on having “new” answers for student participation. However, alternative for the sake of alternative fails and is ultimately absorbed into the status quo and the reactionary ideas that follow, unless of course inaction gets a hold of them first. I can’t remember anything they actually did, besides a couple of statements, time is showing that they are running out of ideas to present themselves and are sinking into being irrelevant in the university. Bigkis will not survive history.

If you do not stand for something, you’ll fall for anything

Balgos’ existence hardly strays from the inconsequential doom that surrounds Bigkis. She differs though from Bigkis in the sense that she is trying to adapt to the call of the times. The times have resounded education for all, with the strike almost all candidates and especially Balgos are trying to ride the progressive wave sweeping UPM without actually participating in it. Her independent status may imply sincerity but in truth it makes her fickle and vacillating character more apparent, something she takes full advantage of by adapting to the political tone of the university. This adaptation is somewhat more dangerous, unlike Bigkis, she clings to her relevance whilst her actions are clearly “independent” from the interests of the students. Out of all candidates she is the most akin to a traditional politician, generating credit from what is popular in the content of her campaign yet on the surface having the pretense of not having any ideological disposition. Moreover the excessive emphasis on herself as a complete “energy” and achiever type is analyzed precisely by CONTEND UPM in saying “this excessive fetishism on academic excellence exhibits an egoistic itch for adulation and personal validation.” It’s combining her extreme individual emphasis while gasping for significance in adjusting herself in accordance to perception of progressive politics without action that differentiates her from Bigkis.

Year of the Boomerang

ASAP-Katipunan is permanence. Through the years it has been unwavering in upholding the students and people’s rights. Many political parties have come and go, presented different platforms, following popular trends and advocacies but never equaling what AK has achieved in terms of uniting and mobilizing the broadest number in the university. To be honest whenever the university has shown its best in catering to the interests of the majority, AK was involved, especially in the recent years. AK will always produce student leaders that have these qualities, leaders who believe most importantly that all critical moments of the progressive strength of the university the students and people have been decisive, that is what makes leaders effective. This is a year to repeat everything we have achieved, an endeavor to better define the continuing change and a year to once again prove that permanence has existed precisely because of a struggle that is timeless.

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Happyland: Football and Poverty

A movie review of Jim Libiran’s Happyland

Jim Libiran’s Happyland depicts a group of teenagers from who discover football or Futkal (Football sa kalye/street) through the local youth center in the larger impoverished section of Tondo, Manila. Through Fr. Jose, head of the center hailing from an axis of the football world, Barcelona, football becomes an opportunity, something more than a past time building something “more than just a club.” Fr. Jose’s passion spawns from one of FC Barcelona’s favorite sons Paulino Alcantara who happens to be Filipino. Scoring 357 goals in 357 games, Alcantara shattered records and literally even the net at one point though was denied acclaim on the level of a national team since there was barely a Filipino National team to speak of then. Emerging from a poor background Alcantara’s achievements inspire the kids to play. Coming back to Tondo for the film, Libiran’s Happyland is an attempt to explain poverty and the basic rights that are withheld from this condition as well as the perception of what the impoverished “cannot” have, like football. It features real life Futkaleros and the initiators of the movement playing similar roles to their lives in relation to Futkal.

Larong Mayaman (rich man’s game)

As explained by Brother Pedro who teaches the kids how to play, Futkal may be played on the streets of their community but it is symbolic of bringing football to everyone as they eventually play against teams on the University of Makati grounds.  This is an important point which I think is present in the movie and should be present in our understanding of football as a metaphor for democratic rights. Football is for everyone, throughout the film it is depicted as “larong mayaman” with reluctance from the locals to appreciate it. How has this come to pass? With basic cable you can only watch the English Premiere League and not even all of the matches, and a few Champions League matches, never mind Asian football. I’m sorry I just don’t understand how channels can regularly play table tennis, equestrian sports among others while leaving out the most watched game on the planet. Before the Azkals you probably had to be Angelica and Derek and fly off to South Africa to watch the 2010 World Cup. Of course most glaring is the state of affairs in our domestic league which paradoxically has no money in it. This universality is congruent in how many people view certain privileges as forever being privileges or facets of life that will always be absent from theirs such as education, good health services, business, legal help and fare wage; subsequently football.

