Goodbye Wayne Rooney

Over the past week, there were a plethora of reports over Rooney’s impending departure from United. Though initially rumour and peddled by tabloids, eventually the Guardian’s Manchester correspondent, Daniel Taylor, put his weight behind it. I was still skeptical, because Taylor also vehemently argued that Vidic would leave – which, as we all know, didn’t happen. Then the BBC ran it as their lead, relying on AP which sourced someone close to Rooney.

Now if you’ve been a football fan long enough, you come to realize the way football reportage works. To put it at it’s nicest, save a few journalists who look at broader pictures (Sid Lowe, Jonathan Wilson), most of them just seek the highest hits. As a result, you take quite literally everything with a pinch of salt.

Anyway, yesterday Fergie gave a press conference about United’s new venture with UNICEF. He shut off all and every Rooney question. Moreover, prior to yesterday, the Man Utd camp has always labelled reports of Rooney wanting out as rubbish.

Today, though, things changed.

After a long time, Fergie addressed questions about a player’s transfer directly (a player of Rooney’s significance anyway). He read out a statement as opposed to taking questions, and stated that Rooney was adamant in wanting to leave. There was a Q&A session afterwards with MUTV as well; a transcript of which you can read here.

At the end of the day, the biggest question on anyone (especially Man Utd fans’ lips) is why? Rooney has never intimated at seeking life elsewhere – in March in fact he seemed to seek a life contract. But an ankle injury against Bayern, a disastrous world cup and extra-marital escapades later it seems he wants life elsewhere.

The broader question here is that at this moment in time there is nothing remotely concrete about why Rooney has sought a transfer. For some, it represents a falling out with the manager. Within this argument too are differences. There’s a concrete belief that after Rooney’s injury against Bayern in the first leg of the CL semi last year, he was rushed back in the second leg. There’s undoubtedly truth in that, and Rooney did exacerbate his injury midway through the first half. Yet, upon repeated requests, Rooney told the bench he wanted to keep going. Ultimately, as United lost, many claimed that keeping Rooney on the pitch when he was a passenger helped accomodate Bayern’s newly-found gravitas in the second half.

A few weeks later, Rooney again played against Sunderland. Poorly. Again, he seemed to be rushed back – but then this is a player who has always maintained a desire to play in every single game, regardless of his fitness levels.

Others, namely Ahsan, argue that it’s a direct result of a disagreement over player and manager with regards to how best to get Rooney back into form. There is a lot to this argument – moreso when you factor in how Rooney claimed when with England how he wasn’t suffering from any ankle injuries whatsoever. That said, falling out though it may have been it’s fairly understandable why Fergie would refrain from playing Rooney over the past few weeks, especially seeing the atrocious form he’s in. But even then, seeing as how Rooney has sought a transfer since August, disagreements over how to get back into form were hardly going to matter. It may have been the final nail in the coffin, though.

Though there can be questions raised over Fergie’s man-management here, I’m still not buying that. Even if, to quote, “Ferguson has a track-record of conflating his own ego with whats best for the club” isn’t far from the truth, Fergie’s been pretty much spot-on whenever he’s clashed with a player (except, as he himself admitted, when it came to Stam). Though this is uncharted territory, as Rooney is a player widely believed to be the future of the club (Ronaldo was too, but everyone knew his heart fluttered at the mention of Madrid – fuck you Figo), and to lose him in such a fashion is debilitating for the club in the short-term, Fergie would be far less likely to be inimical to Rooney.

Conversely, Fergie’s statements about leaving an offer on the table or still leaving doors open to Rooney may add credence to this thesis – since it does seem like a jilted lover trying to surreptitiously get back in their lover’s good graces.

On the more obvious side, it seems like Rooney’s chasing the green. A move to City (who, by not being in the CL would care less about Rooney being cup-tied) on utterly ridiculous wages (upwards of £200,000 p/w) would work for a player who doesn’t seem to be built for football beyond the age of 30. Despite all of Rooney’s badge-kissing, the way he left Everton purports to a character decidedly more pragmatic than loyal. A move to City in his career right now would perfectly suit his financial requirements. United, for whatever they’re worth, will never offer crazy money of that nature to any player – even Rooney. Also, depending on which camp you listen to, City seem far more likely to achieve considerable levels of success in the future than United. If Rooney believes he wants to hedge his bets with City and get a stunning wage packet to boot, it’d be hard to argue against the rationale of that belief – whether in a professional or personal basis.

Maybe Rooney felt frustrated after having to carry the team on his own last year, and after watching the club’s investements this season, decided United were short on ambition. Perhaps he was wooed by the neighbours across, who splashed out on Silva and Toure, amongst others.

