Archive for February, 2013

Over the Weekend: From Pistorius to Pantsil, Swans Claim Title & More

Following a crash course in Law coupled with a not so brief recap of the episodes of Oscar Pistorius’ bail hearing and other bits of ‘suspense’, the Magistrate eventually, ultimately, after all said, analysed and recapped… finally ruled in favour of the blade runner and granted him bail.

While the R1m (one million rand) he’ll post as bail; along with a number of conditions which include no alcohol, eats a bit into Pistorius’ R5m annual earning, it puts the blade runner ahead at half time of this murder case which has its trial now scheduled to commence in June.

Beyond all that the family of Reeva Steenkamp labelled as meaning ‘nothing’ the bouquet of flowers received from Pistorius’ family, while her bereaved father commented that if Pistorius was lying, he would have to live with his conscience but if indeed he mistook her for a burglar, he may one day come round to forgiving him.

Not all concerned were as diplomatic however, many observers across the continent believe the paralympian is a murderer while a father figure to Reeva flat out said Pistorius should go to hell.

It is easy to believe Pistorius is guilty when his wealth and ability in disability are pointed at as swinging justice’s bias towards him, but if any person(s) is/are to blame it would be the prosecution that seemingly didn’t consider every scenario possible from the incident along with flawed witness account and tainted image of the previous chief investigator.

By the end of the trial, unless the prosecution have new and concrete evidence to add spine to their case; such as her head being bashed in with a cricket bat, Pistorius can expect to get manslaughter as final judgement… and you just know that would outrightly piss many people off.

Once again, may Reeva Steenkamp rest in peace.

Not to be outdone per se, Ghanaian international John Pantsil reportedly stabbed his wife in the eye but thankfully, it wasn’t fatal but bizarrely… they are back together.

Apparently, it was all a misunderstanding and all grievances between both have been settled. Right! We’ll just ignore the need for anger management with the Pantsils and ‘respect their privacy’.

Speaking of respect, Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini took a swipe at Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger after stating ahead of his side’s crucial league match against Chelsea that unlike the Frenchman at Arsenal, he wants to win (trophies).

A bit disrespectful from Mancini who was at the dusk of his active football days when Wenger was appointed manager at Arsenal. But do I blame him? No. It is Wenger that has put himself in a position to be ridiculed by younger managers.

Jose Mourinho has done so before and I expect Tottenham Hotspur manager Andre Villas-Boas to give it a go ahead of this weekend’s north London derby; Arsenal’s ‘Race to Fourth’ title match.

That said, Mancini’s side ended up doing Wenger and Arsenal a favour by claiming a 2-0 win over Chelsea on Sunday in a match Sergio Agüero should’ve done much better and more importantly, a match in which Joe Hart saved Frank Lampard’s first half penalty.

That win leaves fifth placed Arsenal, on 47 points, just two points behind third placed Chelsea. And with Tottenham that is nicely tucked between the Blues and Gunners on 48 points set for a little London affair at West Ham United tonight, one need not say what side will have the most supporters in tonight’s match.

For all of Mancini’s talk, all gooners nonetheless were behind City to do exactly what was done, to the slight disappointment of fans of the Red Devils who were behind Chelsea though will remain happy to hold a dozen point advantage over their City rivals in the title race anyway.

Manchester United had earlier opened a 15-point gap on Saturday with a 2-0 win at destined for relegation Queens Park Rangers, but a fall-out from that win brought concern to the league leaders… Robin van Persie went off injured.

In unlikely manner, the Dutchman’s effort to keep the ball in meant he fell onto a camera at the near post of QPR and though he got Julio Cesar to make a good save minutes later, he was taken off for Danny Welbeck five minutes to half time as it became obvious he couldn’t manage the injury.

This brought much delight to many gooners who understandably haven’t moved on from the deal with the devil at the start of the season and hoped it was an injury that would keep him out for long.

Indeed some went about it in lighthearted manner, having no real intentions of seeing him put out for long, there were some who actually meant it and that is concerning. In the end, the van Persie situation can be likened to that of Barcelona whose scarce defeats get celebrated, it’s the cross of consistent performers. Besides, he’s only suffered a sore hip.

Anyway, Van Persie’s effort was not in vain however, as Rafael struck a bullet past Julio Cesar to put United in front moments after. A goal which a teammate nominated for goal of the season.

While former teammate Dimitar Berbatov’s well taken volley for Fulham at home to Stoke City; the only goal of that match, falls a tad short of Rafael’s, I think I enjoyed a few other goals more including Arouna Kone’s second in Wigan Athletic’s 3-0 win at Reading, gently lifting the ball over the Reading keeper and into the net off a glorious cross-field pass.

Another goal worth mentioning for goal of the weekend is Yaya Toure’s opener for Man. City, a low curling effort wickedly from Petr Cech’s blindside. Cech’s stretch to try keeping Yaya’s effort out made the goal all the more special for me… why punish yourself by trying to prevent that?

