When I grow up, I want to be a rempit…

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Written on 10/10/2006 12:05:00 am by sikapitan

From the rear-view mirror, I could see clusters of spotlights raining down on my car as I was cruising sedately along the highway. There was a slight buzzing sound in the distance, but it was being drown out by my juicy stereo belting out Tender by Blur. Slowly, and just like being attacked by killer wasps, the buzzing got louder, until the rising crescendo overtook even my maxed-out speakers. Suddenly they were right by my side, a bunch of mat rempits in black tees streaking past at speeds above 100 km/h, with some not even bothering to wear helmets. They were weaving in and out of traffic, doing wheelies and Superman. Is it a bird, is it a plane, no…it’s Mat Rempit!

I’ve read that rempit means illegal racer. I laughed at this definition as the term rempit no longer denotes one particular activity, but describes an entire lifestyle. That is why it is wrong to say all motorcyclists are rempits, and vice-versa. Heck, you can still be a rempit even if you don’t own a bike! I mean, wearing an oversized Fred Perry striped polo, tight jeans, canvas shoes and black cap automatically makes you a rempit to some people, even if you drive a red-hot VW Golf GTi. It encompasses the type of music you listen to, the type of movie you watch, even the type of girls you hang out with. It’s about the attitude, something like hip-hop.

They used to be the marginalized group in the bustling metropolis known as Kuala Lumpur. Mat rempits are often associated with various social ills, and no amount of wheelies can redeem them in the eyes of right-minded members of our society. They still are, and sometimes their actions in public reaffirm all those negative perceptions we have of them. Yet, times have never been better for the Mat Rempits.

It started with the abolishment of road tax for bikes below 150cc and reduction of tax for other bikes. It means that more and more people can afford to start with motorbikes, and while the intention is noble (it helps combat rising fuel costs and eased the burden of smaller income earners), it also encourage younger people to pick up bikes when they are still in high school. Is it any wonder then that in my neighborhood, in the midst of sprawling Subang Jaya, there are kids racing without helmets in the middle of the night, just as if I was in Kampung Medan or Pasir Mas? The rise in the cost of petrol further strengthens the case for owning a bike.

Then, this year’s surprise box-office hit is a Malay movie that glorifies the devil-may-care attitude of this group. Unsurprisingly, it is titled Remp-it. Suddenly, it is cool to be Mat Rempits, despite the lame effort at the end of the movie to show that Mat Rempits would meet untimely deaths. Looking at the antics of the Rempits in the middle of Kuala Lumpur every weekend, one would think that serious measures would be implemented to stop them.

Yet, just recently, they were deemed“assets of the nation”. Pity those who drive around in cars then, for surely, if there is a case to be made for social clubs and racing privileges, those in cars deserve as much as Mat Rempits. Now, the fine for not wearing helmets has been reduced to RM30. Life is certainly looking rosy for the Mat Rempits.

If you have been to developed countries in the West (or Japan), you would notice that there is very few motorcyclists on the road. Is it something we should ponder as we head towards developed-nation status that the number of motorcyclist in Malaysia is increasing instead?

It's rather ironic...

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Written on 9/05/2006 12:59:00 am by sikapitan

Isn’t this ironic? On the day that my first real “creative endeavor” were published in a national daily, I realized that I am, in effect, not a blogger. I once read somewhere that one of the criteria to being a blogger is to update your site at least once a month. My last posting was at the end of the World Cup, and along the way the ever-present demanding coursework and a trip to Australia has somehow stopped me from actually updating my blog. It’s even more ironic that during that period I was paid RM100 for two articles published in the Star (I don’t know which one, and I don’t really care for it’s merely a reproduction of something I wrote here) and now another article in today’s MalayMail. All under the pretext of being a teenage blogger.

So how do I go about this? I mean, I love seeing my article published in the MalayMail, and the editor is a cool enough dude that I think I might just write something different for them, and something different here. I can’t really screw around with the mass media, so I guess this domain shall be truly a private one, where I get to vent out my innermost anger (often) or thoughts (seldom).

A dear friend has just lost her father to cancer last week, and being the dastardly person I am, I can’t even find the time to visit her. It’s sad really, but I’ve got a lot on my hands after missing a week and managing the Law Faculty’s Annual Dinner was simply a task that consumed me. On hindsight, I regretted not sacrificing one of those moments when I am busy at home choosing a song that I am going to perform, rather than visit someone who has been there, IF called upon, for me all this while. If this is the indication of my future, where I will be so focused on my tasks and even myself till I neglect the important people in my life, then I should be afraid…very afraid.

On another note, I have to make a confession – I love planning an event. I never thought I would, but apparently it IS true that I am a total control freak, and you definitely need a control freak as your event manager. I love making things right, even when the hotel’s technical staff could not be anymore daft and inefficient. I didn’t get to sit down at all at my own table, beside my girlfriend (whom I have to admit, rather shamelessly, looked stunning), and eat for more than five minutes before the walkie-talkie would crackle signaling that something needs to be done. Despite having to deal with micro-managing-addict lecturers, and other control freaks, the event finished on time, despite starting later than scheduled, so I would say that is a success on our part. Anything else that went wrong that night was beyond my control, which exonerate me from any wrongdoing (thereby bringing a sense of relief), yet leaving me feeling rather inadequate.



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It's a waste of time...

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Written on 7/30/2006 02:45:00 am by sikapitan

I was sitting in front of the TV, waiting for something good to come up. I seldom watch the news these days, mindful of the fact that whatever happens, it can always wait until tomorrow. However, something caught my eye as I was flipping through the channels - the sight of Malaysians screaming and shouting. It was shocking to see scenes familiar in Indonesia and Philippines happening right on our doorstep.

Apparently, the Malaysian youths, predominantly Malay in this case, decided to stage a demonstration against the visit of Condoleeza Rice, that piano-playing Secretary of State for the United States of America. There they were, in the thousands, pushing through the police barricade, trying to pass on their protest against Israel’s offensive in the SOVEREIGN state of Lebanon. The “children” are entranced by the tune played by the “pied piper”, an unnamed fast-rising politician. Cue the typical burning of flags, draping of flags, shouting of slogans, pushing and shoving…just to get the message across to deaf ears.

That is where I see the trouble with this whole protest. Remember that one million-signature project to stop the illegal occupation of Iraq? What about the dozens of protest we stage to tell the U.S of A that we do not like them, that we hate their policies and such? Has it made any difference? In fact, do the U.S.A ever pay any notice to what we say or do?

Imagine this hypothetical scenario. The Malaysian government suddenly decides to displace the Orang Asli settlement in Pahang. Somehow, the wonderful people in the state of Maldives took offence over this, and decided to stage protests. They rally some other states…oh, let’s just say Nepal, Solomon Islands…and together they all burned Malaysian flags, and shout slogans against our government. Figure this: How many of us Malaysians will actually be shown or told of these protests by our news media? Do you think that TV3 will show the Nepalese burning Malaysian flags? And most importantly, if they do, do you really care?

That is the conundrum with the current world order. The world’s biggest superpower, the world’s most prosperous nation, where most of the world’s richest people populate, does not, have not and will not care for what we say or do, especially if it is against them. Their people are blissfully unaware of the feelings the rest of the world has towards their country. Come to think of it, they could lay claim to being the most self-absorbed nation in the world as well.

The only way the U.S government can change its policy is if its people demand it. Unfortunately, and through no fault of their own, the population of the USA cannot be bothered with what we have to say, because they are not exposed to it! Do you think their print media would waste its pages to show UMNO Youths burning the U.S.A flag? Moreover, even if they did, what would be the most logical reaction? Would they suddenly agree with us, or would they just sit back and say “Crazy people…”?

We are just as the Maldives is to us. A nice place to go for a holiday, but very irrelevant in the world order. We can waste our energy with petitions and protests (though fund-raising is one activity I find useful), or we could instead pool our minds towards making Malaysia a developed, relevant and of course, heard nation in the world.

Confessions of A Football Junkie

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Written on 6/30/2006 03:13:00 am by sikapitan

My mind is clear, I am not dizzy nor am I sleepy. In fact, I could probably run a few kilometers right now just to shake off this adrenalin rush I am experiencing. It’s 2 a.m in the morning of 30th June 2006 and I am still, very much wide awake.

I move constantly, going up and down the stairs for no other reason than to grab a bite in the kitchen. I could now defrost cold meat, reheat leftovers and prepare a simple meal for two if you want, all after midnight. I just finished a sandwich, I just drank a glass of hot chocolate and I am still, very much wide awake.

My hands are itchy, constantly fiddling with the black object known as the remote control. The screen to my left constantly changes from one channel to another, as I watch the Scrubs while trying to catch any other match that I MAY have missed (which I honestly have not) and I am still, very much wide awake.

I have just finished reading The Star and NewStraitsTimes, back to front, including the business section. I could start reading the new novel I just bought, but then I wouldn’t have time to write this. I plan to finish my World Cup chart as soon as I’m done with my last sentence and I am still, very much wide awake.

I could tell you which mamak serves the best teh o at this time in Subang, which mamak has the best roti planta, and which mamak has the best projector/screen combination. I could tell you that there’s always a full house whenever England is playing, even though they’re boring. I could tell you all this right now, while discussing the merits of playing with 5 midfielders, and I WOULD STILL be wide awake.

