#COVID19Chronicles-97: July 20, 2020: Passengers? All change for Watford!

Normally, if you Google ‘Pearson, passengers’ you’d get results for flights into Toronto’s main airport. But, if you add ‘Watford’ you get this:

Well, Watford’s manager, Nigel Pearson, was clearly feeling that some of his players were just going along for the ride when saying some were ‘passengers’. That’s one of the low blows not usually given by managers in public about their players and Pearson got a bit of stick from several TV pundits for his remarks. But, for his frankness, I suspect, which may be a sign that he has lost faith in the team, he will no longer be a passenger on the team bus as he was sacked yesterday with 2 games to play.

This comes hot on the heels of his now former team capitulating in a relegation battle with West Ham, going down 3-1 and not appearing to have much real fight in them. Goalkeeper Ben Foster looked suspect on the first and last goal, though it was a stonker shot from long range by Declan Rice:

In a sense, Watford gave Pearson ‘What for’, which is a British slang expression for punishment.

Pearson was on the verge of another miracle, having taken over Watford and their being bottom of the Premier League at Christmas and looking set for the drop. But, as he’d done with Leicester City in 2014/15, also bottom of the Premier League at Christmas, but managed to survive, it seemed he was at it again. If Watford survive, then Pearson is due his props. If they drop, egg will be on the face of the owners.

He’s been a colourful manager and caught up in a few memorable verbal and physical confrontations and a sacking that wasn’t at Leicester in 2015, when in February, following a home defeat by Crystal Palace in a game in which, at one point, Pearson put his hands around Palace’s James McArthur’s neck, while on the ground, the press reported that Pearson had been sacked. He also famously called a journalist an “ostrich”, “stupid” and “daft” during a post-match news conference after a defeat to Chelsea in April 2015. He was voted manager of the month in April 2015 after a series of great results; but for his heroics, for which he was sacked in June 2016 (‘Thanks, fellas!’), Leicester would not have been in the position to pull off the most amazing footballing miracle of winning the Premier League the following season, as 5000:1 outsiders.

Watford should have a place in the hearts of all Jamaicans firstly because of Jamaican-born Luther Blissett, whose striking form helped propel Watford from the Fourth through First divisions in the late-1970s-1980s. Secondly, as the home of Jamaican-born John Barnes, who got his professional start with them before soaring to greater heights with Liverpool, and played in the 1990 title winning side. So, we wish them luck in the fight to avoid relegation. If they escape, maybe former owner Sir Elton John has another song to sing, having been literally instrumental in setting the club on the road to much higher ambitions to make it to the then-First Division.

With their historic links, it’s somewhat ironic that in this horror season, Watford found inspiration to inflict a first defeat on Liverpool this season, when they have become champions of the top tier in English football for the first time in 30 years, when Barnes played for them.

It’s a funny old game 🙂

 

Accepting change means overcoming fear: the beautiful game (Brazil 2014 edition) is a good teacher

I believe it is better to be hopeful rather than hopeless. My French host went for a job interview yesterday, in Paris; the train operators were still on strike. He travelled to Paris for free, because he was unable to buy a ticket. That’s a win-win, because the interview went well.

It’s good to correct mistakes early. I like to think that those who really want to change, look at what has happened and use the information to avoid a repetition. I am less hopeful about FIFA changing, but now and again I feel optimistic. A Jamaican paper reported: ‘FIFA said Friday it has withdrawn Colombian linesman Humberto Clavijo from World Cup match duties after he flagged in error for two offsides in Mexico’s 1-0 victory over Cameroon. Two goals by Mexico’s Giovani Dos Santos were ruled offside in Friday’s Group A game. FIFA did not give details of the incidents ruled errors.’ That is rare corrective action, in terms of speed and decisiveness. It would be nice if FIFA could bring itself to explain what went wrong, but I can imagine the men clutching their jackets and already feeling nausea over what they have done. Let them have some calm.

Small is beautiful in the beautiful game. Admitted, the world is mostly about small countries, but very small ones are kicking butt at this World Cup: Ecuador, Costa Rica, Belgium, Netherlands are riding higher than expected. The ‘superpowers’ have never dominated football, and we will see how the USA and Russia fare in coming matches.

Hairstyles seems to have gone wild. I have to laugh and the way that professional athletes try to get an edge. The shoes? The clothes? The supporters? They all count. But, the hair? It must matter. Why else all the bizarre designs? Read this lovely summary. Some look like they were done in the dark and with less than a steady hand. The French team alone seemed to have gone wilder than most in their match against the Swiss, who also had their share of ‘hair heads’.

