Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Life like football

Malaysian life's a lot like football

By Syed Nadzri

OH, how we love the jargon and football-speak during this Fifa World Cup, especially from the TV commentators.

They are quite a delight to listen to, like the one the other day: "What a scorcher! What a cracker! The blazing piledriver really rocked the crossbar!" To the uninitiated, and in isolation, the words could easily be taken to have either fire-fighting or construction-site relevance.

If we let our mischievous minds run wild a little, there's a long list of football cliches and parlance during this exciting season that could be gleefully applied to local situations and circumstances off the football pitch.

There is, for instance, "stoppage time" -- the additional minutes before the final whistle to make up for interruptions during normal play. Well, it looks like Malaysians are in stoppage time right now, as far as subsidies and current toll rates are concerned. Talk is that government subsidies will be gradually removed soon, and this could mean paying more for fuel and road tolls.

The soccer glossary has much more of such jargon:

- Dead Ball Situation: A penalty, free kick or corner. Some teams spend a lot of time planning and practising these situations, and the worst part for the opposing side is you don't know which way the ball is going. It is very much like the mood over licensed sports betting before the final decision (a rejection) was made on Friday -- to give or not to give?

Dead ball situation has, since last week, taken on an even more wicked variance in dead footballers situation and this would apply perfectly to World Cup players from Italy, the defending champions, and France, the runners-up, when they get home after the humiliation of an early exit. Oh yes, the North Koreans, too, after being ripped apart 7-0 by Portugal last week and 3-0 by Ivory Coast on Friday. We have dead footballers situation in Pyongyang, too.

- Set Piece: Similar to the above. Refers mainly to free kicks deep in the opponent's territory. In the Malaysian political context, was it a set piece when one Parti Keadilan Rakyat elected representative after another defected?

- Group of Death: It means to be drawn in a tough group in the World Cup. Closer to home, doomsayers predict the defectors mentioned above (now without a party) could find themselves thrown out in the next general election. Hence, the Independent Consensus they have set up in Parliament is a group of death of sorts.

- Jabulani: The official World Cup ball is getting blamed from all sides. Goalkeepers have been making blunders, strikers are ballooning their shots into orbit, and they all blame it on the ball. Jabulani is much like the mainstream media in Malaysia, everybody's favourite whipping boy, this newspaper included.

- Vuvuzela: The deafening and most irritating sounds coming incessantly from the fugal horns blown by spectators. For TV viewers, the buzzing sticks in your ears and lingers long after you retire to bed. You could get nightmares after that. This is very much like the motorcycle din and racket from the Mat Rempit gang in your area. We all hope there is an end to both the vuvuzela and the Mat Rempit soon.

- Man-to-Man: A type of defensive tactic where each defender is assigned to mark a specific player from the opposing team. This term has a familiar ring to it and could be used to refer to sexual preference.

- Soak up the Pressure: Switzerland did this splendidly in their opening match against Spain more than a week ago. They soaked up the pressure and launched counter-attacks. It paid off and they won 1-0. Correspondingly, Perak Barisan Nasional soaked up all the pressure in the shocking aftermath of the 2008 general election. Their counter-offensive bore fruit as they managed to take over the state government last year.

- Play the Advantage: A judgment made by the referee to allow play to continue rather than call a foul if he thinks the foul did not put the offended team at a disadvantage. The term alone, though not its meaning, somehow suits Perkasa perfectly.

- Messi: Fans chant "Messi, Messi, Messi" every time Argentina play because Lionel Messi, their Fifa world player of the year, is on song. But we can change it to "messy, messy, messy" here in reference to the PKFZ scandal. Or "mercy, mercy, mercy" (at least in my case), when Lady Gaga comes on the radio.

- Handball: A foul when a player touches the ball with his hand. Sometimes, the handball goes undetected and if it results in a goal it becomes Hand of God. The DAP described the recent defection of Keshvinder Singh, its Malim Nawar state assemblyman, as a "handball" and cried foul. Handball? More like an own goal.

- The Ball is Round: This is one of the most annoying cliches and it is often used as a pre-match consolation by underdogs. The same tune -- or its equivalent of "it can go either way" -- is becoming more common in elections or political contests. Most irritating. And so is the "form a royal commission" demand at the slightest hint of controversy.

- Portugal: A fancied team.

Showed their stuff in the 7-0 demolition of North Korea. Some people here have declared that they are members of "Kelab Portugal" -- not exactly a fan club of the Portuguese football team, but rather the Portugal that is the acronym for Persatuan Orang Tua Gatal (the Dirty Old Men's Club)

My Say: The writer Datuk Syed Nadzri Syed Harun is New Straits Times (NST) group editor. I had the opportunities to work under him qhile I was NST 's news editor for Sabah and Sarawak as well as at Balai Berita (NST HQ, Bangsar Kuala Lumpur).

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