My life for the past 3 weeks starts at 8 p.m. I catch every single live World Cup matches there is. I write and discuss about them religiously. I am, at this moment, a football addict suffering from withdrawal symptoms. For the first time in weeks I am left without live football at this ungodly hour. It’s 2 am, and I am very much wide awake.

Round of 16

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Written on 6/28/2006 02:28:00 pm by sikapitan

Brazil 3 - 0 Ghana
The expected Ghanaian Resistance never happened. Wasted too many chances, too square in defence. Ronaldo, Adriano and Ze Roberto all benefitted from Ghana's naivety in playing the offside trap.

As early as the 5th minute, Ronaldo broke through the square defence then did one of his step-overs which completely bamboozled the Ghanaian keeper to tuck the ball into an empty net. While the replay clearly showed Ronaldo was onside, the same cannot be said for the second goal by Adriano in the 45th minute. In fact, he was offside on two occasions.

The first could be excused, as he was not interfering with play when the ball was fed to Kaka, but he did joined the attack from an offside position, didn’t he? But most importantly, when Cafu played a delightful ball across the 6-yard, Adriano’s body was clearly ahead of the last defender. Lucky? You make your own luck in football…

The last goal was scored by Ze Roberto after a 25-pass move (eclipsing Argentina’s famed 24 pass goal against Serbia, though that was a wee bit more intricate) that simply bored the Ghanaians into submission. The finish was superb though, and truth be told after that Cafu and Juan missed wonderful chances to make the scoreline even more emphatic.

The two Fatsos scored (Ronaldo+Adriano) without doing anything much, while Ronaldinho is hardly at his best, yet they have now scored 10 goals and conceded just once. You do the math…


Spain 1 - 3 France
Ribery starred in France's superb comeback from a David Villa penalty in the first half. Vieira scored to make it 1-2 after a needless foul by Carlos Puyol. To cap what was an entertaining duel, old maestro Zidane scored in the last minute after cutting inside Puyol and placing a low show to Casillas' right.

Spain was again the more patient side, trying to tire the ageing French by stroking the ball around with relative ease. Xabi Alonso gave an example of a new breed of “water-carrier”, eclipsing the veteran Makelele with a combination of superb vision and tenacious tackling.

The right side of Spain, with little triangles by Sergio Ramos, Fabregas and David Villa caused problems for the French. But Spain lacked the experience to kill of the game, and resorted to one too many dives which gave the impressions that they are cheating even when there was a real foul.

France, on the other hand, soaked up the pressure, and I was very impressed with Willy Sagnol who had a great game at right back. The important thing to note when playing against France is that their backline is filled with great headers of the ball. The fullbacks will tuck in with the central defenders making no room for crosses to be met by Torres.

Even though Makelele really showed his limitation last night, the French weren’t really troubled with the biggest threat coming from set-pieces by Pernia, who again showed he is better going forward than defending.

I also questioned the tactical substitution made by Aragones, bringing on 3 players in the second half who did not alter the shape of the game at all. He brought out 2 strikers to be replaced by two attacking midfielders while taking out one of his best free-kick takers for a more defensive minded one. Marco Senna is a good player, but he is never going to be a match winner…You either be really bold (by taking out a defender perhaps) or you be patient like Domenech, keeping your cards well hidden.

In any case, I’m looking forward to the match-up between France v. Brazil, a repeat of the France 98 Finals – is it time for revenge?

Accept It

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Written on 6/25/2006 02:08:00 pm by sikapitan

Whenever a survey portrays Malaysia in a bad light, Malaysians get defensive and start questioning the veracity of the study. Recently, Reader's Digest published its courtesy survey that ranked Malaysia at number 33 out of 35 nations. Cue the "conspiracy against Malaysia" theory and "Western-centric bias" accusation. Nevertheless, the truth is that, no matter how hard we try to ignore it, Malaysians are less courteous than we think we are, especially to fellow Malaysians.

Reader's Digest conducted three simple experiments : the "thank you" test, the "drop a paper" test and holding a door open for someone. Now, just forget its scientific value and comparison with other nations, and concentrate on the three tests. Apply it in your daily activities and you will be surprised at how often we Malaysians fail to meet even our own expectations.

How often do we get a "thank you" with a smile? More often than not, what you get from your typical cashier is a half-hearted "thank you" (if you're lucky) without eye-contact, let alone a decent smile. What about those who helped you in holding the door, yet doing it with a sour face that you would think he is suffering from constant diarrhea?

We experience it everyday. On the road where people just don't bother raising their hands to acknowledge another person giving way, at the mall where most of the time the smile is kept for tourist, even on a date where the guy no longer bother holding the chair for the lady.

I personally don't care if Reader's Digest say we are First or Last. What matters is that I know we could be a lot more courteous to our fellow Malaysians, and THAT is undisputable.

Second Round of Matches

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Written on 6/20/2006 09:35:00 pm by sikapitan

Argentina 6 – 0 Serbia
Serbia came into this game carrying a reputation as one of the toughest team to break down. They are not noted for scoring goals, but they are certainly known not to concede that many. This is why this scoreline emphasized how truly wonderful Argentina was.

It is a bit too early actually to say that they would go on and win this tournament. There is always the danger of peaking too soon. Nevertheless, let us just enjoy this one as being one of the best team performances, I have ever seen, and that is not limited to this World Cup or even any World Cup.

The key to this performance was that Argentina had the right tactics, the right “imbalance” (more on that later) and the right personnel in the right places. I have written before that Argentina has harnessed the individual brilliance throughout the team to work as a unit, but I never expected it to be manifested in such a performance.

With Villareal, if you man-mark Riquelme, the whole team will fail to function. With Argentina, if you man-mark JR, then you leave the space open for others to exploit. The problem is that tactically it is difficult to impose your style of play against Argentina. There is an “imbalance” to the side, that makes it difficult for tactically rigid team to adapt.

They say they play with a back-four, but contrast the marauding runs of Sorin with the almost stationary Burdisso and what you get in effect is a 3 man defence and a midfield that is left-biased. Riquelme, Sorin and Rodriguez seldom wander to the right. Teams should exploit their right, as most of the time Burdisso is left without a cover. This would be easier if it weren’t for the fact that Saviola is tenacious in hounding the defenders into making mistakes, leaving them with no time to play the ball down the left. It would be interesting to watch the right side of Argentina cope with Arjen Robben’s more direct style.

Malaysians have this problem of concentrating only on the strikers. I kind of wish they would be a bit more aware of other key areas on the pitch. Even if you were to applaud strikers, I think harping praise on Messi is a bit too much. He came on against a demoralized, tired 10-man defensive unit that has been shredded to pieces. Messi is an exciting talent, but special praise should go to Javier Mascherano, the Argentina Makelele who exhibited great discipline in staying back and not wanting to get on the scoresheet, thus allowing others to weave their magic. The fact that Argentina had FIVE different scorers just shows how talented they are as a team.

Netherlands 2 – 1 Ivory Coast
The Cote D’Ivore again proved that they are one of the better teams in this tournament. They have played against two of the top teams in this world and have proven to be tough to crack and strong in attack as well. They are quick on the break and possess impressive stamina. It is just unfortunate that they are less decisive in finishing off opponents, as their approach play deserve better.

I have always said that Holland is the new Germany. They rely on quick counter-attacks, but most importantly, they are a tough nut to crack. I believe that their back-line is one of the best in this tournament, but Phillip Cocu is a bit too old to marshal the midfield. In fact the central 3 midfielders for Holland is the weakest link in this team, with Van Bommel most often committing unnecessary fouls.

Perhaps Van Der Vaart’s increasing fitness would make Holland more fluent in attack. They are a bit too dependent on the wingers, who so far have carried the team in two games - Robben against Serbia and Van Persie against the Ivory Coast. Closing these two won’t be easy, but possible because the midfield trio is slow to move forward and support the three forwards. This allows for opposing team to double-mark the two wingers.

Mexico 0 – 0 Angola
I wondered how I managed to stay awake watching this game. It lacked direction, with both teams seemingly unable to control the midfield. However, special praise must be given to Angola who again proved what a tough team they are to beat. Their midfield is one of the physically strongest ones in this tournament, as they can run and run without losing steam.

The Mexicans cannot counter this hard-tackling, hard-running display by the Angolans. When they do, they would find one of the unsung stars in this tournament, the Angolan goalkeeper. He is strong in the air, good at shot-stopping, acrobatic as hell…maybe a bit too eccentric to last in a top league, but in knock-out tournaments he would be great.

Angola keep their impossible dream alive of qualifying to the next round with this precious one point. If Mexico lose in the final game, and Angola win big (by 3 goals) against the Iranians, there is every likelihood that Angola would qualify.

Portugal 2 – 0 Iran
Portugal was a bit too cautious in the opening minutes. I have not been impressed with Pauleta in the opening two games for Portugal. He seems anonymous for most part of the two matches, though he did score in the first. I like the shape that Portugal adopts, with Figo and Ronaldo changing flanks at will while Deco holds the attacking impetus to unlock the defense.

But in the first half, they were stifled by a strong Iranian midfield. I believe that the Iranians have one of the most technically gifted midfield in this tournament. Their first touch is superb, passes sublime…it is just unfortunate that they lack the necessary tactical intelligence to fully utilize their undeniable natural abilities. They rush the pass too often, and were unwilling to attack crosses. Carvalho and Meira are not the strongest partnership I have seen so far.