Take the power back

Throughout the film there is an ongoing contradiction between the rich and the poor. During games fans of the opposing team (seen as rich kids) would throw loose change on the field as an attempt to distract, insult and “prove” their superiority against the Tondo team who hardly had any shoes or proper uniform. Clad in shirts with numbers painted on them one opponent depicted as the “British team” would not even get off their bus in the Tondo home court, irrationally fearing a  literal beating from the locals.  These economic divisions are demonstrated in cultural animosity towards the poor in what is perceived to be “our” game. If Futkal is an attempt to promote access to football as a metaphor for life, conversely the mentality of many is still the status quo which may support the Azkals but still adheres to the obstacles of the norm.

The players experience real problems of the impoverished Filipino youth, team captain Ishmail is faced with an uncertain future in which he wants to be able to study in college, Ramil is forced into a life of crime, others are tied to providing for what little their families have; even attempting to prevent a cold in the family is a big obstacle for not having enough money to buy simple medicines. Drugs, crime, among others, what is common is the bleak understanding that they do not have a future, the opposing understanding of the status quo through football reinforces this. Football by no means solves their problems, football is no revolution. At some points though it may feel  that way, yet in the end the embrace of football merely teaches them of what can be theirs. Hard work may get you some cash but what man really needs is to challenge society and change what is taken from us, to me this was exemplified in Ramil quitting his life of snatching/ theft despite the additional financial burden it brings. What is his stealing compared to the condemnation of a society of the poor to a life of stealing?

Ultimately the undertaking of developing football, albeit just about anything in society is based on the masses as a motive force. Football does not change society but in Happyland it becomes a representation of taking what is right into the hands of the underdeveloped who in turn become pioneers, awakened the masses are a messiah.

Note: Today the Philippine Azkals have yet to play Mongolia in the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers, this may not be the semi-finals of the tournament but it resounds enormous importance in football’s continued existence in the country.  Phil Younghusband’s cameo in Happyland as a supporter of football’s development is a welcome yet cheesy addition to the film; however his real performance will be on the pitch. With it are the stakes of raising football to greater relevance locally as did Happyland.

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Algeria, Fanon and Zidane

Having recently seen the film “The Battle of Algiers” it reminded me of two things, national liberation in relation to the Arab question as well as Zinedine Zidane, the French-Algerian footballer whose legendary exploits hail him as one of the best to walk the Earth. The connection might seem unorthodox but being in the frame of globalizing revolt as well as football as a milestone for cultural/ sporting expression it puts Zidane at ends with ideas of another French-Algerian, Frantz Fanon and internationalism, not despite his French heritage but because of it. Though by no means is Zidane a revolutionary nor a liberator as we must put this distinction in the Algerian/African struggle yet as Fanon put it, “culture is the first expression of a nation.[i]” In 1954 Algeria spoke sending shockwaves to the United Nations and to the knees of imperialism, in 2010 Zidane helped the Arab world speak for international football, and today Algeria among others like Egypt and Tunisia are still speaking militant verses.

Rock the Casbah!

What struck me the most about the film was how the Arab culture coalesced with guerilla tactics, women using their veils for hiding weapons, and how simply dressing like an Arab would put you directly in the order of battle; an extremely racist and risky assumption for the French colonizers of Algeria. On the whole it tackles national liberation and the domestic means to express this. A revolution is culture necessitated through struggle. Though as we examine Algeria, Albeit the region today, can we say that they are independent? No, we cannot. The post-colonial situation is not far from that of the French occupation despite the 1960 UN resolution calling for the independence of all colonies. Algeria cannot be free when its hand feeds the machine of global exploitation. The Marcosian leader of Algeria at present is Abdelaziz Bouteflika since 1999. Between June and December 2010 food prices had increased by 32%, Since 2001 Bouteflika has been involved in the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad) a project undertaken in relation to free trade and other parasitic western oriented economic policies. [ii] Massive protests as is the trend in region broke out and are still ongoing although in a less consistent fashion.  Hence the political habits and concentration of nominal cultural or the Arabic heritage has become mired up in the automation of western dominion, Fanon in Serequeberhan’s article on African politics[iii] calls this inert and empty. In addition, for Fanon, without the long-term destruction of colonial residue it is bound to readapt. [iv]

The Battle of Algiers was dispersed by French military yet the nation awoke to a period of emerging national consciousness, and even in post-colonial society that stage in its history will always be vital as a launching point for successive anti-colonial and national liberation movements. Yet today even with the sudden surge in the protest movement Algeria is still faced with the post-colonial structure of foreign plunder and a confused expression of how to view the western world and even themselves, in short, what is imperialism to them, and is it still here? Of course more importantly, how do we destroy it?

