Why Pakistan Should Have Lost the Champions Trophy Final

Source: Dawn, Reuters / Paul Childs Livepic

This happens every single rare occasion that we so triumphantly score a victory in the world of sports. The Pakistan cricket team’s comprehensive victory against India in the Champions Trophy was not any exception.

Of course, I was delighted at the performance of our underdog cricket team slaying the Indian giants as well. But a couple of days later, I wondered if I should have been. While I enjoyed this opportunity for this rare contact between India and Pakistan, perhaps I should have anticipated the mass hysteria that defines both these nations.

The Prime Minister announces PKR 10 million to each player. Of course, such brutality with the taxpayer money is not something new. Who does the Prime Minister think he is? A Mogul king?

Furthermore, Malik Riaz offered a residential plot of around 600 square yards to the centurion Fakhar Zaman in his supposedly private property project Bahria Town. Well, you don’t want to get anyone started on the monstrosity of the state-capitalist Bahria Town thing, which is a nightmare for even the staunchest anarcho-capitalist.

And well, it does not necessarily have to be the world cup or anything. A win in an event smaller than the Champions Trophy final has resulted in such behavior in the past. If they are receiving such prizes for winning the Champions Trophy, I wonder what would happen if they win the world cup again.

Alright, alright. I get it. Our victorious sportsmen are our national heroes. They should be rewarded. At least the Bahria Town corner plot sounds good especially since our “public servant” generals, politicians, judges, and bureaucrats are going to occupy them before long anyway.

However, is there any sense at all in offering such rewards to players already earning handsomely? I mean, isn’t there a better use of taxpayer money amounting to something like PKR 100-160 million. Or is there a clarification that the sum is going to be paid for from the hard earned money of the Sharif family?

In a country which has very irresponsibly vowed in its constitution to offer free education and not even remotely coming close to deliver it, this does not sound good. Especially in a country which is badly in need of a comprehensive national health insurance program. It goes to show our priorities.

At least our government needs to act a little responsibly in this regard. There is no doubt that the hardworking high risk-high reward cricket players deserve all the compensation in the world. But why burden the taxpayer further? The PCB prize money makes sense. Let their prizes

In other words, an Indian win in the finals would have been far more in the interest of the people of Pakistan.

For a moment in the thrill of the game, especially during the wonderful lethal spell of Muhammad Amir, I had forgotten about this brutal reaction to a Pakistan win. What exactly are we celebrating? Paying for a reward we never approved of.

Perhaps I should keep these consequences in mind when I am rooting for a team in a Pakistan game in the future. ‘

Perhaps I would be rooting for a Pakistan loss in the next world cup final against India

The post was originally published in Dunya News blogs.

Just Like in the Old Days…

Source: Dawn

What is a win but a number?
What is a loss but a figure?
Adding yet another digit to the evergrowing tally.
What does it mean after all?
That the people from here and the people from there spoke for the first time in years.
That our players hugged and shook the hands in the field.

That they helped out the injured from the other side.
That they applauded every time they played well.
Just like in the old days…

New friends were made in the stadium stands.
New names were learned which we never thought were real.
We saluted each other’s flag for the first time in years.
Across the fence, we could see each other’s faces after such a long time.
At least the taunts and jests felt human enough.
Not some distant babbling regurgitated by some noisy talk show host.
Sweetmeats were exchanged whether we won or lost.
Smiles were exchanged to heal broken hearts.
Just like in the old days…

Try to come and see us every now and then.
If only to beat us every time you are here.
Even if you never want to meet us when you are there.
It feels like home again.

Building a PSL Economy

Source: cricketall.com

Source: cricketall.com

Considering how Pakistanis are supposed to be fanatics for cricket, we certainly lack a well developed sports league in this country. And when I say a league, I mean something on the lines of IPL and at least BPL, if not the English Premier League or NFL.

It is not that Pakistani people do not have a sense of sports or the necessary enthusiasm.  Hell, they have fought many a tear gas attack just to get into the stadium for a pathetic but rare one dayer. Particularly the younger generation, who are well versed with all sorts of sports activity around the world, and who passionately and even religiously follow foreign sports franchises.