I, personally, want to believe it’s because he wants out of England. Even prior to the World Cup, Fleet Street’s pressure on Rooney was bordering on onerous, and after his WC displays it was inevitable that the tabloids would bring out the knives. Airing Rooney’s extra-marital affairs were only going to fuel the distaste in his mouth from the World Cup and the fallout. Why live in a country where despite being the country’s biggest hope, you’re treated worse than some big-titted Big Brother contestant?

In a way this sits better within the time-frame of this whole clusterfuck. If he decided to leave United before the start of the season (though again – pissing on my own foot – he made the decision before the prozzies), it would have little to do with his form on the pitch or Fergie’s indecision when it came to playing Rooney.

Ultimately, there’s too much speculation at the moment (I haven’t helped). The ball’s definitely in Rooney’s court now – the only question is whether he feels the need to dignify the United fans with a response as to why he wants to leave.

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Sunshine

It’s been a brilliant week or so for me. Though, when I say week, I mean the week that passed before the last one. In other words, this post is about a week late.

Anyway, I graduated with a first, finally. I think I’ve studied harder my past three years than all my o/a levels combined. Soon after that news made me giddy, I released my debut EP onto the internets. Music has never come easy to me, and writing has always been tough because I’ve been my own worst critic. As a result, anything I wrote I’d quickly confine to the dumpster simply because I’d not be happy with it. That changed a month and a half ago when I wrote Gregor Samsa is Dead, Long Live Gregor Samsa and sent it to a few of my friends. The fact that they loved it made it easier for me to then start using them as critics, rather than relying solely on myself to judge my music. That ended up changing a lot of things – out of nowhere I got a genuine desire to work and write, rather than come up with a nice section of music and then imagine fame, fortune and lots of new guitar gear bought from all that fortune.

You’ll notice I didn’t mention sex there; simply because us ambient musicians don’t get laid. We aren’t rockstars you see, so why dream a dream that’s pretty impossible? So we dream about the next best thing: loads and loads and loads of guitars, pedals and amps. Maybe a few midi keyboards thrown in for good measure.

Anyway, back to my narrative. So I started writing and I started sending what I wrote to some of my friends whose input I valued highly. I pestered them with a dozen versions of my songs when they were demos, and made them comment on the slightest of changes. Though I didn’t listen to everything they said (I got a bit arrogant – whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is something only they can decide), I was exhilarated to know that they loved the final product. Even though I’d love to get a band together and make some shoegaze meets slowcore meets good old indie rock goodness, I know that at least my desire to keep making ambient music regardless of my activities in a(ny) band will always find itself untethered by the constraints of self-criticism. Partly, this is because I hope I still have the same friends to count on, and partly because releasing Snow Makes Things Perfect gives me the confidence to do it again.

music music music

I’ve got an EP out called Snow Makes Things Perfect. It’s guitar based ambient music. You can download it or stream it for free at my bandcamp page (link on the right). From now on all posts related to my own music will be on my tumblr page (again, link to the right).

If you enjoy the music, please spread it around.

RIP Sifwat Ghayur

Often for many of us, suicide bombs are an atrocity that affect us in indirect ways. ‘x people dead in a blast in Peshawar’ – it’s harrowing, frightening, disgusting and a whole lot of other adjectives, but it’s rarely personal. This is particularly evident in the ‘blogosphere’ which is largely populated by upper class citizens and overseas Pakistanis. Though I need to clarify that I’m not having a go at anyone at all.

For me too, most of the time these were just figures. Occasionally I’d come to know that someone who was an uncle of a close friend of mine passed away (Asfandyar Amir Zeb) but it’d still seem distant. But today things are different. Sifwat Ghayur was a college roommate of my dad’s, and was a close friend of both my parents when they were in the Civil Services Academy. He was a man who helped pay for the education of his sister’s children (whether it was school or university), and he was steadfast in his opposition to the taliban, an opposition that manifested itself ideologically as much as in bureaucratic/physical terms. It was for his very real opposition that he lost his life today.

As easy as it seems to be to ask for the death of every talib or to ask for the US to pull out of Afghanistan and for Pakistan to detach itself from the US effort in Afghanistan, all of that quite simply ignores the taliban ideology, the very basis of these sub-human scum. That ideology will not be defeated solely by gunships and drones, or by acquiesing to what the taliban want by letting them be. Both strategem will only create further Sifwat’s – great men brought down by cockroaches simply because of their opposition to them.