 

"We are winning" 🙂

 

Fanon noted, in 1958: “The XXth century, on the scale of the world, will not only be the era of atomic discoveries and interplanetary explorations. The second upheaval of this epoch and incontestably, is the conquest by the peoples of lands that belong to them.” [v]

 

good read

 

 

 

Is this that period? It’s hard to say but with regard to Fanon’s point given the current suppression of the Arab-Algerian identity it’s bound to happen. Historically we can say that the Algerian people know it to be possible and as a form of expression, protest seems to be the current language that is beginning to take shape in revolutionary mold. National liberation will always reference itself to its history and is interconnected with many international trends such as the fight against global austerity as the rampage of the imperialist fallout of the 2008 financial crisis. Similarly it is related to the politics surrounding the 2022 World Cup and Zidane underneath it.

 

Zidane: Citizen of the World

He is an artist, I remember watching Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, a documentary with no words and hardly any sound, just movements juxtaposed against world events and facial expressions. Zidane tore through the field and commanded the pitch. Having led the mediocre French National team to win the 98 World Cup and the subsequent Euro 2000, he had already retired when he was called up again to be in the 2006 squad which he captained to the final. It’s true that most of France’s recent success in football had to with Zidane. Born an Algerian who was naturalized in France he retained dual citizenship and when the bids for the 2022 WC were announced he was the ambassador for Qatar. Zidane keeps quiet about his exact religion but his parents were Muslim.

 

at the 2006 world cup

 

However his role in affirming FIFA’s choice for Qatar was met with massive criticism from the western world mainly attacking Qatar’s football pedigree. The point is football must be taken places, new places, it’s a sport that exists on internationalism redefining itself on new soils, sounds like revolutionary philosophy. Football is not European, given that it originated in England, it is a national culture internationalized with its own set of political issues. Anyway his efforts helped to reject the ethnocentrism football experiences and once again made football relevant for a significant part of the world. In truth what would football have done in a place like England besides jack up its market value, Qatar makes the WC historic as the first Arab nation to host it.

“It is time,” he said, “to bring the World Cup to the Middle East. Football belongs to everyone. It is time to give it to Qatar.”

John Fiske, in Understanding Popular Culture, believes that the body is key to representing socio-political contexts prevalent at a given time. He deliberates the point superbly, when he notes that ‘the struggle for control over meanings and pleasures (and therefore the behaviours) of the body is crucial because the body is where the social is most convincingly represented as the individual and where politics can best disguise itself as human nature’.  Zidane’s ability and heritage contributed to the Qatar decision. [vi]

He who is reluctant to recognize me opposes me – Fanon

National liberation according to Fanon is an international phenomenon undertaken by man. Zidane is no revolutionary yet what he does in accordance with today’s post-colonial Algeria and Arab world is try to redefine what they mean to the others, something positive amidst the imperialist ideological offensive.  He is part of laying the groundwork for Arab cultural internationalism. His French background does not serve to be a colonial undertaking as he still sees what is best for Arab culture in his own way. He is in the words of another French-Algerian Fanon he is in “…contact with the people of the new movement gives rise to a new rhythm of life and to forgotten muscular tensions, and develops the imagination. He makes innovations, he makes works of art.” [vii] The duality of Zidane’s heritage does not necessarily make him a more objective man but puts him in a position of dual relevance in search of cultural identity apart from his skills.

Zidane makes Arab culture relevant in the biggest sporting event on the planet and because he is also French it adds to the internationalism of it all. This development of identity corresponds to the more massive progressive political development in certain regions of the world. Does Zidane effectively create this new type of progressive culture? No, ultimately it’s up to the people of Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia etc, whose voices are now interconnected with the fight for freedom and genuine democracy against imperialism alongside a glaring example of a cultural rejection of western supremacy. The Battle of Algiers and the 2022 World Cup will only be two of the many events that will shape the history of a universal struggle whose spotlight is currently occupied by Arab nations. Fanon says that the building of a nation is akin to universalizing values, that this two-fold experience is ultimately the source of culture, Zidane and today’s Arab activists have shown that struggle and identity are one and the same.