A wonderful strike by Deco unlocked the Iranians, and you can see how that goal lifted the whole Portugal side as they started to show some flair in attack. I was particularly impressed with the Portuguese right-back who showed himself as a willing runner.

Czech 0 – 2 Ghana
My friends and I truly enjoyed this game as Ghana totally outclassed the Czechs. I did say that the Czechs are over-rated, and this was evident as Ghana outmuscled the Czech midfield. Poborsky, Nedved and Rosicky are the attacking fulcrum to this side, but they are not the most physically imposing players. Essien and Appiah totally dominated the middle, and if it wasn’t for some dismal finishing by Cyan in attack, they would have scored even more.

But perhaps I was being harsh on the Czechs. We must remember that they are playing WITHOUT two of their top strikers, Koller and Baros. It is like Brazil playing without Ronaldo…but they are doing that now anyway. It is like Holland without Van Nistelrooy and Robben, England without Rooney and Crouch (hahaha)…this is apparent as they could not impose themselves in attack with the two forwards losing the ball way too often.

Ghana would do well to qualify ahead of the Czechs if they manage to beat the US...

Italy 1 – 1 U.States
I told you that this is actually the toughest group to see who would qualify. All the teams are dependent on their third game. This game showed that the US is no pushover. In fact, they were probably unlucky to be down to 9 men after another inconsistent showing by a referee in this World Cup. Italy also had to play with 10 men. 3 red cards, and yet the game was never ugly with both sides showing great sportsmanship.

Italy would be disappointed with conceding an own goal, but the U.S earned their one precious point. They were tenacious in defense, not allowing the Italians to dominate the air. Onegwyu had a great game at the back, while Reyna finally showed how under-rated he is. Perhaps after the dismal performance against the Czechs, the US had to respond to the mauling from the press.

I knew that Landon Donovan would shine, and shine he did. He virtually ran the U.S attack by himself, making intelligent runs and showing excellent technique to keep the ball away from the famed Italian attackers. I applaud Claudia Reyna for bringing in fresh faces for this game, as Dempsey ran his socks off and were a menace to the Italians.

I don’t know why, but I really like Italy, Ghana and U.S. I think they have been quite entertaining and they would certainly add to the value of the tournament if they proceed. Right now, only Italy have their right foot in the next round, needing a draw from their last game against the Czechs.

Japan 0 – 0 Croatia
Croatia has flattered to deceive. They are strong defensively, with the two Kovacs putting in tremendous amount of workload. I am impressed with Niko Kranjcar who repeatedly managed to string together passes in the middle of the park to keep the pace up. However, they lack the killer instinct, with the strikers missing chances including a penalty (though Kawaguchi did well to parry it away).

Japan again showed that they are definitely skillful, and technically capable. They can mix it up with the best, and they have the defenders who can handle physical European strikers. But they seemed to lack the stamina, thus I have to question Zico’s preparation of the team. While the Koreans seem to run like the Eveready battery, the Japanese just cannot run for the final 15 minutes. They were hanging on at the end, and their forwards were struggling to even control the ball.

Japan must buck up to salvage this campaign. They must believe in themselves. Nakata and Nakamura are playing better than Emerson and Ze Roberto, so they must take that game by the scruff of its neck.

Brazil 2 – 0 Australia
The whole problem with Brazil is that there seems to be a lack of proper tactics when it comes to their attacking play. The four forwards are allowed to run around, carrying the ball, looking for the killer pass. This is unfortunate as you cannot have that many playmakers running around. There is no discipline in their attack. I would have preferred a “measured chaos” approach.

The forwards are allowed to do what they want, but within the confines of their assigned space. Ronaldinho on the left, Kaka on the right, with Ze Roberto being the link man. The Brazilians are too cautious despite playing 4 forwards. Why? Because the two midfield anchors refuse to attack!

Australia is strong, technically gifted. They just lack the quality in key areas. They are in a good position to qualify.



2nd Round of Matches - Group A & B

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Written on 6/17/2006 04:13:00 am by sikapitan

Germany 1 – 0 Poland
Germany became the first team to qualify to the second round after beating a Polish side still demoralized by a surprise defeat to the Ecuadorians. The return of Ballack to the side eased the attacking responsibility of Frings, thus making sure that the German backline was not as exposed as they were against the Costa Ricans. Unfortunately, this also caused the German team to lose their attacking verve so evident in the opening game.

It appears that the team was wary of irking Captain Ballack, as they were not brave enough to attack without going through Ballack. This slowed the pace down considerably, though Germany was always in control of the game. In fact, if Podolski and Klose were a bit sharper in front of goal, Germany could have won comfortably. At the other end, Germany’s defense looked better, but Friedrich is still easily beaten and most often out of position.

The introduction of Odonkor on the right wing gave the German something they were lacking – true pace down the flanks. The man noted for his 10.9 second 100m dash was a constant menace, though his dribbling skills left much to be desired. It was his cross after another lung busting run down the right which cut through the Polish impressive backline and reached the lunging feet of Oli Neuville, another Klinsmann substitute.

Germany would have been confident of taking the lead of Group A, if it weren’t for the impressive Ecuadorians…

Ecuador 3 – 0 Costa Rica
I was one of those who dismissed Ecuador as a nation who benefited from their less than friendly local environment to qualify to the World Cup. But if I was suitably impressed with their performance against Poland, at the end of this game I was a convert to the Ecuadorian cause.

What impressed me was not the scoreline, but the manner it was obtained. The Ecuadorians simply outran the Costa Ricans, showing great physical strength and stamina along the way. It could all have been a lot different if the Costa Ricans showed a bit more bite in attack. Ecuador has, in Tenorio and Delgado, two of the more exciting, threatening and on-form partnership in the tournament so far. I see them as two Drogbas, but with a bit more modesty and honesty in their play.

Kavides, who came on for Tenorio in the second half, had a good game as he broke through the defense countless times showing that the Ecuadorians do have strength in depth. I was suitably impressed with the No.8, Edison Mendez, whose combination with De la Cruz tormented the Costa Ricans left side.It was Mendez pinpoint cross that was converted by Kavides. It was a great goal, but I was not too suitably impressed with anyone who could celebrate wearing something that he kept in his shorts for 45 minutes!

England 2 – 0 Trinidad & Tobago
I somehow wished that England wouldn’t score, but then they scored two. It is not like I no longer support England, but it frustrates me that their tactical deficiencies are being glossed over by undeserved wins. I understand if they struggled in their first game, but by the second game, against perhaps the easiest team in this group, they were still lackluster and tactically inept.

Unlike most people, I do believe that the both Gerrard and Lampard can play together in midfield. But I think Sven has not utilized their talent to adapt to the more tactical international game. It was too easy for T&T as they packed up their defense with 11 men. England stuck to their long diagonal balls played down the flanks, and this T&T dealt with by simply not pushing their fullbacks forward. This resulted in both Lampard and Gerrard pumping balls to no one in particular.

I believed that England would play better if they were more patient in building up possession. Push the backline slowly and work the triangles in the middle of the park. Instead, the midfielders prefer staying in their own half and using the long passes to open up the defense. This would have been great if Crouch is not such a clumsy header of the ball. For a man that tall, he is not the most fearsome striker in this tournament so far simply because he is not strong enough.

The game changed considerably with the introduction of, not Rooney, but Aaron Lennon. It is not difficult to see why, as by being a bit more willing to take on the fullback, Lennon allowed Beckham more room to operate and deliver his crosses. Not only that, the tactics were also changed to a more appropriate 3 man backline and short passing game that allowed England to control possession better.

I think that this English squad could have been, and should have been stronger, if Sven was a bit wiser in choosing his squad. Downing is there simply because McLaren’s loves him, because he is not in any form to be in any World Cup squad. I would have preferred bringing someone like Kieran Richardson and why Hargreaves when you have players like Scott Parker? The most woeful decision was to bring along Walcott, especially since it appears that Sven himself is not willing to let him play. Why bring a player whom you don’t feel confident could turn around a game? Before I forget, could anyone remind Rio that he is not the FREAKING playmaker!!!

Sweden 1 – 0 Paraguay
What if Sweden had Nelson Valdez in their squad instead of Zlatan or Allback? This game simply highlighted that Paraguay would have been worse if it weren’t for the pocket dynamite who is plying his trade in Werder Bremen. He was their only threat, though I was impressed with Acuna, who tried valiantly and succeeding most of the time in stopping the less than effective Swedish midfeld.

Sweden, on their part, contributed to the dour game by not being adventurous enough in attack. Only Ljungberg showed his true worth, while the rest content with passing the ball around without purpose. Kallstrom had a mixed game as he showed a lot of flair and willingness to attack, but often made one too many mistakes in giving up possession.

I am amazed at how boring the games from Group B were. England v. Paraguay, Sweden v. Trinidad, England v. Trinidad, and Sweden v. Paraguay would not leave any fond memories in my mind. In a tournament filled with great goals, Group B contributed a total of FOUR GOALS coming from only TWO teams. One was an own goal, while the only truly good one was Gerrard’s last minute curling shot against T&T. They should have named this group Group Zzzz…



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First Round of Matches...

