Daily Archives: April 18, 2016

Greece:An image of weakness


The image a country projects beyond its borders is of crucial importance. Just over 10 years ago, Greece was a leading political and economic player in the Balkans. Turkey was on the rise, but the asymmetry between the two countries was not that visible. Nowadays Greece really comes across as the European Union’s Puerto Rico. The country is living on bailout tranches and loans and it has yet to come up with its own reform plan that will put it back on its feet.

Meanwhile, Balkan leaders are addressing Greece’s leadership with disdain, Turkey is acting as the region’s ruler and the Europeans are dealing with Recep Tayyip Erdogan as if he were a neo-Ottoman sultan.

And what’s worse, Greece has adopted an enraging argument when carrying out negotiations with powerful players abroad. In the past, Greek leaders such as Eleftherios Venizelos and Constantine Karamanlis spoke to their foreign interlocutors as equals, making and earning major strategic concessions by taking risky decisions. Now Greece is asking those beyond our borders to not leave us to our own devices because the country has a pivotal geopolitical position and becoming a failed state would have serious repercussions.

Out of necessity, the Europeans have established a sui generis protectorate with regard to the refugee-migrant issue. To a large extent the Greek state has been substituted in terms of guarding its borders and managing the hot spots on the eastern Aegean islands. On the other hand, unprecedented situations emerge in places where the Greek state is the only one in charge. For instance, authorities in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) return refugees and migrants to Greece through holes in the fences. We slowly became used to all this.

An imbalance between rhetoric and actions makes the phenomenon even more unpleasant. When it comes to international affairs everyone knows that when someone barks without ever biting, not even once, they end up becoming predictable. Big words, political negotiations and displays of military power may still be convincing on the local level but they certainly don’t have the same effect abroad.

Greece has been through similar periods during its history. These often ended in some form of tragedy which subsequently led to the rebirth of the nation. Some believe that history will repeat itself.

Hopefully this will not be the case and Greece will find the strength to rebuild the country without experiencing an even larger disaster. Besides, you can’t fool anyone anymore. A country’s power on the international scene depends primarily on its economic power, the stability of its institutions and whether or not it has a gutsy and professional leadership. Greece’s image abroad is poor. Unfortunately, it is a fair reflection of the country’s current state of decay.


ABCC motion facing defeat in Senate, July 2 election is increasingly likely


A July 2 election is increasingly likely as crossbench senators dig in against Turnbull government plans to restore the building industry watchdog.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon believes legislation to reinstate the Australian Building and Construction Commission will fail in the upper house for a second time.

‘We will be going to the polls on July 2,’ he told ABC radio on Monday.Parliament has been recalled three weeks early so the Senate can deal with bills Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has threatened to use as a trigger for a double-dissolution election.

There is no guarantee the ABCC bill will even get to the stage where amendments are even considered by the Senate.If it does, Senator Xenophon plans to move an amendment which ensures Australian steel is used on building projects.

Fellow crossbenchers Glenn Lazarus, Jacqui Lambie and John Madigan are opposed to the legislation in its existing form.Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm believes the latest opinion polls, showing Labor and the coalition neck and neck, may influence the government.

‘Perhaps they have changed it from a non-genuine offer to negotiate to a genuine offer,’ he told reporters. Attorney-General George Brandis insists Employment Minister Michaelia Cash has been negotiating with crossbenchers in good faith.He rejected claims the government was not serious about passing the bill.

Asked about the numbers in the chamber, Senator Brandis told ABC radio: ‘I don’t think we will know until we get to the final vote’.Senator Cash says she will continue to have an ongoing dialogue.

‘I think everybody knows in politics anything can happen at any time,’ she said.Both ministers also hit out at a ‘hysterical’ trade union ad which claims under the ABCC ice addicts have more rights than construction workers.

‘It goes to show the depths to which the CFMEU will stoop in trying to protect their own position in this industry that the best they can do is run a campaign which is utterly dishonest,’ Senator Brandis said.


Manuel Pellegrini hits out at Man City over Pep Guardiola announcement after Chelsea win


MANUEL PELLEGRINI reckons Manchester City’s decision to announce Pep Guardiola as their new manager in February wrecked their chances of the title.

City, with Kevin De Bruyne in superlative form against the team who let him go, cruised to an easy win at Stamford Bridge to cap a superb week that saw them reach the Champions League semi-finals.

But the dignified Chilean’s patience finally snapped as he poured out his frustration at what might have been had City’s decision to announce Guardiola’s arrival and the huge speculation around it not affected the minds of his players.

Pellegrini clearly believes that had he been allowed to get on with his job – and not been affected by crippling injuries to his best players – City could have been challenging for the title. Instead, they are left scrapping for fourth place.

With all their best players back and fit they showed what they could really do at Stamford Bridge as they masterfully dismantled a Chelsea side who cannot wait for this season to end.

At the point of the Pellegrini announcement on February 1 City were second in the table, three points behind Leicester and two ahead of Tottenham. They lost successive home games against the pair and won only one of their next six matches.

Pellegrini watched Sergio Aguero net a hat-trick to take him to 21 goals for the season on Saturday and said: “Yes, I am frustrated. Of course, because we never expected to lose those games against Leicester and Tottenham. But there are reasons.

“At the start of February there was news about change of the manager, about players who will not continue next season, about a lot of things that involved the minds of the players.

“It’s not easy for players to focus when you read about the things that will happen next season – players who will go, players that will come in.

