Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and…. Football?

Throughout human history, sport has been considered as one of the highest expressions of the pure power, skill of the thinking, moving and breathing beings that we all are. Sport, with all its thrills and spills, passion and spirit, is quintessentially “human”. It therefore seems strange when there is talk of a technological revolution in sport. Where does sophisticated technology fit into the ever-changing equation of skill, luck, and determination that is sport?

There is an argument that the infiltration of technology will somehow take away the unpredictability and thrill that characterises the sporting world. Some fans believe that, in this world of high tech gadgets and futuristic technology, measures must be taken to “humanise” the game and preserve its spirit. They hide behind the rare failings of technology to protest against its use in sport.

They couldn’t be more wrong.

Take, for example, the use of the Video Assistant Referee in football, where video replays are used to help the on-field referee do his job better and reduce human error. VAR isn’t perfect, but at present, using it is the closest we can get to eliminating mistakes in the game. No one wants a situation where your beloved club is disadvantaged by the limited human capabilities. VAR has, and will continue to face flak in the future, but it is important to realise what a significant step this is for the future of football. Amongst all the historic moments, there have been times when monumental sporting events might have turned out differently with the support of technology.

It is important for us to realise the scale of the technology being used in sport, and more importantly, its role. You won’t get to witness eleven robots take on Manchester United in front of 50,000 fans at Old Trafford, at least not anytime soon. In the foreseeable future, players and coaches will continue to be the chief protagonists in the journey. Technology was always meant to play the supporting cast, enhancing and enriching the sporting experience for those on and off the pitch.

In that respect, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning promise to be highly effective tools going forward. Imagine if you had an unbiased robot with terabytes of memory scour infinite amounts of data to find the next great player for your team. Imagine if you could have a machine analyse a player’s every movement and every step and predict his or her performance in the future. Imagine if coaches had a virtual assistant, helping them coax the best out of their players with effective strategies and innovative methods. The possibilities are endless.    

The cry for more technology in sport is now almost deafening. Technology is advancing every day. The sporting world must embrace it, or risk being rendered obsolete.    


Life without the Internet

Question: “What are the most essential things in life?”

Answer 1 (year 1900) – Food, Shelter, and water.

Answer 2 (year 2017) – Wi-Fi, Food, and Wi-Fi.

You’re alone at home on a hot summer day. Your internet connection is down, and, fortunately, you have no homework for the day. How would you spend your day?

Catch up on the latest Netflix TV shows?

Oh wait.

Scroll through your news feed on Facebook and text your friends on WhatsApp?


Order a new pair of shoes on Amazon?

Uh oh…

The internet has taken over our lives more than any of us can ever imagine. Restaurant and hotel bookings, hospital appointments, online shopping, Online tutorials…. The list goes on. Entire businesses depend on the internet. The latest smartphones and wearable devices would be equivalent to junk without the holy grail that is the internet. Researchers have spent more working hours on the intricacies of the World Wide Web than we can possibly imagine. So, what would it be like if the internet suddenly vanished?

Day 1 – Utter chaos. Software giants like Google, Twitter and Facebook suddenly don’t exist anymore. Millions of hours’ worth of video is lost from YouTube. Shock and chaos prevails. Conspiracy theories abound. Thousands of people take their phones to ask Yahoo answers “What happened to the Internet”…. and then throw their phone away in despair. Planes are delayed, doctor appointments are cancelled, and e-mail…well it’s just “mail” now.

Image result for life without internet memes    Image result for life without internet memes

Day 7 –  People realise those pending Amazon orders will never arrive. Online streaming is no longer a thing – “Netflix and chill” is no more the world’s favourite pastime – and we are forced to watch TV.   Humans are now used to talking to each other face to face. The number of “friends” we have goes down from 567 to 2. Phones are used for actual calling. The number of apps on our phone drops from 100 to 10. Approximately 95% of the population can’t get from point A to point B, because you can’t ask Google Maps to navigate for you anymore.  

Day 100 – A meme-less world has now been created. The word “viral” is obsolete. “YouTuber” is no longer a job opportunity. Without online gaming, EA Sports and 2K Sports post record losses. Bill Gates is still the richest man alive. People actually buy clothes, gadgets and food from physical stores. Everyone is suddenly working ten times harder, and productivity is through the roof.

Day 365 – Apple comes up with its own version of the World Wide Web, called the “iWeb”. Life returns to normal.


Sport, money, and how much is too much?


Per week.

That’s how much Manchester United’s 31-year-old striker Wayne Rooney earned last season. He scored a grand total of five goals.