And it is this ideology, in it’s nucleus, that must be obliterated. Because when you tear apart the socio-political layers of Islamic fundamentalism, it comes down simply to Wahhabism. And that is what we must struggle against every single day to reclaim the lives of people like Sifwat Ghayur, Pir Hafiz Rafeeullah and the countless other victims of taliban terrorism whose names I unashamedly don’t know.

Rest in peace Sifwat Ghayur, the world is a lesser place today.

The Two Escobars

So ESPN has been airing a few documentaries as part of its 30for30 series (30 years of ESPN).

One of these is ‘The Two Escobars’, which is essentially a documentary that weaves the stories of Pablo Escobar and Andres Escobar. Now, I implore you with all my might to watch this documentary. It may not be the greatest you’ll ever see (the music can be ostentious and some of the footage is spliced together in a half-assed fashion), but it features an incredible story – how drug money fuelled the rise of Colombian soccer and how it ultimately led to the murder of Andres Escobar. It’s a damningly austere assessment of a society enshrined in violence, classism and poverty.

Again, even if you don’t like documentaries in general, please, please, try to watch this one.

It’s all on youtube, and I’ll link to the first one:

The youtube link if you want to watch it there

musings on the WC final

Before the Spain v Germany game, there was a lot of talk about Germany being the most entertaining side in the world cup and Spain being a right bore. Of course, Spanish fanboys then came up with the gem that Spain’s football is ‘beautiful’ if you’re a ‘true football connoisseur’ and other assorted snipes. To their credit, they are to an extent right. Spain do play lovely possession football, and if you have an eight year old kid who is interested in football, you make them watch Spain’s football rather than Germany’s ultra pragmatic, yet quite sexy counter-attacking football.

Now after the semi-final between these two, many Spanish fans pointed out how the German side got shown up, primarily because the German’s didn’t score first and as a result didn’t get a chance to counter and score a few past the Spanish. Again, they’re spot on. That is exactly what happened – Germany were poor and struggled to stick a coherent passing movement together. But they were, of course, playing the Spanish. I think over the course of this world cup, most Spanish fans have forgotten how phenomenally good their team is. I think the constant 1-0s and not having been ‘appreciated’ by the world for their lovely tiki-taka has managed to lead them to painting themselves as underdogs, where it was up to them to take care of the Germans as opposed to the other way around. And that is what I find quite perplexing.

Before the start of the tourney, Spain were the favourites for anyone with half a brain. Not the Germans, or the Brazilians, or the Argies or the Dutch. It was Spain. So the fact that they’re in the final isn’t surprising – how they’ve gotten there however is a completely different kettle of fish.

A poor showing against Switzerland where the Swiss ought to have put more past the Spanish was quite hilarious, but since them Spain seem to not have recovered enough to replicate the verve with which they marauded to the ’08 Euros. Now, maybe they invited pressure onto themselves with their mauling of Poland in the lead up to the WC, but I don’t know. Or, it could be as one person on a forum pointed out, that Xavi and Iniesta and co. were struggling cause they didn’t have Messi up front.

But there’s the thing – apart from Switzerland, Spain really haven’t ever struggled. They’ve always done enough – akin to German sides of yore. Although they’ve done it in more style, I wonder how many points you can give to a team for having shitloads of possession but not having much to show for it, in terms of goals or chances. Too often, Spain have flattered to deceive, though the million dollar question is whether that’s because they’ve wanted to do so, or because that’s the extent of their cumulative talent or the formation Del Bosque’s playing.

The Dutch too aren’t the purveyors of total football that previous Dutch sides were (they haven’t been playing total football since 2004). But they’ve been ruthless and pragmatic and simply very, very good. Unlike the Spanish, they’ve won every game they’ve played in, and they’ve done so quite comfortably. And in Sneijder & Robben they’ve got two of the most in-form players on the planet. To a large extent the Dutch too have flattered to deceive, deciding to play within themselves. Yet, they could easily have over the course of the tournament score at least a half dozen more goals – and I’m not talking half chances.

But anyway, that wasn’t my point., I think.

Spain need to score four goals in the final to equal the tally of the lowest ever goals scored by a team in the world cup final.

That’s quite a damning statistic. If Spain wins the world cup, they’d be winning it with the least amount of goals ever scored. The Spanish won’t care, and why should they. But does it bode well for Spanish football’s moral high horse? It’s fair enough if you’re an aesthetically attractive team, and I’m sure we’ll hear the familiar refrain of “goals aren’t the only thing that matters”, but surely, the lowest scorers ever?

