Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, June 8, 2006




By Zulquarnain Islam and Mohammad Isam
Photo: AFP

The greatest show on earth aka the football World Cup, is upon us. It has been four long years since the Brazilian, Cafu lifted that coveted trophy amidst flowing graffiti on a balmy Yokohama night.

We are on the threshold of what some say could be the greatest tournament ever. But prediction is about the last thing that one would want to do at the moment. After all you do not want to go out on a limb. You might just end up falling flat.

What is assured though is that the World Cup throws up some unique mix of teams and players. Never before have there been so many young, talented players playing together in one tournament. The influx of youth have been so prominent that one journalist has gona as far as to calling it the 'Kindergarten World Cup'. Almost all the teams have players under the age of 20, (and maybe FIFA's decision to integrate the Gillette Young Player of the World Cup played some role in that decision) and that is something new in this tournament. Traditionally the team composition tilts towards the experienced, given that this is the most important footballing event in most people's lives. But the theme of youth conquers all is more than evident in Deutschland 2006.

But that is not what you want to talk about. There have been enough articles written about Lionel Messi, about Robinho, about Theo Walcott and David Odonkor. So that will not achieve much good now will it?

Anyhow what should really be concentrated on is the fact that this tournament is set to throw up some mouth-watering battles. History, culture, individual battles are all ingredients for some matches to be transformed into more than just a game of football.

Case in point is the Iran-USA first round match in the 1998 tournament in Lyon. Both were in relative standards, quite average teams and none had much chance to go past the opening stages.

But political conflict between the two countries simply pushed the game to another level. Usually the players would term it as 'just another game.' But in this case, everyone was fired up as a melting pot of emotions threatened to overflow. It was war on the football pitch and even both teams posing for pictures together did nothing to hide it. Every tackled counted and every ball had to be won. Accept no quarter. Kill them all (in the purely metaphoric sense ofcourse!)

Eventually, Mehdi Mahdavikia wrote himself into Iranian folklore as he settled the match in the favour of the Asian giants, their first-ever win and according to their supporters, their greatest ever victory.

This time around, its no different as key clashes between individuals, nations, personalities and cultures adds that pinch of salt that makes good great.
Here is a preview of some of the key clashes in the opening round of the 2006 FIFA World Cup:

GROUP A: Hosts Germany will face Costa Rica in the opening match, a complete banana skin as this game has always been in favour of the underdogs who have nothing to lose. They also renew their rivalry against neighbours Poland, a country they had occupied in the earlier part of the 1900s. What makes the match all the more special is that the German strike pairing of Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose are both Polish born. Matches between these two teams are usually full of crunching tackles and tremendous amount of energy. This match could also decide the group winners.

GROUP B: England are slated in this group, which also houses their 2002 group opponents Sweden. It's deeper than that of course as the English are managed by Sven Goran Erikkson- a Swedish. He would like to defeat the country of his birth, as this is one opponent that England hasn't defeated for quite a while. The English will also face tiny island nations of Trinidad and Tobago. The twin island used to be ruled by the English (just like the rest of the world at one time or the other), and this game can throw up some resistance from the debutants. And there is ofcourse the fact that most of the Trinidad squad play their football in England. The big match from this group, at least on paper, is obviously the one between Sweden and David Beckham's men, but watch out for the Paraguay-Sweden encounter as well. It could decide a few things

GROUP C: The last time Argentina and the Netherlands met in a World Cup fixture, it was quite simply a classic. The 1998 Quarterfinal is remembered mainly for the tussles, the red cards, the eye catching play but will forever be remembered for the brilliance of one Denis Bergkamp, who broke Argentinian hearts in three simple moves. Receiving a 60 yard pass, skinning Roberto Ayala and then nestling the ball into the back of the net off the outside of his foot.

A repeat of the play if not the score would be more than welcome and some new memories look set to be made.

This time the Dutch have the effervescent Ruud Van Nisterlooy, and a battle against the likes of Juan Roman Riquelme and Lionel Messi surely has all the makings of another masterpiece.

But never forget the power of the unknown as another set of debutants can rock the boat. Serbia & Montenegro just conceded a single goal in qualifying for the tournament and have some super players. Ivory Coast, long regarded as an African force, has a talented line-up led by Chelsea striker Didier Drogba and others like Kolo Toure and Michael Essien. This isn't the Group of Death for nothing.

GROUP D: Portugal and Mexico should rule the roost in this group. The Portuguese have no dearth in talent, but previous failures may come back to haunt them.

Their battle against the Central American nation is the key encounter, especially for the individual battles between Mexican defender Marquez and the talented Portuguese midfield of Deco, Ronaldo and the evergreen Figo.

Iran can trouble the best teams and both the above teams must go past the Asian giants to ensure qualification to the Round of Sixteen. Another thing to watch out for is Angola who were colonized by the Portuguese and may well be looking for revenge.

GROUP E: This is the best group of the tournament in my book. Italy are the marquee team but Czech Republic are worth anybody's money and so are debutants Ghana. USA are no pushovers after their impressive run to the last eight in the Korea-Japan showpiece in 2002.

