Monday, 30 June 2014

Costa Rica prevail in penalty shootouts to reach quarters!

 Goalkeeper Keylor Navas was Costa Rica's hero as his penalty shoot-out save put ten-man Costa Rica into the World Cup quarter-finals after a 1-1 draw in extra time against Greece in Recife. Los Ticos will face Netherlands in the last eight following a hard-earned shoot-out win in a tense, cagey match between two of the surprise qualifiers for the knockout phase.

Bryan Ruiz scored seven minutes into the second half, when he spotted Greek goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis out of position and simply side-footed the ball into the bottom right corner from the edge of the box.   Oscar Duarte was then sent off 14 minutes later for a second yellow card - a decision he accepted without a murmur - but the Central American side appeared to have held on until Greek defender Sokratis chose the perfect moment to score his maiden international goal, an equaliser in injury time.  Only a fine save from Navas prevented Greece from pinching it at the death - and Navas was again the hero with a brilliant save from Theofanis Gekas.  Only a fine save from Navas prevented Greece from pinching it at the death - and Navas was again the hero with a brilliant save from Theofanis Gekas. 

Saina Nehwal wins Australian Super Series!


Ace Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal produced a dominating performance to lift her second title of the season, winning the $750,000 Star Australian Super Series after beating Spain's Carolina Marin in the summit clash here on Sunday.

The sixth seeded Indian, who had won the India Open Grand Prix Gold earlier this year, prevailed 21-18 21-11 in a 43-minute contest which left her richer by $56,000.

The 24-year-old Saina, who enjoyed a 1-0 head-to-head record against Marin going into this match, logged the first point and displayed some deft net play against her rival, stroking in some delectably timed volleys to take a 5-2 lead in the opening game.

But the 21-year-old Marin was not the one to give up easily and showed just why she is considered one of the most feisty players on the circuit. She narrowed the gap to 6-8 but seemed distinctly out of her comfort zone every time Saina dragged her towards the net.

Also, Marin didn't help her cause by committing a service error to gift an easy point to Saina, who went into the interval leading 11-7 after an intriguing rally which ended with the Spaniard smashing the shuttle wide.

Marin raised her game and the decibel levels after the break but Saina was quick to counter-attack and returned her rival's attempted smashes with quiet intensity.

In between, Marin played some fine strokes but they never came consistently enough as Saina made it 17-12. Marin's dogged determination was there to be seen in every point she played for but that alone was never going to be enough to upstage a composed Saina.

The Indian, who didn't seem affected at all by Marin's aggressive outpouring of emotions after every claimed point, sealed the opening game 21-18 after her world number 11 rival smashed one into the net 23 minutes into the match.

Dutch survive Mexico scare, in quarters!

  A stoppage-time penatly from Klaas Jan Huntelaar earned the Netherlands a dramatic 2-1 round of 16 win over Mexico in Fortaleza on Monday morning.  After a scoreless first half in sweltering heat, the breakthrough came in the 48th minute when Giovani Dos Santos unleashed a devastating long-range strike that dipped into the bottom corner.   The Dutch pressed for an equaliser, coming closest when Stefan de Vrij's header was incredibly kept out by Mexican keeper Guillermo Ochoa, but seemed unable to break a stubborn defence.  ​That was until the 88th minute, when Wesley Sneijder pounced on Klaas Jan Huntelaar's header and belted home from the edge of the area to equalise.  With extra-time looming, disaster struck for Mexico when Arjen Robben was clipped in the area, allowing Huntelaar the chance to win it from the spot - a chance he duly took.  The Netherlands, fortunate to scrape through, will now play either Costa Rica or Greece in the quarter-finals.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Rodriguez powers Colombia to quarters, face Brazil!

  James Rodriguez scored twice to put Colombia into the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time in a 2-0 victory over Uruguay on Saturday. Colombia will play host Brazil in the last eight. Rodriguez gave his team the lead with a stunning long-range volley on the turn in the 28th minute and added the second from close range shortly after the break as Colombia dominated a Uruguay side that sorely missed banned striker Luis Suarez.   Rodriguez now has a tournament-leading five goals in Brazil and further enhanced his status as perhaps the tournament's biggest revelation.  Uruguay, meanwhile, struggled badly in attack without Suarez and his replacement Diego Forlan was substituted in the 53rd after a disappointing performance in what was probably his final World Cup appearance.

Brazil beat Chile in dramatic penalty shootout!

  Brazil beat Chile 3-2 in a penalty shootout to reach the World Cup quarter-finals after their dramatic last-16 match in Belo Horizonte ended 1-1 after extra time.  Chile's Gonzalo Jara missed the vital spot-kick after Neymar had converted for Brazil.  Brazil went ahead after 18 minutes when Thiago Silva nodded on Neymar's corner and David Luiz was on hand at the back post to bundle the ball over the line, though replays suggested Chile defender Gonzalo Jara got the last touch.  Chile got back on level terms in the 32nd minute when sloppy defending let in Alexis Sanchez, who fired past Julio Cesar from close range.  Hulk had a goal disallowed for using an arm to control the ball and although Brazil dominated the second half and extra time, Chile almost stole it in the final moments when Mauricio Pinilla hit the bar.  Brazil, who beat Chile 3-0 at the same stage four years ago in South Africa, will face Colombia or Uruguay in the quarter-finals.

