Thursday, 19 June 2014

Two Goals – One Cup: Your Essential Brazil 2014 World Cup Round-up

Only a quarter of the way into the world’s biggest sporting competition, the FIFA World Cup, and the planet is well and truly Brazil nuts!  From games with own goals and games with no goals, to free kicks and costly mistakes, it’s already been an exciting week of play.  What’s been missing is a lighter look at some of the nations whose teams are performing on the world game’s biggest stage this year around.  So with that in mind, let’s get this World Cup ball rolling as I risk a red card and put my boot into 16 of those teams at random – the good, the bad and the English!

Brazil – Not only are they this year’s hosts, but they’ve raised the World Cup more times than any other nation.  Also, between all of that, they’ve even found time to patent a style of intimate hair removal.  Amazing given the fact that poverty is so predominant in Brazil, most of the Brazilian players such as Marcelo, Maicon and Hulk, can’t afford more than one name each.  They’re the only team at this tournament in the ‘green and gold’ kits that are expected to achieve greatness.  The team carries the name the “Little Yellow Canary”, which refers both to their kit colours and possibly to the fact that they will be the first to drop in the event of a gas leak at one of their hurriedly completed stadiums.  Big props to them for also playing with such great enthusiasm despite the fact their Football Federation’s initials are ‘CBF’ and are sewn onto their shirts.

Bosnia & Herzegovina – A nation with a past so complicated, they have to put an ‘&’ in their title.  It’s their first FIFA World Cup and in “World Cup” years (1 ‘World Cup year’ = 4 calendar years) they are less than 5 years-old.  Like most toddlers there’s a good chance they’ll make mess of things and be put to bed early.  Conceived during a drunken World Cup ’94 after-party they are somewhat of a ‘Balkan bastard child’.  Their team nickname is “The Dragons”, presumably because the World Cup has never seen them before and those who have heard of them still believe their nation is made-up.  Sledging tips for other teams; remind them that their flag looks like their nation is based on the ideals of the ‘Bank of Queensland’.

The Netherlands – Or as the USA calls them; “That place where Michael Jackson and Peter Pan lived.”  It’s very important to note that people from the Netherlands are happy for you to refer to their country as “Holland”.  They are not happy when you refer to it as the “Nether-regions”.  Dressed in Oompa Loompa Orange and looking as scary as an aggressive pumpkin, one thing’s for sure; whether wearing clogs or boots, the “Clockwork Orange’s” recipe for success will be prepared in a ‘Dutch oven’.

Australia – Some people take away points from games, but the Socceroos are that team that’s always “taking away positives”.  Remember Eric Moussambani in the pool at the Sydney Olympics?  Well, most of the World Cup community pretty much sees us as the Eric Moussambani of this tournament… “The Soccerics”.  While others are aiming to break records, we’re just happy to get to the other end of the pool without drowning.  Aussie supporters get pretty excited at every World Cup, mainly because most believe “soccer” is a sport that’s only played every four years and was invented in 2006.  This team’s big asset – multiculturalism.  Our national team is like a mini World Cup, where we took players from each nation and threw them in a mixer.  The taste might not be great, but we should at least get points for a diverse range of ingredients.

Colombia – A team that gave new meaning to the phrase “it’s more than a game”.  As a nation they have a history of “white line fever”, a lenient stance on drugs and yet a zero tolerance approach to “own goals”.  They’ve chosen to name their team “The Coffee Growers” because judging by their dramatic history, their brand of football is sure to keep you up at night.  One thing’s for sure, if they manage to make it across the finish line, it’ll be by a nose.

USA – They make us happy they didn’t choose to follow Colombia’s lead of naming their team after their chief export, because “Obese under-educated war-mongers” is a lot to fit on a Nike shirt.  We can only assume that their team philosophy is the same as their national philosophy that “the best defence is a strong attack.”  Exciting match-ups we want to see are with Russia and Iran.  Best tips for opponents – a candy bar or smart phones in the pocket could be well-used ‘weapons of mass distraction’.

France – Not a nation known for their attack, my prediction is that shortly after their first encounter with a strong opponent, they’ll surrender, give-up their half of the field and hand over at least a third of their players.  Their nickname is “The Blues” which essentially makes this group of men the second batch of Blues Brothers, and as we all know, the sequel is rarely better than the original.  Things they have in their arsenal; they’re previous winners of the tournament, they’re home to some of the best players in the world and they have a star player that looks like a Bond villain.

