Category Archives: Football

Fantasy Premier League 2015/16: Halftime Report

Gosh, I’ve been late trying to get this report up – we’re already in GW24 as I write this.

Anyway, FPL this season has been somewhat of a nightmare for me. Every player purchased, punt, captained, selection just didn’t work! Let’s check out my awful performance as at GW 20 – the halfway point:

At the conclusion of GW 20, I was already free falling down my mini-league, hovering around spot no. 15 (I think). I had only managed to amass a total of 1,002 points and globally ranked at 1,149,644. From a financial viewpoint, I only managed to increase my team value +2.8M . I even failed to make the cut for the FPL Cup after GW18. Sigh.

Comparatively, last year, by this mid-point, I had already increased my team value pass the $105M mark and globally ranked in the 50K bracket. Of course, I could take comfort that this year’s edition is proving exceptionally challenging for many old hands or those who have scored well in previous seasons. Hmmmm

As I ponder at my disappointing season, I can only reflect on what I did right or wrong…

What I Did Right

  1. Keeping faith in Aguero and Kane – The Argentine striker singe handedly rescued my season in GW8, when I scored 105 points; and Kane continues to be consistently scoring points for me in recent weeks
  2. Good early punts – I already had Mahrez and Payet early on on my team, and now we see both them on the template midfield on most teams

What I Did Wrong

  1. Punting with my Wildcard – After the early form struggle, I managed to surge to the top of my mini league after GW8. My mistake? Immediately using my WC to solidify my team by making punts on cheaper strikers and messing around with my solid original team.
  2. Pathetic defence – Somehow I was cursed this season by buying in defenders who either don’t play or get injured almost immediately thereafter- Rojo, Darmian, Gabriel, Rose, etc. The non-points from my defenders seriously hurt me this season.
  3. .Bad choice for captaincy – Strangely, high scoring captains this season don’t seem to be from teams playing at home. Hmmmm.
  4. Too much faith in high scoring players of the past – Hazard, Rooney, Sanchez, etc. comes to mind.
  5. The Vardy denial – I just somehow refused to believe Vardy would continue scoring as he did so far. I thought having Mahrez to provide cover for Leicester would be good enough. Sigh. Too late to turn back now. He’s become too expensive!:-(

By mid-way point, it would be very difficult for me to claw back into my mini-league. Most teams would undoubtedly have the same template, so the number players that are different would be too small to make significant impacts. My only hope of surging up to catch the leaders?

  • Taking risks on players not from the template. For example, choose Deeney instead of Ighalo.
  • Taking risks on non-popular captain choices. For example, with everyone putting the armband on Aguero, I may have to take the risk and put it on Payet instead
  • Play my remaining gamechips properly…

Oh well, there’s always next season! :-)

Fantasy Premier League: 2015 Recap

Woo Hoo! Champions Again! That’s the fifth time I’ve topped my own mini league in my fifth year of participation ( first 3 years in Citizen Sports Fantasy League and last 2 years in FPL) *ahem*

Personally, I have to admit that whilst this year’s FPL edition wasn’t was nailbiting as last year’s battle, it did have its fair share of ups and downs too. Much of the main battle in my mini league took place in the first half of the season where the top spot changed hands a couple of times. However, after I started to extend my lead at the top after GW20, the main challenge was to maintain that lead consistently.

I ended my FPL campaign this season with 2,095 points (averaging 55.1 points per GW). This would be comparatively POORER (sigh) compared to my 2,254 points (average 59.3 points per GW) hauled a year earlier. But when I compared my overall global rank, I was placed at 58,531 out of a total of 3,502,998, which put me in the top 1.67%! This was a significant improvement from last year’s global rank of 158,420 (top 5%). This shows that this year’s competition was tougher on average for everyone!

From the investment portion, I performed poorly again, raking in an addition of only $5.4M over the course of the campaign, giving me a total team value of $105.4M. This was slightly lower that last year’s figures, and I believe it was due to the fact that I made most of my trades just before the GW day, compared to the past where I would invest early in hoping to pick up some good ROI.

In terms of scoring, my highest score was 92 points whilst my lowest was registered at 23 points. Overall, my scoring was pretty consistent, forming a near perfect bell curve with the following stats:

<40 points (poor): 3 times

40-59 points (average): 16 times

60-79 points (good): 16 times

>80 points (excellent): 3 times

The task of holding out the lead at the top is not always easy. On average my lead over No. 2 would hover around the 20-30 point mark, which would be usually safe, provided an unknown differential suddenly scored a hattrick or something…but I believe it was my consecutive 70+ points scoring from GW 34-36 that gave me a much more comfortable lead going into the DGW 37 and the final GW38. Eventually I had a 88 point cushion over No. 2, compared to the minute 14 point cushion victory last season!

This year, the race for No.2 was perhaps more exciting instead. Numerous friends took turns to take over the No. 2 spot but in the end it turned out that my usual nemesis from last season, Friend P, would still pop out and staged a comeback after a troublesome early start, to secure the No. 2 spot. Well done!

 

So, did I think I performed well this year? Nope. Obviously it could have been better. There were quite a number of incorrect decisions I made throughout the season that really hurt my FPL campaign in the long run. There’s still so much more to learn from this FPL game that I have to continue to improve myself in seasons to come.