The match between Italy and the Czech is important but if the teams slip up against USA or Ghana, things will get edgy.

Potentially, the Italy-Ghana encounter could well be the decider of the group.

GROUP F: Champions Brazil are drawn with a newly rejuvenated Croatia, exciting Australia and the Asian hopes Japan.

The Celecáo should breeze through and that will leave the other three fighting it out for the second place. Croatia-Australia should be an interesting match with both nationalities overlapping in each other but Japan could throw up some surprises.

GROUP G: France are showing some late form and must look to qualify with some ease. But never count out the Koreans as well as Switzerland.

Togo are making their first big-time appearance and should provide good fight to all. But it is the 1998 champions who hold the key and their game against the Koreans should decide the group.

GROUP H: Quite a group one must say. It has two Arab teams Saudi Arabia and Tunisia facing each other for the first time in a World Cup. It also has regular under-achievers Spain and newcomers Ukraine. These two will dominate the group and the battle between Andriy Shevchenko and Iker Cassilas is delectable to say the least.

Another one of the curiosities about the upcoming World Cup is the number of historical records that can be broken this year. And this month, Brasil's Placar magazine listed some of the records that may fall in Germany:

If Ronaldo scores three times, he will become the biggest goalscorer in World Cup history. The 'Fenomeno' has 12 goals, the same number that Pele has, behind Just Fontaine (13) and Gerd Müller (14).

We're 84 goals away from the mark of 2000 goals scored in the history of World Cups. The 1000th goal was scored by dutchman Rob Rensenbrink, in the 1978 Scotland 3x2 Holland. Argentinian forward Claudio Cannigia scored the 1500th World Cup goal in 1994, in his team's 2x1 victory over Nigeria.

For some perspective - in the 2002 WC, 161 goals were scored... and in 1998, we saw 171 goals.

If the Brasilian team wins on their first match, they will break the record for longest run of consecutive World Cup victories. The current record is 7 victories, a record shared by Italy (1934 and 1938) and Brazil (2002).

English forward Theodore Walcott can break Pele's record as the youngest player ever to score a World Cup goal. Pele's first WC goal was in the 1958 quarterfinal against Wales, and he was 17 years 239 days old. When England debuts on June 10th, Walcott will be 17 years 86 days old.

And there are other records that can be broken, of course... but I don't know what all the other WC records are (and if any of you do, please feel free to share)

Exciting, enticing and all the superlatives are not enough to describe the 18th edition of the biggest football tournament in the world. We have had brilliant comeback victories and underdogs captivating our minds in various tournaments over the past four years and if such events unfold in this World Cup one hell of a ride awaits us.

By, Ashraful Abedin Khan

Bangla's second album came out in mid March after a long break for the band members, and a long wait for the fans. The band titled it 'Prottutponno motitto', which is, at first hearing, a word very difficult to pronounce, and more importantly a word that means “knowing precisely what's to be done“. After listening to their first album “kingko rtobbobimur”(which by the way is another word very hard to pronounce, and again more importantly meaning “to be confused about what's to be done”), the music enthusiasts of Bangladesh were eagerly anticipating yet another ingenious master blaster of an album: it can be said with some confidence that they weren't disappointed.

The new Bangla album is very picturesque, very visual, much like the pretty little fairy tale books we loved when we were kids. Why visual? Because it gave us a clear picture of how some groups of people in our country are using religion as a political weapon. It talked about how a religion is sometimes more of a bleak tradition rather than a spiritual guide, to a family in our country on average.

The album had a clear concept, a common theme, a theme which by the way was not as pretty as the pretty little fairy tale books we loved when we were kids: it was rather controversial. And a controversy is always very bold. It never fails to make a statement. The album put a huge emphasis on lyrics, lyrics once so skilfully mapped by the great Lalon.

The music was nothing short of mature. Starting from the powerful appeal of a traditional Baul shongeet er ashor to the classiness of western horns, trumpets and flutes sections, the music featured a wide assortment of sounds.

The best part about that was that none of the instrumentation sounded unnecessary. It all blended well.

One of the prominent characteristics of the album was that the band, unlike in their first album, put very little emphasis on acoustic rhythms: most songs featured very rare changes in chord structures, which made them sound very much like the original raw Baul music. That is, western influence was minimized to a point where the songs were basically the original Baul numbers complemented by additive western instruments. Therefore it would be wrong to call it fusion. Bangla in fact sounded very Bangali. This was very evident throughout the last few tracks especially raat pohale pakhi and shobe ki hobe bhobe. The distorted guitar riffs at the end of raat pohale pakhi, for example complemented the music very uniquely but it did not eliminate the eastern feel from the music.

The album opens and ends from zero to infinity, probing and questioning…..ar ki boshbo amon shadhur shadhbajare?…..ar ki hobe amono jonome?