Is it fair that top sports stars are paid outrageous amounts of money most people only dream of making in a year?

Before blaming the teams and the sporting industry, the fans must acknowledge their own part in this. We all pay top-dollar to watch logic-defying, awe-inspiring displays of talent and skill, week in and week out. After all, sporting success is often considered as the pinnacle of human achievement, and those players who win the hearts of the fans are serenaded as heroes and put on a pedestal. Set foot in any corner of the world and you are sure to see the names of superstars like LeBron James, Sachin Tendulkar or Lionel Messi on the back of jerseys worn by fans who idolise them. These guys have worked on their game day in and day out for decades. They have poured their blood, sweat and tears to reach the summit of their game. They have overcome physical, societal and psychological barriers and have come from all corners of the world to play the game they love. It isn’t outrageous to suggest that they deserve to be rewarded handsomely for their efforts.   

But the pertinent question is this: How much is too much?

In sport, money talks. Ad revenue, sponsorship deals, and merchandise all lead to franchises raking in millions every year. All this leads to the burden of expectation on the teams, driving them to seek desperate measures in search of success. Immediate success. Hence, we have clubs splurging millions of dollars on players every year to chase glory on all fronts. But here arises a fundamental problem. Teams are stunting the development of young talent by loading their teams with superstars, thereby forsaking long term benefits for immediate results. The fans demand trophies, the owners want more trophies to attract more big money sponsorship deals for the club, and so the vicious cycle continues.

Another deep-rooted issue is players being paid too much, too soon. While most 18-year olds are worried sick about education loans and paying for college, AC Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, 18, is earning $6 million a year, with reports of a world record $120 million bid being made for his talents. That’s more than the GDP of countries like Uruguay and Croatia! With such ludicrous amounts of money being thrown around, questions about the motivation and dedication of these young athletes inevitably arise.

Thus, it might be wise to introduce a salary cap, helping keep the players grounded and giving them a better chance of success. This helps in bringing a transparency to the pay structure, while maintaining a uniformity throughout the sport, giving all players an equal opportunity. Not only would this prompt better managing of finances by teams, but it would also prevent the tragedy of promising careers fading away due to the allure of money.

The fascination with sport that exists in today’s society is unlikely to die down any time soon. As technology advances, humans are stretching the boundaries of physical and mental achievement every single day. The integration of sport and technology promises to make the phenomenon of sport an even more attractive proposition for millions of fans all over the world. So while it may not be fair that a footballer may earn ten times what you earn, hopefully, a better future lies in wait. For now, let’s just enjoy the magnificent spectacle that is modern sport.


The Choice

An evil sorcerer has taken you and the rest of the school hostage. He has already turned some of your classmates into animals and other strange creatures. He gives you the opportunity to join him in his evil deeds or to be turned into an animal yourself. Write an essay in which you mentally debate which choice to take.

Stage I – Excitement

A surreal opportunity to join a mysterious sorcerer in turning anyone into a strange creature and rule the school with my new-found ally/alien? Hell yes, count me in. The pure joy of joining hands with a supernatural being and undertaking a wicked act of epic proportions? Check. Watching my classmates slowly morph into bizarre, one-eyed monsters with no hands and legs, while I discuss politics and the weather with my otherworldly buddy? Check. Snapping my fingers with a wicked laugh and possessing supernatural powers? Check. Which one of these humans would you like to convert first, Mr Sorcerer?

Stage II – Reality

But wait. Mr Sorcerer doesn’t seem like a very nice guy. Apart from single-minded destruction of the human race, there’s nothing much on his mind. If all my classmates suddenly morphed into one eyed aliens and mysterious creatures, who would I have lunch with? Who would I beat 7-0 on FIFA? Who would I laugh with, cry with, and share every joyous moment of my life with? How could I forget those hilarious conversations I have with my friends every day that make no sense at all, but never fail to bring a smile to my face? What about that group project where none of us did any work at all, but thoroughly enjoyed the entire journey? I can’t forsake all those memories for Mr Evil here, right?

Stage III – Excitement 2.0

What if I was converted into a bird? Birds are so cool. Flying thousands of feet above the earth and looking down upon all the mere mortals who are destined to a terrestrial life is my lifelong dream. The view from up there would be so breathtakingly beautiful. Swooping down on those tiny little specks with deadly accuracy from high above the clouds with the air brushing past my wings and my razor-sharp claws instilling fear in the bravest of human hearts, all the while boasting enough speed to leave a Bugatti trailing in my wake? All day long, every day of the week.

Stage IV – The Decision

I have made my choice. Sorry Mr Sorcerer. You will need to find a different partner-in-crime after all.

