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Archive for September 2008

Alonso wins first night race

Fernando Alonso won his first race of the season when he won the first night F1 race in Singapore.

I think this was an unlikely win for Alonso if you looked at it from the standpoint of qualifying but Alonso had a good weekend before mechanical problems meant that he qualified fifteenth on the grid.

But there is no doubt that the safety car helped him a lot and suited well with his strategy although it was his team mate Nelson Piquet Jr who was involved in the accident that caused the safety car to be introduced.

It wasn't a good night for Ferrari though with both their drivers scoring no points.

Felipe Massa was leading the race when he stopped for refuelling but then he drove off with the hose still on the car and that cost him some valuable points that could have seen him lead the championship.

Now Massa trails McLaren's Lewis Hamilton who finished third by seven points with just three races to go.

The nightmare season continue for Kimi Raikkonen who crashed when fifth with just five laps to go. I think with that crash all hopes of defending his title came to an end.

Williams' Nico Rosberg got a podium finish for his team that has been having a few problems in the last few races despite starting the season very well.

Both Williams cars scored points with Kazuki Nakajima getting the last points place.

Toyota's Timo Glock finished fourth ahead of Toro Rosso's Sebastian Vettel who should be happy with his consistency in finishing in the points places.

Nick Heidfeld finished sixth ahead of Mark Webber's team mate David Coultard. Mark Webber retired from the race due to mechanical problems nearly half way through the race.

So the first night race finished with no major incidences but it is sad to see that the timing is just for the European audience with no regard to the local fans.

The next race will be in Japan and Hamilton knows that he is now very close to clinching the title and Massa must be wishing for better luck to close the gap in two weeks' time.

Tsonga overcomes Djokovic for maiden title

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga won his maiden tour title when he beat world number three Novak Djokovic in straight sets in the Thailand Open.

Tsonga lost to Djokovic in the Australia Open final but after that he 'disappeared' from the tennis scene because of injury but over the last three months or so he has been making some steady progress back culminating in this win.

Its interesting to note that had he won the Australian Open, Tsonga's first tour title would have been a grand slam.

Meanwhile in another final at the China Open Andy Roddick beat Dudi Sela. I think unseeded Sela did very well to reach the final in Beijing but he came against a determined Roddick and he will hope for a similar chance in the near future.

Chile loss not surprising

Australia lost the Davis Cup tie against Chile over the weekend and will now drop to the Asia-Oceania group.

This loss was not exactly surprising given that Australia fielded a very weak team with world number 80 Chris Guccione being the top ranked player in the absence of injured Lleytton Hewitt.

I think the highlight for me was winning the doubles rubber when Guccione teamed up with Carsten Ball to win and make the score 2-1 going into the final day of singles matches.

Chile had world number 11 Fernando Gonzalez in their and were playing on clay and it is in singles where a weak team is exposed and Gonzalez's win meant Australia dropping from the World Cup.

Elsewhere Spain will play Argentina in the final after Spain beat the United States and Argentina won against Russia.

A win for Spain who have the world number one Rafael Nadal in their team will cap a good year for the Spanish player. But Argentina have a team with a lot of experience at this level and are not going to be pushovers.

SBS and ESPN tread same path

SBS and ESPN have the rights to show UEFA Champions League football in Australia and for the first Group Phase games they decided to show the same matches live on both days.

On Wednesday both channels decided to show the match from Stamford Bridge between Chelsea and Bordeaux and on Thursday they both showed the goalless draw between Manchester United and Villareal.

To make it worse on Wednesday they both showed the re-run of the match between Barcelona and Sporting Lisbon soon after the live match had finished.

It was better on Thursday when one channel showed the Juventus match and the other showed the Real Madrid match.

I think SBS should show whatever match they wish to show as a free to air broadcaster but ESPN must consider showing something different. Everyone who has ESPN at least has SBS and therefore they can afford to switch channels to the other one.

In this day and era ESPN must also do what FoxSports does in the Asian Champions League. When there are two matches being played at the same time involving Australian sides they give the viewers Viewer's choice and it works really well.

Here we have eight quality matches being played at the same time and yet we are forced to watch a goalless draw on two channels when they were other interesting matches like the Lyon/Fiorentina match for example.