The vocalist sang brilliantly throughout the first two tracks (amon manob shomaj kobe and ki kalam pathalen), harmonizing occasionally but suitably and the backup vocal sections did nothing but justice to that. Both the songs were reminiscent of hip hop as because they put all emphasis on vocals and lyrics keeping the music and beats constant. The infrequent guitar/ esraj fill-ins completed the otherwise unprocessed songs.

The creativity proved to be at its peak when the trombone+horn+trumpet+flute+etc.+etc. (just name an instrument and its there!!) arrangements kicked in as Rob Fokir sang “shobai bole nobi nobi!” in ke tahare chinte pare. The flute section in pap punner kotha was delightful!

There was a beautiful clash between pure Bengali vocal lines and authentic western instrumentations. At the end of ke tahare chinte pare, the horn played out a very recognizable dotara tune which was nothing short of handsome.

Ke bojhe moular alek baji and ken jiggashile khodar kotha were by far the catchiest of all the tracks: typical concert hits, one would call them. Vocal choruses were very prominent and meaningful. They delivered messages. The amazingly groovy bass line, the double vocal harmonies and guitar wah on the latter only made it more powerful and up beat.

Eshob dekhi kanar haat bajar started out raw: vocals accompanied by a bass line; guitar titbits were here and there. And then the electronic beat made a charming entry. The song exploded. It was uniquely colourful. Fireworks were yet to come. The song till then was like a perfect dinner. All it needed was dessert. Dessert would be the fireworks (did you guess that?). A beautiful guitar solo at the end of the song was the most scrumptious of all desserts. Ingredients were blues and jazz. The note selections were exquisite. By far the most interesting track.

Track ten, though a very creative remix of amon manob shomaj kobe go, seemed unnecessary at this point, since the album was following a common theme and it just seemed like an unnecessary repetition.

Prottutponnomotitto is one of those albums that a listener really needs to get used to. A lot of people might not enjoy it very much on first listen. The sounds are very 'off the mainstream' and that shows how the band has matured over time. Their imagination was lively. Bangla took a bold step in expressing their opinions. Stop using religion as a weapon. Stop making false interpretations of a religion. The enemies of a religion are not the non believers of that religion, rather the ones who distort its true meaning.

Shaolin Soccer

Reviewd by Gokhra

Ever wonder why people call it soccer just to differentiate it from the American football? In fact the American one isn't even football. It's more like hand-arms-armpit-occasional footsie ball. Soccer is the true football and nuff said.

Since football season is just around the corner and the RS gang decided to do a football issue. So when I was asked to find a good related movie. I can't believe I missed this gem. It's not real football par se as that would be boring for many people including Mood Dude. Nope, this is football with a humourous twist.

"Shaolin Soccer" is one of those silly movies that you wouldn't nominated for any award because they do not involve gay cowboys (although what happens in shower rooms is a different matter).

The plot:
On one hand we have Sing, a.k.a. "Steel Leg," (played by director and co-writer Stephen Chow) who is a kung fu teacher without students. Life is hard as his toes start to poke through worn-out athletic shoes. Then we have his accidentally met coach who was a former superstar "Golden Leg" Fung (Ng Man Tat). Okay so those names in the brackets may not mean much but know that these guys pack as much dexterity as Jet Li. Yeah that's a name you know.

Many years ago, Fung was sabotaged and crippled by his wicked soccer rival Hung who ruined Fung's life and career and now employs him as a lowly "gofer." Hung has become the boss of Hong Kong soccer as owner and coach of the vicious, steroid-pumped unbeatable "Team Evil."

Sing and Fung join forces and put together a rag-tag team of Sing's old brothers and Shaolin school classmates. Under Fung's savvy coaching, they all start applying martial arts skills, tactics and outright sorcery to soccer.

As a result you have a Rocky in the making with the underdogs beating the top dogs. The "Mighty Iron Leg" team beats all comers with dazzling super-skills that often involve flying over the field, pulverizing goalies and kicking the ball so hard that it bursts into flames.
Hung is in trouble.

The verdict:
It's one of the funniest movies I have seen recently and that too without excreta, sexual innuendoes, bodily gags and 'f' words.

The movie has an abundance of action(hey, it's kungfu), slapstick and clichés. A cliché would be the Cinderella makeover which is portrayed here though Sings love interest by Vicki Zhao. She plays "Sweet Buns" Mui who is a baker/salesgirl whose complexion is so bad that flies buzz around her face. And then she looks hot thanks to the makeover. Get what I mean?

Although you basically know the plot well before it happens you cannot even imagine the action until it hits you smack in the face. The physical comedy is excellent with Chow playing it a bit like Jackie Chan. The villain is fantastically villainous making you want to kick him every now and then. Now that's called casting.

The movie has a dazzling array of special effects and they even have the sense of humour to laugh at that fact. At one point of the movie the Shaolin players face a squad of bearded women who appear to float over the field. Someone wonders how they do it. "Special effects,'' replies one of the players.

It's a silly sports comedy with rip-roaring, special effects. You will definitely get a kick out of this movie.



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