Fulbright opportunities

June 22nd, 2018

FULBRIGHT programmess are funded by the US Department of State and administered by the Malaysian-American Commission on Educational Exchange (MACEE) in partnership with the US Embassy.

The Fulbright Malaysian Graduate Study and Research Programme is a grant award opportunity for graduate level study (Masters or Ph.D degrees) in the United States for the 2019-2020 academic year. The grants are valid for the period of one academic year and renewable by approval of the Fulbright Scholarship Board.

Application for the 2019 Graduate Study and Research programme closes on Aug 10.

For information, visit http://www.macee.org.my/2019-fulbright-graduate-study-research-program/.

The Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) programme is a nine-month, non-degree programme funded by the US Department of State.

FLTA provides young teachers of English as a Foreign Language the opportunity to refine their teaching skills and broaden their knowledge of American culture and customs, while also strengthening their foreign language instruction at US colleges and universities, where they serve as teaching assistants for their native language.

The application for the 2019 FLTA Exchange programme closes on Aug 23.

For information, visit http://www.macee.org.my/2019-2020flta/.
Read more @#mce_temp_url#

Proposals for parliamentary reforms

June 22nd, 2018

IN the post GE14 milieu, freedom is in the air and many citizens are demanding reforms to our system of governance. Out of the hundreds of proposals that have been submitted, some relate to improving the institutional efficacy of our elected legislature.

In our system of parliamentary democracy, the legislature is supposed to perform the following main functions:

● The enacting, amending and repealing of laws. This includes the monitoring of subsidiary legislation.

Oversight function to ensure accountability, answerability and responsibility of the political executive to parliament.

Control over national finance. This includes oversight of financial policy, allocation of the budget, exami­nation of the use of financial resources optimally and whether money was spent for the purpose allocated.

● Redress of constituents’ grievan­ces.

Regrettably, Parliament fails to perform the first three functions satisfactorily due to a number of debilitating factors.

Making of laws: The political executive dominates the legislative agenda. Parliament legitimates; it does not legislate.

To strengthen Parliament’s legislative role, the Government must issue policy papers on proposed Bills to enable citizens to provide feedback. Draft copies of Bills must be supplied to all MPs at least two weeks before the first reading.

Bipartisan parliamentary committees to examine Bills before or after their second reading must be appointed as is permitted by the Standing Orders of Parliament.

The committees should invite experts to give evidence. Private Members’ Bills should be encouraged as these may involve participation by NGOs and reflect the democratic impulses of society.

A Select Committee on Subsidiary Legislation must be appointed to advise parliament on whether to accept or annul a subsidiary law. The two Houses should set up a Joint Select Committee on Law Reform. An independent Law Reform Commission should report to this committee to ensure that the elected representatives have a say in keeping the law responsive to the felt necessities of the times.

Oversight of the executive: In our system of “responsible government,” the political executive is part of parliament and is required to answer questions, supply information and justify policies. However, due to time constraints, not all questions listed on the Daily Order Paper are answered.

To strengthen Parliament’s oversight function, procedures need to be developed to determine the order of questions to allay the suspicion that controversial questions are deliberately placed towards the end of the Daily Order Paper. If questions are not reached, there should be written replies to these questions within a specified time limit. Once a week the PM must be required to face the House.

Departmental Committees to evaluate the performance of each federal ministry must be set up.

A Special Standing Committee on Executive Appointments must be created to scrutinise the PM’s nominees for all key institutions. Alternatively, a Special Commission on Executive Appointments must be established to vet the nominees and to ensure that only those with ability and integrity are appointed.

The Speaker and Deputy Speakers should retire from party membership once they are elected to the posts. One of the Deputy Speakers should be from among the members of the Opposition.

Opposition business and Private Members’ Bills must be allocated time one day a week.

Control over national finance: Despite the formality of budget debates, the executive monopolises economic policies and determines how much tax is to be raised and how it is to be spent. Supplementary budgets are common.