My 3 immediate targets for the new season?

1. Break into the top 50K in global rank (slipped off the 50K in the final 2 GWs. Sigh)

2. Break into top 15 in BFM league ( I hit No.9 earlier this season so this is certainly doable; ended up at no. 30)

3. Make my team worth more than $107M (this has key implications to forming a solid team with big hitters)

My Dinh: An Unexpected Journey

Football fans live for moments.

Moments when their team wins a treble of trophies with two goals in injury time.

Moments when their team goes through the entire season undefeated.

Moments when their team rallies back from a 0-3 haltime deficit to win the Champions League.

Slightly more than a month ago, on 11 December 2014 to be exact, I experienced watching a football match in Vietnam’s My Dinh National Stadium. However, this was quite simply not an ordinary match. Some unexpected and unwanted events leading up to this match made it one of the most memorable football moments in my life. This is my tale of the events that transpired leading up to this epic moment in Hanoi.

The AFF Suzuki Cup is arguably this region’s most revered football tournament. On 29 November 2014, Malaysia had just came back from the brink of elimination to score two very late goals and beat defending champions Singapore 3-1 in their final group match. The victory meant that against all odds, Harimau Malaya, as the Malaysian football team is affectionately called, had just qualified for the Semi-Final stage. As runners-up in Group B, Malaysia would have to play Group A champions Vietnam whilst Group B champions Thailand would take on the Philippines in the other semi-final. The first leg of the semi-final between Vietnam and Malaysia was to take place in Shah Alam Stadium, Malaysia on 7 December 2014 and the return leg would be in My Dinh Stadium, Hanoi, Vietnam on 11 December 2014.

I was doubly excited with those developments because I had some business to attend to in Hanoi around the same time of the 2nd leg of this Semi-Final! What an opportunity of a lifetime to watch a live football match in another country cheering for your own country as the visiting team!! Wait, there’s more! There was even the possibility of watching Malaysia qualify for the final LIVE in another country! Of course, this would require Malaysia to perform well enough in the first leg first…

A Bloody Disgrace

On 7 December 2014, Vietnam came into Malaysia for the first leg encounter, totally controlled the match, made a mockery of our football and went home deservedly with a 2-1 victory. Unfortunately, this match would not be remembered for this victory.

After the final whistle, some shameless, idiotic, uncivilised Malaysians behaved like hooligans and attacked some of the Vietnamese football fans who had come to watch the match. Pictures of those bloody scenes quickly went viral and put Malaysia on the global map for the wrong reasons (again)…

Image Credits

Suddenly, the trip to Hanoi didn’t sound so welcoming anymore for any Malaysian, more so for any Malaysian who wanted to step into My Dinh Stadium for the second leg! I thought about it for a while (maybe about 5 seconds) before deciding I would still try to get the tickets since I would already be there anyway….

….but I soon found out that getting those second leg semi-final tickets was so DIFFICULT it might as well have been listed down as one of Hercules’ labors!

A Lesson in Persistence

Unlike the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia, Vietnam didn’t have an official football ticketing hotline portal where fans could simply make their bookings in the comfort of their home. Believe me, I had been regularly visiting the AFF Suzuki Portal DAILY for updates on their 2nd leg ticket sales but there seemed to be none. The closest I found was some ‘aleale’ Vietnamese ticketing site which apparently has sold some football tickets online before. Unfortunately, the site didn’t seem to have any information on the AFF Suzuki Cup match either.

In desperation, I even started browsing numerous Vietnamese websites with the tags ‘Vietnam vs Malaysia’, ‘Suzuki Cup Semi Final’, etc.  but to no avail. Many of those sites only increased my frustration by showing photos of local Vietnamese football fans queueing up to buy the tickets from outside the stadium! It was obviously hopeless to book the tickets online. Sigh. In the end, I realised that my only hope was to go directly to the stadium in Hanoi to see if they have any special tickets allocated for Malaysian fans there.

Image Credits

On 10 December 2014 (the day before the match), I boarded an early flight from KLIA to Hanoi. It was a pretty strange flight too. I mean, I had expected that a flight to Hanoi a day before the big game to be filled to the brim with ecstatic Malaysian fans but this one had only about 4 other fans (who also didn’t have tickets with them!) and a press reporter. Probably all the Malaysian fans were already in Hanoi. Yeah, that must be it…J

My kiasu Option A was to arrive in the early part of the afternoon, and get my airport taxi to stop by My Dinh on the way to my hotel. Thankfully, I remembered to pack some amount of sense with me for this trip. With some heavy luggage in tow, I decided to check into the hotel first before coming out again to the stadium. Besides, I might have to stand in queue for hours too. *shivers*

After I had checked into Paradise Boutique Hotel in the Old Quarters, I excitedly told the hotel staffs there that I wanted to buy a ticket to watch the football match tomorrow. With a horrified look, they all exclaimed in unison that ALL the tickets would have been sold out by now already. They continued to say that the only way I could get a ticket now was only through the black market touts, which was apparently quite an embarrassing industry in Vietnam whenever big events such as this one came up. I must have been totally stunned or speechless for a few minutes because the hotel staffs then tried their best to console me by making some phone calls to their friends to confirm the ‘sold-out ticket’ news. They even tried to call the stadium itself but there was no answer. In the end, they offered for me to watch the match on the hotel TV with them tomorrow night.