But the goal I enjoyed most has to be Papiss Demba Cisse’s bolt from range to put Newcastle United 2-1 up against Southampton. Much unlike last season’s second against Chelsea, this was a far less speculative effort yet almost as graceful and delightful.

In the end, Newcastle United won that match 4-2 to continue its recent renaissance inspired by its Francophone fellas that now sees the Magpies six points off the relegation zone. In this form, with a place in the Europa League some 10 points off, Newcastle truly can aspire.

Swansea meanwhile can play as freely as they want for the rest of the season in the league, after cruising to a 5-0 demolition of Bradford City to claim the Capital One Cup and qualify for next season’s Europa League.

And that feeling of no pressure on the back of the highs from Cup success can propel Michael Laudrup’s men to play some of its best football in the remaining 11 league matches. And when the Swans at their best, their tiki-taka acutely frustrates any opposition to the point of defeat.

One can say the last bit is a Nou Camp trademark but Barcelona in its last two matches have struggled, more so with Lionel Messi’s human side coming to fore though he got a goal, his 38th league goal this season, in a hard-fought 2-1 win over Sevilla on Saturday.

There will be no rest for the Ballon d’Or holder and the rest of the Barcelona team who face Real Madrid at home on Tuesday in the decisive second leg of their Copa Del Rey semifinal clash before facing them again on Saturday in La Liga at the Bernabeu… cruelly followed by the return leg of their round of 16 Champions League tie with AC Milan days after.

Milan on its part played out a 1-1 draw in its Madonnina derby ‘away’ to Inter, a result that suited the latter more than the former but which suits fifth placed Lazio the most, with the Rome side set to rise to third place if it defeats Pescara tonight.

Juventus continued its charge towards defending its Scudetto with a 3-0 win over Siena, the highlight moment being Andrea Pirlo’s lobbed effort at goal… it was audacious and unfortunately, went wide.

And in France, Paris Saint Germain took a major step towards the Ligue Un title with a perhaps undeserved but more importantly crucial 2-0 win over archrivals Olympique Marseille in Le Clasique.

Goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu was my man of the match, making a number of saves to keep l’OM at bay, but it was David Beckham that got most of the headlines as he made his PSG debut and somehow, some way, was involved in PSG’s second scored by Zlatan Ibrahimovic in stoppage time.

PSG’s win was the highlight of my football weekend which saw five of my six favourite European clubs play. Arsenal lifted the mood at the Emirates a bit with a nervous 2-1 win over Aston Villa. That was about it.

Deportivo La Coruña took the lead against Real Madrid but fell 2-1 at home, Hearts decided to lose 3-2 at home to Inverness after twice equalising while Werder Bremen was simply annihilated by Bayern Munich, going down to a 6-1 scoreline against a ‘second string’ Bayern side. Scary.

Lowest point of the weekend was the low profile the African Super Cup had, a match Champions League holders Al Ahly of Egypt won 2-1 against Confederations Cup holders AC Leopards of Republic of Congo.

A match to decide Africa’s representative at the Club World Championship later in the year should have had much more publicity than this one had, which was virtually non-existent.

On that note, it’s a wrap here. Napoli visit Udinese tonight in the Serie A, Lazio play Pescara tonight as well, just as Tottenham visit West Ham in the Premier League. That’s followed by an El Clasico in the Copa del Rey to make for a good start to the week for football.

Wishing you a great week ahead then.

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During the Week: Oscar Pistorius, Arsenal Precarious & More

A week after Valentine’s Day turned tragic for the blade runner, paralympian and indeed, olympian, Oscar Pistorius may well get himself a favourable verdict in his bail application over the killing of his girlfriend Reeva.

And if he is granted bail, it would largely be thanks to defense lawyer Barry Roux’s meticulous approach to the case along with the prosecution’s far less meticulous handling of it.

First, the prosecution’s case against Pistorius was looking great until they brought their witnesses in. 600 meters away? And then the witness became unsure of the distance to back up their claim of hearing screams from Reeva before she was shot dead.

For me, that was the turning point to swing the case right back in Pistorius’ favour. Coupled with Roux’s focus on Pistorius being the only (physical) witness at the crime scene and thus, focusing on (favourable) probablities based on that fact rather than conjuring allusions based on vague recounts of the incident by ‘witnesses from a distance’, Pistorius seems set to guarantee his innocence per se. He did shoot the damsel but (no) thanks to the prosecution, all he’ll have handed him is manslaughter.

Worse still for the prosecution was the revelation of the case’s chief investigator having history of being charged with seven attempted murders, along with the (distracting) history of cases where he investigated Pistorius, which would make it seem that Botha (the chief investigator) was on a personal vendetta against Pistorius. **was**, since on Thursday he was replaced as chief investigator of the case, another blow to the prosecution.

The bit when the prosecution pointed to a magazine publication in which Pistorius is said to own a house in Italy also weakened the prosecution’s case. Getting a statement from that magazine’s editors to back that claim would have been better.