To strengthen Parliament’s scrutiny, a Select Committee on Financial Policy and Expenditure must be set up to examine the thrust of government’s monetary policies. The jurisdiction of the Public Accounts Committee must cover all institutions receiving or generating funds, whether a Ministry, a statutory body, a government-linked company, a syariah authority like Jakim or an “off-budget agency”. No audit reports should be withheld from Parliament under the Official Secrets Act 1972.

Citizens’ grievances: Most MPs return to their constituencies often to remain in touch with the pulse beats of their constituents. Individual MPs run service centres.

However, MPs, especially opposition MPs, are hampered in their constituency function because of lack of funds, lack of office space and lack of legislative assistants. These should be made available.

The existing Public Complaints Bureau should be replaced by an independent ombudsman to investigate maladministration by the executive. The ombudsman should report to a Select Parliamentary Committee.

Committee system: The key to parliament’s institutional efficacy lies in a strong committee system. All committees should be bipartisan. A Committee on Selection should allocate each MP to at least one committee. The PAC must be chaired by the Opposition. Chairpersons of other committees should be selected by the members through secret ballot.

The committees must be assisted by experts and empowered to hold public hearings. The committees should invoke their privilege to compel ministers and civil servants to appear before committees.

Other reforms: Parliament should have the power to hire its own staff under a re-enacted Parliamentary Services Act. An Institute of Parliamentary Affairs should be established to train MPs in the Constitution and laws of parliament. The proceedings of Parliament should be broadcast on a dedicated television channel.

As in modern England, the PM’s power to dissolve parliament prematurely must be replaced by a fixed term Parliament (unless there is a successful vote of no-confidence or a two-thirds majority on the floor requests early election). Anti-hopping laws should be enacted to discourage party-hopping.

To promote fair and free elections, a remarkable (but now repealed) innovation from Bangladesh deserves our consideration.

During a dissolution pending a general election, the PM must resign and the King must appoint an impartial, serving or retired luminary to lead the country during the electoral contest.

With these reforms, the legitimacy and institutional efficacy of parliament can be enhanced and parliament can act as a check and balance against the omnipotent executive.

By Shad Saleem Faruqi
Read more @ https://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/columnists/reflecting-on-the-law/2018/06/21/proposals-for-parliamentary-reforms-post-ge14-the-institutional-efficacy-of-our-elected-legislature/#QRjydrXcfjRkXZx1.99

Four M’sian varsities listed in QS Top 50 Under 50 rankings.

June 21st, 2018

PETALING JAYA: Four Malaysian universities have been listed in the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings Top 50 Under 50 2019.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) was the highest ranked institution at the 12th spot, up from 16 last year.

The 48-year-old university is closely followed by Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) at 13th place, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) in the 14th slot and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) at 18.

The other Malaysian universities to make the list – though not in the top 50 – are UCSI University (61-70), Universiti Teknologi Petronas (71-80), Taylor’s University (91-100), Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) (101-150), International Islamic University Malaysia (101-150) and Universiti Tenaga Nasional (101-150).

Universiti Malaya does not qualify as it was set up in 1905, making it over the age limit as the QS Top 50 Under 50 ranks universities that have been established within the past 50 years.

UKM vice-chancellor Prof Tan Sri Dr Noor Azlan Ghazali said: “UKM is very proud yet humbled by this best ranking achievement since our establishment in 1970. This is our special gift for Malaysia.”

He added that the ranking proves that the university is on the: “right track and we must continuously measure ourselves with global peers without forgoing our national motives,” he said.

UCSI University’s latest milestone was welcomed by its founder, Datuk Peter Ng, who started the university on a shoestring budget of RM2,000 in 1986.

“Being ranked in the world’s top 70 is a testament to all the hard work and perseverance we have put in from day one,” he said.

“We started from nowhere so I can only thank God for the many blessings.”

UCSI University vice-chancellor and president Senior Prof. Datuk Khalid Yusoff welcomed the announcement, saying that UCSI’s achievement proves that Malaysian universities are being well-recognised globally, even though they might be young and new.

UCSI was ranked 481 in the recent 2019 QS World University Rankings.

Taylor’s University vice-chancellor and president Prof Michael Driscoll said: “This is an exceptional result, particularly as Taylor’s University is just over eight years of age, the youngest university in the world to make it to the top 100 list.”

