Friday, June 18, 2010

Seoul to Seoul….

Back in Seoul. Just over a year ago was here for almost a week. The same this time. Last year gripped by the threat of their brothers from the north and the funeral of a well beloved ex President. This year, the threat from the northern brothers are still there but this time more of a fight over the sinking of the southern ship. By all accounts from experts called by the South, the north is guilty as charged. But the north disputed the south’s account as lies and fabrications.

We witnessed very deep and strong national fervor last year albeit a very sad one. This year, the national fervor is still here. But this time it’s on a happier note. It’s the World Cup. Both the north and the south are represented. Even the normally hostile north was over the moon when their southern brothers won their match.

Being in this soccer mad nation, you can see red everywhere. Red, the color of their football team. On a match day, people gathers at open space public areas. The Seoul Square in front of the City Hall packed. Streets apart from the vicinity of the Seoul Square very quiet. Here and there groups of people gathered around TV screens, big and small. Shouts in unison in the event of a goal by their team. Grunts in the event of a goal scored by their opponents. Shops are open but not that many people shopping. It is as if the whole city, the whole country for that matter, is on a standstill for ninety minutes plus the injury time and half time. Tonight was such night. But it ended in a big disappointment. Their team got thrashed 1-4 by the South Americans. Still the atmosphere was electric. I wonder what if their team wins. May be the whole place will be shaking!

One of the speakers asked ‘why did we consume food through one hole but dispose it through two holes?’. According to him, that is the clue, the way forward for us to dispose of human waste. Two hole ‘toilet bowls', that's the way of the future, according to him……

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Welcome Home World……

‘The waiting is over’… ‘Let the games begin’…. ‘Here we go’ ... are some phrases heard when the World Cup 2010 kicked off. 5 years of waiting, ,months of build up complete with the increase frequency of airtime given to World Cup promos and the catchy songs.

To football mad fans and to a certain extend non-fans it will be a month of change in routines. Need to be home early to catch the early games. Waking up middle of the night to catch the early morning games. To some may be the other  parts of their lives will come to a stand still. Some non-football spouses, majority of the female gender, will have sleepless nights too. TVs too loud and the husbands and kids shouting like crazy in the middle of the night. Add to that sound of popping crackers, kuacihs, cans and all sorts of must have paraphernalia for an armchair spectator.

64 matches in one month. We had 5 down 59 to go. In Brunei, for the ‘live coverage’ we have the choice of watching astro for those with dishes hanging on their walls, astro beyond for those who are into HD technology and last but not least the ever reliable RTB. RTB also offers HD. So far, in terms of quality of the pictures compared to the standard astro (I don’t have astro beyond, tempted to have one but don’t see the use of it), RTB got the thumbs up. For those fussy about details, it seems the pictures are five seconds earlier than those in astro.

Talking about RTB, thumbs up to them for their effort to bring the matches live. After all not everyone has astro. If someone have any grouse about RTB coverage is may be about the ‘experts’. At the interval of the opening match, the experts, to use a local term, ‘mati-mati’ said the referee and his assistant was wrong for flagging the Mexican player for offside. This clearly showed the experts were not aware of the offside rule. Put it simply, the referee was right, the ‘experts’ were wrong! Read the rulebook again please.

Another craze that comes along with every world cup is collecting the ‘Panini’ world cup stickers. Six hundred plus stickers to fill. That’s almost $100 per album, if you are very very lucky and don’t get doubles or even triples. Apparently some stickers were hard to find. A sniff of the precious rare stickers leads to sms exchanged, facebook updates browsed and meetings arranged for exchange of stickers. We are talking about adults here! I suppose this will help the economy a bit. Generate extra sales. On a personal note, I just started to fill up the album. Just for fun and to get into the world cup mood, not that I need much of stirring up. Still 500+ to go ….

One good news that came before the World Cup kicked off, the continued suspension of our national  team from the world of football. I suppose it’s good news but since when a continued suspension is good news. But then again compared to expulsion, in the wilderness of the world football?  All the fans wanted is the BAFA saga sorted out one way or another so we can have our normal football season. Hopefully this will be a kick-start to Brunei returning to fold of world football and we can make full use of the facilities FIFA funded near the Stadium.

Despite not participating in  any international matches, Brunei’s ranking has gone up four places to 189. Joint 189th with Afghanistan. We are better ranked than other well-known ‘powerhouses’ like Bhutan, Macau, Timor Leste, Andorra, San Marino and Papua New Guinea. That’s without playing. I wonder what will be our ranking if we fully participate.

Still fresh in memory the golden outing our national team at the Qualifiers for the 1980 Moscow Olympic. We were grouped together with the hosts Malaysia, South Korea, Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines. Brunei gave the bigger countries a run for their money. We defeated Philippines 2-0, Indonesia 3-2. Roslan Hj Suhaili scored a hattrick past the Indonesian keeper Taufik Lubis. Indonesia at that time was a powerhouse in this region.  At that time we had Ali Hj Ismail, Zulkifli Anis, Ak Zamani, Pg Tajudin just to name a few. We lost narrowly 1-2 to Japan. 1-3 to both Malaysia and South Korea. Look at what happened to Japan and South Korea now.

If we followed the example of Japan and South Korea, may be we will be in the World Cup Finals sooner than we think. Nothing is impossible……

When we won the Cup, the Malaysia Cup not the World Cup, we were ranked 192. The year 1999 will be forever etched in the memories of the local football fans. That was the pinnacle. It felt we were on top of the world. 

Thursday, June 03, 2010

A tribute, a celebration ….

Farewells are always sad. With the recent changing of the guards, a few of us decided to have what originally we termed as a personal farewell to our bosses. Gathering of people who worked closely with both of them before.

When the night came, those who were there unconsciously but unanimously made it into a celebration, a tribute and an appreciation. The beginning, not the end of the road.

Each and everyone present were asked to speak. Sharing experiences, conveying tributes, showing appreciation and off course expressing their deep sincere thank yous.

I was among the last one to speak. Being among the last gave the advantage of making notes. The early ones had to make do with impromptu speeches. Mine was a bit scripted. Notes made on the phone. If there is one thing I learned over the years from my boss is having written notes and keypoints helps a lot.

Decision to put the raw notes here as it was ‘scribbled’ was more personal than wanting to share it with the world. These words came from deep down. To put it here is one way to safely keep it, treasure it. The notes were definitely disjointed, may not make sense but these are the words uttered:

“Dear friends, i consider us all friends .. Pehin, Dato, Lets make tonight a not sad one.. I got selesma not crying... Lets make tonight a celebration & appreciation for Pehin's & Dato's achievements & our bonds.....I dont know what else to say.... Everything has been said... & i concur with all ..But i hope the story about names will say it all.... Continuing Theme tonight about names.. I consider myself still young yet i m worse off, very very bad in remembering names ... Until i bought a small book on how to remember names.. Thats how bad I am so very forgetful with names... But the impact of pehin & dato through the many highs and the few lows on me personally i m sure i will never forget pehin's & yb's names...tq pehin tq dato..tq for everything ... Everything realy means everything.. All the best wishes for pehin & dato.. Amin…..”

Throughout the  5 years leading us, both of them had achieved a lot. But to me the greatest testimony of all , the greatest achievement of all is the strong bond between them and the rest of us. That, to me is priceless and lasting. More than anything else……..