After all said over what was, may have been and was not done, Pistorius’ application for bail looks to be coming to an end and if he does get the verdict in his favour, he pretty much will be a free, heartbroken and single man with a few lost sponsorship deals.

Pistorius heartbreak is heavy, Arsenal’s is serial, after being outdone by an efficient Bayern Munich side in a first leg round of 16 UEFA Champions League encounter played at the Emirates Stadium. At the end of the 3-1 drubbing though, it did seem Arsenal was the away team.

That defeat effectively ends Arsenal’s relevance in Europe unless the Gunners pull off an unlikely comeback in the return leg, like it nearly did (and really should have done) last season against AC Milan where the Gunners won 3-0 in the second leg after losing the first by a goal more.

This Bayern defeat however comes right after lackadaisically letting Blackburn Rovers through to the next round of the FA Cup, raising questions once again about Arsène Wenger’s capability as Arsenal manager.

The players, especially current captain Thomas Vermaelen and future captain Jack Wilshere believe it is the players and not the manager that is to blame for Arsenal’s current precarious state.

Then if the players are to blame, why not let go of most of them and bring in a set of players that can get the right things done at the club? Cue Theo Walcott in who reiterated the massive talent in the dressing room that only need to translate that onto the field during matches.

So, in summary, the manager hasn’t lost his marbles, the players, however very good they are, are letting this manager down big time but because these players are supposedly very good, there would be little or no need to have them replaced by new, marquee signings.

Arsenal is a peculiar club indeed and it is painful to see the club that tried to propagate the idea of a complete football club on and off the field being well beaten at it by clubs that, ironically, have perfected what Wenger keeps trying to achieve.

On one hand, Bayern Munich have reached the final of two of the last three Champions League finals and are on their way to winning the Bundesliga in record fashion, having complemented its team down the years (Philip Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Franck Ribèry and co.) with the addition of very good players (Dante, Manuel Neuer and Mario Mandzukic) along with the likes of Toni Kroos and Thomas Müller who came through the ranks.

All that comes complete with a solid financial model off the pitch that makes the Bavarians formidable both on the field as well as off it. Thus spending big when necessary, just to ensure the team is capable of playing great/efficient football at the very top level isn’t a problem for the Germans as exemplified down the years in the signings of Ribery then, Neuer much later and most recently, Mandzukic.

Then on the other hand is Barcelona that now plays the most attractive football conceivable; a title Arsenal solely held once, having complemented the core of its team (Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi) with additions down the years of Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Cesc Fabregas, Zlatan Ibrahimovic (briefly), Jordi Alba, Alexis and Alex Song (through the transfer market) as well as Pedro, Cristian Tello and Thiago Alcantara (through the ranks, just like Messi and Fabregas initially).

Add that to the club going out of its way to allow a sponsor’s name on their jersey (now held lucratively for Barça by the Qatar Foundation), massive gate receipts and a public profile that staggers across the world, money isn’t the problem for the Catalans… at least they’ll scale the FFP hurdle set by UEFA.

At Arsenal however, the core of the team keeps changing no thanks to the exit down the years of Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Ashley Cole, Mathieu Flamini, Kyle Bartley, Kolo Toure, Gael Clichy, Alex Song and most atrociously Robin van Persie among others.

Had at least four of the above been kept and got joined by Jack Wilshere, Carl Jenkinson, Francis Coquelin, Kieran Gibbs, Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott who have come through the ranks as well as any two of Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski, Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker and Nacho Monreal from the transfer market, Wenger would certainly not be so stressed at the moment.

The club’s heavy focus on the financials at the expense of the team itself has denied it being a combination of the current Bayern and Barça teams it had the immense potential to be. Now instead, Arsenal is simply a spoilt rich child accustomed to losing yet not too bothered to change that trend.

Barcelona meanwhile is that spoilt rich lad that has everything going for it most of the time. And the very sparse times something doesn’t go its way, well, the ‘haters’ come alive and basically amplify this lad’s low moment.

Indeed Massimo Allegri’s players gave him what he expected of them, to neutralise Barça’s inevitable possession prowess and possibly take the chance(s) that come their way. And among a few that propped, the Rossoneri buried two.

That defeat did show the Catalans’ reliance per se on Messi can also be made to be an albatross. Milan expertly marked Messi out as well as kept the other threats in the Barça team at bay so while the visitors had a chunk of possession – as usual – it came to nothing.

That fact was a source of overflowing glee to many who came up with ‘stats’ and analysis but as I stated at the start of a post exactly a month ago, “You know a team is very good when its lost matches make the headlines… ”

While Milan is in a much better position than the last time both teams met in the Champions League at last season’s quarterfinal stage, their two-goal lead this time is far from secure and the onslaught they will have to bear from this Barça side at the Nou Camp is better left imagined.

Last time out, Milan held Barça to a goalless draw at the San Siro before Messi scored two penalties and set up Iniesta to secure a 3-1 win in the return at the Nou Camp. Messi may have been caged on Wednesday, he may have a poor record in Italy but hardly at the Nou Camp. Milan will have to ‘play even better’ than on Wednesday to get a desired result.