“This achievement also highlights Taylor’s ongoing commitment to being a truly world-class university that is recognised globally for its research strengths, engagement industry and innovative teaching pedagogy,” he added.

QS research director Ben Sowter said universities from the Asia-Pacific region have dominated the latest edition of the rankings, with 27 of the 50 places occupied by institutions from Asia or Australia.

“Our Top 50 under 50 Ranking is no consolation prize for those universities that are included: 47 of the top 50 place among the top 400 of our overall table, and all 50 have featured among the top 400 at some point in their brief but successful histories,” he said in a statement.

By Rebecca Rajaendram
Read more @ https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2018/06/21/four-msian-varsities-listed-in-qs-top-50-under-50-rankings/#OJbLTFl4HFQDjRkp.99

Bahasa Melayu a beautiful language

June 21st, 2018
We should promote Bahasa Melayu and not limit children’s learning opportunities. FILE PIC

BAHASA Melayu is a distinguished and classy language, befitting its stature as our national language.

The language is infused with finesse and subtlety, making it one of the most beautiful languages in the world.

Just look at phrases like minta dirilangkah kanan or terima kasih.

Its translation into another language fails to capture its embedded cultural values, rendering it literal in impact.

That said, many feel that Bahasa Melayu is a lesser language. Often, the feeling is that Bahasa Melayu is too simplistic or too poetic.

It lacks the competitiveness to be as lucid and cogent as English or French.

I beg to differ. We feel this way because we do not know Bahasa Melayu well enough to appreciate it.

Admittedly, some words in Bahasa Melayu are not as efficient in letters as compared with English.

We tend to feel that perpustakaan is a mouthful compared with “library”, but we do not use the same yardstick when we compare “comprehensive” with tuntas.

Or maybe we have never heard of tuntas. The point I am making is that we need to continue our lessons in Bahasa Melayu.

As native speakers, we can ill afford haphazard of improper usage of the language.

Its usage needs to be not just correct but also fluent and immaculate.

At the same time, we need to safeguard the sanctity of Bahasa Melayu and nip in the bud preposterous WeChat language.

Here are some ways to achieve it.

We can start by reviewing Akta Bahasa Kebangsaan ) 1963/67 and give it a new breath of life or rather “teeth” to bite.

Missing from legislation is the legal implication to its offender.

Bahasa Melayu is a compulsory subject only up to the secondary level. At the tertiary level, it is an elective subject that is often ignored, unless you are majoring in language or communication.

This needs to change. Those in high offices are expected to have excellent command of Bahasa Melayu.

Only then will knowledge and skills be passed down.

A case in point was that not too long ago, we were anxiously waiting for new Malay words to be unearthed from the thickness of Kamus Dewan at a budget presentation at Parliament.

The music community should show off their prowess in Bahasa Melayu by writing beautiful songs with all the richness of its vocabulary.

It should not just be any words to fit the tempo.

M. Nasir has shown his worth in this. The lyrics in his songs are exemplary, reflective of his mastery of the language.

We could also benefit from better quality Bahasa Melayu publications in the market.

The authors and publishers play an important role to this end.

The public needs to read to learn. Romance novels are fine provided that proper Bahasa Melayu is used.

We should be more supportive and more enthusiastic towards language-related events, such as debates, poems writing competitions, pesta pantun and essay competitions to promote Bahasa Melayu.

It should be publicised in the media and we could tap social media to do this.

However, learning English or other languages will not be at the expense of Bahasa Melayu.

Learning Mathematics and Science in English does not make Bahasa Melayu a second-rate subject.

To object to this without making efforts to uphold Bahasa Melayu is just as ludicrous.

We should promote and not limit children’s learning opportunities.

It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but our children’s future is at stake.

Ministers, deputy ministers no longer allowed to issue support letters

June 21st, 2018
Education Minister, Dr Maszlee Malik, said the matter was decided in Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting to ensure transparency and good governance within the administration. —fotoBERNAMA (2018) HAK CIPTA TERPELIHARA

PUTRAJAYA: Ministers and their deputies will no longer be allowed to issue letters of support for any tender or proposals submitted to the government.