I was really moved by their kind gestures and efforts to help me buy my ticket and the suggestion to watch the match in the hotel. However, I just felt that watching the football match on the TV knowing that the stadium was like 40 minutes away had W-R-O-N-G written all over it. I knew in my heart that I just couldn’t give up so easily. But for that day, perhaps, I was done. Since the stadium was quite a distance from the Old Quarters and I also had a pre-arranged food tour at 5.00pm that day, I felt it was rather risky to try to go all the way to the stadium at that moment. So I decided to continue my quest for my ticket the next day, knowing very well that I would then have less than 12 hours to do it…

Early the next morning, I went out and flagged a Xe Om (motorcycle taxi) back to my hotel, where I sought the help of one of the hotel staff to translate my desire to charter his services for the next 4 hours. I calculated that I would need about one hour to get that elusive football ticket and the remaining 3 hours sightseeing around Hanoi. After agreeing on a price, the Xe Om rider suggested that before heading out to My Dinh, we could try out a ticket office at a smaller stadium in the city area first. I was glad that I had picked a rider who certainly knows where to buy football tickets!

After putting on my motorcycle helmet (which served no function because it was so thin!!), we sped off towards the inner city area. Within minutes, we arrived at the entrance of the smaller stadium where some middle-aged ladies swarmed around our motorcycle in an instant, flashing stacks of the football tickets at my face. I was shocked to hear that they were selling the cheapest seating tickets for VND1,000,000, which was equivalent to about USD50!! I politely told them no as my Xe Om rider took us away. For the next 30 minutes or so, I thoroughly enjoyed probably THE most scariest motorcycle rides of my life as my Xe Om zoomed in and out of the city streets, against the traffic, through red lights, etc. before finally arriving outside the gates of My Dinh…

Unfortunately, the situation was pretty much the same as the smaller stadium we just came from. There were some locals with a handful of tickets, offering to sell them to me for as high as VND 1.5M (USD75)! I tried my best to explain to them I was looking to buy any special allocated tickets for Malaysian fans, but it was rather hopeless since none of them spoke any English. I then motioned for my rider to take me into the stadium compounds to see if the there was any ticketing office open inside. So we rode around the stadium for a while but couldn’t see any opened counter either.

At that time, some Vietnamese high school students were either hanging out on the stadium grounds or warming up for some activity there. My rider decided to stop and asked them if they knew where the ticket counters were. When the school children found out I was from Malaysia, their tones started  to change. Some chuckled and some jokingly (I hope) carried some athletics gear or staff towards us. Then one of them gave the universal call sign which struck me immediately. I should try calling the Vietnam Football Federation (VFF)! Now, why didn’t I think of that in the first place?! After a quick google, I found the website with the phone number but there was no answer on the other line! So with an apologetic wave, we left the students and was about to exit the stadium compounds when my rider proactively stopped a lady near the side of the road. After some exchanges of Vietnamese, the lady pointed her finger to somewhere across the main road from the stadium. Without delay, he took me across the main road towards the direction pointed out by the lady and before I knew it, I had arrived at the very gates of the VFF! It was just slightly after 10am that morning which led me to accept the possibility that the office may not be opened yet.

My rider then got down with me here and walked with me into the VFF (yes, it was strangely very quiet and empty inside too!), to look for someone, ANYONE at all that may be able to help me. We were fortunate to run into a rather helpful officer who could speak English (yes!!!) So, I immediately enquired if there were any special allocated tickets for the Malaysian fans for tonight and if there were, how or where could I purchase them? His initial response was to request if I had any official letter from FAM or documents from Malaysia. In exasperation, I told him all I was REALLY a Malaysian! And all I had was my Malaysian MyKad with me to prove that I was Malaysian! After (finally) believing me, he told me that to his knowledge, some 1,000 tickets had been earlier sent to Malaysia or some fan club but later they were all returned back to Vietnam. So he really had no idea if there were any more tickets left…:-(

Just when it seemed that my quest would meet its gloomy doom here, the kind officer asked me to wait for a while as he disappeared into his office to contact the Secretary General or some Director on his mobile. After 10 minutes, he came out and mysteriously motioned me to follow him into the office where there was just him and one other staff. When the door had closed, he put on quite a serious-looking face, narrowed his eyes and spoke softly in a creepy bass-like tone, “So, tell me…actually, um….how many tickets do you want?” I responded in a similar serious tone, “Err..just one. For me only.” I could sense a sigh of relief written on his face as he turned and said something to his colleague in Vietnamese. His colleague then went into another room for a few seconds before coming out with ONE FOOTBALL TICKET, which they were willing to sell it to me at its ORIGINAL PRICE of VND150,000 (USD7.50)!! The officer also told me this ticket is in Section D8, which is quite close to section D10, where most Malaysians should be seated. He even offered to make a few phone calls to find out if there were any Malaysian fan clubs travelling to the Stadium later so that I could join them if I wanted. I simply thanked him for going through such great lengths to get me a ticket. I was deeply moved by the hospitality and friendliness of the officer and his colleague to entertain a simple football fan from Malaysia. On the other extreme, I probably also looked like some football fanatic in desperado mode to get those tickets at all costs…:-p

In a cheerful mood, I left the VFF and went about on my sightseeing tour of Hanoi (which shall be blogged about within the next few weeks..). About two hours later, I received a phone call from this same officer from VFF, who sounded rather distressed. He told me that he made a mistake. The section where the Malaysian supporters are supposed to be seated is C10 and NOT D10! It meant that I would possibly be the only Malaysian sitting amongst the Vietnamese that night! He then offered me a full refund if I wished to return the ticket back to him. Since I was already back in the city area, I said it was OK and I felt safe to sit with the locals there. After going through such an ordeal to get my hands on the ticket, giving it up was the last thing on my mind!