“In February we were involved in all competitions and we won the Capital One Cup. We were three points behind the leaders. We had to leave the FA Cup because of congestion, and we had injuries. A lot of reasons we couldn’t continue in that way.

“But this squad has character. We never give up, and I hope we will see that in the Champions League. I am sure this team can reach in the final.

“We must try to finish playing this way, trying to be as near as possible to the top of the table. It will be a good season if we win two trophies.”

Injuries to key players also killed Pellegrini’s challenge with De Bruyne missing for two months, Sami Nasri for six, Aguero battling various problems, and skipper Vincent Kompany still out.

Pellegrini added: “Except for the first five games of the seasons we never could play all of them together. That is the important difference.

“Aguero has to try to play the whole season. When you are 100 per cent fit and playing every week of course your performance is better. He made a mistake playing for Argentina when he had some muscle problems. That meant he couldn’t play for five or six games.”

City face Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo in the first leg of their semi-final on Tuesday week at the Etihad, and on the evidence of this superb counter-attacking performance they have every chance.

Pellegrini said: “Real have very important players – but so do we.” Especially De Bruyne and Aguero.

After a bright start by Chelsea, when Nicolas Otamendi kicked Pedro’s shot off the line and Joe Hart tipped Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s shot away, City took over with ruthless brilliance.

De Bruyne, allowed to slip away by Chelsea two years ago for just £18million, raced away to set up Aguero for the first, from a Chelsea corner. Then in another lethal break, De Bruyne fed Nasri, who slipped in Aguero to finish.

It would have been more but for Thibault Courtois, but then the hapless keeper took out Fernandinho when he burst through. Off he went, and Aguero did not waste this spot-kick.

Chelsea were utterly woeful. Guus Hiddink could only pluck the feeble plus point that at least next season they won’t have to face the Europa League.

“It will give the new management and directors a chance to build a good team competing for the top four,” he said. It has got that bad.

CHELSEA (4-2-3-1): Courtois 6; Azpilicueta 5, Cahill 5, Ivanovic 6, Rahman 6; Mikel 6 (Begovic 79), Fabregas 6; Willian 6 (Traore 69, 6), Loftus Cheek 6, Pedro 7 (Kenedy 69, 6); Costa 6. Booked: Azpilicueta, Mikel. Sent off: Courtois. NEXT UP: Bournemouth (a) Sat, PL.

MAN CITY (4-3-3-1): Hart 7; Zabaleta 7 (Sagna 66, 6), Mangala 7, Otamendi 7, Kolarov 7; Toure 7, Fernandinho 7; Navas 7, De Bruyne 8, Nasri 7 (Delph 74, 6); Aguero 7 (Iheanacho 84).Booked: Zabaleta, Otamendi, Nasri. Goals: Aguero 33, 54, 80 pen. NEXT UP: Newcastle (a) tomorrow, PL.


David Beckham set to play in Sydney for Manchester United and Juventus legends’ game


David Beckham in Australia: His first appearance was during the Hyundai Club Challenge match between Sydney FC and LA Galaxy at Telstra Stadium Sydney in 2007. Photo: Robert Gray

One of the most recognisable names in world sport is set to play in Australia later this year with David Beckham leading an all-star cast for a football legends match in Sydney.

After failed bids to lure Beckham to the A-League three years ago and fans of the icon having to wait six years to see him, the former Manchester United, LA Galaxy and AC Milan star is set to finally play in Australia. Fairfax Media understands a deal for the former England captain to play in an exhibition match between former stars of Manchester United and Juventus is close to being sealed.

Beckham will be one of many high-profile former players to take part in the game between two of the most recognisable names in world football. It will be the first time since a friendly between LA Galaxy and Newcastle Jets in 2010 that Beckham has played in Australia. His first appearance – a friendly against Sydney FC in 2007 – attracted more than 80,000.

Beckham is set to play for Manchester United in the fixture in October or November and could be joined by Dwight Yorke, Phil Neville, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ryan Giggs and coached by Sir Alex Ferguson.

It’s understood one of Juventus’ greatest players, Alessandro Del Piero, will not take part in the Sydney game. Despite spending 19 years with the Bianconeri before moving to Australia to play two seasons with Sydney FC, Del Piero won’t play in a game that could hold some significance for him.

The former Juventus captain has not played in any of Juventus’ recent legends games since effectively retiring after leaving Indian Premier League club, Delhi Dynamos, in 2014. He famously played against Juventus when captaining the A-League All Stars in 2014.

French international David Trezeguet will almost certainly take part in the match as president of the Juventus’ Legends program. The Argentine-born French international was on the cusp of signing a guest player deal with Victorian Premier League club Hume City for their FFA Cup semi-final against Melbourne Victory last year.

While their team to play in Australia remains some way off being decided, recent Juventus legends games have included Czech star Pavel Nedved, Edgar Davids, Mauro Camoranesi, Paolo Montero, Angelo Peruzzi and Ciro Ferrara.

Despite being contested between players some years past their prime, the legends concept proved popular among football fans in Australia as more than 40,000 attended a match between former Liverpool players and past Socceroos internationals at ANZ Stadium last year.

Anfield greats Steven Gerrard, Ian Rush, Luis Garcia and John Arne-Riise proved impressive drawcards for that match. It’s likely an even greater crowd will flock to Olympic Park for a contest between former players of two of the most supported clubs in world football who dominated Europe and their respective leagues in the late 1990s and early 2000s.