Education Minister, Dr Maszlee Malik, said the matter was decided in Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting to ensure transparency and good governance within the administration.

Maszlee said that at his ministry level, the practice of issuing any letter of support, especially those involving financial implications, is discouraged, but can be given exemption if it involves pressing issues such as health.

“Usually, Members of Parliament and the State Legislative Assembly feel that it is their responsibility (to issue support letters) as they know their constituents better.

“For example, if they give a letter of support for leave application because of illness. Although it is not recommended but if the issue is urgent, it will be considered,” he told a media conference here today.

Meanwhile, Maszlee said he had already requested vice-chancellor and deputy vice-chancellor of universities who are not in sync with the new government to retire honorably while those whose contracts were about to expire would not be renewed again.

“I have personally met them behind closed-doors and relayed the Cabinet’s message that we want this to be done voluntarily. We do not want two-faced people,” he said.

He also gave his assurance that the appointments of these two positions would from now be free of political influence. Selections, he said, would be based on recommendations by the universities and that an interview process would be required.

By Zanariah Abd Mutalib.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/news/government-public-policy/2018/06/382416/ministers-deputy-ministers-no-longer-allowed-issue

Driving excellence in Muslim world

June 20th, 2018
Universiti Malaya is one of only three universities from Muslim-majority countries in the top 200 of the QS World University Rankings. FILE PIC

THE news that Universiti Malaya has achieved 87th place in the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) University Rankings is a cause for celebration for Malaysians. With Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia at 184th, Malaysia now boasts two top- ranked universities in the Muslim world.

Despite these achievements, the fact remains that the academic performance of universities in Muslim countries lags behind the rest of the world.

At this time of contemplation for all Muslims and the dawn of a new era for Malaysians, it is appropriate to ask “why?” Here are some reflections.


No. Muslims represent a quarter of humanity. Based on population, there should be around 50 universities from Muslim countries in the top 200 QS ranking. But, there are only three (King Faisal University in Saudi Arabia is ranked 189th).

Perhaps Muslims don’t really have an academic tradition of scholarship?

Nonsense. While most students are dazzled by the antiquity of universities like Oxford and Cambridge, they remain unaware that the first universities were founded in Asia and Africa, predating European universities often by hundreds of years. Which Muslim student knows that the University of Al Quaraouiyine, founded in Morocco in 859 AD by a woman (Fatima al-Fihri), is the oldest existing, operating and degree-awarding educational institution in the world?

Western mathematicians and scientists owe a debt to the Islamic scholars who helped Europe emerge from the Dark Ages.


Not true. Muslims are among the richest people on Earth. Based on per capita income, six of 25 richest countries are Muslim countries — here at least we meet our quota. Of course, individual wealth in a few small, rich countries is not a measure of the wealth of our resources. But, here again, we have no excuses.

From the fossil reserves of the Middle East to the biodiversity of Asia, Muslims can claim more than their share of the planet’s bounty. Malaysia alone hosts five per cent of the world’s plant species, and some of the richest sources of terrestrial and marine biodiversity on the planet. Muslim countries span a “fertile crescent” from Senegal (further west than Ireland), Kazakhstan (further north than Denmark) and Indonesia (further east than Japan and further south than Brazil).


True, but even if we ignore the blunt tool of university rankings, research from Muslim countries is less cited than from elsewhere. No author in the 100 most cited papers in the prestigious journal, Nature, was from a Muslim country. Despite forming the majority population of 57 nations and citizenship of most others, only three Muslim scientists are among the more than 900 Nobel Prize laureates.

Muslim countries rarely
feature in metrics of research performance, spending or scientific discoveries.


Really? Almost half of the global poor live in the Muslim world. Sixty per cent of Muslims are aged below 30 and most of them live in rural poverty. Unemployment is often high, especially for women and youth. At the same time, many Muslim countries depend on food imports since they cannot feed their own people. If we built a “Trumpian Wall” around the Muslim world, many of us would starve.


By themselves, they won’t. For too long, scientists have been encouraged, indeed rewarded, for working in narrow disciplinary silos with a single objective — to publish. It is easier to follow the “publish or perish” maxim than to cross its boundaries. Cited publications remain the currency of academic success.