A Lesson in Determination

The match was supposed to kick-off at 7.00pm. So at 5.00pm, I suited up in my Malaysian jersey (yeah, somehow passion overwrites sanity when it comes to football…) and made my way down to hail a taxi. I t was then that I realised I had underestimated the Hanoi after-office traffic! Not many taxis were able to come INTO the Old Quarters as with heading out TOWARDS My Dinh at that time of the day! Even Xe Oms were not really keen to go anywhere near My Dinh that evening. My mind raced frantically for options. Should I pay a premium price for any Xe Om or taxi crazy enough to take me there? Should I start running there on foot like, now?

Just then, a local couple checked into the hotel. Apparently, they were from the South, probably Ho Chi Minh area and they came up to Hanoi because the husband, whom I shall refer here as Bro V, had wanted to watch the match too! With the help of the hotel staff, we both agreed to travel together and share the cost of a taxi. In my heart, I thought it could also be safer for me to travel together with a local too. Phew!

After several restless minutes waiting trying to hail taxis outside the hotel, Bro V and I eventually found a 7-seater taxi (Innova, I think) to take us there. Actually it was more like forcefully getting ourselves into the taxi and demand that we be taken to My Dinh! The ash-stricken face of the driver was like he had just been mugged by two football fanatics! Anyway, the traffic that night was simply HORRIBLE. It was as if the entire city of Hanoi was headed to My Dinh to watch the match! The taxi virtually stopped every minute and visually it looked impossible to even get to the stadium at all!

Of course, I have to salute our taxi driver for that night as well. Knowing that the both of us had a football match to catch, he practically took many shortcuts through housing areas and drove as if he rode a motorcycle! The jam was also so frustratingly long that it was already 7.00pm (kick-off time already!) when we got stuck at some roundabout along the main road where there was a continuous stream of vehicles inching their way towards My Dinh. Although we couldn’t understand each other by language, Bro V and I nodded our heads in agreement as if we were in a Vulcan mindmeld. We quickly paid the driver his fare (plus a tip too for braving himself to come this far!) and disembarked there as we proceeded on our journey to My Dinh on foot for another 2 or 3km! Determination had taken over!

Somewhere after the first kilometre, Bro V suddenly motioned me to follow him into some bushes by the side of the road. I immediately understood and followed him there to answer the call of nature. If anything, I can erm, proudly say that I have pee-d by the roadside in another country! *ahem!* Anyway, the journey on foot wasn’t all about bush stories! There were also hordes of Vietnamese trying to sell flags and headbands…. literally in your face! At the same time, there were also quite a number of Vietnamese who muttered some stuff towards my direction but I was glad Bro V was there to fend them off, although I really had no idea what he responded! From his hand language, I deduced that he was telling them that I was Vietnamese too! 😛

Although the walk was pretty far (by my flabby standards..), my legs didn’t really feel tired at all. Perhaps the brightly lit stadium acted like some beacon of light, drawing us nearer and nearer to it. As we got nearer, the stadium lights felt brighter and our bodies felt recharged as well! So it wasn’t long before we arrived at My Dinh….

Wefie with Bro V upon arrival at My Dinh!!

 

…only to discover that there was a 500 meter queue of humans, holding and waving their tickets in the air, trying to gain access to enter the main gates….and it was already 7.15pm!! This was where I said goodbye to Bro V, who managed to conveniently squeeze himself into the queue. Of course, it was easier for him because he was a Vietnamese and also NOT wearing a Malaysian jersey! Sigh. On my own, I wandered aimlessly until I found a security personnel and asked if there was any other entrance. All I got was a shrug. *&*&^%##@ So I slowly walked along the entire queue of humans to to survey if there are any Malaysians there which I could ‘tumpang’ and queue in together. Alas! There was NONE!!!

Being the very kind and courteous visitor in a foreign land, I respectfully lined up at the tail end of the queue. As I inched closer and closer towards the gate, I could already hear deafening cheers emanating from the stadium. So close now!!!  Like everyone else in queue, I then took out my ticket and waved it above my head. Then all of a sudden, it was as if the officers at the outer gate didn’t quite bother checking everyone’s tickets as the entire crowd started to barge through the gates with ease! My next challenge was then to locate my section of the Stand – D8. Unfortunately, the signboards inside the stadium were not very clear and I had to practically jog around the entire stadium (from the outside, of course!) before finding Section D. I felt my heart pounding so hard inside of me as I wiped off the sweat off my forehead after my unintentional night exercise jog as the security guard opened the gate to let me into the Section D of the stadium. This was it. I could smell the excitement as I walked up the ramp of Section D…

…right into the immeasurable thousands of Vietnamese fans blocking almost every other available inch of the opening section of the ramp! I was completely surrounded by an ocean of red-coloured local fans cheering their team on loudly. The entire atmosphere that night was electrifying. Saying My Dinh was a full house that night was an understatement. It was clearly an over-capacity crowd. Most of the fans were not only standing, some were even standing on the top of the seats! I scanned around the over-populated Section D and came to one simple conclusion: I was NEVER going to get to my seat that night, EVER. Anyway, that didn’t matter much because I had finally MADE IT there! And to make things sweeter, the score at that moment was already Malaysia 2 Vietnam 0!!