I wonder how long it will take for these broadcasters to know that football fans need a choice especially when FoxSports does that every weekend where we have a choice of five matches most Sunday mornings in the English Premier League.

I hope that for the next round ESPN will not bore us by showing the match SBS will be showing as well.

Mugabe, Tsvangirai sign power sharing deal

Robert Mugabe, Morgan Tsvagirai and Arthur Mutambara today signed the deal that will lead to an inclusive government that will see the three main parties in Zimbabwe share power.

Nearly two months after signing the Memorandum of Agreement today the deal was signed in front of other heads of state from the SADC region.

It was good to see that the signing ceremony was live on BBC and CNN and I was able to watch the whole proceedings from start to finish.

I was impressed with Tsvangirai and he has confidence that this deal will work and he thinks its the best opportunity for the country.

I hope that he goes on and delivers the promise to serve the people and get the country back working again or at least get some things working.

Mutambara dwelt a lot on the economy and I think he had a lot of ideas. I think what he said made some sense but I also think he looked far too forward and the basics have to be right to start with.

But then there was Mugabe's speech. This was a vintage Mugabe speech and as usual dwelt a lot on the history of the liberation struggle and the help offered by the neighbouring countries.

It was a long speech and only in the end did he talk about the deal. Unfortunately he doesn't seem to fully understand the problems facing the country at the moment but I also hope that he will do his best to make sure that the deal will be a success.

I also think Zanu PF needs some leaders who are forward looking to get their party going. Its good to reflect on the historical background but equally you have to focus on the challenges ahead and when Mugabe finally retires I wonder what kind of leader Zanu PF will get to replace him.

Now that the deal is signed its now down to parliament to make the necessary changes to the constitution and then it will be time for work.

I hope this chance will be utilised fully by all who are going to be elected into positions and that rule of law will be re-established and corrupt officials exposed or otherwise it could be yet another opportunity lost.

Related documents:

Jul 08 Memorandum of Understanding
Sep 08 Zimbabwe Deal

Vettel in maiden win at Monza

Toro Rosso's Sebastian Vettel took full advantage of his first pole position to win the Italian Grand prix in yet another thrilling F1 race.

Vettel got pole in a dramatic qualifying and I thought he would probably not win the race but he controlled the race from start to finish to hand his team its first win and also be the youngest driver to win a F1 race.

Vettel has been driving very well over the last four races but I never thought he would win a race this season but with the leading drivers Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen all qualifying in the double digits and only Massa on sixth, Vettel had a good cushion and he used it to good effect.

It wasn't all that bad for McLaren with Heikki Kovalainen finishing second and to finish off the podium places was BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica.

If there has been ever a good chance to get a podium finish for former champion Fernando Alonso this season I think this was it but he could only get fourth but at least he finished ahead of Hamilton who finished in seventh place.

The other BMW Sauber car of Nick Heidfeld finished fifth just ahead of Felipe Massa who finished sixth.

Massa's fifth finish ahead of Hamilton meant that he closed the gap on Hamilton to just a single point. I think this was probably another chance lost by Massa to at least catch Hamilton but Hamilton himself drove very well especially considering that he started 15th on the grid.

Massa on the other hand started sixth and finish sixth and therefore did not improve on his grid position when I expected that he would.

In the final points place Mark Webber who denied Raikkonen a chance for points. Webber had actually qualified third and therefore he slipped five places but at least he got a point.

This was the last race in Europe this season and I am looking forward to the first race under lights in Singapore in a fortnight.

After all the debate and discussion about night racing it is now here with us and I hope it will be an exciting race in Singapore.

Mbeki brokers Zimbabwe deal

South African President Thabo Mbeki has finally managed to broker a deal for Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai to share power in a new government.

According to Mbeki the deal will be signed on Monday morning in Harare in a formal ceremony to be attended by other leaders from the SADC region.

Early this week I posted an article on the fact that Mbeki was on a rescue mission and indeed he has been successful and I think from now on it is up to the Zimbabwean leaders to make sure they work hard to serve the people who have been suffering for a long time from a self-serving government of Mugabe.