Just make me a peregrine falcon.



When it comes to population, less is certainly more.

It is no secret that earth’s population is increasing at rates that could never have been imagined a few hundred years ago. Overpopulation is a global problem that needs to be addressed immediately to prevent devastating consequences both for this generation and the next. With more than 7 billion people competing for the already scarce resources on the earth, and with no signs of this growth halting anytime soon, we face a crisis that could decide the fate of all mankind. Mother nature simply can’t keep up with the increasing demands of an ever-expanding population, and the sooner we realise the potential consequences of this, the brighter the future will be for our children and grandchildren.

To say overpopulation is at the heart of a large, varied number of environmental and social issues plaguing humanity would be an understatement. It is the root of major issues, from lower life expectancy to extinction of natural habitat, and from scarcity of resources to the loss of freshwater. These problems all stem from one basic fact – there are just too many people and too few resources to support all of them. While many argue that the unequal distribution of resources and careless usage of those resources are the real reasons behind these crises, the truth is that no matter how much water you save or how much electricity you conserve, the gap between the supply and demand is too large. Why? Lack of access to healthcare, lack of education and awareness, and poverty, especially in developing countries, creating a vicious cycle of environmental destruction, more poverty, and eventually death.

While it is true that efficient usage and conservation of the earth’s minerals and water will reduce the burden on them, this is just a short-term fix, not the definitive, long term solution mankind has been crying out for. China’s one child policy, though not quite immaculate in its execution, was a step in the right direction. Promoting awareness campaigns and educating the underprivileged about the ill effects of overpopulation can curb this alarming rise in population figures. Another important argument made by many is that population rates will eventually slow down and reach a point of equilibrium, allowing the human race to continue without increasing its overall numbers. What this fails to account for, though, is that even if our population rates stagnate, the amount of resources left for us to live on cannot. Scientists predict that in the not too distant future, possibly within the next 50 years, our coal and petroleum resources may be completely used up. Thus, it is imperative that, along with curbing overpopulation, we must find alternate sources of energy to help sustain ourselves, at least for the foreseeable future.

If no action is taken – by governments, organisations and the people themselves –  overpopulation can, and will, have disastrous consequences. It threatens to undermine all the extraordinary progress that mankind has made over millions of years.  The earth needs us, and humans need the earth, to build on the strong foundations laid by our ancestors and scale new peaks. 

Overcrowded trains prepare to leave for the city after Akheri Munajat, the final supplication during Biswa Ijtema in Tongi, on the outskirts of Dhaka 

Spontaneity – the spice of life

After thinking for days on end and spending countless hours googling the words “25 best writing prompts”, I finally closed my internet browser, shut down my laptop, took out a pen and some scratch paper, and came up with this essay. But what was it that finally helped me overcome my sluggishness and put pen to paper? Was it a “5 steps to become a better writer” book? A suggestion from my family? Google, perhaps?


I discarded all those prompts, all those ideas that had stemmed from the minds of others. Instead I am putting into the words the ideas in my mind, the beliefs that I hold, and the experiences that I cherish. Spontaneity and individuality are the two key aspects of any essay. When I started writing this piece, I had no idea whether it would turn out to be a 750-word article complete with obscure quotes from random famous persons, or a short 200-word reflection of my latest musings. I still don’t know which one it will turn out to be. But the important thing is its going to be something which reflects my own thoughts not those of another person.

“Only in spontaneity can we be who we truly are.”  – Random famous person.

In the eighth grade, our English teacher gave us a three-minute speaking assignment. She told us to pick any topic of our choice. Now this was a problem. What would I talk about? The latest developments in the field of artificial intelligence? A potential cure for cancer? Politics? Sport? I was overwhelmed by the sheer possibilities. After careful consideration and extensive research (Google Search: “Speech topics for grade nine”) I settled for a topic – Self driving cars.

Having finished my speech, I strode to my seat, proud of myself for having done such a great job of talking about a topic I knew little to nothing about of. Next up was my friend. As he walked up to the front of the class, I took a peek at his sheet of notes.

It was empty.

His speech?

One of the best I have ever heard. He just went up there, and spoke his mind. His favourite book, his trip to Australia, his favourite meal, and what he learnt from all of them.