People love to watch football. FIFA is ecstatic that during the first week all sorts of TV viewing records were smashed. Read their bumph. Great news for them now and going forward with the sale of future TV rights. The USA market may at last be on board. See that train roll. Most of my American friends are football (soccer) fans of long-standing. But, it’s the only place I know where during big international football events major celebrities seem to fall over themselves to gloat that they don’t get it, or find it boring, etc. I’m not going over the silly arguments with people who will spend hours watching baseball, which I love, too, but please put away the ‘boring’ card.

If FIFA could guarantee lots of goals. Most football fans will take matches without goals, but we all love to see the ball make the net bulge. We know that scoring is very difficult, so when it happens it is a big achievement; Hence, the mad reactions of scorers and supporters. Those dances are justified, though some need much more rehearsal: France, you have time to work on that as much as set piece plays; call the Colombians.

Time was that players focused on their golf and video games in their spare time. On the goals, rather than the celebrations, they are raining in. France and Swizerland served up seven yesterday. The average number per match is just under 2.9, on track to be the highest since the 3.8 in Sweden 1958. Why? Here’s a brief analysis. Robin van Persie’s ‘flying Dutchman’ is still the favourite and has spawned the craze of ‘Persieing’, based on his flying pose. But, Australian Tim Cahill’s volley was special, too. Those two nations served up a festival of good goals, so lap all of them up, here.

Let’s take sports health seriously. The inaction by officials during the match over the concussion of a Uruguayan player has so far been matched by the silence of FIFA on the incident. I wrote on this yesterday. If the player had died or suffered an obvious brain injury, FIFA officials could not find enough distance between themselves and lawyers and media baying for someone’s head. But, it need not get to that stage. Enough experience and expertise exists for FIFA to draw on. The notions that govern football are rooted in the 19th century. The world has moved far from that point. Use the progress. The world’s players’ union has called for an investigation of FIFA’s concussion protocol. Hydration issues are now well-known, but football matches did not take stoppages to ensure this happened. Instead, players use breaks in the action to get bottles thrown at them to suck on quickly; goalkeepers tend to keep some fluids in the goal for themselves, or share with players who come nearby. Americans have rolling substitutions for youth-through-college players, so leaving the game to get a drink is easier. Not so, the pros in most leagues. But, wait. Some have had enough. A court in Brazil has issued an injunction on FIFA for it to have mandatory water breaks during matches played in high temperatures. This is really forcing FIFA to enforce its own norms. They seem to just be dysfunctional as functionaries!The breaks are now mandatory when temperatures reach 32 degrees Celsius (89.6 Fahrenheit) in the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature index, which takes into account factors such as time of day, cloud cover, wind, humidity and location. Anyway, FIFA must pay 200,000 reals (about US$90,000) for each match in which the ruling isn’t enforced.

We are reaching the point in the matches when caution gets you nowhere. That’s good for excitement. The albatross that is FIFA will have to be dragged kicking and screaming to accept that many things about football must change. It nearly died before and its revival is better sustained with regular massaging. Is being in Zurich really the reason FIFA is so dull? Maybe, they should move the HQ to Rio.

 

The good, the bad, and the ugly (February 23, 2014)

Good

Back to Sochi we go. Jamaica’s two-man bobsled came in 29th out of 30 teams. That was no ‘flop’ as one of our national papers, the Jamaica Observer, headlined it. They qualified by entering races and getting enough points. They funded themselves by having friends with imagination who helped raise money through crowd-funding. They competed even though they had difficulties getting their equipment to the Games site on time. They raced very well–without qualifying their performance–ending 4.41 second behind the leading Russian pair, after three rounds. Think of that, over three runs on a 1365 meters course. Measure the difference between first place and the Jamaican time and you will find a minuscule difference. Meaning? The Jamaican team was very competitive, in a highly competitive and tight field. I could talk more about equipment, facilities, support, etc., but why bore you with what you know already in principle as the impediments they faced? The real flop? The sloppy journalism of taking a report from Agence France Presse and just dropping it onto the pages of the nation of the bobsledders, with little more thought that it takes to watch 4.41 seconds tick off a clock.

Bad

FIFA is not far from being considered a dinosaur in terms of its willingness to embrace technology to make football better in terms of quality of decisions at the highest levels of the sport. I am biased because I think certain changes are long overdue. I applauded the acceptance of goal-line technology this season, which has avoided many repetitions of egregious mistakes of goals not given (or even ‘no goals’ happening). Just this Saturday, we saw a crucial goal given to West Bromwich in their English Premier League draw with Fulham, after the ball barely crossed the line–all that’s needed. Mistakes are costly in many ways–monetarily, standings, etc.