Croatia – Chess board shirts match a chequered past.  While they can’t seem to imitate Germany’s history of quality football, they did have a player suspended for the chanting of Nazi epithets before the World Cup, so that’s something.  They also have more “ić’s” in their team than an Aus-Kick clinic during a lice outbreak.  Another sledging tip for opponents; remind midfielder, Luka Modric, any time he goes down and complains about contact, that “this is what happens when your name, literally translated, means ‘Harbour Little Bruise’.”  No confirmation as to whether striker, Ivica Olic’s dad is in fact named ‘Alko’.  But will the team nicknamed ‘The Blazers” burn out suddenly or set the field alight?  Whether you’re ‘pro or ante’ Croatia, you can be sure the team whose kit looks like a French restaurant table cloth, will be eager to serve-up a title-taking dish.

Switzerland – A country unlikely to kick into gear in this tournament as they’re first choice has always been ‘neutral’.  A team from a nation so bland, they even managed to avoid getting Hitler offside.  If you don’t believe me, they’re national team nickname is “The Schweizer Nati”, which means simply, “The Swiss National Team”.  Intimidation is not in their list of powers.  In fact, there’s a reason their country sounds like Disneyland… I mean… it is a “small nation after all.”  They also gave the world cuckoo clocks, which I hope means there’s a good chance their keeper will step out of his box perhaps once an hour, make some noise and then go back in and not do much.  Their national flag is a first aid kit, their best known army weapon is used more on scout camping trips than battlefields and they’re more likely to produce holes in cheese than in their opponents’ defence.  A stable economy, a well-educated nation, a quite undramatic history; their back story just doesn’t read dramatic or romantic enough for me to believe they could make something happen at Brazil 2014.

Germany – Colder and more clinical than a Siberian doctor’s surgery they’ve faced-off with almost as many nations in war than in the world cup.  Reasons to watchout for them;  they have a history of football success, quest for world domination and a teamsheet of player names that read like a Nuremberg trial list of defendants.  They’re team nickname “The Mannschaft” resembles a World War II tank or German word for male genitalia.  That seems appropriate, because this is a team that likes to score and has proven they can penetrate the box and produce results.  Free kicks against them could be an issue as they have a history of constructing big strong walls that are almost impossible to get over.  They do what it takes to win, even if that means having a German team with hardly any Germans in it.  Tactics you can use against them; what tactics?  These people don’t get comedy, their leader has the Star Wars title of “Chancellor” and they list David Hasselhoff as a national hero.  On a scale of 1 – 10 (‘10’ being “no chance of beating them”) most teams will come in at a “NEIN”.

England – If Germany resemble the guy that turns-up and gets the job done, England is the guy that draws-up a great design, gets the job, and leaves mid way through construction but vows to come back in four years to finish it off.  Also, I have to point out that for a country that’s seen its fair share of war, it seems a little ironic that they’re most likely to be taken down in a penalty shoot-out.  The only place where England is likely to perform worse and score fewer points is at ‘Eurovision’.  You get the feeling the cup could be won, by the ‘Two Ronnies’ before the team named “The Three Lions.”  They’ve certainly been England’s least successful boy band.  In fairness, Katy Perry has shown more “roar”.  Realistically, the toughest opponent for England at Brazil 2014 will likely be England.  If World War II was fought as a football game, Londoners would definitely be speaking German.

Spain – The country who lets their football do the talking, mainly because the Spanish language means all their players speak with a lisp.  They won the last World Cup and the last two European Cups, which means they’ve actually won more international competitions than many of the teams at Brazil 2014.  “The Red Fury” seems like an apt nickname given how they must feel after their performance at this World Cup.  Easily the most disappointing Spanish performance at Brazil 2014 after Pit Bull at the opening ceremony.  The Spanish are known for a famous inquisition so it seems ironic they haven’t really asked any questions of their opponents.

Mexico – They don’t need to do anything.  They’ve already given us tequila, turned chips into a main meal and own the rights to the wave most people will be doing in the stands.  No matter who lifts that trophy in the end – they’re the real winners.