All of this makes sense. Even if sports bore the hell out of you, you can partake in the PSL Economy by placing a wager or two. After all, what good are sports unless you have something personal at stake? The reason I am raising this point is that the PSL economy must, and absolutely must, go beyond the die hard sports fan for its potential impact. Just like it’s hard to avoid the Super Bowl if you are living in America. It must affect far more people who are not able to avoid it. People like me, who are bored out of hell watching an entire cricket game, but yet would not mind poking their noses in a good competition. It’s all about pretending not to be bored.

Now the official website of the Pakistan Super League has introduced its own fantasy league. But if you take a deeper look at it, it is just filling a contract clause. The league has very low functionality and you cannot even create your private leagues. This means that you cannot invite your friends and coworkers to be a part of the experience, which means a poor experience. Let’s hope this can change. As opposed to that, a more poorly designed and cheaper but more functional private fantasy PSL website could offer greater value.

Hate the neo-liberal in me for saying this, but I commend all the sponsors who are putting in their money for this great cause. And I feel bad for using the word cause here because it is not supposed to be fucking charity. But I say so because the domestic fans deserve a structure like this. In any case, perhaps the investors were always happy to put their money in a venture that people could respond positively to. This is probably the first one put into place by the PCB that has put up the structure for a serious league, albeit very small in size. But the size may change in the future if all goes well and the consumer trends so far are not disastrous.

I have written earlier about the need of addressing the growing market of skilled gaming. This, in all fairness, should be extended to a channel for legalized gambling, though that is a step too far at this stage. There is clearly an appetite for skilled gaming in the market, which would enhance the enthusiasm and engagement for the PSL to a much greater extent by involving stakes for the public.

Meanwhile, the advertising would also become far more aggressive and tribal in the coming days. At least from one of the franchises. Tribalism would and should become a necessary tool for honing the public engagement and to build manufactured rivalries around the franchises, which only came into being a couple of years ago. A better idea would be to capitalize on the sense of mutual urban resentment already present among the natives of Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad.

All of this would initiate giving these franchises a cult following and a vicious fan base, which they don’t enjoy currently. You know, this is how religions work too. When it comes to building the PSL economy, more commercialism is always less. Even though the moralists among our ranks would then later be writing about it mourning the degeneration that is waiting to manifest itself in this fashion. Ah, the little moral sacrifices you have to make in order to build a viable sport economy.

A solidified fan base would then cement the presence of franchises as institutions, creating thousands of jobs which are not going anywhere in an uncertain next year. These organizations would, in turn, become clients of hundreds of businesses, and that is how the PSL economy would roll out its effect. None of this would be possible, however, without increased spending from the fans. And this is eventually not going to be sustainable enough unless cricket is brought to home. Unless the Qaddafi Stadium becomes a real home to the franchise. So unless Lahore Qalanders have to become something more than “Jazz” Lahore Qalanders, before their eventual death.

The eventual goal of the PSL must be the creation of a self-sustaining domestic league within the geographical boundaries of Pakistan. Ideally speaking, it should suffice to nourish the appetite of the Pakistani cricket fan, which has to rely on the mundane international cricket in Dubai or the emotionally distant foreign leagues. Without this, the PSL model would not last very long. Deep down inside, Najam Sethi knows this, but of course, there is not much he can do about the security situation. But still, you need to draw a line somewhere and soon. Pakistani fans are sick of Dubai.

So if the international cricket boards are not sending out teams to Pakistan for security concerns, you could always buy players to come in. Even if that means a very few A-listers. At least it would be a start. I think Pakistan Cricket Board and the franchises should also make it a point to import players from India, even if that means B or C category players.

Another rarely talked about factor in Pakistan and an important part of the PSL economy is the quality of the television. And I am not going to mince my words here. The quality of television in Pakistan, especially when compared to India or anywhere, is shit. In other words, there is no real use of putting up the best show in the country if the eventual optics are going to be pathetic.

An overwhelming majority in Pakistan do not have access to digital television broadcasts, a technology not even used for the coverage of the PSL. So people are stuck with a quarter of a century old technology to watch what is supposed to be the most important sporting event in Pakistan. While the federal government made an attempt to make progress in this regard, albeit in a very wrong way, the local DTH service could have filled the much needed gap in this regard. But let’s hope the consumers become more aware of their own interests in Pakistan one day and stop listening to the political narrative on the “mainstream media” too much.