Or maybe not, seeing as Liverpool and Atletico Madrid played well and got a good result but not the desired result while Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea were staring at elimination till stoppage time efforts from Belgians saved both London sides’ blushes and let them progress in the Europa League.

Atletico’s exit, shocking as it was, feels so much like a silver lining moment since now, the club can focus squarely on finishing at least above city rivals Real Madrid in La Liga just as winning the Copa Del Rey is also a possibility for Diego Simeone’s side.

Moussa Dembele and Eden Hazard’s late equalisers against Olympique Lyon and Sparta Prague respectively edged the Londoners through, much to the slight delight of fans of fellow Londoners Arsenal that lie fifth in the Premier League where the London trio chase the Champions League spots on the league table.

Other teams through in the Europa League include Lazio that beat Borussia Monchengladbach 2-0 on the night and 5-3 on aggregate, Inter Milan with a 5-0 aggregate win after easing to a 3-0 win at CFR Cluj, Zenit after barely surviving a second leg barrage at Liverpool to eventually go through on away goals and Newcastle United that got its first ever win at Ukraine, a lone penalty goal from Shola Ameobi, to qualify by the same score at the expense of Metalist Kharkiv.

The biggest result of the night for me came in Napoli’s 2-0 loss at Viktoria Plzen, which completed a massive 5-0 aggregate win for the Czechs over the Italian side that previously was favourite to win the competition along with Atletico.

The Naples side have the whole weekend to drain the anguish of the Europa League exit out of their system ahead of their trip to Udinese on Monday night, a tricky trip that could further pile misery on them.

Biggest match in Italy this weekend however is the Milan derby on Sunday. AC go into that as favourites, with their domestic season on the right track having steadily caught up with the top and now occupy third spot. Inter however will go into this match in bipolar form, securing that win over Cluj in Europe either side of a hapless display in a 4-1 humbling at Fiorentina.

Another match to look forward to this weekend is at the Parc des Princes where Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint Germain host third placed Olympique Marseille on Sunday, with David Beckham reportedly to make his PSG debut in that match.

Super Sunday in Europe begins in England where second placed Manchester City host third placed Chelsea while on Saturday it’s first from top versus first from bottom when Manchester United visit Queens Park Rangers.

Weekend looks very exciting for neutrals, more so with Swansea City set to take on Bradford City in the Capital One Cup final on Sunday at Wembley. Massive day for both clubs and while it would be some story if the Bantams won, I’m all for a Swansea win, if for any reason better representation of England in the Europa League next season.

On a more personal note, I’d just be very content not to have a repeat of last weekend when all the clubs I support across Europe, somehow, lost their respective league matches… all six clubs; Arsenal, Lazio, PSG, Hearts, Werder Bremen and Deportivo La Coruña.

Latter two face Bayern Munich and Real Madrid respectively on Saturday so… I won’t even bother checking back on them till Monday morning.

Till then, have yourselves a glorious weekend!

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Gabby at the Market

Gabby was lost in random daydreaming of nothing in particular when the cab turned right at the junction to the city’s library. The detour brought her back to consciousness.

“I’m going to Market Street o!” Gabby excaimed to the driver from the back seat, looking with a bit of agony through the rear ‘windscreen’ as the library shrunk out of view.

“I wan drop them first before I drop you.” replied the driver as he parked the cab at the under-bridge to allow the other occupants of the cab to alight from it before proceeding via a slightly longer route to Market Street.

Gabby was slightly miffed at the change of plans the detour meant for her. Market Street had two entrances/exits to it; one end neighboured by the library and another end led directly to the express road.

She had planned to come in at the library end of Market Street, window shop and probably buy any item of interest she came by, before coming out at the express road end of the street and getting a direct cab back to her room in a hostel off campus.

She fumbled through her purse to find a naira note in the worst possible condition to hand the driver a payment for her fare; to serve as punishment for the detour. The worst she found was a very dirty N200 note, which she squeezed hard before handing it to the unsuspecting driver, who had parked at the start of the express road, some meters from Market Street.

She yanked her balance from his outstretched hand and went off as if to be in a haste, slowing down considerably after crossing the express road and getting to the street. There were no offices there, just stalls for food items and whatever else -edible and otherwise – one could get for their kitchen.

Then she remembered some items she had to get. Her toilet was a mess so Harpic was one. Brenda had, yet again, lent her black spray polish without returning so that was another otherwise she’d have to change what she’d already set her mind to wear for Sunday service.

Gabby changed direction and now headed towards a supermarket just by the street, a detour which made her giggle. The giggle stopped soon as she went into the supermarket and found the attendant ogling her.

‘Let me even enter na’ she thought as she waltzed past the attendant, ignoring his smile at her cleavage and making a quick turn into the nearest row of goods. It was the ‘sweet tooth’ section, and temptation came in every colour, size and form imaginable.

‘No cookies! No cookies!’ she repeated to herself in thought. ‘No horlicks! No horlicks! No horlicks!’ she repeated on seeing those. “Oh God!” she exclaimed, melting as she spotted bars of Bounty neatly arranged at face level.