Argentina – One thing you can say for sure about the “White & Sky Blues” is that they’re the first to put their hand up to grab a World Cup title… literally.  With Messi, Di Maria and Aguero among others, they have more stars in their team than Bosnia & Herzegovina has on its flag.  And unless the lyrics, “Hello, is it me you’re looking for” give you nightmares, it’s the only time a man named ‘Lionel’ is ever going to instil fear into the hearts of any opposition.  As well as being the country that brought us ‘Tango’ dancing, they’re the only national team to have had goals scored for them by Maradona and a song sung about them by Madonna – what a difference a consonant makes!  Whether it it’s from the ‘hand of God’ or the ‘boot of Messi’, it’ll certainly take more than two to tango with this team.

Italy – Italy’s economic troubles are rarely as well-illustrated as at the FIFA World Cup where we see that to save money, they’ve had to combine their national football team with their national diving team.  With a steady diet of pasta, pizza and garlic bread, the term “carb-loading” is etched in their culture and the “Azzuri” are ready to try and sip from the World Cup.  There’s no “i” in “team”, but there is an “i” in “Italy” and even more “i’s” in their players’ names.  Beware; this is a country so in love with football that they shaped their country like a boot kicking a ball.  Tip to opponents; if you see an Italian striker with the ball outside the box and another inside the box in a good position, be very careful – if you believe the bible, a Roman was responsible for the first ever “cross” and it ended badly for the opposition.

Greece – If ever there was a team voted most likely to win the World Cup and then melt it down and use the gold to repay foreign debt, Greece is that team.  Always assured a top spot in the “group of debt”.  They’re the nation of hard rocks and soft pastries and by having midfielders with surnames like ‘Christodoulopoulos’, their biggest concern isn’t winning, but rather fitting the names on the back of their kits.  Clashes to watch out for will be if they face off against Germany in a battle of the “Borrower Vs the Bank”.  They’ve almost single-handedly managed to bring down Euro – the world seems the logical next step.  Their team nickname is “The Pirate Ship”, one can only assume because their team consists of a group of swarthy bearded men who are on a quest for gold and speak broken English.  Hot tip for anyone going up against Greece; just focus on getting at least a one-goal lead.  Greece’s national track record shows they have trouble bridging a deficit.  Ultimately, with a team full of players whose names end with the sound “loss”, odds are Brazil 2014 could prove to be a Greek tragedy.

And THAT folks, is the final whistle!

Friday, 13 June 2014

'Flex & the City' - The Substance(s) of Bodybuilding

Building; it’s always been a major part of human history and an even bigger part of the construction industry.  Each generation, from “Gen BC” all the way through to “Gen Y”, has had their building obsession.   From pyramid builders to ship builders to builders of skyscrapers and builders of planes and even the black sheep of the building fraternity – the website builders.  However, new Australian statistics have put steroids ahead of heroin and ice as the most used drug in Australia.  Does this mean we’ve seemingly decided that as a society, we’ve built everything there is to build so we’re turning the focus onto ourselves?  With the 50th annual 'Mr. Olympia' competition fast approaching, I decided to examine this further, so I’m stretching-up, grabbing my tanning oil, and taking a closer look at the red-headed stepchild of the international building industry – “bodybuilding”.

Before anything else, easily the most concerning part of this entire issue is that in their quest to look like the ultimate popped corn kernel, the bodybuilders of Australia have sent steroids to the top of the drug-use “iTunes charts”… “highTunes”, if I may.  Following this trend, our city centres should brace themselves because by all accounts, we’ll soon have the strongest generation of drug-addicted vagrants this country has ever seen.  Drug addicts’ physiques have been in the shredding stage for years, this bulk is really all that’s been missing.  What if the option of handing over some spare change to that addict on the street was taken out of your hands?  Sure their enlarged hearts may fool you into thinking they have a lot of love to give, but that over-inflated organ, like Mr. Universe’s kryptonite, may be our only chance for a quick getaway!

 What we need is a solution, and here I go in my attempt to provide one;
  • The problem:  Steroids are obviously too easy to get.
  • The solution:  Make steroids harder to get.
  • My suggested method:  Institute a rule where if you really want to purchase steroids, you have the opportunity to do so. The catch is, you have to sit in a chair with butt flat on the seat and try to reach around for the pill bottle or steroid sachet, which is located directly behind you.
  • Result:  If you can’t reach around the minimum distance necessary to grab the roids/wipe your own butt, you’ve had more than enough already. Maybe to lighten the vibe, you can then ask “do you even reach bro?”, but that’s purely up to the individual.