However, to solve existential challenges (such as climate change), scientists must increasingly work in multidisciplinary, multinational teams. They must welcome contributions from colleagues who neither look nor think like them, but bring new perspectives to a common challenge. This means that we must share, and not compete for, resources, welcome new ideas and encourage debate. We must ask whether our research is relevant to the challenges facing our communities and learn lessons from elsewhere. Publications will not empower communities, shared experiences may.


Islamic finance offers unique instruments to build climate resilient communities. Its principles and modus operandi bring a different perspective to sustainability. For zakat funds to be used for their purpose, an additional condition needs to be met, that is, the beneficiaries must be poor. The institution of waqf can help communities cope with humanitarian crises resulting from climate change. Waqf foundations can directly engage in provision of goods and services related to climate mitigation and adaptation.

Islamic Green funds and Green Sukuk can contribute to research on climate change. While the principles of Islamic finance can support climate change research, it is researchers who must work with communities to deliver climate resilience.

By Professor Sayed Azam-Ali.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/letters/2018/06/381066/driving-excellence-muslim-world

Protect Melaka’s turtle nesting sites

June 20th, 2018
Pulau Upeh’s close proximity to the Klebang land reclamation project site has degraded its once-pristine beach, robbing turtles of warm sand to nest and lay eggs. FILE PIC

I REFER to the report “Melaka orders halt to sand mining, forest product harvesting” (NST, June 11) and would like to applaud Chief Minister Adly Zahari’s endeavour to ensure the quality and sustainability of the state’s environment.

The new cabinet, with 13 federal ministers from Pakatan Harapan (PH), was sworn in late last month, but the absence of a natural resources and environment minister stirred anxiety among the environmental non-governmental organisations.

Although environmental protection is not one of the top 10 priorities in the first 100 days of the PH administration, Adly’s decision to cease sand mining and logging in Melaka is indeed encouraging. It shows that PH is earnest about its promise to balance economic growth and environmental protection, as stated in Promise 39 of its manifesto.

Given Adly’s enthusiasm towards environmental protection, I wish to highlight the issue of turtle conservation in Melaka.

There are 10 prime hawksbill turtle nesting sites in Melaka that contributes 400 to 450 nests annually: Pulau Upeh, Padang Kemunting, Balik Batu, Kem Terendak, Tanjung Bidara, Pasir Gembur, Teluk Belanga, Tanjung Serai, Tanjung Dahan and Meriam Patah.

Pulau Upeh once had the highest number of turtle landings and nesting sites. Due to its close proximity to the Klebang land reclamation project site, rapid coastal erosion degraded the once-pristine beach, robbing turtles of the warm sand to nest and lay eggs.

Fewer turtles landed to nest in Pulau Upeh over the years.

While promising economic growth and development, land reclamation has caused extensive environmental catastrophes. It is, therefore, vital to study the sustainability of land reclamation projects for development in Melaka.

In March, former chief minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron announced a RM20 million project to redevelop Pulau Upeh into a top tourism destination in Melaka.

With turtle landings one of the major attractions, Pulau Upeh should attract about 51,000 tourists upon completion of the redevelopment project next year.

In an interview last month, Adly also expressed an interest to turn Pulau Upeh into a turtle rehabilitation zone. Given the environmental degradation in Pulau Upeh, however, Adly should perhaps reconsider this move.

Beach restoration will likely incur a heavy financial burden and there is no guarantee that turtles will return to nest in Pulau Upeh.

Instead of saving a sinking ship, the state government should turn its focus to other prime turtle nesting beaches in Melaka, especially Padang Kemunting and Kem Terendak.

In November 2016, Tanjung Bidara assemblyman Datuk Md Rawi Mahmud proposed gazetting an 800m stretch of the Padang Kemunting beach as a turtle sanctuary.

Although it pales in comparison to the Sabah government’s gazetting of 898,762.76ha in the northern seas of Sabah as the Tun Mustapha Marine Park in May 2016, Rawi’s proposal, if approved, would have given Melaka its first turtle sanctuary to better protect nesting turtles

Almost two years have passed since, but no turtle sanctuary has come into existence.