Sources:


[i] Fanon, Frantz (1959) Reciprocal Bases of National Culture and the fight for Freedom, Marxists.org

http://www.marxists.org/subject/africa/fanon/national-culture.htm

[iii] Serequeberhan, Tsenay (2010) Africa in a Changing World: An Inventory, Monthly Review

http://www.monthlyreview.org/100101serequeberhan.php

[iv] Ibid

[v] Fanon, Frantz (1959) Reciprocal Bases of National Culture and the fight for Freedom, Marxists.org

http://www.marxists.org/subject/africa/fanon/national-culture.htm

[vi] Fiske, John (1991) Understanding Popular Culture, Routeledge Inc. London, England

[vii] Fanon, Frantz (1959) Reciprocal Bases of National Culture and the fight for Freedom, Marxists.org

http://www.marxists.org/subject/africa/fanon/national-culture.htm

 

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YELLOW CARD of the week: runner up for most infuriating person/event of the week

All Those Who Condemn the World Cup 2022 in Qatar


FIFA’s December decision to hold the 2022 World Cup in Qatar was controversial to say the least for other countries who were bidding, mainly England, the rest of Europe and some figures from the United States. From corruption allegations linked to Qatar being picked, weather issues as the WC is supposed to be held in June-July which is summer for Qatar, and the lack of football pedigree of Qatar. It all boils down to the insistence of many that football should stay within the confines of its elite, in effect creating a geo-political ethnocentric view of how football should expand. Being a football convert from WC South Africa those arguments demean what football has meant to so many. Hence, does it follow that because of these setbacks that can be averted in 11 years the Middle East has less of a right to host a WC? The name of the tournament itself denotes internationalism for football.

Football for all

Holding the WC in Qatar would entail a tremendous leap for football as a whole, expanding in an often misunderstood region of Asia where no WC has ever been held. The allure of a WC is not only quality stadiums but expanding football as tenets for cultural identity. I must reiterate football is created through the grassroots and how it is appreciated as a mass oriented sport, contrary to having quality stadiums, hordes of hooligans, an income generator and home to successful clubs. The 2010 WC is the first in Africa, 2018 will have it for the first time in the eastern European area; FIFA and Blatter are on a mission to bring football to the world not to where it has already gone. It can even be argued that England’s success in domestic football is partly due to its previous hosting of the tournament which inevitably draws legions of people to stadiums.
Among the selling points of holding the WC in Qatar would be the stadiums that would somehow be air-conditioned reducing the temperature by 20 degrees or more. Mostly it was that after the tournament Qatar promised to take parts of the stadiums apart to donate to poorer countries who lack facilities, Philippines? Besides that, is weather really the issue? What will having a WC in England or USA do for the international football community besides translate itself into a profit?

”I’m so bored with the USA” – The Clash

USA’s Landon Donovan jokingly tweeted “I have an idea … we play Qatar in a friendly (they can even host it), and the winner gets to host the 2022 WC … wait, do they even have a team?” The ignorance comes from a man who doesn’t really have a right to boast about American football having never gone past the round of 16 and having never won anything in an international competition. Who the hell is Donovan to talk about football pedigree? The USA had their chance in 1994 when they hosted, they developed a domestic league as a result, now it seems, unsurprisingly that 2022 is a chance to bring more money into their imperialist industries; as the WC generates the majority of all income for football in general. As of now Qatar have their own national team and league, what more in 11 years?

The English express similar sentiments at just about every sport segment of BBC, every English football blog etc; Blatter was right to call them sore losers. He also recently announced that the tournament could be held in the winter season, though disrupting the schedules of many football leagues, isn’t it worth taking football someplace new and more importantly, someplace relevant? Racism and geo-centrism in European football stem from the same kind of intolerant attitude that put their leagues on a pedestal.

VIVA FIFA!

Many also accuse FIFA of corruption in the bid for 2022 hosting duties, whoateallthepies.tv said “we’re now all just waiting for Sepp Blatter to shuffle off. Then maybe FIFA can at last become the transparent, honourable organisation football needs it to be.” With absolutely no evidence it’s hard to imagine especially coming from the Philippines where top FIFA officials were instrumental in ousting the very corrupt former Philippine Football Federation President Jose Mari Martinez. Moreover, with or without the corruption allegations Qatar would still have been a good choice for the world cup given its significance for the progress of world football. There may be some things on the ground that contributed to corruption speculation but when you take a look at the big picture it wouldn’t have made the choice for Qatar any less suitable.