Sidenote: It doesn’t count as “clean eating” just because you made sure the syringe you used was “sterile”.

On top of this, is “bodybuilding” really an appropriate name for it anyway?  For me the only real bodybuilding will always be ‘pregnancy’.  You literally build a little body, inside you, with eyes closed, no-looking!   It takes nine months, no weights and construction is done!  Can we all take a moment to appreciate the awesomeness of that!?  You’re not bodybuilding.  Your body was already built!  Your mum and dad did that.  Your mum sat on the project for nine months from concept to reality and now you’re claiming responsibility.  You’re “body-renovating” if anything and I’m pretty sure you need a permit for much of the work you're doing.  For the record, if bodybuilders were actual “buildings”, they would be the crappiest structures in the world, immediately behind Jenga towers and the Westgate Bridge.   They require constant up-keep, are expensive to maintain and if you stop building them up, they actually fall apart and get smaller.  Construction never stops!  Can you imagine living and working in a building that’s never done being built!?

Next, we have to address the obvious survival issue.  We need to appreciate the inherent threat to civilisation that body-builders pose (excuse the pun) and how they could potentially lead to the extinction of regular human beings or “body-builts”.   In a world with an over-crowded population where food and natural resources are becoming scarce, like small babies; bodybuilders are constantly growing, needing to consume inordinately high amounts of food as they do, leaving less for the rest of us.  Why don’t we get them to build something useful?  We have enough bodies on this planet. Our cities are crowded enough as is – why don’t you rip out four sets of home-building and then head over to areas affected by natural disasters and super-set with some re-building?  I'm just saying, back in the early 20th century if you were obsessed with size and “aesthetics” you built the Titanic or Empire State Building, you didn’t change the grip on your barbell and start swallowing horse pills.

The only way to put things back in balance is to start using bodybuilders to cut down on our natural resources.  At least stuff like substituting the gym pull-down equipment for having them in charge of the cable system in the elevators in a few office buildings.  What better incentive is there for proper technique and controlled release on the decline than having seven people’s lives hanging in the balance?  At the very least there should be an individual who is actually qualified to carry the heavy 15 plastic Woolworths bags to the car in one trip, because we don’t want to make two trips.

Sidenote:  Also, stop referencing body-building as your “religion”.   The bible talks about God building the Earth in six days, it talks about a bloke named Noah building an ark and it does not mention him bringing “two of every plate weight” with him.

There should be a caveat on you wanting to be a bodybuilder and part of that should be that you have to enlist in the army.  If your qualifications include: Herculean strength, enjoyment of pain, prone to violence and habitually rub dark cream all over body, then you my friend have enlisted to defend this nation.  Word to the wise from my personal observation though, when your six pack has gotten to the point that it’s so big it either looks like a stuffed ciabatta under your belly, or like Garfield the cat is pushing his face out from inside your stomach, you’re done bro.

So whatever your stance, I think we can agree that if ‘Bob the Builder’ was around now, he’d be trading in his wheelbarrow and shovel for a barbell and a pec-deck.  Whether that means we’ll soon have a generation of voters who look like the villains from Space Jam remains to be seen.   However, from the bulking and benching to the shredding and cycling to the lifting and loading, one thing is for sure; there seem to be plenty of ups and downs to lifting til you drop.

Friday, 6 June 2014

'Game of Driza-Bones': Australia's Commonwealth Dilemma

It’s not often that the sight of the ‘green & gold’ has Aussies seeing red, but the unveiling of the new Commonwealth Games uniforms for Team Australia has done just that. Nanna knits, jumbuck jackets and delightfully daggy Dunlops are the heroes of this dish that appears to have been served-up from beneath the shade of a Coolabah tree. The outfits are certainly seeing an all out attack on their defence apparel designers, so let’s take a look at the uniforms and issue, as they unfold.

According to social media and various online surveys yesterday, feedback suggests that a “majority of the Australian public” hate the new Commonwealth Games uniforms. Now to them I say, with all due respect, you’re the same “majority of Australians” that elected Tony Abbott Prime Minister of this country. Based solely on that little fact, you’ve in all likelihood lost all right to an opinion. Where was this outrage when my primary school winter uniform meant I had to wear a flesh-coloured skivvy and knee-high socks? You don’t know my struggle until you’ve had your mother fit you for a compulsory flesh-coloured cotton track-suit for your primary school sports days. There’s a good chance what you have is not an opinion on uniforms, but in fact an uninformed opinion – *BOOM* – wordplay worthy of a possible Commonwealth Games bronze.