So, the next time you find yourself stuck in a rut, just remember,


For The Love of Sport

 The 90th minute. 100,000 fans inside one of the biggest stadiums in the world, and billions worldwide, cheering on their heroes in the final of a major tournament. On the pitch are players from countries all over the world. Some are just stepping into the limelight on the global stage, while others, in the twilight of their short but illustrious careers, are preparing to pass the baton on to the next wave of global superstars. All of them have come here the hard way, through years of hard work, training and dedication. Fans have travelled thousands of kilometres from around the globe to witness this great sporting spectacle.  As the world watches on in awe, the ball thunders into the back of the net, leaving one side heartbroken, and the other, ecstatic. This is why we love sports.

Having been a sports fanatic from a very young age, it’s easy to identify just why competitive sport has such a global appeal. The thrills and spills of competitive sport enchant billions of people all over the world. The adrenaline rush caused by witnessing your favourite team win an important game, that feeling when you get the autograph of your favourite superstar, and the joy of watching a game amidst thousands of raucous supporters spurring their team on to victory cannot be adequately expressed in words. We look to sports like football, basketball, cricket and so on to seek a break from our daily lives and enter a completely different, alien world, one in which dreams come true and miracles are no longer uncommon, but almost inevitable. The world of sport.

The players are the human elements of this game, making the impossible seem possible. Score the winning goal, make the winning basket, and you are a hero. Miss, and you can go from hero to zero within seconds. These players embody the spirit and the passion of the game, while also depicting its cruel, unpredictable nature. Not all players have had it easy. Some wait years and years to get their chance to make it to the big time, while others are thrust into the spotlight very soon, sometimes almost too soon. Some of them had to face extreme hardships and difficult, poverty-stricken childhoods, while others had to fight against bad luck and lack of facilities. But those who do not give up become legends.

Take the case of Pele, the great Brazilian footballer who had to work as a servant to earn money to play football, or LeBron James, who was homeless at one point. Fans look up to and support them, because these players rose to do what many of them could never manage to do. We celebrate our team winning the championship as if it was our own victory, as it brings us the satisfaction of achieving something so astounding it seems unreal. Fans identify themselves with teams and players, and this deep, everlasting connection is at the heart of the popularity of sport.

Perhaps no other quote captures the essence of sport as strikingly and aptly as this one from Heywood Broun –

Sports do not build character. They reveal it.

Sport has the power to change lives, make dreams come true, and unite nations. In the eyes of the fans, sport is a means of forgetting your troubles and wandering far far away into a realm of endless possibilities and exciting experiences.     


 The official slogan of Barcelona, one of the biggest football clubs in the world, is “Mes Que Un Club”. More Than A Club. That just about says it all.



Envy. The feeling of discontent or covetousness aroused by someone else’s possessions, success, or luck. That’s the dictionary definition, but what is envy? The feeling when your best friend beats you to an award or a prize you have been craving for, when your friend wins the lottery with the ticket you gifted him for his birthday, or when your co-worker gets a promotion as well as a huge pay rise, while you are still stuck in your cramped, tiny cubicle.

The word envy has become so commonplace in our vocabulary that we end up using it, more often than not, at least five to ten times a day. But the word envy actually comes from the Latin word invidere, which means “to look against, to look at in a hostile manner”. Invidia, or envy, is one of the seven deadly sins in Christian belief. But, in reality, my opinion is that envy is just a harmless emotion that is typical of human nature.

Any normal human being is bound to feel disappointed if he just missed out on winning a $100,000 lottery, and his or her close friend won it instead. But we don’t go killing our friend or trying to steal the ticket away from him or her, right?

Well, mostly, yes. But there lies the problem. For most of us, envy is not a very significant emotion. Life just goes on. But in the extreme cases, envy can be quite discerning. Sometimes, the feeling of envy is so overpowering that we can yield to it and make terrible decisions we will regret for a long, long time.

Envy doesn’t even have its own emoticon in our smart phones, because it is just so ambiguous. If I asked you what envy would look like, would you have a definite answer? Well, most probably, no. The way each one of us experience envy is unique to each of us. Unlike fear, or anger, envy is a type of emotion that is, in a way, very difficult to explain.

However, one thing that is closely associated with envy is the colour green. “Green with envy” or “Green eyed jealousy” is commonly used to describe an envious person. Even Shakespeare used the latter phrase to describe envy in the late 1500s and early 1600s. But why the colour green, and not red, or brown, or black? No one knows for sure, but one credible theory is that it is a reference to cats, which are usually green-eyed. Maybe even because dark green is sort of like a very mysterious colour, being associated with the dark world of wizards, witches, and sorcerers.

Yes, envy is a negative feeling, and can often lead to despair and disillusionment with life, but it can also be used in a constructive way. Let’s go back to those previous examples. When my friend beats me to first place in that 100m race I desperately wanted to win, the envy building up inside me is so overpowering that I cannot rest till I win the race the next time around.