Lampard scores past Neuer but referee 'saw' no goal
Lampard scores past Neuer but referees ‘saw’ no goal

This week, I again saw the case for instant replays in matches, especially to review decisions that concerns goals or goal-scoring possibilities. Liverpool lost to Arsenal in the FA Cup, but were denied what seemed like a clear penalty kick. Review would have at least given the officials the chance to see what they missed in the blur of action. Barcelona were awarded a penalty against Manchester City during this week’s UEFA Champions League. Let’s just focus on where the foul took place. I say outside the penalty area, definitely: no penalty. Some, even former referees, talk about ‘continuation’ and ‘second touch’. Guff, if ever I heard it. You handle a ball twice, one hand outside, one inside, it’s not the second touch that counts.

I’m not convinced by any arguments about losing flow of matches or time lost. The flow of games is broken more by many other things, and the importance of some decision argue against wanting to just ‘keep the game flowing’ above other considerations. My argument is simple: referees are asked to do something that is humanly very difficult–see everything clearly, even when at high-speed and from bad angles. Replays give officials the chance to look again. They can have their decisions confirmed or denied. It’s that simple. The use of replays has been good in removing much uncertainty from the minds of players and officials–fewer simmering arguments for decades. If FIFA wants to pretend that officials are superhuman, good for them. The world increasingly knows an ass when it sees one.

Ugly

I don’t know which is worse: the alleged sexual assault on a woman in the care of the St Mary Infirmary, or the case of cover-up on the part of administrators at the Infirmary. Both are disgusting. Desmond McKenzie, Opposition Spokesman on Local Government condemned the matter, and said that the incident took place on the February 9, but following what is suspected to have been a case of cover-up on the part of administrators at the Infirmary, was only officially brought to the attention of the St Mary Parish Council Wednesday at a meeting of its Poor Relief Committee. Add to this reports that the perpetrator was allowed to ‘clean himself up’ before fleeing. Jamaica has some people who are desperate. But, we also have a desperate shortage of people running institutions who are capable of making good decisions.

How many crabs in the barrel?

I like to say to my youngest daughter that I want to give her chances to succeed, not to fail. Jamaica seems hell-bent on doing just the opposite. I read yesterday a report about one of our premier athletes, a Taekwando fighter, Nicholas Dusard. He’s been caught up in a controversy about whether he should have been nominated for ‘sportsperson of the year’ honours. The national federation was up in arms that he’d not been nominated. Now, he has come forward to tell a bit more of the story, which is basically that the national federation have been neglecting, even hampering, his progress. Here’s the story briefly.

Dusard won gold at the 2013 International Sport Kickboxing Association World Championships in North CyprusScreen Shot 2014-01-06 at 9.15.27 AM, in November 2013. But, he says he has suffered years of neglect by the body responsible for national sporting honours despite his achievements on martial arts mats all over the world. In other words, he had succeeded DESPITE lack of support.

In his words, “I was barred from representing Jamaica at the World Taekwando Federation (WTF) World Champs in 2013 despite being a WTF black belt and having full sponsorship, just because I could not attend a five-day training camp in Boston, in May, at my expense.”

Why did he have to go abroad to get national assessment? Jamaica Taekwon-Do Federation (JTF) president Chris Chok confirmed that Dusard was omitted due to his not attending the Boston camp, which, Chok said, was a necessity. He added: “We appointed a coach who had a dojo in Boston. We took up this opportunity to train there to evaluate the guys. We already had four athletes representing Jamaica in Boston. Would it be fair for them to come to Jamaica to train?” Chok also said, “Yes, he would have to travel at his expense because we don’t have that amount of funds.

So, our premier athlete in a sport was forced to go abroad at his expense to meet the needs of an appointed national coach based abroad. These are IMPOSITIONS, if you make them necessities. The national federation claiming poverty as part of its rationale is just laughable.

In making strategic decisions do leaders in Jamaica ask themselves some basic questions?

  • Is what I am doing really necessary?
  • Is what I am doing truly reasonable?
  • Is what I am doing helping to develop that for which I am in charge?
  • How will what I am doing appear to a neutral person?

If they are and coming up with good answers, then let me be silent. But, let’s just put the Dusard case simply in a different context. Imagine if our national athletic association decided to appoint a coach who was based abroad. Would it seem reasonable, sensible and good for development to have as the ONLY OPTION our top athlete(s) go to his/her training facility AT THEIR EXPENSE? Would we refuse them the chance to be assessed locally?

We have to stop these processes that set us up to fail rather than to succeed. Our talent is an asset that is being wasted all too readily. We are not investing properly and our priorities are skewed, and we will rue this because we cannot develop without investment, in the economy and its people. Either we’ve been crabs in the barrelcrabniggas so long that we do not know that we can do things otherwise, or we somehow get perverse pleasure from constantly shooting ourselves in the foot.