Let’s start by addressing the green & gold elephant in the middle of the room; there is really no way to make green & gold look good together. Essentially, they’re the colour of envy and urine. There’s a reason they’re not in the wardrobe of your average Australian citizen, and if they are, there’s a reason they rarely make their way out of said wardrobe. There’s only so much we can do with the colours we’ve been given. It’s tantamount to handing ‘My Kitchen Rules’ contestants a celery stick, cucumber and a lemon and asking them to make you a Pavlova – you’re disappointed with the result and left with a bitter taste in your mouth.

We also need to stop pretending Australia has a rich history of high fashion. Our “national style” is either overly protective or intensely revealing. It’s either footy shorts, a Bonds singlet, thongs and an akubra hat or Blundstones/Dunlop volleys, Driza-Bone jackets and Hard Yakka pants. If there was a word to describe our aforementioned “national style”, it would be “resistant”. Our clothes have to be resistant to seemingly everything. They have to be water-resistant, wind-resistant, sun-resistant, stain-resistant, flame-resistant, fade-resistant, bug-resistant even bird-resistant – we spend so much time making our clothing resistant, we don’t have time to make it look irresistible!


The other key benefit many have overlooked is that we now have the only official Commonwealth Games uniform, which is also hi-vis and OH&S friendly. Given that more and more event host countries are failing to meet construction deadlines of their stadiums, this could mean that we sweep the medal pool by default as we’re likely the only team permitted to compete on a construction site. So even on the off chance that Glasgow isn’t ready on time, there’s still time for Aussies to get behind their athletes and start designing a green & gold hardhat!

Essentially, we need to ask ourselves; how much does the appearance of the outfits really matter in the grand scheme of things. Wasn’t it Martin Luther King Jr. who once declared, “Athletes should not be judged by the colour of their skins or by the content of their carry-on”?   I may have skipped the odd history class in high school but I digress.  Firstly, these athletes are some of the fastest moving and agile people in the Commonwealth if not the world, you’ll be lucky if you get a glimpse of their outfits long enough to pass judgement. It’s the same reason people would be up-in-arms if the Victoria’s Secret fashion show was a sprint.

Secondly, these are some of the most attractive people in Australia, with bodies most could only dream of having – why do they even need uniforms? I’ll be the first to suggest that green & gold painted-on body suits are the way to go. They’re unique, aerodynamic, tailored to the individual athlete’s body, an attractive sight for the crowds, a distracting one for the competitors and in these tough economic times for Australia, what better way for the government to show that they’re committed to saving money!? It’s an opportunity to get the Commonwealth Games viewing audience into the billions. Honestly, I’ve never watched a great deal of Commonwealth Games as I’ve often viewed it as the slow in-bred 2nd cousin of the Olympics, however if this policy was instituted, I would be watching the rhythmic gymnastics intently!

When we get right down to it, let’s face it Australia; as long as our athletes bring home as much gold, silver and bronze as they can physically fit into their carry-on luggage, we could care less if they cross that finish line, balance on that beam or win that match dressed in a pair of green & gold pyjama pants, hand-me-down sweaters and tee-bars. The results and performances of our athletes are what matter. That’s why you’ll never hear a reporter after one of the Diamonds’ netball games saying, “Yeah a decent win, good ball-movement, but geez, wasn’t the colour coordination and precision stitching on those skirts and bibs something to behold!” Really, if history’s taught us anything, it’s that you can wear even the most unflattering outfit as long as your achievement is big enough. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in an all-white ski suit, biker helmet and school backpack and no one criticised that clash of styles. Mel Gibson fought back the English in a kilt and he had a movie made about him… seriously though, I skipped a fair few history classes.

So come on Australia, let’s be uniform in our support and remember that getting behind our athletes doesn’t mean we have to get on their backs. Sure, in the future we may need to consider more fashion-friendly colours and say "out with the ‘green & gold’ and in with the ‘blue’," but right now let’s just set our sights on the winner’s podium rather than the catwalk. If that means wearing something that looks like the ‘Man From Snowy River’ turned hipster and had his nanna put together an outfit for him, well then “OI OI OI!”