Although the full details of the deal have not been released yet and this will be done on Monday, its actually good that Mbeki has managed to a get a deal agreed because that's a positive for Zimbabwe in the current environment.

If things were normal there is no doubt that Tsvangirai would be the president today but things are what they are now unfortunately and I hope that from this deal will come out a people driven constitution that will lead to fresh elections and we will finally see the back of Zanu PF.

I don't think we will suddenly see a sudden resolution of the many Zimbabwe problems but at least there will somebody looking after the problems and trying to solve them compared to now where nobody has really cared about anything but just to be in power for the sake of it.

This deal will also mean that MDC are not on the sidelines when the next elections take place and therefore we can look forward to free and fair elections where everybody will be allowed to campaign freely.

I am keen to see the actual details of the deal but the fact that Tsvangirai has agreed to it means that its not as bad as the first proposal which had tried to make the MDC backseat passengers in a new proposed government.

Related documents:

Jul 08 Memorandum of Understanding

Mbeki on rescue mission

There seems to be no conclusion to the Zimbabwe talks with the South African President Thabo Mbeki in Zimbabwe trying to get a deal signed between Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai.

It looked like it wasn't going to be this hard when the Memorandum of Agreement was signed but I think Mbeki made a mistake by coming with a draft agreement that seemed to favour Mugabe so much and now he is on a rescue mission to make sure the parties sign a deal that will make the country move forward.

I hope that by now Mbeki has realised that his original agreement is too Mugabe centric to be of any use to Morgan Tsvangirai and therefore he has to reverse a few things to make sure that Tsvangirai has more of a say in that so called new government of national unity or whatever they will call it.

All the delays so far means that the problems in Zimbabwe continue with prices continuing to rise but worst of all is the news of a cholera outbreak in Chitungwiza.

Nothing seems to be functioning at the moment with doctors and teachers on strike and that cannot be allowed to continued for much longer.

On that note a friend of mine wrote to me from Zimbabwe and this is what he had to say about the talks:

"As for talks, it’s rather better that Morgan Tsvangirai(MRT) refused to sign as he would have endorsed a bad deal and would have been relegated to ceremonial prime minister and got blamed for his failure in a GNU.

Authority or power goes hand in hand with accountability, yet MRT was asked to agree to a deal that would require him to be accountable to Robert Mugabe (RGM) but without the requisite executive authority &/or power.

The kind of agreement that is needed is one that will bring national healing and national or people’s trust in a GNU not one that necessarily makes RGM & his cronies feel safe.

An agreement that would translate to justice and food on the table for the common man is one that’s needed as that would enable people to trust the governmental system rather than to adopt a wait and see attitude.

Above all or in addition to the foregoing, we need an agreement that would unlock the much needed aid from the West – we really need that.

Forget about China & Russia & our fellow African AU & other unpatriotic (i.e. common people uncentred) states in SADC & AU – those have not helped us with anything that matters except to applaud RGM at international summits by calling on such notions as sovereignty and blaming everything else on sanctions and colonialism and imperialism.

Why should RGM complain about sanctions when he told Tony Blair at the Earth Summit in Cape town RSA some years back that “Keep your little Britain and I will keep my Zimbabwe”. One cannot behave as though the world wasn’t a global village and expect the global village to assist him.

There has been a paradigm shift in international relations and in the international body polity, no one even wants to colonies ZIM, its territorial integrity is not a threat from anyone. We do not want a kind of sovereignty in which we destroy ourselves as has happened in the last 28 years.

MRT should insist on an agreement that curtails the powers of the state machinery – ZNA, ZRP, CIO, AFZ, etc; and empowers the Judiciary and other civil state institutions. He should just not be relegated to solving the economic mess as RGM & his kleptocracy will be working 24/7 to sabotage him just to make a political point and gain political mileage from their African compatriots.

MRT should realize that any agreement will put him on the hot seat of sorting out the mess that RGM & Company has brought upon ZIM – some kind of probationary period that if he & MDC fails, they might just have begun writing their political obituary. I think like MRT even said, “better no deal than a bad one”.