PSL Chairman Najam Sethi, a noticeable difference, has done a great job in introducing this first serious franchise based model for a sustainable domestic league. Now the key is to constantly up the game when it comes to bringing more money to the PSL economy.

Leave building the PSL economy to the thriving private sector, just bring cricket back home.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Why the Idea of Olympics Is So Important

Source: MSNBC

Source: MSNBC

Without condoning corporate or other slavery that may or may not be involved in related construction jobs, I find it important to support the idea of Olympics. Especially the idea of participation in it and oppose preventing any people from doing so. Further more than that, I would consider the idea of rising developing countries such as Brazil, Russia, Qatar, India, and China to organize these events as well in addition to the West.

More often than not, the criticism from international media and activists point out valid concerns such as security, labor rights, and poor administration. Sometimes, these critiques could come across as if developing countries should stay away from the privilege. They should by all means, if it is going to heavily burden them. It does not mean they should stop aiming for it.

To improve life for all the stakeholders, positive criticism on Olympics is very important. But it is best done without condemning the developing countries participating in the process or the idea of Olympics itself.

There is a larger reason to why more nations should be encouraged to participate in the Olympic process.

Olympics is a liberal, globalist, intellectual cultural idea. There is a reason why its creators came up with it and why the leaders of the world, as well as most people of the world, so religiously follow it.

Olympics is truly the only global festival that allows people from all nationalities come together, keeping aside all political differences, in a deeply divided world.

It is one of the few platforms where Iran and Israel and North Korea and the United States gladly send in their citizens to participate without a second thought.

Struggling with countless political ideologies, even more religious beliefs and cults, and other dividers such as race and language, it’s one of the few last remaining unifying factors for apparently the most intelligent species on the planet. Even if in name only.

Source: BBC

Source: BBC

The international assortment of athletes also presents the perfect opportunity for exposure and education. Most of the times, it brings forth athletes from all corners of the world embracing each other. Especially bringing together people from countries at odds with each other.

At others, it brings prejudice and bigotry to the surface, only to be rebuked due to the universal symbol of peace and unity that Olympics is. Leading to opportunities for shaking prejudiced beliefs.

Time and again, athletes from Muslim majority nations have refused to share space with Israeli athletes. This is particularly insensitive when the brutal cold-blooded murder of 11 Israeli Athletes in the 1972 Munich Olympics are kept in mind. Lately, Lebanese athletes refused to share a bus with Israeli athletes, with the manager blocking the way.

While the story is being used by both sides for their respective partisan agenda, most people are missing a very important point. The exposure and interaction provided by the Olympics are the perfect, very first blow to the prejudiced indoctrination of these kids.

These young athletes and their officials may embarrass themselves with such behavior, but it’s about time that some of them would realize how wrong their behavior is.

While there is always a chance that they would lack such a consideration, you can never expect someone brought up with prejudiced indoctrination to offer the right response at first. But, as humans, they are likely to feel some empathy for the persons of their enemy at some point. Even if they don’t admit it.

This would help a good number of people have the first shock to the wall of prejudice that they have built around themselves. Such experiences would only prove educational, and help them develop empathy for the people on the “other side.” Actually, even an opportunity to cheer for them.

What a distraught Pakistani fan is to do but to cheer for the likes of Deepa Karmakar, Saina Nehwal, and the Indian women’s archery team? Only wondering where ours is.

Furthermore, watching Olympics sports after a break of four long years is a welcome relief from the excruciatingly monotonous cricket, soccer, tennis, and golf running all year long.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

I Almost Hoisted the Indian Flag Too

Source: AFP/Indranil Mukherjee

Source: AFP/Indranil Mukherjee

A few weeks ago, a curious headline caught my eye. There is a good reason why I really related to the unfortunate individual caught in the whirlpool of insane politics of rivalry between neighbors India and Pakistan. Just like Umar Draz, the arrested fan in Okara is taken by the brilliant drives of Virat Kohli, the brilliant batting of Sachin Tendulkar mesmerized me throughout my teenage years.

However, when you are surrounded by bigots and compulsive nationalist haters, you would never be able to freely express yourself. But sports fans are a different breed. They are out of control. What’s the point in supporting a sports team or an athlete, if you are not showing off and challenging and trash-talking your opponents?