I think it’ll be a travesty. It doesn’t matter how deserving the Spanish are (if they win the final, they’re likely to have done it on the basis of hard work etc – they aren’t a lucky side, so they would be fairly deserving), and the fact remains that despite the Dutch having a longer unbeaten streak, few can argue that Spain aren’t the best side on the planet. But, for this connoisseur of football, it’ll be a damning indictment for a team that claims to adhere to beautiful football – because possession football (or tiki-taka) is largely shit if it doesn’t bag you chances and goals, regardless of its qualities even as a defensive tactic.

Of Pakistan, the failed states index and patriotism

I’m not the most patriotic Pakistani you’ll ever see – whether that’s in real life or the blogosphere. I don’t know why that is – god knows I used to ‘patriotic’ in my teens. But over the years I’ve managed to find myself distanced from the idea of being a ‘pakistani’ – in the sense that it forms a considerable part of my identity. I am technically a Pakistani – I was born in Karachi and grew up within the four provinces of this country, but if someone were to ask me tomorrow who I am, my reply wouldn’t be, “a Pakistani.” It isn’t because i’m particularly ashamed of belonging to this country – i’m not; but I definitely don’t feel the pride that some do when they term themselves Pakistanis. Now part of that is because I’m not certain how proud one can be to belong to a state; after all, I didn’t choose to be born in Karachi. I had no say in the matter at all. I had no say in growing up surrounded by Pakistanis, and I sure as hell had no say in whether or not I was able to induce myself into Pakistani culture. Hell, so many of us grow up and want to break away from the ‘conservative, myopic and misogynistic’ Pakistani society, so at what point in time do people who espouse the same views feel proud of belonging to a country with societies based along those lines?

I bring all of this up because of the Failed States Index. For many, it’s a shocking and deplorable assessment of Pakistan. ‘Our country’, they posit, ‘is not a failed state.’ Maybe there’s some truth to that. Some. But how many of these very people would deplore the current state of the country? It’s politics, it’s economics and it’s power struggles? Yet, when I see the FSI I feel nothing. It doesn’t rankle me, nor does it surprise me.

You see, the biggest gripe I have with people who talk about Pakistan’s ‘image’ abroad, and about trying to change that and showing people that there’s more to Pakistan is that for them there exists a different Pakistan. For them, a Pakistan exists full of opportunities and wealth. But that isn’t Pakistan. The Pakistan of Honda Accords and Toyota Camrys, of Land Rovers and Beamers, of Les Pauls and Raves, of Absoluts and Finlandias doesn’t exist for the vast majority of Pakistanis. Do you have parents who can send you abroad for Bachelors and Masters degrees? Well done – you belong to less than 1% of the population of Pakistan. Your opportunities are not available to most Pakistanis. Your world, your bubble, is quite different.

So when we talk about ‘our’ Pakistan and it’s ‘image’, when we talk about the FSI and it’s rating of ‘our’ Pakistan, we’re not only incredibly wrong but equally remarkably naive.

Humour my cursory glance of the FSI report:

  • I-1 = 8.3. Of course we’ve got mounting demographic pressures – linked directly to our economic fallibilities. Poor families produce more, because for them rather than a greater burden it means more kids to send out on the streets to beg or work for pathetic wages. More childen, more money.
  • I-2 = 8.6. I don’t think this deserves explanation. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the term ‘Displacement’ by now. Or better yet, IDPs.
  • I-3 = 9.6. This does seem a bit sensational. Christians, Sikhs, Hindus are socially excluded, but 9.6 would mean regular attacks on minorities and more than just ‘exclusion’ – it ought to mean apartheid. Yet, though Pakistan is nowhere near being even remotely just when it comes to dealing with minorities, I don’t think we’re an apartheid state.
  • I-4 = 8.3. Again, self-explanatory. I don’t have much here in terms of figures and all, but there is a sense – there is hope – that the brain drain is lessening. My generation is more profoundly aware of the fallacies of Pakistan and seems to be more interested in helping avert the literal failing of the state than previous generations, and maybe in the future Pakistan will be safer on this front, at least.
  • I-5 = 8.8. Uneven economic development along group lines. I’m surprised this isn’t higher. There has been a sense of trickle down wealth – Musharraf did help create a burgeoning middle class – but every effort from Zardari and co. points the dismissal of the same middle class. Plus, what’s that I hear you say? “The rich get richer”?
  • I-6 = 6.4. Not there, yet.
  • I-7 = 9.1. Ahh yes. The delegitimization of the state. I’ve said it before, but the biggest threat to Pakistani sovereignty is not the US or India, but the taliban.
  • I-8 = 7.5. Should be higher I think. We aren’t seeing the extinction of public services, but they do cater primarily to the elite. If you’re poor and you’ve been robbed or need medical help, you’re shit out of luck buddy.
  • I-9 = 8.9. Arbitrary application of law? You gotta be kidding me guy. That term was made for Pakistan. I mean, we’ve got lawyers who build rooms on land that doesn’t belong to them, and then when the High Court tells them the construction was illegal and orders the police to raze it, the lawyers go beat up the police! The long arm of the law bitches – it’s going straight up your ass the place where the sun doesn’t shine.
  • I-10 = 9.5. Again, self explanatory.
  • I-11 = 9.6. This is a bit harsh. We do have factionalized elites, but neither of them have – at least overtly – authorized or desired violence.
  • I-12 = 9.5. Well, the US wants our babies, so I guess this has got to be high. Though additionally the dependence/intervention is based on how much Pakistan is dependent on foreign aid – so that at least clears some of it up.