A bad deal will not unlock Western Aid & the official &/or unofficial sanctions, will not make business and commerce and the common man cooperate and stop stashing their forex in off shore accounts, will not lift ZIM from its quagmire and most of all will lead to MRT & MDC being blamed by ZANU-PF & Company for failing to stop the Titanic Ship from sinking.

Most of our fellow African brothers and sisters having been calling for a homegrown or African solution to an African problem, but for almost a decade now they have failed dismally in Somalia, Burundi, Rwanda, Dafur-Sudan, except in one island country where they toppled a military junta and very limited success in DRC.

There are about 5 more long serving Presidents in Africa with a lot of democratic deficits and drought of good governance who supported RGM at the Egypt Summit. What would you expect of Gaddaffi, Omar Bongo, Sudan’s Omar Al Bashir, Equatorial Guinea, Hosni Mobarik, Dos Santos. These are all long serving leaders and will see no reason why RGM can just one more term.

We thank GOD for people that love fellow Africans enough to be honest and tell the truth, these are, Rwanda, Liberia, Lesotho, Botswana, Nigeria, Zambia, etc. Mozambique is kind of on the borderline or trying to play it safe, but those guys are fed up by ZIM’s man made problems."

I hope Mbeki will be successful in his rescue mission because after all the political posturing and so on there are people's live at stake here and these I think should be the priority and hence the need to come up with a fair and equitable agreement that can take Zimbabwe forward again.

Related documents:

Jul 08 Memorandum of Understanding

Melbourne teams on top

Three years ago there was hardly any September AFL football in Melbourne as the inter-state teams dominated but all that has changed now with only Sydney left in the AFL finals.

In the rugby league Melbourne Storm won a third consecutive minor premiership on Sunday when it walloped South Sydney 42-4 and got the 26 points required to win the minor premiership.

Storm is doing so well but because rugby league is a minor sport in Melbourne sometimes its achievements tend to go unnoticed in Melbourne.

I only watch rugby league when Storm happen to be playing but I remember I got dissapointed when they played the Gold Coast Titans away with a depleted squad because of a coming State of Origin match. Its not surprising they lost that match.

Hopefully the Storm will reach the Grand final for the third year in a row and possibly win it.

In the AFL I think Geelong are going to win the flag again but I also think that they will play a Melbourne team most probably Hawthorn and it will be good just to have two Victorian teams fighting it out for the flag.

There is still some three weeks to go but there is already the buzz about the Grand Final.

Federer too good for Murray

Roger Federer beat Andy Murray in straight sets to win his fifth consecutive US Open title.

Like I wrote yesterday I didn't Murray to give Federer a lot of problems despite beating Rafael Nadal but it was a good effort for him to reach the final and now he has grand slam final experience.

Federer in his fifth consecutive final was the first to settle and he easily won the first set. Murray came back in the second but Federer drew on his experience to win it and the final set was the easiest for him.

This win means that Federer has now won a grand slam title this year but I think he deserves it after having playing some very good tennis throughout the tournament.

If he wasn't at the top of his game I think he would have lost to Novak Djokovic in the semis but he brushed him aside and I also think he could have beaten Nadal if he had reached the final.

This is Federer's 13 grand slam win and therefore he only needs one more to equal Pete Sampras' 14.

I think its possible for him to overtake Sampras and he could equal Sampras as early as the Australian Open in January next year.

Federer's win also means that the current three top players have all won at least one grand slam title this year and it could be interesting next year especially if Murray continues to improve.

Controversial end to Spa race

Ferrari's Felipe Massa won the Belgian F1 grand prix after McLaren's Lewis Hamilton was given a 25 second penalty which relegated him to third place.

This was a very exciting race for many reasons but most of the talking will be around the 25 second penalty imposed on Hamilton after the race.

This now means that Massa trails the McLaren driver by just two points and this gap could have been eight points without the penalty.

It wasn't a good race for Kimi Raikkonen who led for most of the race only to crash out with just two laps to go.

Raikkonen seems to be out of contention now to defend his title this year unless something dramatic happens to both Massa and Hamilton.

The other driver on the podium was BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld who denied former champion Fernando Alonso a rare podium finish as he had to settle for fourth.

Toro Rosso-Ferrari are having a good time at the moment and Sebastian Vettel finished a respectable fifth and the other driver Sebastien Bourdais finished seventh.