All, if any, effort at resistance failed as she grabbed a handful only to drop them as if she’d been electrocuted by them. ‘Two-fifty for one ke?! Who are these leaches?!’ she thought in anger as she returned to her senses and searched for the row she was looking for.

She found a spray polish, then picked mortein as she remembered dodging a flying cockroach the other night. She then picked one harpic and saw “N650” pasted on its side. ‘Too much’ she thought as she dropped it.

She noticed then that the next harpic had no price pasted on it and instinctively she picked that one instead and made straight for the counter, for the attendant whose eyes took their time on her cleavage. ‘God is judge’ she thought as she dropped the items in front of him.

He let out a long, somewhat satisfactory sigh as he picked the items and started punching numbers on a calculator. She was repulsed by the sigh but kept her cool for the moment she waited for.

He was done with the spray polish and the mortein. Then he picked the harpic and looked round it for a pasted price, there was none. She kept a straight face but chuckled inwardly at his ordeal.

After racking his head for the price and gazing at the harpic intently as if to make it squeal its price to him, he finally punched ‘270’ on the calculator.

‘Ope ooo!!! Olodo oshi! God catch you… ‘ and on went Gabby in her thought, jumping with much elation inside her while keeping a straight face for the attendant. She gave him a thousand, almost ran out of patience while he got her balance and stormed out of the supermarket when he eventually did.

It wasn’t much but with almost five hundred extra to spend now, she could get two bunches of plantain for the weekend. She would get almost ripe ones, so she wouldn’t have a reason to sulk at any time over the weekend. Gabby smiled as she approached the plantain seller at Market Street.


The above is based on true life events. The main character is fictional but everything else happened almost entirely as portrayed above. Oh, no naira notes were mutilated in the making of this episode.


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Random Yarns

The manner life hands her lessons down to one is life itself; a birth, a death, a – subtle or costly – mistake, a well taken goal, the actions or otherwise of people around us physically or virtually, life is life.

From the arrest of Paralympic champion Oscar Pistorius in the wee hours of Valentine’s Day morning to the reported death of Susan Harvey, better known as Goldie, very late at night, life provided avenues for many lessons to evoke and impart in their way.

I felt sorry for Pistorius, even after it became clear that the shooting of his girlfriend wasn’t largely because he thought she was a burglar intruding. It however is disturbing to know he shot her multiple times in the head and you wonder whatever could have led him to that point.

And if Piers Morgan had his way, he likely would use the incident to burtress his point about guns being taken off people for good, even though this happened thousands of miles away in South Africa.

Whether guns should be legal only for the armed forces and law enforcement and their agents or should have stricter measures guarding its ownership by a citizen enforced, remains a debate. It nonetheless is agonising when one is told a relative or friend has died at the hands of another, who was simply ‘trigger happy’.

More agonising is being told someone you were with moments ago, having a laugh together, is dead. When it’s a popular figure however, too many people apparently forget about humanity and make themselves look silly or, rephrased, display the silliness previously hidden from the world in them.

When Goldie was on Big Brother Africa, we went in hard on her attraction to/with Prezzo and the faces she made when she cried, mostly because of him. It was fun then, leaves a bitter after-taste now.

Between two deaths, which you never see coming, two Cup favourites Atletico Madrid and Napoli crashed to shocking home defeats in the last 32 of the Europa League.

Yes, Falcao played yet Rubin Kazan claimed a massive 2-0 win at Atletico’s Vicente Calderon stadium with the second goal a comic classic for the visiting Russians.

Napoli fell even heavier at home to Viktoria Plzen and could have had it worse had a goal not been disallowed for offside in the 3-0 defeat for the Serie A side.

I was looking at both sides being in contention to play each other at the latter stages of the competition, results lately from both sides have however not been so good.

Liverpool’s loss at Zenit St. Petersburg could have been expected, Oscar’s immediate impact won it for Chelsea in Prague, Lazio got the result of the night for me in a 3-3 draw at Borussia Monchengladbach but the highlight of all first leg matches was from White Hart Lane.

Having missed a sitter with the score still goalless, Gareth Bale came up with two exquisite free-kicks, taken with so much composure; the second deep in stoppage time, to help Tottenham Hotspur secure a 2-1 win over Olympique Lyonnais.

The technique he employs to taking the kicks isn’t so much like Cristiano Ronaldo’s, but as evident from scoring three of them in the last week, it is proving very effective and serves an age old lesson yet again, “practice makes perfect”.

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Random Yarns: Forgetful Ma’am & 1a.m. Exams

The relief that envelopes you right after your final examination is one I felt last week, before succumbing to illness. It was a gruelling first semester but then, what semester/term/year isn’t to a student? It’s part of the package.

Next session’s first semester will however be ever so gruelling for one student here though, after what transpired between her and a lecturer with her answer script during an exam. I was writing my “Topics in Phonology” exam that day; and all exams in phonology courses have a history of being b****y, brain-frying, basilisk brickwalls, and we (Linguistics majors) had been put in the same class with folks from the Performing Arts.

