Population growth and the need for new skills

The current rate of world population growth has reason to give us cause for alarm. Every fifteen to twenty years, the world population increases by a billion people. That is the staggering reality of the world population growth. In fact, in the year 1999, it was estimated that the world population surpassed six billion then. It is difficult to forecast populations exactly of course, and as population growth is a derivative rate from the population itself, growth is also difficult to estimate.

Population growth is difficult to estimate because factors such as natural disasters may skew the number of deaths each year through earthquakes, typhoons and famine. Other factors such as migration, and when census in different countries are taken may also affect data. (If for example, a million people in the United Kingdom migrate due to Brexit into Europe, and the census dates between the United Kingdom and Europe are different, a million people could lapse in between somewhere.)

At this current rate of growth the world population is expected to reach eleven billion by the turn of the century. By 2200 we would double the existing world population. The world population growth at its current rate is hence unsustainable. We must take measures to curb it, it appears. And why? If you think about it, at its current level there are already people who suffer from poverty and hunger and do not have enough to eat. The world’s resources cannot feed so many people at its current level; how is it going to feed an additional billion or two?

It is unsurprising then that there have been greater publicity towards a move towards less meat, more vegetarian and even vegan diet. Meat such as beef from cows accounts for nearly a quarter of greenhouse emissions. If we were to reconsider our diet, some reason that it just might allow us to produce enough to feed a growing world population.

Population growth also means a drive towards accumulating more skills for employment. When there are people than there are jobs, it means greater competition, and a need to be more skilled and creative in promoting one’s skills and knowledge. If you were a footballer, for example, you need to have more football skills on the pitch, but also to know how to market yourself. It is no point being the best footballer if you do not take advantage of the opportunities to make income through sales of jerseys, advertising, promoting products and off the pitch.

So that is the case for footballers, but what about the rest of us? We could look at developing more general skills. For example, just because you are an accountant does not mean you can’t have musical interests. You may be an actor, but have good computing skills, Or if you are an artist, there is nothing stopping you from doing other non-artistic courses in your free time. These skills may come in handy and give you the edge over someone else with the same qualifications. The hardest part is finding time to practice what seems like irrelevant skills to the job, but developing these may be a good way to stand out in an ever-populated world!

Being Human

On the face of things, there are many reasons we have to stop ourselves reacting to people in need we see on the street. They do not necessarily have to be homeless. They may just be someone who has fallen over. They may be an adult with many children that need help – perhaps one has got sick, and the adult has a baby in the stroller or arm. But stepping in to help is more of a thing people increasingly do less, because they don’t want to overextend themselves.

So imagine perhaps if you have overextended yourself to help someone in need. They may have fallen over in the street, or become unconscious, or in some way been unable to look after themselves and be trusted to be safe. You stay with them until you are convinced that they are safe, help has been delivered and you are safe to carry on. Now because you have been with them for a long time, you are perhaps suddenly aware that you have your own needs to attend to. Perhaps you need to use the public facilities. You head inside a pub or cafe outside which help has just been rendered and just before you are about to step in, the staff politely inform you that toilets are for patrons only. Never mind that this is just outside the place where you had given help, rules are rules, and not meant to be broken. Never mind that the staff had seen that you had given help. Would you think this unreasonable?

If you had spent three hours talking someone off jumping off a bridge, and then needed some physical respite, would it be unreasonable?

If you stopped to help a stranger who was injured and had your clothes covered in blood, would it be unreasonable to expect to use the toilet to clean up?
Or if you stayed with a stranger on the street in the cold because there was someone else threatening them and they feared being alone, would having a cup of tea for your efforts be reasonable – without having to put a price on every action?

The composer Vaughan Williams was famous for his generosity and willingness to embrace his fellow human beings. Apparently he once donated the earnings from a published book to help someone on the streets. (You can read more about Vaughan Williams from the pp@funcraft.infoPosted on Categories player motivationTags

Public relations lesson

All in all, it can be summarised as a poor week for Spurs and France football captain Hugo Lloris.

The goalkeeper was found guilty this week of a drink driving offence and fined. In addition, he will also be sanctioned by the club.

It is coincidental therefore to hear that he has sustained an injury and will be out five weeks.

One suspects that the announcement of the injury has been timed to manage the fallout of his drink driving actions.

