Saturday, October 16, 2010

FFA Cup? A modest proposal indeed...

The recent announcement that the FFA would be introducing a Cup competition from the 2011-12 season hit me with no small sense of bemusement, as it's something that I (as well as countless voices in the footballing community) have been advocating for years. These are some of my first reactions to the announcement.
Based on past form, of course, there is every chance that the FFA will stuff it up spectacularly, unless the new “FFA Cup” is genuinely pitched at building football in Australia – at all levels. For it to work, it must link the different levels of the game, not just act as a tokenistic add-on to the A-League season.

The obvious advantage of such a competition is that it allows for the inclusion of what in my mind is the “real” heart of football in Australia – the State Leagues. I would, however, advocate that once established the competition should be further expanded, getting not only the state leagues involved, but also the best of the regional leagues.

A competition that not only allows South Melbourne to play Melbourne Victory, but that also gives a team from rural NSW, South Australia or Queensland the chance to pit itself against the best of Adelaide FC or the Brisbane Roar, would finally give football the level of permeation and community support to make it a challenger to the title of Australia’s main code.

Of course, how such a cup should work is still open to discussion and debate. The most convincing proposal I have seen so far is one that pitches the top one, two or three teams from the state leagues into a form of elimination round (or rounds) with A-League teams.

The cup-winner should also be given an automatic place in Asia, alongside the winner of the A-League.
But an FFA Cup alone is not enough to fix the fatal flaws in the FFA world-view, and which will continue to kill the game unless they are addressed.

Some more modest proposals...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Germany: Two party system unraveling

Coasting on the back of environmental protests and a hemorrhaging two-party system, the German Greens have sent shock waves through German politics, surging into the position of main opposition party for the first time.

The Greens, who were part of a coalition government with the Social Democratic Party (SPD) from 1998-2005 at the expense of many of the party’s principles, are benefiting from the unraveling of Germany’s tradition two-party system.

Nevertheless, the two major parties - the centre-right Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union coalition (CDU/ CSU) and the centre-left SPD - retain a monopoly over government in Europe’s biggest economy.

But the facade appears to be truly falling apart at last. Opinion polls in early October put the Greens on 24%, one point ahead of the SPD.

At the 2009 federal elections, the Greens scored 10% of the vote. The far-left Die Linke won 11.9%.

In recent polls, the governing CDU were at 32%, while their neoliberal fundamentalist Free Democratic Party (FDP) allies only reached 6%. Die Linke remained steady on 11%.

The Greens’ poll surge comes amid a rise in environmental and community protests.

Ecuador: Correa vows to ‘radicalise revolution’

In the aftermath of a failed coup attempt on September 30, left-wing Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa has vowed to deepen his “citizen’s revolution” in the small Andean country.
After the coup attempt by sections of the police and armed forces failed amid pro-government protests, Correa’s approval rate has surged as high as 75% in some polls.

In response, Correa, stating his government had not done enough to implement its pro-people program and would radicalise its project to build a “socialism of the 21st century”.

This call was echoed by Ecuador’s National Secretary of Planning and Development Rene Ramirez, who said after the coup: “We want to have a much more progressive government, more turned to the left.”

Correa, addressing the Fifth Congress of the Latin American Coalition of Rural Organisations in Quito on October 13, said Ecuador needed an “agrarian revolution” rather than small reforms in land ownership.

Addressing hundreds of peasant leaders from across Latin America, Correa said his government would either directly expropriate unused and unproductive agricultural land, or raise taxes on those properties to force its owners to sell.

Other measures proposed to deepen agricultural reform include allotting state-owned fallow land to poor farmers and a program of selective import substitution and incentives to increase local production.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Behind the coup attempt in Ecuador

The attempted coup d’etat in Ecuador on September 30 against the left-wing government of Rafael Correa, which was defeated by loyal troops and mass mobilisation of Correa’s supporters, underscores the turbulent history of that small Andean nation.

It also exposes the weaknesses of Ecuador’s revolutionary movement, which is part of a broader Latin American movement against US domination and for regional unity and social justice.

The coup attempt was led by small core of police and soldiers, whose rebellion was triggered by a public service law that cut some of their immediate benefits. This has led some commentators to assert that recent events were simply a wage dispute, rather than a coup attempt.

Correa’s 2006 election victory - supported by the country’s powerful social and indigenous movements - came after almost two decades of political turmoil. Government after government dragged the country deeper into debt and greater poverty.

Between 1998 and 2005, three elected presidents were overthrown by mass uprisings, led in large part by the main representative of the country’s 40% indigenous population, the indigenous federation CONAIE.

Correa - a former finance minister - won the 2006 poll on a platform of radical social change.

He promised to lead a “citizens’ revolution”, using Ecuador’s oil wealth to eradicate poverty, deepen grassroots democracy and build a “socialism of the 21st Century”. These promises echoed similar process under way in Venezuela and Bolivia.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Ecuador: Right-wing coup attempt defeated

On September 30, Ecuador descended into chaos as a protest by sections of the police force and army turned into a potentially bloody coup against left-wing President Rafael Correa.

At about 8am, sections of the Ecuadorian Armed Forces and the national police went on strike, occupying police stations and barracks in the capital Quito, in Guayaquil and in at least four other cities. They set up road blocks with burning tyres, cutting off access to the capital.

They also stormed and occupied the National Assembly building and took over the runway at Quito’s Mariscal Sucre International Airport.

Schools and many businesses in Quito shut down early, as opposition protesters attempted to take over and sabotage broadcasts from television station Gama TV.

The protests were in response to the new Public Service Law designed to harmonise income and benefits across the Ecuadorian civil service. Many police and troops, however, believed the law would remove their benefits and bonuses, as well as delay promotions.

In an attempt to end the strike, Correa went in person to the main police garrison in Quito to convince the police there was a misunderstanding - and that their benefits were safe and their wages would in fact increase.

The situation spiralled out of control when a number of rebel police pointed their guns at Correa and threatened to shoot him. A tear gas canister was thrown, exploding only centimetres from the president’s head.