The usual consultations, enquiries, neck exercises and next-generation vision testing went on (from them), covertly and overtly, depending on the presence of the invigilator(s) in every sense of the word presence… as you have those invigilator(s) who never know students are busy in consultations right in their… presence… anyway, thanks to our lecturer’s resolution to resetting our sitting formation, spending an hour doing so, the PFA students started well before we did and thus, finished well before we did, naturally.

And when one of the PFA students was done, she was making for the next class where her lecturer was so she’d submit to him when our Phonology lecturer, overseeing invigilation of our class (much to everyone’s derision I presume) called her back.

“Where are you going?” he asked the almajira. She tried ‘explaining’, with a bit of a face, that her lecturer was in the next class and… “Don’t you know you cannot take an answer script outside the exam centre?” the good Dr. of sound inventories asked, cutting her off.

An exasperated pout was her response. Hijab wearing muslima with attitude versus an obey-rules-to-the-letter (even punctuation where applicable) lecturer and the episode was happening right beside me. What do you think I did? Left my exam and shifted my attention to their drama of course. I’ve poor exam ethics, the worst. But that’s another tale.

After schooling her on examination regulations which she ‘should know being a 400 level student’, he asked her to submit her script with him after which she proceeded to the next class to sign out. At least I hope that’s what she did for that could be her saving grace.

Why? Soon as she was out of the class, the good Dr. displayed the answer script to us. Apparently, she hadn’t written her matric. number, the course title or code… not even the day’s date. She’d left the front page absolutely blank, along with a very poor first impression for her top floor. Hopefully she would have been alerted to her pseudo-amnesia by her colleagues, that’s if they hadn’t become too engrossed in their consultations to remember the episode after submitting their paper.

Worse impressions have been made in this dear University of Ilorin, and none I fear could outdo the one left by the good folks at the CBT Centre who, for God knows why, had students sitting for an examination at 1a.m.

Not every department/faculty is inclined to giving its students CBTs (Computer Based Tests) and other than Science students, what only brings a student (from the Arts Faculty for instance) to the CBT Centre through their time in school is to click their GNS and (if a 300 level student) their GSE examinations, both of which are courses done by every student.

The Centre usually opens for either of these exams at 8a.m, with students being sorted alphabetically by faculty, then department. So students from ABSS Faculty (Biz Admin in general parlance) get to the centre first, then Arts from 10a.m and so on.

Imagine then a student from the Education Faculty, who should have clicked their GNS exam on Thursday afternoon doing so at 1a.m on Friday morning instead and it gets better, this same student along with others had another exam for 8:30a.m that fateful Friday morning. Was it postponed? Of course not. They had to write their exam with soaking red eyes in their respective exam halls that morning.

They however could have missed their morning paper altogether if the school’s senate has not intervened and asked for the exams at the CBT Centre be put off till another date. Yes, the intention was to complete the roster of faculties overnight, into the morning.

Each batch of students spent more than two hours in the Centre for an exam that usually takes 45 minutes at most… why? And why would the examiners decide still to go ahead with other batches of students despite the ludicrous timing?

As usual with these sort of happenings, “word” began to go round and one had it that a new, and cheaper contractor was handling the CBT exams but weren’t capable as the last, more expensive contractor apparently, with the latter later called in to save the new contractors blushes.

Whatever the real problem was, previous years have generally been hassle free, safe for individual’s who encounter faulty computers or click what they shouldn’t; there’s always the temptation to check the internet or get playing pinball or solitaire… “He that is in me… ”

I could only feel sorry for the students, including a number of friends, who lived through this harrowing experience, a huge let down so soon into the tenure of Prof. Ambali as vice Chancellor and one would hope appropriate steps would be taken to prevent future occurence.

On a much lighter mood, days earlier I was walking a friend off and we came upon quite a sight involving two young women, two vehicles and three, possibly four men.

The young women had alighted from one of the vehicles, a decent Nissan sedan in which two young men sat in the front seats and, deaf to both calling them back, got into a Chrysler 300 that had just parked right in front of the Nissan.

Yes, they got out of the Nissan, turned deaf on the Nissan boys calling them back, and got into the Chrysler which then drove off, without any haste whatsoever.

I shook hands with this friend of mine, prayed to God almighty for the safety of my dignity and the coming of my ‘tear-rubber’ Range Rover, and made my way back to my room.

Happy valentine’s day in advance.

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During the Week: Drugs & Cons, Refs of AFCON and Silly BON

A chain of very daring tweets innocently inspired by a sportsman across the atlantic bearing his mind on the matter of ‘tell me you never… never ever… not even once thought that fella was on some crack? Really?’ provoked a lot of thought on how clean the sporting world is.