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Written on 6/15/2006 05:23:00 pm by sikapitan

Germany 4 – 2 Costa Rica
The opening game and certainly one of the more entertaining one. Germany showed amazing attacking verve and flair with Bastian Schweinsteger and Philip Lahm one of the few who impressed for Germany. But they were severely exposed at the back, with the high defensive line adopted by Germany after their first goal being exposed twice by Paulo Wanchope.

Perhaps the Germans were more carefree without Ballack controlling everything in midfield. This allowed all the midfielders to have a free run at being a playmaker, attacker and defender though at a cost of defensive solidity. Costa Rica had 3 shots on goal, with two finding the net. They didn’t control possession and were, in actual fact, fortunate to score both goals.

I would love to see the Germans continue the tournament in this attacking spirit, something that Germany was never really famous for. Solid efficiency? More like suicidal flair…

Poland 0 – 2 Ecuador
Poland was strong defensively in the first 20 minutes, with Ecuador making the early runs. However, they were unlocked by a flick from Southampton player Delgado to Tenario who scored from close range. I was particularly impressed with the combination of both strikers who troubled the not-so-shabby Polish defence.

After the first goal, it appears that Poland lost the plot, especially in midfield as the physically imposing South American took charge. Ecuador was creative in attack with both full backs getting a free run against their opposite number. Ecuador was not that impressive at the back though, and I am waiting for the game against Germany to see how they adapt to a more polished, structured attack but by that time Germany would probably field a weak team.

England 1 – 0 Paraguay
England got off to a good start when Beckham’s wicked free kick went in off Gamarra’s head for an own goal. After that, they overran the Paraguayans midfield with Lampard and Joe Cole being particularly impressive. However, after 20 minutes, the pace considerably slowed and England could not maintain possession.

I am still perplexed as to why the English like to pump the ball down the flanks for either strikers to chase. In midfield they have a collection of individuals who have proven at club level they could pass the ball around. I believe that if England stick to a short, triangle-based game they would look better and perhaps bring out the best from Michael Owen who had a terrible game. This would also allow Lampard and Gerrard to play those great through balls.

Paraguay was quite impressive, especially Nelson Valdez, the star from Werder Bremen. If they had more of a killer touch, England could have been embarrassed.

Sweden 0 – 0 Trinidad & Tobago
Sweden has serious troubles, though I have to say they were unfortunate not to score. Shaka Hislop were the stumbling block against Zlatan and Larsson, but it would be wrong to say Sweden should have won the game. They were uninspired in midfield and tactically stiff against a surprisingly fiery Trinidad frontline.

Trinidad played with one lone striker, and yet the two fullbacks for Sweden were never adventurous enough to attack. This resulted in one absurd situation where the ball arrived at the feet of a Trinidad player in Sweden’s half and there were FOUR Swedish defenders! The sad thing was that only one was close enough to the striker to do anything while the rest just jogged down guarding the grass perhaps.

Trinidad won’t qualify to the next round, but they have shown that they’re no pushovers. Yorke impressed in a new role as the midfield dynamo where his lack of pace did not really matter.

Argentina 2 – 1 Ivory Coast
Argentina faced a difficult African team who qualified impressively and recently finished second in the African Nations Cup. This was evident in the first half where the Africans ran their lungs out, closing down the Argentinians. In fact, on the balance of play the Africans did not deserve to go down by two goals in the first half.

I was particularly impressed with Saviola as he proved to be the tormentor with clever off the ball running and accurate passing. I was not as impressed with Nicolas Burdisso, the right side defender of Argentina’s three-man defense. Luckily they have Heinze and Ayala, who despite obvious height disadvantage, did not leave any space for Drogba to exploit.

Truth be told, the Argentinians never looked in danger of losing, as they showed that this team is built around possession football rather than South American more favored direct attacking approach. But the Ivory Coast will prove to formidable opponent to whichever team they faced. It is just unfortunate they are stuck in this group.

Serbia 0 – 1 Netherlands
Critics would say they only won by one goal, but the truth was that Serbia never really threatened Van Der Sar, nor did they hold the ball as long as they should. Holland was impressive in controlling the midfield, though in truth they lack the necessary creative spark that a player like Van Der Vaart could bring in midfield.

Arjen Robben grabbed all the headlines as the star of the show, and I was impressed but I prefer to look at the contribution of Bouhlarouz who came as a replacement for Mathijsen in the second half. The Serbians was just beginning to attack with verve only to find this Stam-like colossus holding firm. It is believed that he would start in Holland’s next game against the Ivory Coast.

I was so disappointed with Serbia’s attacking line, because I expected more from the experienced Milosevic and explosive Kezman. They didn’t control the ball, and that proved to be the difference.

Mexico 3 – 1 Iran
This was surprisingly an interesting game. Iran was more than a match for the Mexicans in the first half, with Oswaldo Sanchez being the busier of the two keepers. The Iranians seems to have a problem defending set-pieces, but their midfield quartet was beautiful to watch. Skillful on the ball, they were unfortunate to go into the break level.

But I applaud the Mexican coach for making the necessary personnel and tactical changes at the beginning of the second half. They adopted a more fluent 4-4-2 attacking formation and this proved to be too much for the Iranians who lost the ball more often than they should.

I like Borgetti, but I think his injury proved to be the catalyst of Mexico’s success as the Mexicans then flowed with a different close passing game instead of lumping the ball into the box.

Angola 0 -1 Portugal
I was so disappointed with Portugal’s display against the debutants. Angola had no one who played in the top level of football, and in the opening 10 minutes this was truly evident. I thought that there would be a drubbing when Pauleta pounced as early as the 4th minute but I was so wrong.

In truth, the Portuguese huff and puffed without really excelling, but nor were they ever threatened. As I expected, the only bright spark was Christiano Ronaldo, before he was substituted. Figo was also impressive, against a very slow and immobile Angolan defence. Not impressed with Simao, who wasted one too many balls.

United States 0 – 3 Czech Republic
This was as one sided as they go. The Czechs were good, no doubt, but they were helped by an inept US display. The Czechs allowed the US midfield to control the ball as long as they want because they knew nothing would come out of it. I was bitterly disappointed that the midfield gave the ball away too much in the final third, with Eddie Pope and Claudio Reyna guilty of some glaring miss passes.

In contrast, the Czechs made every second of the possession count with Rosicky and Nedved particularly impressive. While the US preferred to stroke the ball in the middle of the park the Czechs made fast attacking runs down the channel to catch the US high line of defense off-guard. Rosicky was the man of the match with a solid display of midfield supreme, capped off with two sublime goals and one shot rattling the cross-bar. I just hate the fact that he is Arsenal’s, and for only 5 million pound!!!

Italy 2 – 0 Ghana
Ghana was tipped by many as the African team that would do well in this tournament, but with their strikers seemingly short of quality, the task to qualify to the next round would be challenging. Ghana had some wonderful moments in possession, with Appiah and Essien particularly impressive, but they came up short in the third half of the field.

Italy is no longer the boring defensive team of old. They were willing to attack when needed, and if they were a bit sharper in front of goal then the scoreline would be more reflective of their effort. The midfield trio of Pirlo, De Rossi and Perrotta was superb on that night. Defensively, the look tight and didn’t allow the Ghanaians space. Italy will qualify.

Australia 3 – 1 Japan
Japan was impressive in the first half. I liked the way they controlled possession, and the midfielders were more than a match against the physically imposing Australians. Australia, in truth, was pathetic in the first half. Harry Kewell was clearly feeling the heat, and was largely disappointing throughout the game.

Unfortunately, for Japan, they were indecisive in attack. There were situations where the Japanese could have scored or were in great attacking position but lacked the killer instinct. They paid the price in the final 10 minutes when their midfield can no longer carry the whole team. Tim Cahill exploited this by arriving late, unmarked, from midfield to score two goals. The final goal by John Aloisi probably was a bit unfair to the Japanese, who now must regroup for their next match against Croatia. They have failed to win their one must-win game, so their chance to qualify is next to impossible.

South Korea 2 – 1 Togo
Togo surprised me with their endeavor and their physical presence. It appears to be the theme for African teams this year. A lot of hard running, impressive skills, but lacking the tactical ability to adapt. Togo paid the price when they did not adapt to the arrival of Ahn Jung Hwan in place of a defender and the resulting tactical reshuffle.

Truth be told, South Korea did not impress as much as they should, considering their experience. Their midfield, especially Park Ji-Sung, ran around a lot, like little ants chasing pieces of bagel, but did not penetrate the defense of Togo. In fact, the only reasoned they managed to score from a free kick was the slow response of the cumbersome Togo keeper.

France 0 – 0 Switzerland
Like I have predicted, the Swiss would be no pushovers. Judging by their performance against the Les Bleus, they would most likely take maximum points against Togo and perhaps the Koreans. They were strong in defense and midfield, with Degen and Muller impressing in defence.

However, this was against a French team lacking cohesion and most importantly, the finishing touch. Henry had a terrible game in attack. His first touches were awful and there was no penetration from the wings as is usual with him at Arsenal. I was also unimpressed with Vieira, who did not grab the game by its neck in his central midfield role. Instead, with 10 minutes remaining, the French were still busy passing the ball around in the middle of the park with only 2 players in the penalty box! On the plus side was Zidane’s passionate and artful control in the midfield, instead of the over-hyped Ribery who probably was trying too hard.