Now that PH has taken over the governance of Melaka, why not immediately gazette Padang Kemunting as the first turtle sanctuary in Melaka to demonstrate the new administration’s commitment to environmental protection and sustainability?

Such a sanctuary will serve as a significant stride towards a greener Melaka.


Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/letters/2018/06/381852/protect-melakas-turtle-nesting-sites

Malays should preserve sanctity of ‘adat’ and ‘adab’

June 20th, 2018
‘It is the Malay adat and adab that have kept the Malay world intact for centuries. It is the adab raja-raja that keeps the respect for the monarchy sacrosanct. It is the adab that makes us great diplomats. It is the adab that takes foreigners by surprise when they arrive and allow grudging respect to grow.’ — Ninot Aziz (File pix)

MALAYS have lost our belief in the idea of a Malay ideology. A way of life. A philosophy.

Without this core, nothing else comes together — politics, economy, education, race, thought and leadership.

What is this core, really?

It is the Malay adat and adab that have kept the Malay world intact for centuries. It is the adab raja-raja that keeps the respect for the monarchy sacrosanct. It is the adab that makes us great diplomats. It is the adab that takes foreigners by surprise when they arrive and allow grudging respect to grow.

It is the adat merantau that sends us in search of knowledge and wisdom, makes us great seafarers, charters of stars, readers of the sea, traders, warriors and the learned. All this, hundreds of years ago.

It is the adat of appreciating beautiful things that makes our artisans great craftsmen — brass, wood, bamboo, rattan, gold, silver, pewter, textile and herbs. It is through adat that we enjoy our beautiful culture — tari-tarian, bunyi-bunyian and lakar-lakaran.

It is our understanding of nature that makes us perfect guardians of the forest, and caretakers of gemstones and minerals within.

It is our appreciation of the surrounding mountains, valleys, rivers and seas that allows us to build beautiful homes that are one with the elements.

Why do the most beautiful resorts mimic the Malay house? YTL’s Pangkor Laut and Tanjung Jara Resorts? Terrapuri, Terengganu? Bon Ton, Langkawi

As our religion changed and we anchored ourselves in Islam, we kept our core intact, being flexible, but never sacrificing adab and adat.

Our raja-raja’s respect for knowledge allowed the scribes of thousands of manuscripts to pen our knowledge. Hidden histories as wisdom for future generation; hikayat and literature so that we have beautiful souls. Yet, we turn our back on this very knowledge we garnered by burying jawialive in our curriculum.

Today, we ridicule adab and adat as hocus pocus, never giving it the respect it deserves, unlike the Chinese and Indians who revere their cultural background.

We ask ourselves, “What have we lost? What have we lost?”

By Ninot Aziz.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/letters/2018/06/381856/malays-should-preserve-sanctity-adat-and-adab

‘A single multiracial party to strengthen GPS’

June 20th, 2018
Parti Rakyat Sarawak’s (PRS) suggestion to form a single multiracial party is meant to build a strong political foundation for Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS). (File pix)
By Goh Pei Pei - June 20, 2018 @ 12:51pm

KUCHING: Parti Rakyat Sarawak’s (PRS) suggestion to form a single multiracial party is meant to build a strong political foundation for Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS).

Its Youth publicity chief Andy Lawrence said his party president Tan Sri James Jemut Masing believed it was crucial to further strengthen the local parties while GPS was still at its infancy.

“We accept the fact that it has to be finetuned and respect Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Abang Openg’s notion that it is an evolution.”

PRS, however, did not mean to dictate GPS’ structure instead it was merely giving suggestions.

“Our president (James Masing) was putting up a bold, realistic and constructive suggestion for the betterment of GPS and Sarawak as a whole,” Andy said.

“We believe to challenge or change the current status of the political environment shouldn’t be viewed as a negative move.

“We need to come out from this scenario as changes are necessary in this new political landscape,” he added.

“Although making changes would be tough, it is necessary to continue to stay relevant.”

He said a recent call by certain quarters for PRS to change its president was uncalled for.