Friday, 27 June 2014

50 lakhs to 1600 crore: The magic of Rahul and Sonia Gandhi!

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The National Herald case in is the news because a Delhi court has summoned Rahul and Sonia Gandhi in connection to a petition.

That it is not strange, guilt is decided after a trial, not at initial step of even deciding if a trial is necessary.

However, this is a unique case no matter how one looks at it. Indeed, the facts make the events seem almost magical. And they are certainly long and full of twists. Let us have a look.

On the face of it, or at least according to the Congress party's version of events, it was an act of charity - helping out someone who was in favor to the party.

However, as per the allegations made by BJP's Subramanian Swamy in his case against Rahul and Sonia Gandhi, matters take a strange turn once you dig deeper.

Here are the facts of the case -

Associated Journals is a limited company, having shareholders. Motilal Vora, treasurer of the All India Congress Committee, was a chairman in the company..

The company was in the business of printing newspapers - the National Herald and sister publications Navjivan (Hindi) and Qaumi Awaz (Urdu).

Point to note: The National Herald was a newspaper that Jawaharlal Nehru started in 1938, so basically that paper, and the company that publishes it, has a deep link to the Congress party.

Associated Journals had accumulated huge debts and was basically bankrupt. At some unspecified time, they received a loan of Rs 90 crore from the Congress Party - interest-free – to clear all their debts.

When questioned on this 'loan' by a political party (using its funds) to a non-political entity (something they are not supposed to use their funds for), Congress spokesperson Janardan Dwivedi had the following to say -

"This support was extended by the Indian National Congress in the form of interest-free loans from which no commercial profit has accrued to INC...

In furtherance of its object and its political activities, it is a matter of pride for the Indian National Congress that it has supported The Associated Journals Limited, publisher of the National Herald and other newspapers, founded by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in 1937, which have played a role in our freedom movement.

The Indian National Congress has done its duty in supporting The Associated Journals to help initiate a process to bring the newspaper back to health in compliance with the laws of the land,"

So the Congress Party gave a massive loan to Associated Journals to pay off all of their debts, because of sentimental reasons and historic connections.  Even though there is little proof the money was used to pay salaries or other debts. In fact it is difficult to find what the money was used for exactly.

However if that was all that had occurred, obviously a Delhi court would not have said - "The chain of circumstance appears to give rise to a conclusive or irresistible inference of an agreement between the accused to commit the offences as alleged in a pre-planned manner,"

That is where the second half of this tale comes in.

As per a Business Standard report, Young Indian is a non-profit company under section 25 of the Companies Act. It was created for the following object -

“The company is engaged in activities to inculcate in the mind of India’s youth commitment to the ideal of a democratic and secular society and provides for application of its profits or income in pursuit thereof.”

You can read in detail what a section 25 company is at the end of this article here

In 2010, just one month after Young Indian was incorporated, the board of Associated Journals decided that they would transfer 90.2 million shares at Rs 10/share to it.

The same was completed just two months after Young Indian was formed.

By virtue of this shareholding, Associated Journals becomes a subsidiary of Young Indian, with all of its liabilities paid out by the 'loan' from the Congress Party.  In return for this consideration, Associated Journals accepted a payment of Rs 50 lakhs from Young Indian.

To quote the accounts filed by Young Indian auditor Pradeep Shah in 2012,

"In pursuit of its objects, the company has acquired loan owed of Rs 90,21,68,980 by the Associated Journals, presently engaged in achieving a recast of its activities so as to have its main object congruent to the main object of the company, for a consideration of Rs 50 lakh,"

So Associated Journal agreed to transfer their loan to Young Indian for Rs 50 lakhs. The Congress Party, to whom this loan has to be paid out, is losing Rs 89.5 crore.

Actually, as per the Business Standard report, the Congress party is not even going to get that Rs 50 lakhs since Young Indian has "capital of Rs 5 lakh (got through the issuance of shares) and loans of Rs 1 crore".  They have not objected to this loss, at least publicly.

What did Young Indian get for its Rs 50 lakhs?

As per this Firstpost report, the properties of Associated Journals, which now effectively belong to Young Indian and which include Delhi’s Herald House on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, is estimated to be worth Rs 1600 crore.

A profit of 99.96 percent! Quite a steal for Rs 50 lakhs.

Now, many companies are sold cheaply once they are bankrupt and under huge debts.  But the tale is not ended yet – because here at last, is where the Gandhis enter.

As per another Firstpost report, Young Indian has just 5000 shares. Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi owned 1,900 shares each. Motilal Vora, Congress Treasurer, and Oscar Fernandes, party General Secretary, own 600 shares each.