Brazil 1 – 0 Croatia
Brazil won with 10 men. Ronaldo was missing for most of the time. In fact, he appeared to enjoy strolling around without purpose. Luckily for Brazil they had the impressive Lucio at the back, as he was the heart in the centre of defense. Only a beautiful curling shot by Kaka made the difference against a well-organised, strong-willed and dedicated Croatian team.

Dado Prso was a constant menace. Unfortunately, this he did outside the penalty area especially in the left side where he ran his socks off to no avail. Niko Kranjcar was impressive in the centre of the back, giving Emerson a run for his money. Croatia would definitely compete for the second spot in this group if they keep up with this performance.

Spain 4 – 0 Ukraine
Wow…what can I say? On a day where most would expect Spain to be overwhelmed as usual, and Ukraine to finally show the world what they’ve been missing all this years, it was the complete opposite! It was finally the day when the world at large can see a Spanish performance befitting their great players. The Ukrainian were overwhelmed and like I say, if you mark Shevchenko properly, the whole team would not function.

Most importantly, it wasn’t a complete walk-out like the Czechs had against USA. The Ukrainians gave a good fight in midfield and defence. But against a strong resolute Spanish armada anchored by Marco Senna and the ever exuberant Xavi Hernandez, they were simply outrun, outpassed and outwitted. Puyol was a rock in the centre of defence, capping a fine evening by setting up Torres for Spain’s fourth goal. Is this the year where the Spanish bull would come out and play?

Tunisia 2 – 2 Saudi Arabia
One of the most entertaining games of the first round was conjured not by the big names, but two of the lesser teams in this competition. That was not the case in the first half as the two teams labored under the cautious approach of their respective managers. I don’t know why, but in the second half Tunisia simply capitulated despite holding a lead in the first.

Saudi, on their part, fought gallantly with their right back pumping balls down the channel that the Tunisian left-back failed to deal with time and time again. They soon equalized after one such ball opened up the defence and then took the lead from a quick, skillful counter attack. They thought they had their 3 points under wrap, but unfortunately, Raidi Jaidi had another idea when he rose to head the ball in the dying minutes of extra time.

...

The Time Has Come...

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Written on 6/10/2006 07:06:00 pm by sikapitan

I could have started with the over-used “once every four years…” but I won’t simply because you would know I was talking about the World Cup. It has reached a stage where even a 70-year-old grandma would have an inkling that the World Cup is on the way. At this very moment, Poland v. Ecuador is showing live on Astro. I watched the highly entertaining Germany v. Costa Rica match with my fellow “pundits” at the obligatory mamak. It was great to be out there, with a bunch of guys who share the same passion for the beautiful game.

The fact that I’m in the midst of my semester break, and the European timing not that dissimilar to English Premier League matches make this THE World Cup for me. Think about it, by the time the next World Cup in South Africa comes around, I would be working. Unless it’s my god-damn company or the boss has some weird idea about productivity, I doubt I would be able to catch the entire tournament as I could AND would this year.

Let’s not waste any time now, and start with some early predictions (and hopefully, a light-hearted one).

Group A
I wasn’t surprised at all when Germany was drawn in this group, one of the relatively easier ones. Like France in ’98, it appears that the European Union has been more effective in getting favorable draws for their members than actually running a “Euro-republic”.

If Germany don’t qualify, expect to see some defects in your BMW or Mercedes as German workers might finally give up at the ineptitude of the German government who can’t even get a football team right. It’s amazing how far they’ve fallen from their football throne, and also their economic might. Perhaps they need the Klinsmann approach to their economy – go Americana!

The second spot is a bit tougher to choose. Most would go for Poland, simply because they’re European based. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Ecuadorians doing well as they seem to have adjusted to the lower altitude in Germany. I guess this whole “altitude” stigma was stuck as the Ecuadorians seem impenetrable at their home 4,000 meters above sea-level. But I think the European summer weather is not dissimilar to the Latin mountains, so they could have adjusted better than most expected.

Group B
I hate to say I’m an England supporter simply because there’s too many of them in Malaysia, and people usually equate us as being EPL lovers who only support England because we only know English-men. I’m sure that is true for some, and I do admit the EPL has somehow imparted a very “English” frame of mind in analyzing football. However, this year, I truly believe the English squad has the necessary personnel to at least go to the quarter finals, where they would either meet Holland or Argentina.

What I hate most about supporting England is the whole hype surrounding the team. It seems like every teen-wonder is the saviour from God, and the average centre-back being made like a colossus. I’ll take Vidic anytime over Rio Ferdinand, or Schwen-susah-nak-eja over Theo “Who?” Walcott. Nobody knows who Bastian Susah-nak-Eja is, or for whom Nemanja Vidic is playing for BUT everybody knows Theo Walcott plays for Arsenal and Rio missed a damn drug test. England are good, but way over-hyped.

Sweden will be second in this group, unless Paraguay springs some nasty surprise. I would not be surprised that the second placed teams would be sorted out through goal difference. Trinidad & Tobacco…sorry, Tobago…are here to chill out and enjoy themselves.

Group C
This truly is the Group of Death. Most Malaysians will probably underestimate Ivory Coast and Serbia but trust me when I tell you, there could be a surprise coming from this group. The two leading nations, Argentina and Netherlands will cancel each other out and then it’s up to the two remaining matches against teams which are made to be physical.

I believe that Serbia and Montenegro could upset either one of the big names. But realistically speaking, Holland and Argentina head into this World Cup as the outside favorites thus there’s every reason to expect them to qualify. In Pekerman, Argentina has a manager who is experienced in such competitions, albeit for a different age group. However, it is extremely important to have a manager who is used to such tournament and in Pekerman they have a tactically adaptable coach who has turned Argentina into a more fluid, attacking team harking back to the days of Maradona. Unfortunately, they have not been impressive in friendlies against European teams in Europe.

Which I why I would go for Holland as the group leader. They have a young, exuberant coach, Van Basten, who makes up for his inexperience by being tactically astute and strong in will. Holland has one of the youngest, least experience squad heading to Germany, but their qualifying campaign in a very strong group suggest that Van Basten couldn’t care less who played, as long as they play his way. The Ajax system of the diamond 4-3-3 is favored, though there is more emphasis in protecting the back line than pouring forward. Total football needs team work rather than individual brilliance, which the Dutch appears to be lacking, what with injury to the stylish playmaker Van Der Vaart, but they will do well in this group.

Group D
Mexico, not Portugal, is the seeded team in this group, which I believe, would suit Portugal well. There appears to be a common belief that the Portuguese are good enough to trash the minnows, but not good enough against the big boys. I beg to disagree. The Portugal squad is the dark horse in this tournament, more likely to do well than the over-rated Czechs. Most importantly, the have Big Phil Scolari as their manager. It can never be underestimated the worth of having someone with experience leading the team.

I like the fluid 4-2-3-1 formation favored by Scolari. Particularly keen to impress this tournament would be Christiano Ronaldo. Though his club form has been somewhat patchy, Ronaldo appears to be at ease with Scolari’s system which seems to bring out the best in him.

Mexico will do well in this group, with the most likely competition coming from Iran, and even then not a strong one. I have a problem with this group because simply both Mexico and Portugal would qualify, at the expense of bigger names pooled in tougher groups like Group C or Group E.

Group E
People say that Group C is the Group of Death, but I find it hardest to predict the qualifiers from Group E. Old favorite Italy is under-rated at this tournament, and yet I believe the pessimism surrounding the team is understandable considering the lack of big name stars in the line-up and the decline of Italian football in general.

However, Lippi has done well in moulding a proper team, rather than a collection of egocentric individuals. Gilardino and Luca Toni are not household names, but by the end of the tournament I believe they will be the new Vieri and Inzaghi. The most problematic aspect of this Italian team, unbelievably, is the lack of world-class cover for the pairing of Nesta and Cannavaro.

The problem for them is the fact that the rest of the group consist of teams who play differing styles and play them effectively. The United States play a fast running game, full of physically fit and well-conditioned players. They are the up and coming team in World Football.

The Czechs are over-rated in my opinion. It’s not that they’re bad, far from it. Nevertheless, to say they are one of the outsiders for the Cup is a bit far-fetched. Their moment of glory was in the Euro 2004 Qualifying Rounds where they notched up impressive wins to top their group.

My bet to be this year’s Senegal would be Ghana. Physically strong and imposing, Ghana now possess some fine names which would undeniably warrant more attention from the general public. They would fight for the second spot, with probably goal difference separating them.

Group F
There is a reason why everyone thinks Brazil is the firm favorite to be World Champion again. Unlike other contenders, the majority of the players in their first 11 can arguably be said to be the BEST in their position. Emerson, Kaka, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Cafu, Lucio, Ze Roberto, Dida and even old Roberto Carlos would arguably walk into most side in their respective position. Genuinely world class in every sense of the word, it would surprise me if they didn’t get maximum points from this group.


Choosing the second team would be a harder test. My heart says Japan, but they lacked the teamwork in play like they did in 2002. This is probably because they now believe they have the players who can dictate the game without using the traditional minnows tactics of running their socks off and all-out pressing. It would be foolhardy to discount the Japanese, but the face stiff opposition, not from Croatia but from Australia.