A Lesson in Survival

So all I could do was to stand, stretch out my neck and watched the game from my current position at the top of the Section D ramp. It was a good thing I am quite tall too. Local fans around me were also pushing, tip-toeing, etc. but I had no complaints whatsoever. My country was winning! And then suddenly Vietnam were awarded a penalty. Gasp! When it was successfully converted, the entire stadium erupted in a united, deafening roar of joy. I really felt like I was trapped inside a giant boom box! Malaysia 2 Vietnam 1. The score was now tied, both on that night and also on aggregate. About 5 minutes later, the exact opposite happened. Malaysia sprung an attack from left where a cross was accidentally put into the Vietnam goal by its own defender! Malaysia 3  Vietnam 1! Just like that, My Dinh became so eerily silent. Surrounded by thousands of Vietnamese, I only cheered silently in my heart, for my own good. 😛 I also felt more and more stares darting in my direction now…

This was when I bumped into Malay guy on my left, which I will name him as Bro H, who was also tip-toeing himself to watch the game. We started to exchange a conversation (something hard to come by in Hanoi!!) and I found out he was actually a Singaporean! He was also there on business with his Vietnamese counterpart (who was also quite dark skinned, by the way) and decided to come watch the match with their wives. Strangely, they only managed to get two tickets in Section D (where we were) and another two tickets in Section C, where both their wives were seated. Suddenly, as we were still chatting and watching the game, Shukor Adnan struck just before half-time to give Malaysia a 4-1 lead! The entire stadium was completely STUNNED.. At this point, I began to felt slightly restless. It was as if more Vietnamese fans just realised there was a Malaysian standing in their midst. I don’t think the bright yellow Malaysian jersey helped much too. They were still watching the match but I started to feel a little uncomfortable. Perhaps it was a little bit of paranoia but it was then that I asked Bro H if he still wanted to watch the remainder of the match or to leave at half-time. With the away goals also in effect in this competition, Vietnam would now need to score THREE goals to progress – quite daunting even by their standards. Malaysia had seemingly wrapped up the match already.

I think Bro H also sensed the same thing so we decided to go and find their wives first. Besides, he also mentioned that they have yet to eat their dinner too. Upon securing both their wives, all five of us quietly proceeded to exit the stadium. But we weren’t the only ones. Many Vietnamese fans were also leaving the stadium like a wild stampede! It was almost as if the actual match had already ended! Guess these are times where you can see the loyalty of your home fans! Heh.

Bro H and his Vietnamese friends

 

Our immediate challenge was to find a taxi. Strangely enough, this seemingly simple task was made more difficult amidst the chaotic scenes outside the stadium grounds with so many people leaving too! The numerous taxis which we saw parked outside the stadium were quickly snapped up. Bro H’s Vietnamese friend also tried to make a few phone calls to get a taxi to come to our location but no taxi seemed to show up! For the next few minutes, we tried to remain calm as we patiently waited for any taxi to stop for us. Bro H’s wife (who was in tudung) also shared her humorous experience where she had to regularly flash her Singaporean passport to many curious Vietnamese fans who kept staring and apparently asking if she was Malaysian!

However, things didn’t felt quite right when the clock ticked close to half an hour already! During that time at least 4 or 5 EMPTY taxis had ignored our hails and zipped past us without stopping. We began to question if it was something we wore (read: Malaysian jersey and Mrs H’s tudung..) or we forgot to wait at the taxi stand? Hmmmm. We even started to walk further and further away from the stadium gates to a more open space where taxis would have more room to stop for passengers. Same sad result. Bro H then suggested that I put on his jacket to cover my jersey whilst we hail the taxi. Before I took up that we offer, we worked out another strategy in tandem. Mrs H and I stood a couple of meters away as Bro H’s friend walked in the opposite direction to hail a taxi on his own. Almost immediately, a 5-seater sedan taxi stopped for him! The rest of us stealthily made quick steps towards the taxi as Bro H’s friend told his wife to get into the car first. With the front door of the taxi open, ALL of us made a sudden lunge towards the taxi, swung open the passenger-side doors and squeezed ourselves into it. There were five of us so a 7-seater taxi would have been more comfortable but considering the circumstances, I would have breathed a sigh of relief even if a trishaw had stopped for us that night! 😛

The next stage of my adventure inside the taxi was quite awkward too. The taxi driver, who seemed to grumble a bit when all of us packed ourselves into his taxi, was completely on mute button for the rest of the journey. The radio inside the taxi was on and it was broadcasting the live commentary for the semi final match (what else?!)! Everytime the very excited commentator screamed out something colourful, we would turn to Bro H’s friend and ask what happened or was it a goal? And his deadpan reply was a classic “No. Nothing. No Goal.” And even when Vietnam did score their second goal of the match much later, there weren’t any cheers inside the taxi. I was actually more relieved that Vietnam had scored. Made the overall scoreline more erm, palatable? 😀

Although I would have loved to have dinner with my new found friends, I politely declined because I also thought that the first thing I should do upon making out of My Dinh was to get myself out of my Malaysian jersey. Certainly didn’t want to provoke any more anger or hostility on foreign soil! So we got the taxi to drop me off in my hotel first before it continued on to the French Quarters where their hotel were. Of course, we did manage to exchange contacts and goodbyes as I came down at my hotel on that night, capping one of the most memorable football nights I’ve ever experienced in my life!