Lionel Messi, Usain Bolt, Roger Federer, Cristiano Ronaldo, the Spanish national team, CF Barcelona, Robin van Persie, Novak Djokovic, Zinedine Zidane, Iker Casillas (I’ll explain his appearance), Rafael Nadal, Andrea Pirlo, Edinson Cavani, Andy Murray, Radamel Falcao, Thiago Silva, the Klitschko brothers, Caster Semanya, Yohan Blake…

Look what you’ve caused Lance Armstrong!

That chain of tweets mentioned some of the names above and inspired other names to my mind. Why Casillas? The man has been especially off colour this season. Became too settled being undisputed number one for club and country? Or simply got struck off the list of EPO recipients? Tweets suggest the latter, I am just an observer.

Novak Djokovic? I most certainly, pleading eyes to high heavens hope not! He (along with Murray for a while) is my favourite tennis player and oh such joy I felt when the Djoker broke the ‘duopoly’ of Rafa and Roger.

Then came 2011, the phenomenal year in which he didn’t suffer a defeat until half the year was gone when he lost in the semi final of Roland Garros, but going right on to win at Wimbledon and Flushing Meadows to add to the first of three successive Australian Open titles.

Djokovic played 76 matches in 2011 and lost just six, most of which came at the end of the tennis calendar after the US Open. Three Grand Slams and a record five Masters titles after a 2010 that saw him peak to the last four at just one of the Slams? Inspiration or inspillration? I’ll stick with the former.

Indeed a lot of us have mentioned how disappointing it would be if Usain Bolt went the Ben Johnson way, not many if not any have however given thought to Zeus’ godfather incarnate in Messi.

Diego Maradona abused drugs despite his at times egocentric yet undeniable immense talent with the round leather, why not Messi? Maybe the growth hormone drug used on him were much more? Otherwise he may well be a Mathieu Valbuena.

Back to that chain of tweets, it was implied also that two seasons’ worth of matches were fixed for years and, more worrisome, that the authorities turned a blind eye to these as they did the doping. Something that probably got monsieur Wenger going ‘Atcha! No wonder we haven’t won anything all the while’.

Match-fixing in the Serie A? Too easy, it’s almost a habit there. In the La Liga? Maybe, maybe not. In the Premier League or involving Premier League clubs? I’ll simply blame Howard Webb for that.

Seriously though, the thought of a match being thrown in favour of Liverpool, Bayern Munich and the likes makes me wonder ‘why bother fixing a match the club you’re fixing it for should easily win anyway?’, ‘Just to make sure since a lot of money’s being bet on them’?

One would love to say such thinking was also the motivation behind the second semi-final between Ghana and Burkina Faso at the about-to-conclude Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa.

With Mali’s Eagles soundly beaten by the Super Eagles of Nigeria, the continent was 90 minutes away from what would be a bookmaker’s delight of a final between neighbouring rivals. Alas! After two hours of football, some abysmal officiating along and the lottery of spot kicks, Ghana failed to make the final yet again.

And Jonathan Pitroipa is set to feature in Sunday’s showpiece after the referee of that second semi-final admitted his error in sending Pitroipa off, leading CAF, in all its (delayed) wisdom, to understand the importance of the tournament showpiece being as competitive as posibble while also giving that referee a red card from AFCON.

That would be the second match official sent home by Issa Hayatou’s confederation, which about sums the level of officiating we’ve lived through the last fortnight. But the Zambian coach should’ve kept his conspiracy theory of CAF not wanting the dethroned champions to retain the Cup just so a fancier team could represent the continent at the Confederations Cup to himself.

If the now sanctioned man has forgotten, his Zambia were not so deserving of qualifying from the group stage and more tellingly, enjoyed the benevolence of the first official sent home by CAF for awarding a penalty to his team off a non-extant foul in the draw with Nigeria.

Nigeria meanwhile are overwhelming favourites now to win the Nations Cup, having defeated pre-tournament favourites Cote D’Ivoire before easing past Mali with a masterclass. More so when one considers that the Burkinabes only earned a draw with the last kick of the group stage match between both sides.

Then, the draw happened on an excuse of a pitch, but nonetheless with both sides playing some abjectly unattractive football. On Sunday, the pitch would be far better and both sides have improved dramatically during the course of the tournament. Can Pitroipa, Bance and the rest of the Burkinabes go all the way? Damn right they can, Zambia did humble Cote D’Ivoire only a year ago when the odds seemed all for the Elephants.

However, I do believe Nigeria will nick it on Sunday and claim a third Nations Cup triumph. Why? Apart from the Super Eagles, previously minnows looking a much improved side now, the coach may have motivated the players after revealing to them (reportedly after the Mali match) that the Nigeria Football Federation had booked return flights for the team, without his knowledge, before the quarterfinal match with the Elephants.

The NFF, somehow, by some mysterious convention, always… ALWAYS find a way of going one worse than before with their dealings. Yes, not many of us remotely considered we’d beat the Ivorians but booking flights home before the match? I’m just nonplussed here!

Imagine now the amounts lost just to return those tickets (which I doubt, the returning) or spent to keep those tickets till when they actually would be needed, which now is some time next week.