Envy spurs us on to achieve that success or award we covet, so much so that once we have our heart set on something, we just can’t stop till we have accomplished our mission. The agony and grief of defeat creates inside us that indomitable fire, which nothing in the world can extinguish. Then, success will inevitably follow. Take a look at this quote from Margaret Thatcher –

“The spirit of envy can destroy; it can never build.”

But let’s modify it a little bit,

“The spirit of envy can destroy weakness, and build strength”.

And that is its silver lining.

5 essential things at home

My house is on FIRE! I have exactly 30 seconds to decide which 5 of my favourite belongings I want to take with me, my 5 most important things at home.

Well…. Let’s start with the ceramic painting hung on the wall in my room. That painting had been done by me and me only, and considering my high artistic skills, or lack thereof, I have to say, it came out pretty good. I started working on it in my art class at school in August, and now its almost February, so I’ve put a lot of work into that thing, and I don’t want to see all that go up in smoke, quite literally.

Next up would be my favourite bed sheet. I know it sounds childish and all that, but that bed sheet has literally been with me all my life. I’ve had all my favourite dreams, like the day I went skiing down Mount Everest, as well as my most horrific nightmares, like being chased by a fire-breathing dragon, or falling off a cliff into a bottomless pit, with that sheet on. So it is fair to say I’ve got quite a lot of sentiment attached to that particular bed sheet.

For number 3, it has to be my laptop. I’ve got all my games, programs and documents on that thing, so life without it would be very difficult indeed.

Number 4 would have to be the ‘student of the year’ trophy I won back when I was in pre-school. It was the first award I ever received and therefore still holds a very special place in my mind. Though it may eventually make no difference to my future, it still is not one of the things I’d like to see in flames.

Finally, last, but not the least, the photo of a 3 year old me in a blue jacket, smiling away, oblivious of the world out there, which brings back memories of those carefree, merry days, a far cry from the kind of life we all lead today.

Honourable mentions go to my very own journal, where I used to list out my memories, and the cricket ball I got as a souvenir when I visited the MCG, the home of Australian cricket, as well as a photo of me standing in the hall of fame, a corridor which the likes of Roger Federer, Pete Sampras, Rod Laver, and other tennis greats have graced, at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne.

Deadly Deadlines

“Deadline”. That’s a word each and every one of us dread. I can safely say that it is the one thing humans fear maybe even more than death. Yet deadlines continue to surround us from all sides. An important project due the next day, a report you kept pending for months, lying on your table unfinished. Deadlines are inevitable, and especially in this fast-paced, advanced world, keeping up deadlines can often mean the difference between life and death.

Everybody in the real world will agree that the moment a project is behind deadline, quality assurance tends to go out the window. So does that mean, deadlines actually lead to a decline in the way we go about our work? When a report or a project suddenly has a deadline, however far away it may be, does it change the way we look at it? Once again, it all depends on the perspective.

The ever enthusiastic optimist might argue, it doesn’t really make a difference. Or even if it does, it helps us go about it with more determination and effort, and it drives us to put in more effort into it. However the vast majority of us agree that once a deadline is set, completion of the work becomes so much important that we don’t even care about the quality of our work.

Therefore, we can say that they are just two sides of the same coin. I think the “what-if” factor is what makes deadlines so deadly. Much like the fear of impending death scares people more than death itself, the days leading to a deadline are the most nerve-wracking and stressful. And this is when people tend to make mistakes and freak out. This is where the issue of procrastination comes in.

As aptly said by Christopher Parker, “procrastination is like a credit card: it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill.” And that bill is one no one will want to receive. It makes easy things hard and hard things harder. The key to avoiding the anxieties produced by deadline is setting realistic time schedules, enlisting help needed when deadlines go awry, and negotiating new deadlines when it becomes quite clear that, for one reason or the other, deadlines are going to be missed.

Another key factor is keeping calm. DON’T PANIC. I know it’s really tough to keep calm when your marks, job, or maybe even your life, depends on it. Breaking down of deadlines into a series of smaller deadlines will certainly help. I know it sounds weird, but each small deadline you meet gives you confidence and keeps you motivated for the big one. Before I end, I’ll leave you with some quotes about deadlines that will transform the way you look at them.

“Deadlines refine the mind. They remove variables like exotic materials and processes that take too long. The closer the deadline, the more likely you’ll start thinking way outside the box”

“The thing that would most improve my life is 27 hours in a day. I could meet all my deadlines.”

I’m sure you’d all agree with that last one.