Motilal Vora, it should be remembered was also a chairman of Associated Journals.

So through this long and complicated route, Rahul and Sonia Gandhi are now proud owners of property worth Rs 1600 crore (at least), in the heart of Delhi.

While is plenty more to the story - complicated and vague accounts that are practically impossible to understand, strange book entries, unusual transfers, lack of transparency etc., this is where the crux of Swamy's complaint lies.

He alleges that the Congress Party used its political fund, meant for political activities only, to buy the Gandhis Rs 1600 crore worth of property, in exchange for Rs 50 lakhs, losing Rs 89.5 crores in the process.

If proven, then the allegations he makes contain several instances of fraud, insider trading and generally bad business and political processes.

The main questions raised are –
  • Why did Associated Journals, which could have easily made several hundred crores just by the sale of their properties, take the loan from the Congress Party? 
  • Why did Associated Journals sell itself for just Rs 50 lakhs?
  • Why did Associated Journals sell itself to a vaguely-defined, unknown and brand new non-profit company, instead of approaching other publishers or companies engaged in similar activities as its own?
  • The Congress Party initially claimed the money was to revive the National Herald paper. Are there any plans, or have any steps been taken since 2011, to achieve this?
  • The Congress Party also claims their money was used to pay salaries of 700 employees, but there is no clear proof that this money was used for this purpose at all. So where did the money go?
  • Is the Congress Party now going to get its money back from Young Indian, or is that money gone forever?
  • Since Young Indian is essentially owned by the Gandhis and other Congress Party office bearers, does the Congress Party intend to recover its money from them?
  • While the Congress Party may end up losing Rs 90 crores, isn't it amazing how the Gandhis seem to have made Rs 1600 crores from just Rs 50 lakhs?
  • Doesn't the Congress Party want its money back?
  • What exactly is Young Indian, supposedly promoting "India’s youth commitment to the ideal of a democratic and secular society", plan on doing with Associated Journals?
  • What happens now to Associated Journals vast properties?

Quite possibly more questions will emerge as the days go on.

In the end, it may emerge that technically no major laws have been broken, and on the surface it certainly seems so.

While no one can be surprised the Congress Party is willing to take a huge loss for the first family, it is difficult to image Rahul and Sonia Gandhi emerging from this mess without a major political scandal.

The case is ongoing.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Lionel Messi: 10 reasons why he's the world's greatest player

1. Balance: At 5ft 7in, Lionel Messi is just two inches taller than his idol Diego Maradona, and shares the same astonishing balance and lower body strength. This allows Messi to move laterally at incredible speed, which is why he darts inside flat-footed left-backs with such ease. 

2. Composure: Messi wastes few chances once through on goal, and rarely snatches at a shot. Once into the penalty area, he will often wait for a goalkeeper to commit himself before drinking the ball over him and into the net. 

3. Control: Like all true greats, Messi doesn't need one touch just to control the ball. Instead, his first touch often doubles as the opening stage of a goal-bound surge. 

4. Dribbling: If there's one strength which elevates Messi above the rest of the world's great players, it is dribbling. The ability to beat a number of defenders in succession makes him a truly unique talent, and, at times, almost unstoppable. Although spectacular, there is nothing ostentatious in Messi's dribbing, he's runs are often lethally direct. Just like Maradona, Messi is a largely one-sided player, rarely using his right foot once he reaches full speed. But his magnetic control of the ball with his left is so extraordinary that he can go inside, outside, or through the legs of a defender. 

5. Generosity: Messi puts a dent in the idea that forwards must be selfish to score goals. Although, on occasion, he can be guilty of ignoring better placed team-mates, Messi isn't motivated by personal glory. That's the reason why he's got more assists to goal as compared to his rivals.

6. Passing: Messi has the vision and deftness to pick out his team-mates & we've seen numerous example's of his passing ability.  

7. Power: Messi is an artist & does not rely on power. He prefers the scalpel to the shotgun, but  he is able to generate great shooting power from outside the penalty area, and do so with a barely perceptible backlift.  

8. Speed: With the small, squat build of a sprinter, Messi has incredible acceleration from a standing start. He bursts out of the blocks and reaches full speed within five yards, the kind of pace which defenders find so difficult to deal with. His short stride means he is also able to change direction at nauseating speed while keeping control of the ball. 

9. Awareness: Unlike other natural dribblers, Messi keeps his head up while on the move. This gives him options, so if a team-mate has found a pocket of space, Messi will release the ball with a deft flick, then look to receive it again, just like a great fly-half in rugby. That he is surrounded by such intelligent players, who use the ball with such alacrity, means his runs are picked out more often than not. 

10. Strength: Kicking Messi doesn't work, as lots of tough defenders across the world have understood it very well. Again, the Maradona comparison is impossible to avoid when discussing Messi's strength, as the bravery and tenacity he shows in possession is equal to that which was the hallmark of the legendary player. Messi was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency as a child, which meant he learnt his trade against bigger and stronger opponents, lessons that have remained with him.