Miss, manage this please

I don’t want to go on a ‘bash Jamaica’ rant, but I am going to go on a ‘bash Jamaica’ rant. I want to believe that this country has the capacity to do better, otherwise, I may as well pack my bags and find a pole on which to squat. But, I have to ask “Can we get there from here?”

As an economist, I learned about the profit motive, and how it is supposed to result in the effcient allocation of resources. I have never been truly comfortable with that principle when I looked at how private companies operated. I saw lots of inefficiency and many aspects of ‘slackness’ that affected the companies and those who used their products or services.

I know that this phenomenon is not Jamaican, so it’s not my experiences here that lead me to feel ranty. I’ve seen it in the USA. In fact, I lived it yesterday with the telecommunication behemoth, Verizon–from whom I am awaiting a refund from closing my cable service months ago, but who seem unable to get the money to me or figure out what they did with the money. But, I will make that a story for another day.

What Jamaica has is an interesting conundrum: some seemingly very capable and affable people working, mainly in the business of direct interaction with people, providing services or selling goods. But then they are in the hands of ‘managers’ who leave me wondering what it is they think they are doing.

Friday has become ‘my day’, i.e., I try to use it to do my business over other things or just to suit myself: I usually don’t have to focus on picking up from school or after-school activities. I go to take breakfast at a little ‘health shake hangout’ and think freely in a very relaxed space. Yesterday, I did that and felt in a very cheery mood till mid-morning, when I decided to follow-up on an email message I had received while drinking my aloe and shake.

For my sins, I’ve written a lot since coming back to Jamaica, and a few of my thoughts have found their way into the newspapers. The Gleaner has published some of my musings as their ‘letter of the day’. I got a wonderful surprise a few months ago, when I received and email from the paper telling me that my letter entitled me to a book voucher from Sangster’s book store. I followed up and arranged to pick up my voucher, or so I thought. I went once to the store in Liguanea.sangsters_Logo[1]I was told that the voucher was not there, but would be contacted when it came it. I took it that this would be in a matter of days. I’d been advised that I had to respond to the entitlement message within 30 days or it would be void. I thought I had acted in a timely manner.

Because I am truly sinful, I kept on writing and the Gleaner kept on publishing, so I racked up a few of these ‘letters of the day’. I followed up again with Sangster’s. I still had not gotten the first voucher (and my first letter was in July). That struck me as being a bit slow, but I was content to hang in there. Then I got my post-shake message and, because I was not far away, and had time, I decided to head off to Liguanea again to pick up my voucher. Here’s a cameo of my visit:

Me: I’ve come to collect the book voucher for writing a Gleaner letter of the day.
Assistant: Let me speak to a supervisor. She exits, stage centre, and returns moments later. He says he doesn’t have it.
Me: But I got an email from Mrs. X saying it was sent to the branch for collection. I’ve been through this before and I still never got the voucher last time and no one called me, as promised, to say it was here. That was 2 months ago. Let me speak to the supervisor. (I realised at that point that the latest message had not said “immediate”, and the “sent” could merely mean that it was going from somewhere but not yet received somewhere else.) I went with the assistant to the man’s office and I posed my question to him directly. He went back into his office and within seconds came back to the door.
Supervisor: Here it is! I did not see it on my desk.

Me (to Assistant): What life lesson should we draw?

Assistant: If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.

Now, all the people involved on the book store side seemed both intelligent and charming, in fact, wonderfully good-natured, as far as the assistants were concerned. We laughed at this experience and tried to see the good side from our interaction. But, what was really going on? Could the manager really not see the envelope with the voucher? Why did he not have a ‘file’ with them stacked? The Gleaner publishes a ‘letter of the day’ every single day. I didn’t go into that but spoke about “processes need to be made better”. The supervisor agreed. I want to trust his good nature and believe that he will try to work with others to get around the basic problems that I experienced.

But, the other side is about what is going on in many Jamaican businesses–and, I understand that this goes on too in public sector agencies, and they get bashed for their bureaucratic failings. Are people working hard at being the best they can be? Our ‘productivity’ has been measured as being low, and in a broad sense that’s part of our problem in being competitive. Book stores face plenty of foreign competition, especially with access to the Internet making the world the market place. Sangster’s has local competition. I am presuming that Sangster’s has been profitable and the company is striving to stay in business, grow its business, and provide excellent service. Maybe, they do that in the core activity of selling books. But, given that they have more to do than that, do they manage the activities well? Do they review what they do to see that it’s efficient and effective? Do they plod along doing things without much regard to what results they are getting and the experience that their customers are having?snail

Jamaica, I’m really patient, but you can’t keep making people try and try again!!