The Tottenham public relations team have thought about it and certainly considered how to protect their club captain and key player.

By announcing that the goalkeeper has an injury, it gives him a reason for an enforced absence. The club can sanction him internally with a ban for the same period, so he serves the ban without any public loss of face. Lloris gets punished by the club, but faces no speculation caused by the absence on the pitch during the time of his punishment.

And if the press continue to write about him, the Tottenham team will focus on his injury.

And when he returns to the football team, the media team will focus on how he will have returned after his injury, not after his drink driving ban.

Fans will realise he has been disciplined, but it will have been hush hush and a low key affair.

Lloris himself will appreciate that his internal disciplinary action will have been minimised in exposure.

Michel Vorm will man the sticks in the absence of Lloris. Vorm knows he gets the next five weeks to play with the first team.

By suspending the player internally, the club save on a few weeks wages.

Lloris gets a rest after his World Cup exploits.

The third choice keeper gets to be on the sub bench.

It is a win win situation for all involved.

This was supposed to be a bad time for the Tottenham stopper, but if you look carefully at how it has been managed, the fallout has been contained.

What a lesson in public relations!

Balancing work with passion

If someone were to bring up at a social occasion the topic of work – which does occur quite often, we must admit – and talk about doing things they are passionate about, you may find that for every one of such a person, there is another who would be adamant that sometimes you simply just have to knuckle down and do what’s available. It may be an age thing – after all, those who insist that you need to follow your passions may be younger individuals who still have decades of working life ahead of them. And what is wrong to want to do something that you would like, something that would sustain you for four or more decades of work?

But I am reminded of an older family member who once remarked rather cynically that one should forget about doing things that you like, simply because it is called work, and “work isn’t meant to be enjoyable.” No one likes work. The word work implies effort, movement, will and strength to drag yourself out of inertia into impetus. And translating that into action is effortful in itself. Why waste time on a movement or activity you do not believe in?

That lust to do something you are passionate about is a good thing, but it must be balanced against the need to earn a stable living and approached with caution. If what you are passionate about is a job that does not require much entry experience (such as singing, arguably), then you will have many people competing with you for your job. Singers are forever competing with others for the buying money of Joe Public. So being passionate about something may be a good idea, but balance that with a slight resignation to do may not necessarily be thoroughly enjoyable, but which would give you something to live on!

The music composer Carl Czerny was a link between the older Classical style of Beethoven and the expressionist Franz Liszt. Just as his music blends what seems like two opposing forces of expression and form, perhaps the ideal blend, in this situation, is one that you can derive some sense of satisfaction from, while still earning a wage. You can read more about Czerny in the N8 Piano Teacher blog.

But in this football context, what would be the ideal job? It may belong to Liverpool throw-in coach Thomas Gronnemark, who admits he has possibly weirdest job in football.

Factors of drive and success

Let’s take a break from the normal situation to discuss the World Cup.

What, the World Cup? Why yes – unless you’ve spent the last few weeks hiding in the shadows, distanced from life, you cannot but have helped to have been surrounded by World Cup fever. Ever been around a pub when an England game has been on? You can’t help but notice that the pubs would have been busier than usual, swathed in crowds all huddling around a TV screen, shouting words of encouragement to it, as if their words would have gone through the atmosphere and reached the footballers in Russia and given them positive emotion.

Yes, the World Cup.

Despite England dreams that this might have been the year, at the close of the competition they found themselves in fourth. Oh, the luckless draw of knockout competitions. Had England made it past Croatia, they would have found themselves in the positive situation of being the team that might have won it, with a generation of footballers still in their prime.

Unfortunately they were downed by the Croats in extra time. The Croatians themselves delivered some advice for the English team and media – don’t under-estimate us. A lack of respect can be a powerful motivator, and the Croatians had plenty of those. All they had to do was to print out the footballing discussions from websites such as BBC news or the broadsheets and tabloids, and unfortunately while we were all caught up in the celebrations of nearly making it to the final and singing “Football’s coming home”, the Croatians decided to spoil the party.

You only need to look back on the lessons of history to see how under-estimating the opponent can give them the necessary drive to succeed. Being written off gives one the inner impetus to go against the odds, to dig deeper and find the deeper strength. In the classical music world, there are other circumstances, such as childhood difficulties, expectant roles, lack of opportunity, and technological developments at the right time that have fuelled innovation, the careers of composers, and generated promising piano music.