By Goh Pei Pei.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/news/politics/2018/06/381918/single-multiracial-party-strengthen-gps

That world of the World Cup returns.

June 17th, 2018
Great show: Diego Maradona celebrating Argentina’s victory in the 1986 Mexico edition.

Great show: Diego Maradona celebrating Argentina’s victory in the 1986 Mexico edition.

THE hits just keep coming. Malaysians have never had it so good (or so bad, depending on your perspective) since the seismic events of May 9.

The change of government, politics, exposures of corruption scandals and the fulfilment of election promises have ensured a never-ending news cycle for the majority of us.

No other news event, with the possible exception of the Trump-Kim summit, has dominated local headlines. But that is about to change.

For one glorious month, starting last night, the eve of Hari Raya, Malaysians will be glued to the biggest sporting event in the world.

The World Cup always brings back happy memories. Fans my age will remember Adidas Rummenigge and Puma King boots, the Panini album, Gillette rulebooks, Sunshine bread cards and Ovaltine stickers.

We don’t have any of that stuff now, but the cheesy anthems and Vuvuzelas from previous editions are still around. I know a friend who has taken a month off (the final is on July 15) to watch EVERY single match.

Most of us don’t put our lives on hold like that, but I do know of friends and colleagues who have taken leave to catch some key matches from the 64 games that will be played at 12 venues.

And of course, there are the lucky few who have obtained tickets and will be heading to Russia to join the hundreds of thousands.

There should not be many spotting red eyes turning out for work in this World Cup as a large number of matches will kick off between 8pm and 11pm.

There are a few starting at 2am.

Nevertheless, the difference in time zone is certainly much better compared to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil when Malaysians had to stay up till the wee hours to catch games.

Russia has set aside a budget of US$12-US$14bil (RM47.8bil-RM55.8bil) to stage the event, making this the most expensive World Cup ever.

But the bookies around the world are expected to make a bigger killing. Malaysia is no different because bookies are extra busy during this period.

The exact figure is in dispute, but industry insiders believe that illegal bookies taking bets on the greatest show in the world rake in more than RM1bil in one month!

Punters love the World Cup because of the endless betting possibilities and the bookies are laughing all the way to the bank because it’s a one-month sporting extravaganza that nets them the most amount of money.

The competition has already drawn the interest of the police who are keeping a close eye on bookies and illegal betting.

Despite the best of policing, it will be impossible to wipe out illegal sports betting. No thanks to technology that has given the average bookie a new lease of life.

If in the past bets were taken over the phone via scraps of paper (evidence that the police look for), now punters do not even need to meet their bookies.

Everything – from the moment you place your bet to collection of money – is done electronically.

As usual, technology also has its upside.

In this respect, the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system made its World Cup debut yesterday. Despite its controversial introduction in club football, I believe it is the least disruptive way of settling disputes on the football field.

Its scope is limited to correcting the clear and obvious error in four categories: goals, penalties, red cards and issues of mistaken identity.

It can only address issues when the referee’s interpretation becomes subjective and possibly flawed.

It would be interesting to speculate how the game’s history would have been different if VAR had been introduced before 2018.

Every World Cup is unique, but it’s been a long time since we’ve had a really great final. The last, truly memorable final was in 1986 when a Diego Maradona-inspired Argentina beat West Germany.

But would Argentina have actually made the final if VAR had confirmed Maradona’s blatant handball goal in the quarter-finals match against England?

Nostalgia has hit me big time and like the hundreds of millions of fans around the world, I’ve been bitten by the football bug. Who will win the cup?

That’s the beauty of the event because in theory, all 32 teams have the chance of lifting the trophy in Moscow on July 15.

Three teams stand out when it comes to ruling the rostrum – Brazil, Germany and Italy. They have held the world champion mantle 13 out of the 20 times the competition has been played. Italy, though, are out of the world Cup this time.

by Brian Martin
Read more @ https://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/columnists/on-your-side/2018/06/15/that-world-of-the-world-cup-returns-for-once-every-four-years-planet-earth-will-revolve-around-a-bal/#LFIIsK6bGQ1rTXER.99