Most annoyingly, it is in this hour just before the twelfth that the Broadcast Organisation of Nigeria have decided paying for tv rights to the AFCON would be worth it. After Super Sport has made all the revenue possible? Who are these people?

If CAF’s price seemed outrageous, be inventive and negotiate a favourable deal. No… Nigeria wasn’t expected to go this far. What pessimism will cost us in this country.

With that, it’s a wrap from me. League football, fixed or not, are good to go this weekend ahead of the Champions League knock-out matches from next week. Even St. Valentine should… ah nevermind, have a great weekend.

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Over the Weekend: Undereagles Soar, Révolution à Chateauneuf et Balotelli à Milano

What is an African Cup of Nations? One in which a west African nation will defend the Cup in north Africa two years after winning it in South Africa where a southern African nation was dethroned? That would be it, mostly, as the east African nations basically put up a no show.

Following a slow start to the 2013 AFCON, the goals started coming and perhaps more importantly, we were gradually served up largely entertaining matches and now, an all west African semi-final.

Ghana was first into the last four, ending a fairytale that came from the mediterranean cape to its maiden Nations Cup appearance at the expense of Lions made domitable, before coming from a goal down to get a late winner and make the last eight from a group it contested with hosts South Africa, the unfortunate Moroccans their neighbour and a desperately disappointing Angola that isn’t even close to being as good as the shadow of the side that was an an Eagle’s cryptonite on their way to the 2006 World Cup.

Cape Verde impressed many with their football, proof of them being cousins with the Portuguese – and indeed Manchester United’s midfielder Nani has a cousin in the Blue Sharks team – and after a nervous first half against Ghana, they succumbed to a penalty; which sparked perhaps their best football display all tournament, and a stoppage time goal off a punt forward with the goal unguarded.

A painful exit yet a most admirable maiden appearance from the Blue Sharks who without doubt are one of AFCON 2013’s highlights. There focus now will turn to the second round of qualifying matches for the 2014 World Cup, where ironically they lie bottom of Group B without a point after two matches; a group led by Tunisia that didn’t go past the group stage of the ongoing AFCON.

Next after Cape Verde’s heroics was undereagles Nigeria’s downing of the mighty Elephants of Cote D’Ivoire, overly overwhelming favourites for the Cup only to, yet again, fall short just as Spain used to and the Netherlands still do.

Ivorian goalkeeper Barry did not see Emenike’s incoming bullet for Nigeria’s first goal and though the Ivorians equalised minutes into the second half, Nigeria to my surprise was not entirely outplayed, as both sides created chances to get a winner.

And what a winner it was, magnificent solo effort from Sunday Mba who gliding past a number of Elephants from midfield and sent a shot past Barry, with the help of a slight deflection but who cares, it was the match winner, a worthy one too.

Two things I got from that match, however pessimistic one is about something that is a part of you, you’ll end up still hoping for that thing’s best. Secondly, Mba’s goal was great advertisement for the Nigerian Premier League; where a new season should kick-off mid-February barring any more trivial administrative raucous.

Okay there was a third, which is the grace in defeat shown by the Ivorian team who wished their Nigerian counterparts to go on and win the Cup. We’ll first have to go past Mali to accomplish that.

Right… there was a fourth lesson from the match, which is @TheRealEboue is not the real Eboue. Or maybe folks on twitter just enjoy… never mind.

I’ll be damned but… there’s a fifth thing I got from that match, and I’m not particularly elated by it, by Gervinho’s imminent return to the Arsenal set-up earlier than scheduled for he had promised to make up for his penalty miss in last year’s AFCON final by scoring the Cup winning goal this time.

Arsenal may well do with his return, as the Gunners currently lie in sixth place on the Premier League table but just five points off third placed Chelsea that lost to le révolution de France à Châteauneuf.

Newcastle United, Châteauneuf Uni in a fairly rough sense, are a team reborn with the influx of French nationals to the team and though it was Argentine Jonas Gutierrez that headed Alan Pardew’s side ahead on Saturday, a brace from Moussa Sissokho earned the Magpies a last minute 3-2 win in a highly thrilling affair that saw the Blues score two early second half goals to overturn Gutierrez’s opener; Mata’s goal still setting nerve ends in my brain loose with the sheer finesse he scored it with. Gosh.

Another revolution set in motion meanwhile heralded in the Serie A where Mario ‘why always me?’ Balotelli marked his debut for AC Milan with both goals in a 2-1 win over Udinese. Last time someone got a brace on their Milan debut, he ended up being prolific for the Rossoneri. That person was Oliver Bierhoff.

As it is a new start for Balotelli in a city he knows very well, it seems also to mark a new era for Milan, notoriously known for being the club of pensioners. With Mario, El-Sharwama and Niang however, the Rossoneri blood is being freshened and a second round tango with Barcelona in the Champions League is just about an appropriate test of that.

On that young shall grow note, it’s a wrap. Going on a break here was hard but necessary and today, I’ll write my last first semester paper; French. Rather than be a show-off I’ll keep it simple and bid you au revoir jusqu’à samedi matin.

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