Many factors influence success. Perhaps not under-estimating the opponent is one of the most important to remember!

The value of not being complacent

If there was a lesson to be learnt from watching the Japan – Belgium game, it was this: never be complacent, concentrate, keep fighting to the end.

You may think I have been talking about the Belgians, for the traits we associate with the Japanese are their will to keep fighting to the very end. Even in the face of defeat, giving up is a lack of honour. Remember World War Two? Dozens of kamikaze pilots crashed to their deaths, flying their planes onto ships to try to sink them. The will to keep fighting is honourable. And wasn’t it the South Koreans who pulled off an upset with Germany by their tenacity and willing to keep chasing the ball and fight, scoring two injury-time goals in the process?

Unfortunately for Japan, it was them that were outfought.

A 2-2 game seemed destined for extra time. In the last minute of play, the Japanese had a corner with forty seconds remaining. Everyone assumed this would be the last forward play of the game, and a corner, if unsuccessful, would result in the referee blowing the whistle. Instead of passing the ball short, the Japanese merely lobbed the ball hopefully into the goal area, where Thibault Courtois caught it easily. You might have thought he would have played it short, moved it forward slowly, or take his time, wait for his players to go up, and then lob one long into the area. Instead he quickly rolled it short to Kevin de Bruyne, and four Belgian players raced ahead to launch a counterattack that resulted in Nacer Chadli scoring an injury-time goal. No need for extra time. Actually, the whole world watching had been out-foxed. No one watching that game would have expected that counterattack with the last play of the game.

What lessons can we take from the game? The first is of course, not to get complacent. If you are like everyone else, you would have merely assumed that extra time would roll along. But the Belgians created their own opportunities, sensing a chance to win. The Japanese team might have thought they would have the last attack of the game, and in all fairness, so did we; but fatigue confuses the mind, and probably the sensory overload of time management and game tactic caused a lap of concentration that paid dearly. This can happen in any area; in fact, a Crouch End piano teacher reckons that one of the problems children face in learning the piano is the overload of work conflicted with the lack of time for self actualisation, that causes a lack of physical activity (in this case, piano practice).

And what a good week for Marouane Fellaini! New Manchester United contract, a goal in the game, an immediate impact as a substitute. Next stop – Brazil! The Belgians are on form at the moment and the operatic Neymar best raise his game!

Creating a post-career legacy

The World Cup has, in the group stages, shown up a few clear signals.

The Spanish hesitation between Andres Iniesta and Sergio Ramos in midfield, allowing Morocco to nip the ball and race it forty yards for a score, demonstrate that both are in the twilight of the careers. Iniesta, long regarded as Mr Football, is off to China for his final payday, while Sergio Ramos merely showed why he had to chicken-wing Mo Salah out of the Champions League final. He no longer has the pace that he had in his early career, racing down the right sideline as right back before he became a centreback by conversion. Ramos realises that he is losing out in terms out physical fitness, and has to rely on guile, experience and deception. In fact, he has realised that for years. In the previous Champions League final against Juventus, he feigned a foul to get Juan Cuadrado sent off and Juve down to ten men.

The sort of play acting that is synonymous with football is spoiling it. It appears to be a Spanish affair, learnt from the Italian leagues in the 80s and 90s – you could barely watch a game without stoppages disrupting the flowing football. Players that play in the Spanish leagues, such as Neymar and Pepe, have all been guilty of trying to con the referee into awarding the other team cards in order to gain a numerical advantage through a sending off.

It is almost as if they realise that physically they cannot match up, so they have to win by other means.

A more graceful thing to do would be to find an avenue where they can still dominate. For players coming up to the end of their careers, now is the time to be thinking about coaching badges, while working with their team and coach to develop coaching experience. In the musical world, the music composer Muzio Clementi became not just a composer, publisher, and conductor, but also moved on to making pianos. Someone like Ramos could learn to coach, be a manager, or become an owner in a minor-league team. Or run a kung-fu academy and develop some business experience.

Mentoring is also an important process. Did you know that as the pianist Carl Czerny was mentored by other composers, and when he became established, he also mentored others, introducing them to other established ones such as the pianist Beethoven? It was somewhat like networking. A footballer in their latter days could help mentor younger players and introduce them to established players who might share their knowledge of the game.