Australia’s strength is not their players, as often believed, but their tactical guru Guus Hiddink. He has harnessed a squad that has experienced playing a South American powerhouse (Uruguay) and defeating them. Tactically, the Aussies have capable players who are adaptable, but they lack the fluency that is often the hallmark of Hiddink’s teams. This they compensate by being brutally physical, but their lack of class in defence would prove to be their undoing.

Group G
People write off France because of their lackluster campaign to World Cup and their ageing stars but they have failed to realize, like Portugal, the draw has been favorable to the Les Bleus. Drawn in a group which contains Togo, South Korea and Switzerland, it would be a surprise if they did not finish first. It’s often been said that their trump card is Frank Ribery, but I wouldn’t put it past Thierry Henry to exercise the demons which haunts his play in the national team. If Henry can play like he did with Arsenal, then Zidane’s lackluster display would be irrelevant.

Second place would go to either South Korea or Switzerland. Unfortunately for Asia, I predict that Korea would struggle, especially against the very impressive and physically imposing Switzerland. The Swiss plays with a quiet efficiency that tends to make others take them lightly. They have no big name stars, with the most famous player being Senderos! Just like their banks, watches and cheese, the Swiss will do things quietly but effectively.

Group H
This has got to be the weakest group in this whole tournament. I would even say that if Sweden were in this group, they would come out tops. The only big-name team in this group is Spain, and we all know how they choke when it comes to big tournaments. They have failed to impress me in qualifying, with Aragones seemingly unable to harness the young talents available to work as a unit. Everyone would love to see Fabregas play, but Aragones would most likely stick to Xavi and Alonso. Torres is over-rated, while Raul is struggling to find his form. Nevertheless, it would be a huge upset if they’re not first.

There is of course the possibility that they would not even qualify to the next round, as this group also contains Ukraine and Tunisia. Tunisia??? Yes, Tunisia. Unlike their previous appearance where they were drawn in tougher groups, this time around Tunisia has as much of chance to qualify to the next round as Ukraine. Ukraine rely too much on Andriy Shevchenko, but if teams mark-out Sheva, then the whole set-play would crumble.


Players to watch
Bastian Susah-nak-eja (Germany), Lukas Podolski (Germany), Luca Toni (Italy), Joe Cole (England), Riquelme (Argentina), Kaka (Brazil), Nakamura (Japan), Landon Donovan (USA), Beasley (USA), Essien (Ghana), Rosicky (Czech), C. Ronaldo (Portugal), Sneijder (Holland), and of course Ronaldinho (Brazil).

Kuala Lumpur International Motorshow (KLIMS) 2006

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Written on 6/03/2006 01:13:00 am by sikapitan

I remembered my first time to a proper Motorshow, the very first Kuala Lumpur International Motorshow. In fact I remembered going to that particular event TWICE, simply because I was awestruck by the goddesses manning the manufacturers’ stand and booths. I was a bit daft when it comes to car, but being a red-blooded teenager facing a bunch of skimpily dressed beauties, it does not really matter.


Fast forward to 2006, and I am no longer that naïve young man gawking at the Yokohama girls. Confident, educated, and a whole lot more experience with girls left me with the distinct impression that I wasn’t going to pay any attention to the bevy of beauties on show. The fact that I am now one of those who has not missed a single issue of Autocar Asean since its launch in Malaysia a few years ago made me even more confident that I was going to thoroughly enjoy the event for the right reasons.Armed with a pretty impressive looking Olympus E-500, I head out to PWTC with my best friend, Dhan.

It wasn’t long before I was pissed with something (as regular readers might have noticed). I can’t find a proper parking space that does not cost a low-wage earner weekly income! Anyway, I was quite simply delighted to discover that my University ID can be handy when it comes to the issue of discounts. At RM5 only, I felt that it was a bargain.

The first thing I noticed was the number of people there. This must have helped MAA in its bid to make KLIMS the premier motorshow event in ASEAN in the coming years, rivaling that of Thailand.

The 1st thing that greeted us...

I was bitterly disappointed with Proton for making their stand such a non-event, from the use of lackluster props and, forgive me for being a tad rude, not-so-pretty girls. It should not have been such a big factor, if it wasn’t for the fact that the product on display wasn’t that impressive either. It was dull and unexciting, with the exception of the Lotus APX concept car.

Looks like a car with weird personality disorder
Is it an MPV?Supermini?Hatchback?Sedan?

The rest of Hall 1 was not that impressive either. I was impressed with the funky looking yellow Swift Sport. I like the Cowboy theme used by Modenas. As for the rest, well…let’s just say that Trucks and Buses don’t really set my heart on fire.

Yellow Fever...
Swift Sport

Midnight Cowboy...
Modenas
Hall 2 was much better, and livelier. This is probably helped by the fact that as soon as you entered it you are greeted to a very mean looking Renault Kangoo. I never thought that an ugly car like Kangoo can look appealing, but after seeing this jacked-up version, I want one! Renault was inventive in its approach, and there’s one Kangoo dressed up like a 70’s hippies van. The girls are even decked out in flower-motif dresses. Talk about psychedelic!

Mean machine
Renault Kangoo

Hyundai gave us, well, Hyundai. However, I must say that I am mightily impressed by the new Santa Fe and its bold lines. Not so impressive is the interior of the NF, Azera and its ilk. Looks good on the outside, but left wanting inside. The girls could learn to be a little bit more cheerful, IMHO.

Nissan was very businesslike in its approach, the girls in drab suits. There’s a weird circus act in its presentation where there are guys busy bending their body around each other. Though I think the presentation sucks (too drab, too serious), I was delighted to see a proper concept car in the shape of the Nissan Sports Concept. I was again flabbergasted at the sight of the 350Z Fairlady (Dream car 1).

Nissan Sport Concept looks great...

The In-Car-Entertainment section also gave us a pleasant time with some seriously loud speakers and gorgeous girls. Particularly impressive were the Yokohama girls (AGAIN!). More on the girls later… The Brabus set-up was quite impressive in concept and execution. You really felt that you are special when you’re in their zone. Naza, riding high on its recent two launches, showcased the sports concept version of the Sutera and Bestari. Looks great, though I can’t understand why car manufacturers would want to drab their concept car in black. It should stand out!

Hall 3 was even more impressive as here we find the Peugeot stand where the sweet-looking (though badly reviewed) 407 Coupe makes its Malaysian debut. Whether it’ll be on sale is unclear, but the 307 Cc definitely is. Perodua took a much bigger space this time around, though I personally think it was wasted on cars that you can find on any clear day at those Sunway workshops.

Mitsubishi didn’t offer anything much for petrol heads, though their girls are perky, amicable and camera-friendly. Mazda, with its Zoom-zoom motto, showcased their entire passenger car range, with the superb MX-5 (dream car 2) on display and the beautiful concept Cx-7, which looks ready for production anyway.


The Volvo stand attracted a huge audience for two reasons. (1) They had great looking cars (2) They had good looking girls. Plus, the whole stand was well thought out. The C70, which is due to make its debut later this year in Malaysia, was well-received though the pictures doesn’t really show how big this car is. Not for teenagers then. Perhaps the C30 can settle that conundrum. Also on display was the 3CC concept car.


Toyota showcased a few concepts but none impressed me. It looked too ultra-futuristic. The Toyoto supermini, Yaris, is on sale right now, but at the price it’s being offered I think a Suzuki Swift would be a better answer.

Toyota cars were boring...but who cares?

I like Ford’s 4Trac concept, with its imposing front grill and muscular bodyline. Also on display was the Ford Focus ST, in quite simply stunning orange paint, though sadly this won’t be on sale in Malaysia.

You don't want to see this in your rear view mirror...

There was Honda at the next hall. In fact, the whole hall was split evenly between Honda and Mercedes-Benz. Honda featured two great-looking concept car, the boring-sounding Sports 4 concept and the FCX concept. However, I was more impressed with the Modulo-kitted new Civic (dream car 3). Unfortunately, there was no sight of the now-famous yellow Civic Type-R recently launched by Jenson Button.
Honda Sports4 Concept...sounds boring, looks anything but


Want to see the rest? Click here

Mercedez-Benz had its usual range of cars, and not so unusual in the shape of the McLaren SLR (NOT the greatest car in the world, but damn it looks sexy).

The surprising thing for me was that the most awe-inspiring display of sexy motoring was given not in one of the main halls but in a small hall wholly controlled by NazaWorld. On display was a collection of the most desirable sports cars out there, and one not marked by the term “Concept”. I don’t care if there are no models hanging around. The sight of red Enzo, black M6 and M5 (dream car 4), 997 Carrera, Carrera GT, Lambo Gallardo (dream car 5) and Pagani Zonda is enough to cover my entrance fee.

You don't see this in Hartamas, do you?
Pagani Zonda

GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS

I would have thought I would have outgrown it, but there’s something about these girls that fascinates us men. The combination of muscular looking cars and demure looking ladies are a sight to behold. However, I must say that I am possibly bored of the generic looking skimpily dressed fair girls manning the stand. I can’t differentiate the girls from Bridgestone to the one from Honda. Perhaps that’s why I was a bit giddy at the Perodua stand because, well, they were the only Malay girls there.

Though I admire them, I do respect them. This aspect seems to be lost to some of the guests, who talked and treated these ladies as objects rather than human beings. I am particularly miffed with guys who take pictures with these ladies while hugging them.