Separating the Toro Rosso drivers was BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica. Whilst he got some points I expected Kubica to finish higher than seventh.

Toyota could have finished in the points once again but Timo Glock suffered a 25 second penalty for ignoring yellow warning flags and that promoted Mark Webber who had finished ninth in the race to eighth.

Its getting very exciting and the next race is next week at Monza and I am keen to see if Hamilton can come back and extend his lead at the top or whether Massa can overtake him.

Serena regains number one

Serena Williams has won the US Open after beating Jelena Jankovic in straight sets and also got the number one ranking in the process.

This is William's third US title and it would have been the first grand slam title for Jankovic had she won.

In a final delayed by a day, Williams once again showed her class to win the US Open plus the world number one ranking.

I thought Jankovic had a good start especially for somebody playing in her first grand slam final but Williams drew on her experience to make sure that the good start did not count for much.

William's win means that there have been four different women grand slam winners this year, a year where nobody really dominated and hence the constant changes in who is number one.

In the men's final tomorrow, Andy Murray will meet world number two Roger Federer after beating the top seed Rafael Nadal in four sets.

The match had to be continued today after rain stopped play on Sunday with Murray leading by two sets to love and although he lost the third set he came back from a break down in the fourth to win the fourth set and go for his first grand slam final.

I think Federer will win the match to get his first grand slam title for the year. I think this is his best chance especially with Nadal now out of the way but maybe Murray can cause another upset.

Meanwhile Cara Black and Liezel Huber beat Sam Stosur and Lisa Raymond to win the women's doubles title.

Jankovic, Williams wait for final

The US Open women's final between Serena Williams and Jelena Jankovic has now been postponed to Monday morning Melbourne time after a tropical storm meant that the match could not be played.

The winner will become the new number one replacing Ana Ivanovic who crashed earlier on in the first week.

Despite being the current number two and almost always reaching the second week of Grand slams, this is the first time for Jankovic to reach a grand slam final.

I watched both semi-finals and I think Williams is more likely to be the winner and be the new number one.

Meanwhile on the men's side Roger Federer brushed aside Novak Djokovic in four sets and will now meet the winner of the match between Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal.

I will be very surprised if Federer were to lose the final whoever he plays because he has played better and better as the tournament has progressed and must surely land his only grand slam title for the year.

Man City takes the shine

The transfer window in the English Premiership finally closed this morning and I think Manchester City had the biggest scoop signing Robinho from Real Madrid.

What makes this deal more interesting and even sweeter for Man City fans is the fact that Robinho was rumoured all summer to be going to be going to Chelsea but he landed at Eastlands.

The Abu Dhabi United Group (ADUG), which is set to take over from Thaksin Shinawatra, is reported to have helped to land Robinho's signature and thats a good start for them.

I also think that Chelsea sold Shaun Wright-Philips to Man City thinking that Robinho was coming their way and therefore did not need another winger and this latest twist should have stunned Stamford Bridge who until now could do anything they wanted in the transfer market.

Other big news on the last day is the signing of Dimitar Berbatov by Manchester United and I think Sir Alex Ferguson really needed another striker especially after recent matches have shown that goals are hard to come by when Cristiano Ronaldo is not in the team.

I think it was also good to finally see Everton bring in some new faces after inactivity in the transfer throughout the off-season until last week.

Everton brought Louis Saha from Manchester United, Carlo Nash from Wigan and then record signing Marouane Fellaini from Standard Liege on a busy last day at Goodison Park.

Now to the interesting bit. With the new Man City demanding a top four finish to get into the Champions League I am wondering which of the current big four teams would lose out.

I think in the short term it looks like it would be the Arsenal because they don't tend to buy experienced players unlike the other three teams.

However, Arsenal's team of youngsters has so much as been evidenced from time to time but last season showed that sometimes they cannot last a whole season of 38 matches.

Man City's next match is against Chelsea and it will be interesting to see what will happen in that match. If they can beat Chelsea in that match then that will send shock waves throughout the league but as always the season is 38 matches long and therefore its always the teams with the biggest depth who rise to the top come May next year and the question is will City be one of them? Maybe.