You may argue that trophies and awards are what define winners. Perhaps. But a person’s legacy is far more lasting in the kind of person he was. For now, Ramos will be remembered as the play actor and the bruiser.

No signs of slowing for Cris

If you have not yet watched the thrilling World Cup match between Portugal and Spain then you had best get it on some kind of TV catch up.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat trick in the game. Twice Portugal led and Spain were brought back to level terms by the physical play and skill of Diego Costa, but when Portugal trailed in the closing stages and had a free kick outside the Spanish box, there was only one man you knew who would take it.

Up came Ronaldo, curling the ball around the right side of the wall, past Real Madrid team-mate Sergio Ramos (yes, that guy who took out Mo Salah in the Champions League), and past Manchester United keeper David de Gea, who was flatfooted and rooted to the spot. There was nothing he could do about the free kick, because the wall had been placed to his left, but the ball had such bend to it that even de Gea could not have anticipated it would have gone in from that side. He more or less had trusted the wall to protect that side, but even Ramos’ attempt to flick the ball away had no effect.

Spain might have had a chance to win the game had Ramos decided, in the same way he had done Salah, to chicken-wing Ronaldo out of the game by injuring his shoulder ligaments, and taking out the opposing team’s best player, but that would have been a one-way exit out of Madrid for the captain. Don’t put it past him, though. And don’t put it past Ronaldo either. Wasn’t he the guy who got ex-team mate Wayne Rooney sent off in a game, before being caught giving a devilish wink as if to say, yes, I’d intended for him to get sent off?

Say what you like about Ronaldo, though, at age 33 he is still showing no signs of slowing down. Like Ryan Giggs, he still looks like he has a few good years left in him. His technique hasn’t suffered, but is it because of the recent changes in balls that has resulted in him scoring more goals? When the ball technology was improved, many people were ambivalent about them, but that is pretty normal, because new things start from the periphery and end up in the mainstream when accepted or tolerated over time, as this Stroud Green piano teacher tells us, using music as an example. Now kids are buying the balls and wanting to demonstrate skills – such is their popularity. Has Ronaldo drawn more followers to football, or have footballs drawn more followers to Ronaldo? That is one you have to decide for yourself!

Ronaldo’s three goals meant he equalled Ferenc Puskas’ record of 84 goals in European competitions. One can surmise he will be going calmly past the mark with a bit more calm and ease.

Channeling circumstance into victory

Liverpool are on the verge of a Champions League final against Real Madrid, who survived a Bayern Munich draw in their own home stadium to eventually triumph via their 2-1 victory in Munich a fortnight ago. While Real’s progression was never really in doubt, if you believe those who think that they will always find a way to grind it out, Liverpool – despite their 5-2 advantage have still got things to do and are not safe.

Things would have been easier if the Merseyside team had ground a 5-0 win last week but the defence, it seems, had too muchc of an eye on a next game and coasted in the last ten minutes, giving a chance to Roma to snatch two precious away goals. Surely 5-2 must be enough? Don’t forget that this is the Roma team that defeated Barcelona 3-0 away – AWAY! – to progress via away goals, despite losing 4-1 at home. They are a dangerous team, capable of scoring.

And Liverpool are capable of conceding.

It is no surprise that Liverpool’s attacking players have been let down by the defence, and while Virgil van Dijk’s arrival has calmed the ship in its storm, the whole backline is still not rock solid. Lloris Karius has improved but is not consistent, and Simon Mignolet’s fine form that saw Liverpool sign him seems to have evaporated.

Liverpool’s quest is not helped by the fact that many of their fans have chosen to stay away from Roma. A BBC report saw that the “flash stabbing”, a drive by or quick attack, is one famously perpetuated by the ultras that support Roma, and even factions within the fan base almost see that as a badge of courage. Last week a Liverpool fan was stabbed prior to the match in Roma. This week, many fans have decided against visiting the stadium. Some are doing so with security. The team have issued advice that under no conditions should anyone walk to the Stadio Olimpico. And forget about wearing the Red t-shirt; it is a target board.