There’s this one MALAY guy who had the gall to slowly slide his hands to the ass of one “showqueen”, and I was glad she managed to politely ask him to stop. It was embarrassing to say the least to witness these incidents. Then there are those who do nothing but just stand there and stare…stare…stare…Even I got a bit annoyed, so I imagine the girls must have it harder.

At the end of the day, though I hate to admit it, without these girls my verdict for the show would be much-much different.


Here’s to sweet dreams of a hot car…

More pictures (of cars and girls) will be uploaded - Click Here...

Whip Cream

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Written on 5/23/2006 08:34:00 pm by sikapitan

I know it’s been 2 weeks since the whole “follow or be whipped” controversy surrounding Barisan MPs, and in this particular case, the Backbenchers, but I do believe in giving my two-cents worth on the topic. It’s better late than never.

It has been a long-standing parliamentary practice to follow the party line in voting on matters. As a general rule, you are not supposed to vote in favor of an opposition’s motion. The whole concept, though crude and undemocratic on the face of it, is necessary in the political arena.

However, the general rule must come with exceptions, otherwise there comes a time when it leads to absurdity. The United States Congress and Senate is a prime example of a political system where the representatives are allowed to vote according to the motion presented, though their system has that other, more evil shackle known as “the lobbyist” who, some say, is more powerful than most White House officials are.

The exceptions should come in cases such as the one presented before the Dewan recently. The Opposition wanted to push through a motion for a parliamentary enquiry into an MP involvement in “pressuring” Custom officials. The MP told the Custom officials to close one eye when it was discovered that the timbers brought in by a Malaysian company had exceeded certain measurements placed by Custom.

It is a pity that the Backbenchers, the MPs, had to witness a Datuk Shahrir, great believer of democracy and political righteousness, resign as the BBC President when his appeal that his colleagues support the Opposition motion was met with stony gaze.

As it turns out, the MP in the centre of this political storm, had more questions to answer when it was discovered that he has an interest in that company, AND he is also the sole proprietor of ANOTHER company which has been involved in some illegal activities.

How did I know all this? I have to thank New Straits Times for its in-depth coverage of the issues. They supported Datuk Shahrir, and in a prime example of the power of investigative journalism, proceeded to dug up records and showed Malaysia the truth. I applaud NST for this.

I don’t read NST that often, as I find the TheStar being more compact, easier to read, and contains more things to read. But sometimes I realized that the NST is more willing to give in-depth coverage over things that matters, rather than the more pop-oriented leanings of the Star.

In any case, Pak Lah and Najib (the Chief Whip), issued a directive that all Barisan MPs must toe the party line or face the whip. It was an opportunity gone begging. It was a chance to change the political landscape, to allow voting on your conscience. I guess Malaysia is not ready for the change. However, who decides? Shouldn’t we, the people, have a say in how our MPs, the people who we choose, act in Parliament?

Congrats Barca!

It wasn't the match that most of us expected, but enthralling nonetheless. The better chances went Arsenal's way, or in truth, Thierry Henry's way. He single handedly tore through Barca's defence, with one particular memorable run down the touchline taking out Carlos Puyol (Club Captain, continental hardman, Spanish rock) and Rafael Marquez (Mexican stallion, cultured defender). Alas, when one Swede ran his socks off and gave Barca's midfield the runaround (Ljungberg), it was his countrymen who proved to be the difference, and unfortunately that man was in the opposing team. Henrik Larsson, in his swansong season in a top side, showed that dreams do come true in football.

Here is a man who has served his butt out for one club, broke a lot of records along the way, and finally decided he was going to try his hands at one of the top clubs. In the most amicable of separation, Larsson and Celtic parted ways like old friends knowing they have done the same thing one too many times. The fans waved him goodbye, knowing that he would always be their legend.

Larsson, despite ending his topflight career in Barca, will forever be synonymous with Celtic. And so it proved, on a night when he was wearing the stripes of Barca, he still made an impact on Celtic. His two assists, leading up to two goals, proved to be decisive and important for Celtic as it made sure Celtic did not have to go through pre-season Champions League qualifiers and straight to the group stages.

In any case, I would applaud Barca for sticking to their close passing style and tight triangles even though they could have easily gone the route one way. They were not the best team that night, but in open play through out the campaign, they have shown the world that in modern football, there is still room for JOGA BONITO!

Mix and Match

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Written on 4/27/2006 11:42:00 pm by sikapitan

FOOTBALL FEVER

I know that football is not universal enough for those who read this blog, but it is a major part of my life. No, I am not a professional football player, though that dream still lives on even at this ripe age of 23. Heck, every football fan in this world dream of someday getting a call from Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho or whomever else you fancy.

Arsenal is through to the final of the Champions League, albeit fortuitously considering the chances that Villareal had in the second leg. They could just do another Liverpool and win it, but watching Barcelona hold AC Milan to a scoreless draw this morning, I seriously doubt it. I am a Manchester United fan of course, but I am also a fan of football. Thus, I feel that this year’s Champions League final is for the football fans, those who still believe in the romance of football.

I loathe Arsenal, but they do play pretty football. Surprisingly, in Europe, they have become quite Italian in their approach – very lean and mean in defence, relying on top class strikers to deal the killer blow in that very continental style of counter-attacking football. In Thierry Henry, they have that player who can turn a game in a blink of an eye – literally. His gazelle like sprinting, and nonchalant finishing makes him one of the most valuable property in world football. But my favorite player in Arsenal is Franc Fabregas, the 18 year old prodigy who is destined to be the next Xavi, his most likely opponent in the Final. EIGHTEEN!! Hell, even Wayne “White Pele” Rooney is 2 years younger than me. I feel old.

Barcelona, on the other hand, has impressed me since Frank Rijkaard took over. They epitomize what modern football is all about. People keep on harping about Barcelona’s attacking style, but I admire their organization and defensive solidity. Rijkaard has instilled the Chelsea-like 4-1-2-2-1 formation, and the trio of Puyol, Marquez and Edmilson provides the needed steel just like Terry, Gallas and Makelele.

They difference between them is the much admired, and adored – Ronaldinho. He is truly a player who can make football magic. Although I question the authenticity of the “Brazilian Ping Pong” video, I have no doubt in my mind that he possesses an array of skills necessary to unlock any defence in this world. Which makes me wonder – what if Peter Kenyon (before he turned to a Chelski) had forked out the extra 2-3 million pounds to take him away from Paris SG?

The amazing thing about all this is that in about 40 days time, the best players in the world will converge in the most anticipated sporting event this year – the World Cup. Tickets are sold out, hotels fully booked, flights fully full – the World Cup truly is a global spectacle. As before, I am sticking with England. Choosing Brazil would be too easy, but choosing Trinidad and Tobago is daft too as I have never seen them play. Nevertheless, as a second team, I would choose the impressive Netherlands. Equally impressive has been the United States, who I predict would surprise quite a few teams come this June.

SHOWTIME

There is this new show on Astro Ria called “Mobilku”, and it’s a bit of a rip-off from the popular MTV series “Pimp My Ride”. However, I like it, because it is new and fresh and there is no local show dealing with modifying cars yet. It’s definitely not in the same level as “Pimp My Ride” – both in terms of production quality and the level of modification, but the Mitsubishi Pajero they just modified looks great in that hot red Ferrari new coat.

Malaysian annual musical gala, the AIM, will be on this weekend. The AIM stands for Anugerah Industri Muzik – and it aims to award the “best” music Malaysia has to offer. The problem with award shows is that the award itself appears to escape the attention of viewers who concentrates more on the performances and what everyone else is wearing. This year’s edition is plagued with problems – ranging from lack of nominees to lack of promotion. But it’s another night where the artists can dress up and act like singers – which I believe some have forgotten in the middle of their antics in night clubs and gossips and affairs.

I WANT TO BE THE GODFATHER

I have never taken on to the Playstation, which is surprising considering that my family bought one of the earlier editions of Playstation 1 and 2. I believe that games are a bit childish, and I am always amazed whenever my friends play these mystical games, or combat missions and stuffs. I used to play Counter-strike a LOT, but recently my gaming adventure consist mainly of football-related games such as Chamionship Manager and Winning Eleven Pro-Evolution Series. However, recently I was introduced to this CRPG game called the Godfather, and I am hooked (which is bad news considering I am in the midst of my final exam). Perhaps this would spur a gaming fever, where I would go out and buy all those games that people have talked about. But for now I’ll settle with just extorting money, burning shops, killing people and be a mobster.


...

Letting Off Steam

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Written on 4/09/2006 01:37:00 am by sikapitan

As some of you might know, I was in Hong Kong last month for a week on a University-sponsored trip. I didn’t have the time to really “visit” Hong Kong, thus it would be wrong for me to conclude that it is uninteresting. But I noticed a few things: First, it appears that the people there don’t really bother dressing up as much as we Malaysians do. Perhaps I am wrong, but this observation was made from those countless trip on the very-efficient MTR service. The chilly weather probably didn’t help, as people don’t usually have that many fashionable winter clothes, but I personally think it’s more of the style-over-substance approach they adopt to most things. I mean, there’s more beautiful scenery in Putrajaya then what I saw over the entire week, but everything works, which is more than what I could say about some of our public service.

