Victimising Fabregas and alienating Nasri, two reasons why the Arsenal FC are more archaic than Woolwich Arsenal

We are at that stage of the season again when everybody talks about what a model club Arsenal are and how they are the victims of the money minders at Man City and Chelsea. Its that stage of the season where Arsenal usually drift away from the title chasing pack. And to the detriment of Gunners fans they are not even in the reckoning this year.So how has that this youth embodied economically utopian club with their physicist like manager run themselves to the ground when it comes to chasing titles? Apart from the alleged oil-clad dough pumped into the boardrooms at SW6 and M11 that our usual so called socialistic detractors of the Premier League would have us believe, the obvious reasons are apparently still a mystery to our history loving Gooner fanatics.

Piers Morgan has finally spoken. Atleast on the issue of Van Persie leaving while you could be forgiven for asking when he actually zipped it last. Absolute Radio was the platform where our two looney Gunner fans/critics (I doubt they are either) of Piers Morgan and Ian Wright had a shot each at the thought of what their beloved Flying Dutchman would do come the summer. While the threat of Van Persie leaving is imminent, Piers Morgan with his usual lack of sleight confrontational head of his is more concerned about him moving to the blue half of Manchester rather than worry about his club’s unwillingness to win games without him scoring. In that process he also had a potshot at Nasri who he called a mercenary. I’m sure I won’t be the first non-Englishman to remind him that moving from just being a columnist at The Daily Mail to host of Piers Morgan live on CNN would be the definition of what he just mentioned. Talking of Nasri, the Gunner fans are so distraught at Nasri for taking an opportunity to win titles that they claim all he wanted was an opportunity to earn twice that of Van Persie. With the money obviously being a factor, I still am not sure whether any footballer currently playing in Europe offers his services voluntarily to win silverware. Equally galling is the Gunner ignorance of having to pay Arshavin $85000 a week for impersonating a 10 year old boy who just won a contest to be on the pitch for AFC. Not stopping with those snides at Nasri, it also appears as if they are continually reinforcing the idea that Fabregas has left for the Garden of Eden leaving paltry earth behind in suffering. What is not so apparent, startlingly so, is that Barcelona FC are paying Fabregas more than Arsenal ever did only for him having to pay a million euros back every year to the Gunners to make up for the transfer fee. It surely is also striking that Fabregas under the guise of wanting to play for his boyhood team, went to the most successful football team in the last 50 years. All the more reason to not alienate Nasri for having gone to a club who have won almost nothing for the last 35 years be it for more money. The whole business of silverware has not only irked Gunner fans in the thousands but also the young ideal technical and athletic footballer that Arsene Wenger premised his whole endeavour on.

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A gut-wrenching finale to an Indian summer of hell

September 9th, a dark Friday for English football and Indian cricket . In terms of repercussions, the magnitude would most certainly be a gazillion fold more for Indian cricket. The CEO of the English Premier League officially announced that the top-tier of English football could be subjected to its own version of “The Rooney rule” from the NFL. It would entail all 20 clubs in the Premier League to interview at least one black candidate whenever they begin their search for a new manager. Some people might perceive my use of the term ‘dark’ as being racist, but I clarify that it is only tacit admittance of a miscegenation in the managerial community in Britain.On the other hand we have the highest judicial body in India refusing to restrain N. Srinivasan from taking over the BCCI.The contrast couldn’t be starker, the future couldn’t be bleaker in the realm of Indian cricket.

The owner of the most successful team in the most despised competition in cricket at the moment takes over the administration of a team that is the very reason of this scorn. A reward for incompetence as somebody put it. Would the England fan from Tranmere accept David Bernstein as Chairman of Manchester City and the FA? Every sporting body has its flaws, as does the English Premier League in considerable proportions but that is not reflective of its structure and administrative nous. Coming to the current secretary of the BCCI, here is the man who said ” we shouldn’t jump the gun” after India were 3-0 down in the test series. It could be that his version of an overhaul might only come after India loses every single game of cricket in the next 7 years. Even then he might smoke his pipe in his armchair gleaming over victories of his beloved team in the IPL. But, if we Indian fans don’t panic now we never deserve to pledge allegiance to any sports team let alone the one you grew up with. On April 28th of this year the Supreme Court of India gave a split verdict on whether a high-ranking official in the BCCI can own a franchise of the IPL. That should have been the day that red flag should have been waved among Indian fans, not when we are losing cricket matches in conditions that have been considered alien to us in the past 100 years. It is no coincidence that the cricket community regards this bunch of Indian third-raters as the most spineless No1 team in Test History.