This is precisely what poor Umar Draz had done, and this is precisely what I almost did on a few occasions when Sachin Tendulkar played. Of course, I failed to share the jubilation with my fellow countrymen when Sachin missed his century in the 2003 World Cup game against Pakistan, or failed to steer his team to victory in the Chennai test, or even when Shoaib Akhtar knocked his middle stump out in the Eden Gardens. Alright, I must confess, I did take some pleasure in that memorable dismissal. But great players are even dismissed in a stylish manner.

Let us agree for the sake of argument that hoisting the Indian flag is a deeply immoral wrong. Just like waving the Pakistani flag is considered a crime in Indian occupied Kashmir. Even then, Umar Draz was merely waving the flag of the cricket team he was supporting, which happened to be India. The Kohli posters in his room prove that he is a genuine fan. I blame the format of international cricket for his innocuous act to be taken as one of rebellion and defiance of the state. If you are rooting for your favorite cricket team, you would look like rooting for another country, possibly an enemy.

However, Umar Draz is living in far more comfortable times than my days of following Sachin’s career. If he had given a thought to it, he could also have expressed himself by displaying the flags and colors of the Royal Challengers Bangalore, though the difficulty of accessing the franchise merchandise in Pakistan should also be taken into account.

During the 90s and 2000s, Sachin Tendulkar was not a part of any such team, and therefore I had no choice but to take pleasure in his many tons helping India cruise to victory. In Umar’s defense, he is free to choose to support India over the Royal Challengers Bangalore. Who knows? Maybe he hates the colors and the ridiculous commercialized franchise name.

Since then I have learned that playing cricket with India is a far more political affair than our sport-loving minds could comprehend. Of late, I have even discovered that probably it is not even worth the trouble. But does that prevent you from following the sport you love and express your love for your favorite players across the border? I still enjoy watching the IPL games every now and then.

And in my overzealousness, I almost hoisted the Indian flag for Sachin too. But thank God I didn’t. Though I should be able to whenever I want.

Considering the shocking case of the arrest of Umar Draz, I wonder what would have happened to me. Would I have seen the inside of a filthy cell like Umar Draz for such a harmless act and had my public record ruined for life? Where is our most basic sense of human decency?

Shame on us. Time to make a little change in the penal code.

Originally published in The Nation blogs.

What Sochi is All About

Source: Google Inc.

Source: Google Inc.

So it is a very politically correct and morally righteous thing to condemn the Sochi Olympics, isn’t it?

I mean my social media feed is having multiple orgasms over this beautiful Google Doodle.

Hey, Russia is homophobic. Fuck that event. I agree. But here is the deal.

There is something curious about the way Western media has covered this event, even before it kicked off.

All of a sudden everyone in the Free World has risen up for gay rights on a sporting occasion, which is a good thing by the way, even though still being on a learning curve to fully accept gay marriage.

But hey, I am not going to present a lot of logical fallacies to make the point. I’ll get down to business.

The coverage of the Sochi Olympics has mainly been about the Free World v Putin more than anything else. Certainly more than it has been about gay rights.

Because frankly, if it were really about discrimination, a lot of countries would not even be the members of the International Olympics Movement right now.

But I do not really expect people to even talk about that, because that is precisely what they do not want to be talked about from this side of the fallen Iron Curtain.

And while I am writing these lines, I see Gary Kasparov going after NBC for how they are covering the Sochi Olympics. Look who just jumped over the Berlin Wall. Good for him.

It is not an appropriate thing to say, but I don’t really have that kind of a job to lose.

The smear campaign of the Western media has really appeared to be more about Putin than it is about gay rights. Though some would argue this is precisely the point.

I am not usually for doubting intentions and would only comment on actions, but hey, I am commenting on actions.

And Google comes out with its gay Olympics doodle to insult Russia and undermine the Olympics. But it will be actually celebrated for that.

I mean I know Russians have been terrible organizers, to the point of being pathetic, and screwed up a lot of things. I even think they did not deserve the Olympics, but I guess that tomorrow Western nations would get to host the event too.

But at least the reliable Russian incompetence is offering a lot of schadenfreude to people who are upset the Western powers could not prevent it from getting underway altogether.

I don’t think it is very wise to sabotage an international sporting event with such political antagonism, and yes, this is precisely what it is. Even if about gay rights, though it is fortunate that the cause is gaining more traction as a result.

I guess if the media is so sensitive about political causes, they should make sure that all such issues should be taken care of before any major sporting event is organized.