There is something else peculiar about Hong Kong, and it is the fact that there appears to be more cab on the road than private cars, especially in Hong Kong island itself. As I look down from the 10th Floor of the Hong Kong High Court, all I saw was a sea of red as the famous cabs darts its way around Hong Kong’s tight roads. It’s either the red-cabs or buses. Only two cars came to mind if asked to recall the memorable automobiles on show (as we car-freaks do talk about the variety of cars in places where we have visited), a Lamborghini Gallardo and the all-new S-class sporting a Johor-like registration plate.

This brings me nicely to my next point – the all-new National Automotive Policy announced two weeks ago. I thought it would never come. Time extensions and delays held up the implementation of our automotive policy that would bring Malaysia in line with the rest of ASEAN (which we should have done years ago anyway, but international covenants are as binding as the cheap duct-tape you get from pasar malam). As the announcement was made, Malaysians rejoice as their dream of buying luxury cars cheap may just come true. But it isn’t what it’s all it’s crack up to be.

The dust has still not still settled on the actual practical effect of the NAP, though Proton and Perodua was quick on the gun by announcing across-the-range price cuts. Volvo also quietly lowered the prices of its cars, and I heard that BMW, Mercs and the rest are following suit. The problem is that the savings from these discounts may not turn out to be that much; especially for non-cash buyers that constitutes the majority of car purchasers. A few days after NAP was proclaimed, the financial institutions quietly announce an increase in hire-purchase interest. This means, in effect, that for some vehicles, you might be paying more after taking a 10-year loan.

So perhaps you have to think things through before rushing off to get that new car you’ve been dreaming of. On that note, the brand new Honda Civic looks like a damn good bargain for its class – BUT therein lies the problem, It will be snapped up by every Sharifah, Shu Lan, and Shanti who adores Honda for the fact that it is damn reliable and that the trunk can fit the whole wet market. I don’t have anything against female drivers, but when I see a brand new SLK being driven by a Makcik at 40km/h, I get a wee bit jealous and pissed-off. They probably appreciate the fact that it is expensive, but that’s not the whole point of driving a good car. It’s about appreciating how it handles, how it moves, how it smells, how it sounds. A car is just a car if you treat it as a mechanism to take you from A to B. However, a car is more than just that, and it should be treated as something with soul. That is why for some, an Alfasud is way hotter than that souped-up Honda City with PCV Modulo bodykit. And that group deserves respect for understanding what driving a car is all about.

Interesting day in Parliament, where Dr. Rais Yatim created a stir by wearing a non-conventional attire which actually consisted of a Chinese collar shirt and suit. It’s the same thing with University requirements. Sometimes, in pursuing the letter of the law/rules, the enforcers forget the purpose behind it all – which is to look good and proper. Sometimes, a person wearing a nice fitting t-shirt can look better than the one who wears a badly fit bright yellow shirt. Sometimes a person who wears an open-collar shirt can and do look better than one wearing a tie. Just like in football, where the rule against taking off your shirt while celebrating a goal sometimes leads to some absurd decisions. But I guess without the rules, chaos would be the order of the day. You can’t guarantee that everyone will get that nice-fitting t-shirt now, could you?

Arghhhhh...help me. My area's officially declared as a dengue epidemic area!!! Stock up on the Ridsects, and sleep with those mosquito repelling coils. It doesn't matter now that it's a fire hazard, as long as those pesky blood-suckers get off my back. Cheers!

Before I leave...

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Written on 3/12/2006 09:24:00 pm by sikapitan

I just got back from Shah Alam, after sitting through a silly exam. Yes, exams on Sunday and it’s not even examination week (which is not too far ahead actually). That’s how busy I am these days. It’s not just the workload (which in actual fact, is not as crazy as I seem to suggest), but it’s balancing everything in my life – education, family, girlfriend (some of my cheekier friends would suggest the plural form be used, but I have to disagree – there’s only one true love), friends, sports…the list of things to do seems endless. Which leaves me with little time on my own, but that’s balancing your priorities I guess.


But back to the trip to Shah Alam. The trip itself was pretty uneventful. What interests me was my fuel gauge. I’m sure Kingdom of Blogs is filled with Malaysians grumbling about the increase in petrol prices. In actual fact, I was one of the lucky ones who managed to fill up my tank right before the price jumped to RM 1.92 per litre. Yeah, it’s two bucks per lit now. My fuel gauge is saying I should go visit Mr. Shell, but the odometer is saying I’ve only traveled 360 kilometers, give or take a few meters. This is absolutely pathetic.

Mad rush to fill up before midnight...

When I first got my Jazz, it was doing around 550km per RM50, which is darn good value for money. Then the gradual increase in petrol prices, and the now regrettable change to 16-inch rims, pushed the figure south till it held steady at 410km per RM50. Now it’s barely reaching 400 kilometers, and that bothers me. I limit myself to RM50 for petrol per week, and thus far I’ve managed to keep it that way. But it looks like I have to fork out an extra RM 10-15 now, which in the grand scheme of things, isn’t too bad.

Some of you might thing I’m a bit daft for saying that, but just look around you. The jams are still there. Car-pooling is as foreign as Aston Martins on Malaysian roads. People are still going to the sundry shop in their motorcar. There’s a reason why Malaysia is the biggest passenger car market here in South-East Asia. We love our cars, and we somehow love driving it, though that does not necessarily equate to being good at it.

We will find a way to max out our petrol tank till the last drop, we will find a way to squeeze out that extra RM 10 from our weekly expenses, we will find a way to travel further on the same amount of fuel even if it means driving without air-conditioning, keeping all the one-cent change we get or leaving house at 5 a.m to avoid the jam. Malaysia boleh what! What we won’t do is suddenly take up public transportation.

Why? I can’t give you a definite answer, but there are reasons why you won’t see me on the next Citylink heading out to KL with my girlfriend. First and foremost, the routes are pretty much messed up. When news of the price increase spread, I asked my friend if there’s any bus from USJ heading to Shah Alam. Apparently, there’s none. You have to take a bus, stop at the Federal Highway, cross over to the other side, and wait for the bus heading to Shah Alam. From there, you take another bus to Section 2, where you’ll wait in line for UiTM buses to carry you into campus. All in all, it takes approximately more than one hour for the entire trip, without considering buses breaking down or you having to go for an emergency toilet stop.

And that’s just the bus trip. Let us not forget our wonderful weather, which of course I thank God for blessing us with, but that does not detract from the fact that the tropics is not exactly meant for walking. The humidity itself will render your G2000 pink shirt looking like you’ve just rescued a drowning person. The sunrays will burn your skin, and for god sake’s, we don’t need the tan. Oh, what about the days when the sun decides to hide it behind monstrous clouds that pour wonderful rain? Basically, it’s just not practical. It might sound pretentious, and a bit “manja”, but ask any normal-looking bus-riding individual if they prefer buses to cars, and the answer would generally be cars.

Frankly speaking, I am not against the increase. I understand the whole economics of subsidies, how it’s going to impede our progress in the future. I for one believe that Malaysians are over-subsidized, which is ironic coming from a UiTM student. But the lessening of subsidies must commensurate with other things. It is just not enough for the petrol price to increase, but other variables remaining constant.

Malaysia is slow in adopting diesel engines, which in modern cars have proven to be more economical, friendlier to the environment, and performs better too. Gone are the days when diesel engines sound like a sawing mill. Diesel is the way to go, while waiting for other viable alternative source of fuel. Cars having diesel engines should no longer be penalized with higher road taxes.

And when will the Government announce the much-awaited National Automotive Policy? Car buyers will wonder if there’s anything there that could cushion the dent in their wallet, perhaps by lowering duties on new cars and removing those protection that is actually a breach of our international obligation with regards to AFTA.

A revamp of the public transportation system is on the way. Consolidation of services would make for better managed transport system. It’s not that we should totally rely on public transport. Perhaps creating more mini-terminals all around major residential would help. These terminals could house 1,000 cars, and buses would travel direct routes to other mini-terminals. From there, feeder buses will deliver passengers to all the major stop points. The Komuter and LRT would be better if there’s a proper car park for car users to place their car, something like the Kelana Jaya LRT station.

I’ll leave the details to the policy makers. Perhaps even with these measures I won’t take public transportation, but others would, and lessening traffic would undoubtedly result in time saved from facing traffic jams which in turn would mean savings in petrol used.

Until then, if you’re used to bringing your girlfriend to Chilli’s once a week, try Papa Chop Mama Grill for a change. That will save you at least RM 20 per week. Maybe you don’t need that Movie Package on Astro, and that will save you another RM 15. Or maybe stop that gym membership, and start jogging around your residential area. Or simply order plain water every time you eat outside. You don’t have to choose to do all this. Choose one, and you’ve already covered your extra petrol expenses.


To Pak Lah, don’t apologize or try to give other incentives. It’s redundant if the Government reduces fuel subsidies and then using the money saved on other forms of subsidies. Just use the money to give us better, safer, more efficient public transport system. Just promote diesel cars, and invest in alternative fuel research. Just do things sensibly, with the outright interest of the nation in mind (and sometimes that doesn’t necessarily mean the interest of the people), and you’ll be fine.

I am not bitter, nor angry. I am just curiously waiting for the next roll of the dice. It’s useless to moan.

By the way, I’ll be off to Hong Kong on a University-sponsored trip. So adios and take care.