When India were playing the West Indies in a 3 Test Series, I remarked to someone, “This West Indies team is dire and if the best Test team in the world is struggling to even put itself in a winning position, they must be slaughtered”. As it turned out they were in the England series.The Indian bowling performance in the final test against England was reminiscent of their inability to conjure up an effort when it opened with a guy on sabbatical from vacationing in Miami ; unathletic, out of shape. How else could you describe an athlete at 25 years of age (supposedly one of the few genuine bowlers in India) who should be at the peak of his career and not doodling in the middle of a competitive game.You would be forgiven to assume that all these unconnected events are the ranklings of a sensitive Indian cricket fan. It is only the culmination of administrative blunders, selection fiascos, wavering loyalties and finally but most undoubtedly, the unprofessionalism of sport in India. Some of us are pining for a similar version of the “Argus review” or even a Anna Hazare uprising. It most certainly would take more than that to clear this mess.

The noise from the neighbours will surely be defeaning from now

Eastlands finally gets a taste of Champions league football. A billion pounds from Sheik Mansour seems to have finally broken the stalemate at City. The Real Madrids and the Barcelonas will keenly watch the spending from the richest and most hated club on the planet. Ricardo Kaka might not make the same decision if he is offered a similar multi million pound contract. But thats not why City get all the news now. The banner is finally down at Old Trafford and 35 years of hurt ended. While the Champions league adds to City’s lucre, its silverware that counts for the modern footballer. Even with only a diminished FA Cup in their bag, City can now start to dictate terms.

This season started with more questions than answers. Is Mancini the right man for the job? Do City need Mourinho? Are all the players at City “the second tier” of footballers playing just for money? Although all those questions cannot be answered right now, one man who has earned his way to managing City in the Champions league is Roberto Mancini. The litmus test for him begins where his Inter could never get past the knockout stages even when they had the world’s best footballers.

Mancini’s signings this season have largely been a mixed bag. While Milner, Silva and Yaya have been the shining lights question marks remain over Balotelli, Boateng, Dzeko. But one decision Mancini got right was the recall of Joe Hart. Hart is the quintessential shotstopper; tall, agile and commanding. He has justified his selection over the ever reliable Shay Given. The players aside, City also have an established backroom staff. Mancini has an aura of assurance built around him. David Platt is a welcome addition as first team coach. City, though very defensive through the course of the last two seasons will benefit from his attacking instincts at some point of time. Brian Kidd, Mancini’s No 2 has some unfinished business in Manchester after his stint with United in the 90s. And City also have a core of winners and combatants in Kompany, Viera, De Jong, Barry and Tevez that should help them especially through the latter stages of knockout competitions. Looking at their games against Manchester United in the FA cup and Stoke City in the Premier League, Mancini has also instilled some steel into the so called mercenaries. With a good batch of youth footballers coming through, the technical side of things look rosy for the blues.

In fairness to City’s owners, they have also done reasonably well not to hog the limelight this season. With the infamous sacking of Mark Hughes behind them, they have realized that stability is the only way City are going to join the European elite. Gary Cook after his initial PR howlers, really has done well to get City their desired players. Brian Marwood is the calming presence among the City board. His experience with Nike and SkySports should help him understand the footballing and marketing side of where City are heading as well as keep their spending in reins for the UEFA fair play rules.

With all the good work done this year, one thing City shouldn’t do is go on another massive spending spree. The core group of players look well drilled and seem to be gelling together. A Ronaldo or Ibrahimovic like addition will only rock the boat at City. They need one or two hungry potential superstars such as a Pastore or a Sanchez. They also need to be true to their roots and blend in the youth appropriately. But one thing city can do without is pricing the average fan out of their home games as Chelsea have done. With ticket prices rising massively at Arsenal and Liverpool this year, City could do well to maintain their ticket prices and bring some much needed fans by their side. All said and done, the only way for City is up .

Zebra fish and Parkinson’s …..a possible genetic screening model?