Will the conditions be a factor? Few home fans, attacking team, hostile atmosphere? Liverpool fans only need to look back at the conditions they created for a Manchester City team when they threw missiles at the visiting team bus. The Premier League Champions suffered a 3-0 defeat after a run of victories. Whether or not it was because they were jaded, or whether or not they suffered because of the conditions at the visiting ground depends on your point of view.

Perhaps Liverpool will use the circumstances to inspire themselves to grind out a draw or victory to allow them to progress to the final without a show of fear. Channelled correctly, hostile cirumstances can inspire artistry. Look at a different field such as music at the composer Ludwig van Beethoven. While he is famous for the Ninth Symphony and Ode to Joy, he famously had to overcome a difficult childhood involving abuse, bullying, health deterioration and rose in spite of it (read more about it here).

Liverpool stand ¬†on the edge of Champions League history. Can they overcome and channel the spirit into victory? They should do, but don’t count against them to concede and make it difficult for themselves!

 

 

French Connection

Ah, Arsene Wenger. Heading into the first leg of the Europa League, having announced his retirement, the Frenchman was living in the praise of the pundits, lauded for revolutionising the English game when he first took over Arsenal having managed in Japan. “Arsene Who?” was Gary Lineker’s reaction at the time. But the pundits, in the run up to the game, as well as the media personnel, just couldn’t get enough of Arsene Wenger. Perhaps it was because it was a quiet day for sports news. So it was Arsene here, Arsene there, Arsene out of every nook and cranny and inch of the woodwork.

I speculated in the last post that the timing of the resignation was perhaps linked to the Europa League and the end of the season, that perhaps it was almost designed to give them an emotional boost heading into the final part of the campaign. So while the journalists were still reproducing the “In Praise of Arsene” articles they had long written, and trying to get the full benefit of them, it was no surprise to me to see a few days later the “Win It for Arsene” cries from individuals such as Per Mertersacker.

The game began rather auspiciously for the home team. Cheered on by a large crowd in Highbury, there were no sign of divisions, as fans of both banners cheered their team on. And when I refer to both sets of fans, I don’t mean the Arsenal and Atletico fans, I mean the Wenger Out and the In Arsene We Trust fans. The manager had at least achieved his aim of eliminating some of the mental distractions for his players. They did not have to play an important game while their own fans fought among themselves.

Further luck was in store when French referee Clement Turpin sent off an Atletico defender with two yellow cards in the space of twelve minutes. Really? In a game of this magnitude? Now, experience tells you that referees try to set the tone of the game at the start, so you try to lay off a hard challenge at the start, no matter how you want to set the tone of the game. Give it ten minutes, let the referee and the emotions of the game settle, then make such challenges. Vrsaljko had obviously not had much experience and naively laid two hard challenges within a short span, believing he was helping his team set a tough tone. Unfortunately he did. He made it tough for his team, alright. Ninety minutes with ten men, away from home.

The visiting team held their ground defensively but withered and it was left to Arsenal’s record signing for a few months, Alexandre Lacazette, another Frenchman, to play his hand and assume his role in the plot. Latching on to a cross from the right, he powered home past Jan Oblak. Both sets of Arsenal fans cheered. Finally the Gunners could score a goal against a team with ten men in their own home ground!

The Europa Cup final in Lyon, Lacazette’s home town. French manager Arsene Wenger’s last campaign. Clement Turpin, French referee, helping to engineer a cup final with Marseille, another French team, in the French suburb of Lyon.

The introduction of former Liverpool and Chelsea striker Fernando Torres threatened to throw a spanner in the works. Was it because it was Torres’ last season at Atletico, as well, and he would be fired up to give his best? Was it because during his time in the Premier League, he had known how to work his magic at Highbury?

No, silly. It’s because in a game riddled with French connections, Torres is Spanish.

It was left to French centre back Laurent Koscielny, for so many years under the wing of veteran Metersacker and now leader of the defence, to put his hat in the game. Letting an innocuous pass get by him, it was picked up by Antoine Griezmann who with one of Atletico’s few chances managed to get the advantage for the second leg. Griezmann, in case you have not noticed, is also French.

So. One Frenchman’s bid to make it to a final in France in his last managerial season, aided by a French referee and French striker, foiled by a French defender and opposing French striker.

Laurent Koscielny revealed that during a team meeting he had broken down when his children asked why the Arsenal team were so bad.

Wonder what he has to say now?