Epilogue

About an hour later, as I slowly sipped a cup of freshly brewed Vietnamese coffee in the chilly streets of Hanoi, I reflected on the entire episode of my experience in My Dinh again and observed three key lessons I have learnt here:

#1: Never Give Up!

Getting my ticket was already an adventure that was almost as exciting as the experience inside My Dinh itself! My unbelievable and crazy persistence in pursuing the ticket all the way to the VFF is proof that if we continue pursuing something with our whole heart, we will eventually get it!

#2: God Looks After His Children

With the euphoria toned down a bit, my senses began to kick back in and I realised that going to My Dinh under the current circumstances that night was already insane! But wearing a Malaysian jersey and getting into the stands surrounded by thousands of local fans? Downright irrational. What was I thinking? Apparently not. Anyway, I am thankful that God continues to protect me despite my idiocy. The presence of Bro V and Bro H are perfect examples of God’s amazing timing and provision of relevant people to surround me in my time of need.

#3: There’s Still Love in Football

From personal observation inside My Dinh itself, I can say that whilst Vietnamese really love their football, I don’t think they would resort to any violence that would tarnish their country. At half-time with the score of 4-1, the Vietnamese were really witnessing a TRASHING in their very own backyard. A loss of focus or an emotional discharge could have easily been triggered here. But the fans remained calm and continued cheering their team on. My fullest respect to the Vietnamese fans here. There’s still hope that LOVE still overcomes all forms of violence in football. Seriously I don’t want to know how would Malaysians respond back home had the situation been reversed? Hmmmm.

Mmmmmmm. Yes….the hot Vietnamese coffee was definitely good. But it doesn’t even come close to My Dinh. Now that football moment I experienced was something special. Something memorable. A football MOMENT that I will remember FOREVER!

 

Fantasy Premier League 2014/15: Halftime Report

Gosh….time really flew by during the on-going BPL season that I didn’t even have time to update about my 5th year foray into the world of fantasy football management in the fantasy premier league (FPL)!

Anyway, I started off the season quite solidly, scoring 69 points and ranked 66,50 globally. In my mini league, I believe I was in second or third position after round 1, which is rather important because getting a good start is key to a good campaign ahead.

Everything fell into plan until GW3, when i irrationally sold off Costa on news of some injury. That started a horrific freefall somewhat for the next few GWs. Fortunately, many of my other friends didn’t fare too well either and I was still able to stay in the top 3 position for some time.

This year, I triggered my first Wildcard only after GW5. It wasn’t due to injuries (like last year) but more of a strategic re-formation of my team pieces. This allowed me to steadily climb up and secure solid 50+ points for the next 4 weeks without sacrificing too many weekly transfers. It has been a pretty exciting race in my mini league too. Quite a roller coaster battle at the top with two Kenny’s, especially from GW8 onwards till about GW18, where there were many lead changes. I thought I totally suffered during the year end chaotic period but I guess so did everyone else! As of GW20, I still lead the league with only about 30 points breathing space from No. 2. That was when another contender, whom I shall call Bro J emerge from nowhere and is closing in very fast (as of this blog, post-GW21, Bro J is already in the No. 2 spot!)

My highs during the first 20 GWs was in GW16 when I hit 87 points and pushed my global rank to a season high 27,723. I even managed to break into the top 10 (at no. 9) of the BFM league! Another achievement was qualifying for the Knockout Cup, which starts after GW18. Unfortunately, I hit my low a few weeks later in GW19 with a pathetic score of just 27 points. This ensured a I was bundled out quite early this year of the cup only after 2 rounds! Sigh.

As of the halfway point of GW20, I have thus far accumulated 1,079 points and currently rank at a global rank of 58,491. My team budget has increased $5.7M to stand at $105.7M. My key strategies for maintaining my lead in my mini-league?

1. Keep lead at least till after Winter Wildcard – This instant reset button will make those playing catch-up very difficult to erm, catch-up!

2. Getting the captain’s armband choice right. For example, those that took the risk and captained Sanchez in GW21 scored 38 points vs only 6 for the majority who went for Hazard. Sigh.

New Man United First 11

With the early season transfer window officially closed last weekend, we Man Utd fans are now faced with one seriously complex question:

“What would the Best Man Utd Starting 11 look like?”

One of the premium strikers joining Man Utd on loan at the tail end of the transfer window deadline was Rademel Falcao. With the Colombian on board, how would LVG manage his side on his preferred 3-5-2 formation? Would one of Rooney or RVP have to be sacrificed to accommodate Falcao? Or would Rooney play in a slightly more deeper role now? Or does LVG just abandon the 3-5-2 and slot in a 4-3-3 to allow his trident of star strikers to wreak havoc week in week out in the BPL?