The primary symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include slowness of movement, postural instability, impaired balance. While there are also non motor symptoms of PD, it predominantly affects motor function. Diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease is purely based on neurological symptoms and medical history. The result of all this is that there is no current cure for Parkinson’s disease and all the current treatments are limited to treating the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease . While 85-90% of PD cases are sporadic about 10-15% have a familial predisposition. Hence, characterizing the various genes involved in sporadic PD is largely unexplored and warrants further investigation. Zebra fish is a highly effective model for studying human diseases due to its fast external development, short generation times and that several cellular processes have been conserved through vertebrate evolution.Mutating the entire genome and looking for phenotypes of contractile dysfunction has already been done in zebra fish. With the advent of video tracking technology, we can induce mutations in the entire genome and look for Parkinson’s like symptoms such as locomotive impairment and turn angle performance in zebra fish. By mapping and sequencing of these mutant zebra fish genomes we can look for novel genes that might be involved in Parkinson’s disease. A comparative model with Parkinson’s like phenotypes after 7 dpf and 3 months post fertilization could give us a pattern of neuronal dysfunction. It might be reasonable to suggest that no particular candidate gene exists and hence PD is likely to be caused by a combination of several, yet to be identified, genetic factors. Secondly, LRRK2 is a gene recently found to have been involved in Parkinson’s disease and mutations in LRRK2 have been known to cause cell death in neurons. LRRK2 is a leucine rich repeat kinase and it has been found that LRRK2 mutations in Zebra fish can be rescued by injecting a wild type human or zebra fish copy of the gene. Hence, we could use the mutant rescue model to recover all mutant phenotypes in this Parkinson’s model. Also, chemically reactive species containing oxygen called reactive oxygen species have known to cause cell damage as they increase during oxidative stress. Oxidative stress has been implicated in dopamine cell degeneration and we aim to study the effect of oxidative stress in these mutant zebra fish. Several phenotypes caused by genes implicated in Parkinson’s disease can be partially recovered by the administering a monoamine oxidase inhibitor. Hence, to study which mutant phenotypes are enhanced by oxidative stress could be a key finding in the treatment of PD.

Illegal immigrants and healthcare……….

The topic of illegal immigrants and healthcare is an interesting one. Several considerations are made by ethical groups that they are entitled to healthcare. While the whole issue has been discussed by James Dwyer from the ‘nationalist ‘ as well as a ‘humanist’ perspective, I am compelled to provide my own point of view on both accounts and where our possible standpoint could be. From a pragmatist perspective, it could be argued that all these illegal immigrants are in the United States on the premise of illegality. But when every society takes a moralist stand on the social responsibilities its own citizens are entitled to, it must be said that the same could be extended to these illegal immigrants.

When legal citizens of a country have conditions such as cardiac arrests, cancer, contagious diseases, there is little doubt that these illegal immigrants could have the same conditions. If there is a need for medical care among legal citizens and illegal immigrants, the primary ethical responsibility would be to treat their medical conditions irrespective of their status.
One of the stern arguments against providing healthcare benefits to these illegal immigrants is the economic viability of the country. Could the US afford providing healthcare to these illegal immigrants? It could be said that these illegal immigrants pay sales tax, gas tax and hence they also contribute to the economic scenario. But one point I would like to raise here is; does it really matter whether there was an economic gain or a loss? When the claim to treat them is made on purely moral grounds, would it be appropriate to consider an economic viewpoint? Even if such an estimate of economic gain or loss is made, how can it be considered accurate enough to deny healthcare benefits to these illegal immigrants?

While my first claim of ethical responsibility was aimed at society as a whole, there is also a perspective of physicians. It would be considered an ethical responsibility of every physician to treat a patient in need. How would an illegal immigrant worker be any different? Also if a person requires an immediate surgery to save his life, would it be ethical to consider his visa status before treating him?

One other consideration is from the perspective of employers of these illegal immigrants. If you deem them necessary to your company in terms of economic benefits, wouldn’t they be entitled to a basic level of healthcare? Finally, what of legal citizens in this country who are felons? If they necessitate a basic level of healthcare, these illegal immigrants would be entitled to the same.

There are several pitfalls to offering healthcare to illegal immigrants. A whole country could end up being a haven to illegal immigrants who cannot afford healthcare in their respective countries. Primarily, while even legal citizens haven’t been screened for all diseases could it be claimed that from herein the authorities wish to prevent such diseases? Hence, the spread of such diseases by illegal immigrants especially can be curtailed. Also, if these illegal immigrants bring in diseases not previously seen in the United States, wouldn’t the cost of healthcare for legal citizens increase? It would be deemed a responsibility of the authorities to prevent such cases. Finally, it is difficult to predict to what end can we sustain providing healthcare to these illegal immigrants? It would make any country vulnerable to illegal immigrants if it was treating medical conditions considered expensive in other countries.

Like James Dwyer says, we should not focus too narrowly on what we owe legal citizens or too broadly on what we owe human beings.

Why FC Barcelona must be slaughtered……….

