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Germany vs Algeria

Posted by RB Kollannur on June 30, 2014

The German people made a grand entrance into the civilized world in 113 BC seeking out the Roman Republic from their home in Jutland. In 105 BC, a massive battle was fought between the German forces of Cimbri and Teutones against that of Rome at Arausio (called Orange these days and the place where the Oranje gets their name) ending in the latter’s massacre. While Romans were fighting against Germans, they were also fighting against Numidians of Jugurtha in North Africa. Numidia was one of the earliest kingdoms based in present day Algeria. Rome would beat both the Germans and the “Algerians”, but the reforms that Rome took to win the war led to the collapse of the Republic.

The next interaction between the Germans and Algerians came in the fifth century. Another German tribe, Vandalii / Vandals, would temporarily hold on to the northern coast of Algeria. Much later in the sixteenth century, Charles V of Germany (Also son of Joanna of Spain) would conquer few of the ports in Algeria, including present day capital Algiers.

 Much has already been said about Germany and Algeria footballing history, which is why I left that bit out.


Posted in History | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

France vs Nigeria

Posted by RB Kollannur on June 30, 2014

Most of us became familiar with everything French while we were young, thanks to that very creative comic series called Asterix by Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo. Ironically, the Asterix and his fellow Gauls were completely different from the French who live there now. The Franks, as they were then called, were one of the many German tribes that settled in a collapsing western Roman empire.  They were also the first German nation to accept Catholicism, while the others remained Arian.

Nigeria is one of the largest and the most populous regions in Africa, especially with the oil rivers of River Niger. Curiously, this large delta was one of the last places that the Europeans set for colonizing. French and British were among the first to set up companies to colonize the area. But in 1884, the French had to shut shop unable to match the financial backing of their across-the-channel rivals. The next year in Berlin, Europeans decided on an all out conquest of Africa.  With Britain having the upper hand in Nigeria, French lost all subsequent say in the area.

Incidentally, France had conquered pretty much the entirety of  West Africa by 1900 and for most part, Nigeria was encircled by the French. Hopefully, that won’t happen in the game.

Posted in History | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Costa Rica vs Greece

Posted by RB Kollannur on June 30, 2014

One of the youngest nations remaining in the World Cup against one of the oldest, Costa Rica and Greece both became independent in the 1830s.

While Greece became independent from Ottoman Turkey in 1832, Costa Rica became independent first from Spain in 1821 to be part of the Mexican Empire, then in 1823 as part of a united Central American nation and finally in 1838 as Costa Rica.

As the southernmost of the states of the Spanish viceroyalty of New Spain, Costa Ricans were not allowed to trade with their southern neighours, Panama, during Spanish rule. Sparsely populated, Costa Rica remained economically weak during this time. Now, however, they are one of the best economies in Central America with key exports like electronic products and, if you believe Jurassic Park, dinosaurs.

Greece has had a long and turbulent history, with some pages missing between 1100 BC to 800 BC. Most civilizations in the world saw some cataclysmic change take place around 1100 BC. As per their mythology, for the Greeks, it was the fall of Troy and the conquest of Greece by the Heraclidae (Sons of Heracles/Hercules). It is apparent that these invaders (Dorians) were later integrated into the Greek community and formed an integral part of the Greek people. The diarchy of Sparta was one of the Greek nations built by Dorians and were said to be ruled by kings descended from Heracles.

Posted in History | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Netherlands vs Mexico

Posted by RB Kollannur on June 29, 2014

Both Netherlands and Mexico have surprisingly lot in common. Both fought for independence from Spain, albeit in different centuries, and won. Both also had the misfortune of having a French Emperor named Napolean install a monarch on them.

The Low Countries (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg) were once a group of counties and duchies that had a questionable allegiance to France. All these states were consolidated by marriage and conquest into the Duchy of Burgundy. But when the Duchess of Burgundy married the Archduke Maximilian of Austria, the future of Netherlands got tied onto that of the Habsburg dynasty. In 1556, the Netherlands became part of the Habsburg kingdom in Spain, Philip II. However his Spanish upbringing and strong Catholicism were at odds with the Dutch people who were turning towards Protestantism. In 1568 led by William of Orange, stadtholder of Holland (Sort of a representative of the king), the Dutch would rebel for independence. For the next 80 years, the nation would be in a state of transition with Netherlands finally gaining independence from Spain in 1640. Belgium would remain part of Spain (and later Austria).

Mexico declared its independence from Spain in 1821. A former general, Agustin de Iturbide, was crowned Emperor, the only one of the First Mexican Empire since it would be dissolved in 1823, making way for a democratic nation. Initially Mexico also included Texas and all of Central America except Panama, but after the dissolution of the Empire, Central America would become a separate nation, while Texas would declare independence from Mexico in 1836 (Subsequently merging with USA in 1845).