I’m sure many Man Uts fans would have their own preferred first 11. Here is my ideal first 11 for Man Utd this season:

football formations

 

I stuck with a 3-4-1-2, slotting in Rooney in the ‘hole’ behind RVP and Falcao. Mata would provide the creativity as the attacking MF whilst Hererra would be the holding MF. History shows Man Utd also does well with wide-men and I would pick Di Maria and Valencia to light up both left and right sidelines respectively. In defence, I picked Blind to cover the central defender’s role. whilst many people may have only seen him as a left-back in the World Cup, his profile actually shows he is equally adept in covering the middle. His lack of pace also seems to concur with my pick to slot him in the heart of our defence. Both LB and RB, Rojo and Jones are perfect fits in those areas and their speed and courage to push forward makes this line-up a very offensive-minded one.

But of course, in the CURRENT scenario where Man Utd is beset with numerous injuries, I thought I should come up with a short-term first 11 based on the available players, so here it is:

football formations

Formation is still a 3-4-1-2. Only difference here is Blind slotted into the defensive midfielder role behind Mata. In defense, Evans would have to stay more consistent as he is given the CB role.

Many people may be talking about big signings like Di Maria and Falcao but personally, I felt that Daley Blind would be one of the best buys of Man Utd this season. A bit of an unknown (until the World Cup commenced), Blind is one of those versatile players who can play in numerous positions which would prove very useful in the current scenario where there are many injuries. His style of play is even a fit for the holding midfielder role!

 

I also tinkered about the possibility of a What-If scenario for LVG should he decide to stick with his 3-5-2 formation. In this formation, my favoured first 11 would look like this:

football formations
I would pick both RVP and Falcao up front because they are technically better finishers compared with Rooney. The important man in the ‘hole’ behind the strikers is a toss up between Rooney and Mata. In this formation, one of these two would have to be sacrificed. Valencia and Di Maria are the natural wingers whilst LVG could then utilise the speeds of both Rojo and Jones as wing backs! The back-3 would have to be players who don’t usually forage up front too often, so I would pick Shaw, Smalling and Evans here. Not sure how Hererra might fit into a 3-5-2 this way though. Hmmmm.

…which led me to another alternative formation, a 4-4-2 as follows:

football formations

 

Under this formation, Hererra would be able to support Mata in their favoured positions in the middle. Rooney would get to play his favoured role in the hole. Only problem  here is either RVP or Falcao needs to be sacrificed up front. Another change here is the back four where Rojo and Blind have been slotted in CB roles, which both have played before. Shaw and Jones make up the defensive backs.

With all being said, I’m just excited to see how LVG rolls out the brand-new look of Man Utd next wekeend! 😀

My 10 Memorable Moments from World Cup 2014 Round of 16

 

 

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#1: James Rodriguez’s extraordinary chested, half body spun-around, rocket volley of a goal vs Uruguay. My current personal pick for Goal of the Tournament

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#2: Tim Howard (USA) makes an astonishing World Cup record 16 saves vs Belgium!

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#3: Mexican Heartbreak as the El Tri lose 1-2 to Holland after conceding 2 goals in the final 6 minutes, the second one coming off a penalty in injury time 

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#4: Dzemaili’s incredible 120th minute Extra-Time double miss that could have taken the Swiss into a penalty shoot-out with Argentina

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#5: First ever Cooling Breaks during a World Cup match! Methinks if this continues it will really help the Europeans..

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#6: Germany’s ridiculously complicated, awkward and (obviously) FAILED freekick routine vs Algeria

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#7: Pinilla’s 120th minute Extra-Time thunderous strike which struck Brazil’s crossbar which would have given Chile a dramatic upset over hosts Brazil

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#8: Julio Cesar makes TWO big saves to become Brazil’s hero has the hosts scrape into the Quarter Finals

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#9: Extra-Time became the flavour of the Round of 16, where 5 of 8 matches went the extra distance; 2 of which were decided on penalties! Tightest Round methinks!

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#10: Having successfully frustrated Messi for 118 minutes, it only took a moment of brilliance to ‘out of nowhere’ unlock the Swiss defence and set up Di Maria for Argentina’s winner

My 10 Memorable Moments from World Cup 2014 Gameweek 3

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#1: Suarez takes a bite at Italian Chiellini’s shoulder during their final group match. He was eventually served a 9 match ban!

 

#2: Mexico coach Miguel Herrera’s super animated facial celebrations when Mexico booked their spot in the Round of 16 

#3: Swiss Shaqiri’s hattrick vs Honduras. One of his goals is definitely a nominee for Goal of the Tournament. View HERE

 

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#4: Brilliant Messi brace vs Nigeria secures top spot for Argentina in their group. One of his goals was the perfectly executed freekick, above

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#5: All Asian countries knocked out by first round…SIGH. And all disappointingly ended up bottom of the table too!

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#6: Greece scoring an injury-time penalty vs Ivory Coast to seal a 2-1 win and a place in the next Round! Heartbreak for the Africans!