The UEFA Champions League final on May 28th at Wembley will be a repeat of  Rome 2009. Barcelona will start as overwhelming favourites against one of their traditional English whipping boys. They are five points ahead of Real Madrid with a game in hand in the non-existential race for the La Liga title. A double winning season will make it 10 titles in the 3 years in charge for Josep Guardiola, their homegrown manager. Starting in the 2011-2012 will be a $180 million 5 year shirt sponsorship deal with the Qatar foundation. They negotiate individual TV contracts for each season along with Real Madrid totalling nearly $160 million a year each, around half the pot for the other 18 clubs in the Spanish Primera division. Admired universally in charitable circles for their $2 million a year donation to UNICEF and also by donning their logos on their shirts. With their collection of stars, the place to be morally, financially and on footballing merit for any world class footballer is Catalunya.( no offence to Espanyol). But there remains the question. Are they really worth their place among the footballing celestials?

‘Mes que un club’ ( English: more than a club) says the club motto, defining their tradition of bringing world class footballers to the first team from their acclaimed youth base at La Masia. The critics argue that this current team of homegrown players, who have starred for Spain and Barcelona winning them many titles,  is a golden generation of talent that will seldom be  produced again. They have a case. While Messi, Iniesta and Xavi drive the team to multiple European and World titles, the important goals have come from David Villa( a $40 million signing from Valencia in 2010) and Samuel Eto’o( a $20 million addition from Real Madrid in 2004, who currently plays for Inter Milan). In addition to these strikers, their defence is well shored up by Eric Abidal, Dani Alves and  was a couple of years back by Giovanni van brockhorst and Rafael Marquez all foreign signings. While it is admirable that La Masia has produced such a quantity of amazing footballers, they have been supplemented by equally good big money signings. It is difficult for anybody to scrutinize such an acclaimed system because even in footballing circles it is misconceived as easy to replicate, just ask Chelsea and Napoli.

Coming to performances, there have been many memorable ones in the last 3 years by this particular Barcelona side. Claims have been made for Messi to supplant Pele and Maradona as the World’s Greatest Footballer Ever. Although that claim has gained considerable momentum, the team itself has been supported by a large number of unquestionably woeful refereeing. Be it the knockout games against Chelsea in 2005 where Didier Drogba was sent off in bizarre circumstances or 2006 where Lionel Messi bettered Al Pacino to get Asier Del Horno sent off in the first leg to get Chelsea knocked out eventually. But the most blatant partisanship from the higher echelons of UEFA towards Barcelona came in two instances. The first being the 2009 Champions league semifinal against Chelsea where the better part of 4 penalty decisions went in favour of Barcelona only for them to win the tie on away goals and then the semifinal in 2010 against Inter Milan where they played against 10 men in the second leg for a considerable amount of time and still lost 3-2 on aggregate. Although the play-acting accusations of them this year in the Champions league can be levelled at Real Madrid also. Another evident pattern that emerges is that all these refereeing decisions and the big games have come in the Champions League. Barcelona have had a relatively easy ride motoring along to two La Liga titles in the last two years and on the verge of their three-peat. The bottom line is that their challenge has come from English sides and Inter Milan in the Champions League. Even under unbiased circumstances, it would be a humungous task for any top level European side to beat Barcelona. Hence, it is unfathomable that Barcelona have resorted to such unrequisited conning and bullying of referees.

In terms of revenue, Barcelona are well on course to overtake Real Madrid in the next five years and already have become the most marketable. With the ill-designed UEFA fair play rules kicking it at the start of the 2012-2013 season where all clubs must only use money generated by the club itself, Barcelona have shed their traditional tags of no shirt sponsorships to budge to the Qatar Foundation giving them an extra $40 million a year. The very nature of such a deal is questionable. But in light of FIFA giving Qatar the 2022 World Cup, Barcelona don’t seem as blasphemous. Qatar is a country where fans are barred from consuming alcohol, publicly display signs of affection forbidden and a land where homosexuals cannot reveal themselves. Hence, sponsorships or any sort of association with them, from a club that condones similar behaviour between Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Gerard Pique, is condemnable. Barcelona have also caused incredible fissures among the relationships of Spanish clubs. To have them taken to court where they squabble over a TV deal that would give 18 other spanish clubs (the two being Barcelona and Real Madrid) a paltry 34 percent of revenue does not reflect well on a club that markets itself as the best on the planet.

Finally, the most damning indictment of Barcelona is their transfer strategy. Be it Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas or even Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Barcelona have constantly bullied Arsenal into just giving into their transfer demands by a well laid out strategy of public touting of the opposition’s players by their own. Also well known is their $400 million debt, while they still pay their best players a good part of $200,000 a week. In the case of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, they spent the better part of $65 million for his transfer from Inter Milan , while they condemn Real Madrid even now of paying exhorbitant transfer fees for players.

Before we get ready to celebrate this current Barcelona team as the greatest ever, we need to ask that $400 million (Barcelona’s yearly revenue)question……did you do it all by footballing merit? While we wait for that answer, that cacophonic air in the footballing world prevails…………