Aside from the very few harsh assessments of Pakistan, does any of that read wrong? If we look past “Pakistan is tenth of the index of failed/failing states” and we study the scores, it tends to make far, far more sense.

Now to some extent, the FSI seems flawed. North Korea, e.g, is 17th. Now, by and large, the life of an average Pakistani citizen is potentially brighter than their North Korean counterpart. If you can string together the cash, you can actually obtain a radio that doesn’t lie about the Pakistani cricket team’s travails internationally. Also, despite everything, PTV won’t you tell you that Kim Jong-Il doesn’t go to the loo. Yet our GDP per capita languishes around $2.2k p/a, while that of North Korea (as per ’08) is around $1k. So, compared to an isolationist state run by a dictator, just how badly are we doing in relative terms?

Now broadly speaking in politics the biggest indicator of a failed state is the inability of the state to protect its own citizens. Depending on how you view things, that indicator can be limited to physical violence (as in the Hobbesian state or Weberian state) or it can be broadened to include the economy, health, education etc. In the latter, ‘security’ is deeper, because in the modern world so as to avail the best opportunities (or any at all) one needs education, and in our era money plays a far bigger role in life. Health too becomes important – if you die because you starved, or because you contracted hepatitis B, the government can be called to fault because they didn’t purify water sources, or they didn’t distribute food or impose export quotas and so on. Death, afte rall, is the opposite of the security.

In this latter, broader definition of what constitutes a failed state, the FSI is extremely relevant. It looks not just at the physical destruction of a state, but at the very fabric of it. Lebanon, e.g, is a state with a border dispute and with a far violent state bordering it (Israel), yet despite Syrian and Iranian intervention (Hezbollah), that state still remains lower than us on the FSI.

Now, I don’t see Pakistan failing as a state anytime soon. I genuinely don’t. Somehow, despite the myriad issues the state of Pakistan has faced, it’s political and economic elites have always managed to sustain the state, even if for their own purposes. That will, for better or for worse, continue. But what constitutes a failed state for those very elites, and what constitutes a failed state for the daughter of a farm worker who finds herself gang-raped, with the jirga/police doing fuck all is quite different. For some guy whose bought his first piece of land, only to realize it was a scam and then find himself thrust out by the Pakistani judicial system, the state is a failure. For the IDPs who now head back to Swat and find themselves amidst a massive clusterfuck, threatened by the taliban from the left and facing friendly fire from Pakistani apaches, Pakistan represents a failed state because it neglected the security of these citizens of the state.

So, despite the inherent sensationalist nature of the FSI report, and the instrinsic complexities of trying to ascertain the level of ‘failure’ of a state, what does the report say that so many of us haven’t already mentioned on blogs and in the papers? So why the faux-outrage? If there is any, of course.

Pakistan and Ahmadis

I don’t have much to say on the events of yesterday, mostly because I didn’t watch most of the coverage and read up due to the fact that I’m in the middle of my exams. Suffice to say, I feel like committing mass genocide where I round up most of the Jamaat-e-Islami, ISI, members of the Punjab Govt over the past 2-3 decades and Hamid Mir. I feel embarrased and enraged to be a Pakistani, and I feel repulsed and disgusted. As a Pakistani optimism with regards to the state and it’s behaviour, or the behaviour of Pakistanis in general doesn’t tend to exist. Yet, yesterday was a new low – and the worst part of it is that the fallout (which’ll be non-existent) will help us reach a lower low, if you can forgive the tautology.

Anyway, I’ll just post a few links instead that have better enunciated my thoughts:

Tazeen’s We all have blood on our hands!, Cafe Pyala’s The Original Sin, Mehreen’s  Of Ahmadi’s 298-B and Pakistani hypocrisy and finally, kaalakawa’s Hanging My Head In Shame.