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#7: James Rodriguez comes on at the half and guides Colombia to 4-1 over Japan with two assists and one brilliant solo goal above

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#8: With Portugal already eliminated, Cristiano Ronaldo signs out of the World Cup with his one and only goal

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#9: With the 4-2 trashing of South Korea, Algeria became the African nation to score that many goals at a World Cup!

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#10: For the first time ever, CONCACAF region has THREE (3) representatives in the Round of 16 – Mexico, Costa Rica and USA. Meanwhile the European scrapheap heading home include defending champions Spain, former champions England and Italy, and others like Portugal, Russia, Bosnia and Croatia

 

My 10 Memorable Moments from World Cup 2014 Gameweek 2

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#1: Defending Champions Spain sent crashing out by brilliant Chile 2-0

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#2: The Holland vs Australia thriller which ended in a 3-2 victory for Holland. Breathless.

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#3: Tim Cahill’s stunning volley vs Holland

#4: Suarez scores a brace that sends England to crushing defeat! Second goal even came off a Steven Gerrard ‘assist’!

 

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#5: Swiss Dzemaili’s  35-yard low-rocket vs France

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#6: Messi injury time brilliant winner for Argentina vs Iran

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#7: Cabaye’s unbelievable miss from close range after Benzema’s missed penalty (France vs Switzerland)

#8: Last minute goal by Portugal’s Varela snatches 2-2 draw vs USA that saves Portugal from early elimination

 

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#9: Two wins out of Two! Costa Rica qualifies for the Round of 16 from a group comprising 3 former champions – Italy, England and Uruguay!

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#10: Possibly the most BORING match to-date: Belgium vs Russia… 

My 10 Memorable Moments from World Cup 2014 Gameweek 1

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#1: Free-Kick Spray Paint!

Wonder where the ref keeps it throughout the match? :-p

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#2: Creative Hublot Time/Substitute Board

#3: Van Persie’s “Flying Dutchman” goal vs Spain

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#4: Defending Champs Spain getting a trashing from Holland

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#5: Goal-Line Technology successfully used for first time in World Cup @ France vs Honduras match

Watch the technology in action here:

http://ftw.usatoday.com/2014/06/goal-line-technology-france-honduras

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#6: Swiss’ Seferovic’s dramatic injury time winner over Ecuador

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#7: Thomas Mueller bags the tournament’s first hat-trick vs Portugal

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#8: Colombia’s well-rehearsed group dance celebrations.

Wonder if we’ll get to see a selfie celebration next?

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#9: First goal of World Cup 2014 was….an OWN GOAL. Poor Marcelo…

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#10: Pepe’s ‘red-carded’ headbutt on Mueller

Fantasy Premier League: 2014 Recap

Two Words: Champion Again!

Woo Hoo! Well…in my mini league of 26 friends, at least. Heh. On a personal note, I was really pleased with this achievement of (still) defending my mini-league title four times already ( 3 times in the Citizen Sports FB League and 1 time in the FPL) since I started to mange fantasy teams! Yeah!

Of the four past seasons, the recent one is probably one of the closest I’ve ever been ran before. I t wasn’t until probably GW37 that I was quite sure none of my friends could catch me. Check out the tussle for the top in my mini-league from GW 25 onwards:

GW25 Leader: Friend P

GW 26: P

GW 27: P

GW 28: P

GW 29: Me

GW 30: Me

GW 31: P

GW 32: P

GW 33: Me

GW 34: Me

GW 35: P

GW 36: Me

GW 37: Me

GW 38: Me!

It was quite an exciting FPL mini league overall. I was consistently in the top three early on in the season. Towards the end of GW10, I briefly took the lead, only to lose it about 3-4 GWs later. My form would stumble badly in the early part of Q2 of the season, falling behind to as badly as 7th place. I then started to pick up pace again after GW20 and played catch up week in, week out, till eventually catching up with the leaders by GW 29. It was really head-to-head from this point on. Exciting stuff. After the final GW38, I finished ahead of my second placed friend by a close 14 points. Phew! Definitely a FPL season to savour. :-)

In summary I amassed a total of 2,254 points, averaging 59.3 points/GW in the process. My overall global rank is at 158,420, out of 3,218,989 total players, just making the top 5% cut. :-) Biggest disappointment was the poor investment of players, making my yield only a measely $5.7M over the entire season, making my team value at $105.7M

Key Plays Down the Stretch:

1. Consistent Scoring: From GW31 till GW38, I had managed to score 60+ points in all but one GW, averaging 70.4 points in that span.

2. Edin Dzeko: Supposedly my third striker, Dzeko was one of my more consistent performers down the stretch, where it was littered with many coaches benching players and injuries, etc.

3. Depth of Bench: With so many double and even triple GWs, coupled with the fact that towards the end many teams were not fighting for much anymore, this led to many leading players being benched. Somehow this helped me because of my bench depth comprising of regular starters too.

4. Wildcard Playing: I thought I played both my wildcards at very timely moments in the season. The first one was played early on, around GW7/8 I think, due to the numerous injuries plaguing my team. I dealt my second WC before the international break, not only to offset the second round of injuries, but also to position a team ready for the final stretch.

5. Suarez Non Performing: With Suarez not firing on all cylinders down the stretch, it was a huge relief to me, whom I didn’t have him on my squad till late on.

Can’t wait for the new FPL season to begin again! 😀