Right now, the Asian Cup is going on in Qatar, having hosted the 2006 Asian games among others they proved they can do justice to such events.

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RED CARD of the week: title given to most infuriating person/event of the week

MRT/LRT fare hikes

President Aquino’s new year greetings to the Filipino apparently come with a 
price. Within the first week of 2011, Ricky Carandang, Secretary of Strategic
Development and Planning confirmed there will be fare hikes. Affecting about 1.2
million commuters, this is in addition to the fare hikes of expressways and
taxis. With the fee already announced as being 11 pesos for the boarding fee and an additional 1 peso per kilometre the regime is already resorting to its propaganda approach of pitting Filipinos against each
other. Overall the economic policies being put into place in the context of a
disastrous budget allocation make it seem as if the regime is looking for
enemies as fast as possible. Bayan or Bagong Alyansang Makabayan’s Nato Reyes
commented by saying “it will make commuters suffer for the debts incurred
through onerous contracts entered into by past governments. Where is the justice
in that?”

“BREAK YOUR BACK TO EARN YOUR PAY
AN’ DON’T FORGET TO GROVEL” – Bankrobber, The Clash

The hikes accelerate Aquino’s thirst to “stabilise” an economy by proving his
“brand” of neo-liberal policies which, in truth, echo from the centers of global
capitalism. In his desperate attempts to constantly explain himself, he tries to
generate money for his development programs (Conditional Cash Transfers etc)
which ironically cripple the people’s economic life in order for his dole outs
to look like an indicator for change. Robbing the people and them buying their
support, it’s the oldest trick in the book.

“You can have whatever you like” – T.I.

Amidst this, P-Noy has the audacity to tell the Armed Forces of the Philippines
that the regime will provide for all of their necessities. Despite the fact that
about 1 activist per week was murdered in 2010 under P-Noy. The human rights
record of the military and the abusive actions of the police recently does not
exactly call for the regime to reward them, albeit without any resounding
mention of their offences. Human rights stopped for the regime at their PR
campaign with the Morong 43, wherein the military even proudly extolled their
grand plans for counter insurgency, apparently put on by their dwindling
confidence in facing progressive forces. The point is, P-Noy mocks the people
with these hikes, saying that the government couldn’t do anything about the 300%
increase in the SLEX, that they needed the transport subsidy for rural areas,
whilst proclaiming an unlimited bag of cash for the military. In effect, Aquino
not only buys support for his “changes” through dole out development schemes, he
prepares for the inevitable backlash of his policies by rewarding fascism.

“You do not talk about fight club”

From the Hacienda Luisita reform issue, to the budget cuts to these fare hikes,
Aquino seems to be in the habit of justifying his action by taking the issues to
a “greater good” standpoint. In Luisita, the peasants vying for their rights to
the land itself were outweighed by development of agriculture by the landowners,
are we supposed to blame the peasants then? With the budget cuts in education,
it was to prioritize basic education and teacher’s salaries, blame the
protesters from state colleges and universities? Now, with the fare hikes, it is
for the rural community who aren’t really covered by the transport subsidy,
should the guilt be on the commuters? In reality, the conditions for these
policies were cooked up by the same people, the same liars who attempt to blur
their exploitative practices with “prioritization”. Upholding basic rights never
entails the sacrifice of others, contrary to the justifications of the regime.
All of this without a hint of wage increase.


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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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Sometimes History Needs a Red Card

red card

noun.plural~ cards [countfootball : a red card that a referee holds in the air to indicate that a player who has broken the rules of the game will not be allowed to continue playing. (Merriam- Webster’s) It denotes that a player intentionally broke the rules to an extreme degree, usually in fouls going too far.

If only history had a red card to take the Gloria Arroyos, George Bushs and the Pinochets out of the game. This blog is an attempt to bring football and politics into the line of fire of progressive criticism. Revolutions are not made with blogging, in football or in society, they at most accentuate the discussion in a certain sphere of the population. 2011 promises to be fraught with uncertainty in various climates, yet for decades the solutions to problems have already existed in eradicating inequalities and other socio-economic problems, in that sense, that is what blogging must not lose sight of. Blogging may offer some form of cyber freedom but even in football the options to develop will always be seen through the eyes of the few, a red card from “red” politics offers something else.

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