Alright, I concede it is really a logical fallacy, but hey, this could happen.

The Arab media and the scattered Arab people should have called for boycotts of London 2012 to protest the Iraq War. Remember, Britain was the prime partner of the United States in turning Iraq into a junkyard.

Or perhaps, Google should ensure to draw a doodle condemning how the Fukushima Plant has contaminated the planet irreversibly ahead of the Tokyo 2020 event.

Hopefully, the media would not forget raising the anti gay laws in Qatar when the 2022 World Cup approaches. It’s good if some of them are already doing that.

But tell you what, it would not be half as much as what the Sochi coverage has been.

But I bet no one in the media would demand America to shut Guantanamo Bay down, to suspend anti gay laws in States at home and perhaps ask the Nobel laureate President to stop bombing random weddings from unmanned drones.

Living in the house of glass and throwing stones?

Yes, I know it is emotional blackmail. But this would be a rather conservative way to describe this sort of coverage of a sporting event by the Western media.

Putin is an authoritarian and it makes sense to trash his system. But there is a time and a place.

I am just waiting for the time for Russia to return the favor in the future events. There is a good chance that the authoritarian Putin would still be around for that long.

Putin is a propagandist too but his propaganda machines are not this loud.

And not half as much politically correct.

Keep Politics Out of the Olympics

Source: spokeo.com under fair use

Source: spokeo.com under fair use

Protesting Russia’s discriminatory anti-gay laws, a number of gay activist and human rights groups have called for boycotting the Sochi Winter Olympics 2014. It has been reported that Russia has initiated a counter campaign for improving the image of their government. The International Olympic Committee has been criticized for going on with business as usual and saying that the law does not violate the Olympics charter.

While the Russian campaign is said to have defended their position on the anti-gay law, I am critical of the calls for boycott for a very different reason. I am against Russia for having such cruel laws but I am also against the unreasonable idea of boycotting Olympics, regardless of the reason.

I think Olympics is a universal event, perhaps the only one of its kind in the world, and I want political activism out of it. I do not approve of boycotting the Olympics, no matter how moral the reason may be. And by the way, there is no such thing as anti-gay Olympics, people are anti-gay and homophobic.

Source: rusalgbt.com

Source: rusalgbt.com

Coming from a country that has discriminatory laws against certain communities, I understand what it means to live in a society that treats people on the basis of their faith, race or sexual orientation. However, the importance and moral righteousness of the cause do not necessarily justify every form of protest.

I know everyone has a different priority, but to me the idea of all the nations and people of the world coming together on a platform meant for sports and not anything else is very important as well, while recognizing the right and freedom to carry out such a protest that calls for a boycott.

Source: sylviagarza.wordpress.com under fair use

Source: sylviagarza.wordpress.com under fair use

Olympics is one of the few, if not the only event, in which the whole world comes together and participates with a spirit of sportsmanship and global unity. It is always an inspirational moment seeing all the flags together in one arena. I don’t want a single flag missing which is supposed to be there. And I don’t want this idea to be destroyed by political activism, even when it is about civil liberties.

I am all for criticizing Putin’s Russia mercilessly on this issue, especially for those out on Russian streets, but I am not entirely sure if calling for boycotting Olympics is the right kind of protest. I have respect for the cause, just not for this ridiculous, unreasonable and disappointing form of protest. Never for calls for boycott. Especially when the Olympics flame has just been lit in Greece and at a time when the OIC cannot possibly change the venue. Perhaps such protests would make more sense when the organization of another Olympics is allotted to Russia.

The trouble is that if you bring political activism, alright let’s call it human rights activism, into Olympics, there is no end to it. Every four years, nations from every corner of the world, every single one, come to wherever the event is taking place, setting aside all their political differences. Jeopardizing it with politics simply kills the very idea of Olympics.

Summer 2020 Olympics are to be held in Japan. should we boycott it because they indulge in whale hunting? We should have boycotted Beijing 2008 Olympics for reasons not too different from those raised in Russia, especially their internet censorship. No one did. And imagine all the nations of the world engaging in a vendetta of Olympics boycott for one reason or another. It is just a stupid idea, which I am glad is not being heeded by those who understand what Olympics stand for.

Your way of protest tells a lot about you.

Pressuring governments is good. Jeopardizing the Olympics is not.