In 1806, Napolean installed his younger brother Louis as the king of Netherlands. The monarchy was short lived however, because Louis refused his brother when he demanded for troops against Russia. Netherlands was subsequently annexed by Napolean.

In 1864, Napolean III (son of aforementioned Louis) would send an army to conquer Mexico and install an Austrian prince as its Emperor, only to subsequently withdraw (and leave the Mexican Emperor to be executed) to maintain good relations with US.

Posted in History | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Colombia vs Uruguay

Posted by RB Kollannur on June 29, 2014

Both Colombia and Uruguay are Spanish speaking nations, but Uruguay, tucked between Brazil and Argentina, can trace its origins to their Portuguese neighbors. It was the Portuguese who first settled in this sparsely populated area, but soon the Spanish wrested control. Both nations would gain independence from Spain around the same time. Weakened by the Napoleanic Wars, the firm grip Spain had on Latin America loosened. Between 1810-1840, Spain gradually lost all its possessions in Spain. In its place, there were 16 countries including Colombia and Uruguay.

Colombia was one of the early starters in independence. Bogota, capital of Colombia, was the capital of the Viceroyalty of New Granada, one of the four viceroyalties of Spain in America. Led by Simon Bolivar, New Granada became independent as Republic of Colombia in 1819, but regional aspirations soon broke up this larger nation into three – Venezuela, Ecuador and Colombia (Panama was separated in 1903).

Uruguay, on the other hand, formed part of the Viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata (River Plate). Current day Uruguayan capital of Montevideo was a military stronghold, with upriver Buenos Aires forming the capital of the province. After the Napoleanic Wars, Rio de la Plata broke away and became independent. It was then that Brazil attempted to conquer Uruguay. Unable for either side to hold on to Uruguay, the nation became independent in 1828, under the auspices of  Great Britain.

Incidentally, it was Uruguay who knocked out Brazil from the World Cup, the last time Brazil hosted it (1950).

Posted in History | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Brazil vs Chile

Posted by RB Kollannur on June 28, 2014

While Brazil and Chile hail from the same continent, historically they have little in common. Separated by the natural barrier of Andes mountains, Chile could grow independently from influences from the other side of Andes. Brazil, as many would guess, is the stand out nation of the continent and not just on the football pitch. While most nations south of USA speak Spanish, Brazil stands apart speaking Portuguese.

The reason for the linguistic separation of Brazil has to do with a certain treaty of 1494.

The Iberian peninsula had just been recaptured by Catholic rulers from Muslims after an 800 year war called Reconquista*. Looking for newer avenues for conquest, Spain and Portugal were looking outside Europe. They started with Africa, dividing it up with the Treaty of Alcacovas , but when Columbus landed in the Caribbean, the situation changed. A new treaty, Treaty of  Tordesillas, was drawn up which effectively gave the eastern bulge of South America to Portugal and the remaining part of America (including North America) to Spain. Of course, conquest had to happen. Without interference from other European powers, they went on their merry way and the Treaty got carried out for most part in South America.

Incidentally, Brazil for a brief time would host the capital and the crown of their colonial rulers, Portugal. But that story can wait for Brazil’s qualification to the next round.

*Three nations survived in Iberia –  Castile, Aragon and Portugal. Castile and Aragon were in personal union with the Queen of Castile married to the King of Aragon. (Their daughter Joanna would be the first monarch of reunited Spain, although her powers were largely curtailed by her father, her husband and later her son, who confined her in a convent for being mentally ill.)

Posted in History | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

World Cup 2014 previews of a different kind

Posted by RB Kollannur on June 28, 2014

Readers of this blog may know I tend to lean towards history whenever I write. So, starting with the Round 0f 16, I thought I will give a preview of the history of the nations involved in the game (No, not footballing history). Not many of the nations meeting in the quarters have significant connections in the past, but let’s how things go as the tournament progresses.

Round of 16

Match 49 – Brazil vs Chile

Match 50 – Colombia vs Uruguay

Match 51 – Netherlands vs Mexico

Match 52 – Costa Rica vs Greece

Match 53 – France vs Nigeria

Match 54 – Germany vs Algeria

Match 55 – Argentina vs Switzerland

Match 56 – Belgium vs USA

Quarter Finals

QF1 – France vs Germany

QF2 – Brazil vs Colombia

QF3 – Argentina vs Belgium

QF4 – Netherlands vs Costa Rica

Semi Finals

SF1 – Brazil vs Germany

SF2 – Netherlands vs Argentina


Final – Germany vs Argentina

For the people asking, why no preview for the loser’s final, the answer is in the question itself.

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An Open Letter to the Congress President – On reviving Congress

Posted by RB Kollannur on May 19, 2014

Dear Mrs Gandhi

You have my deepest sympathies. You led a remarkable turnaround of Indian National Congress from the shambles of 1998 only to see it fall even more on your handover. Transition has always been a difficult period for Congress and most critics would say this time Congress will transit into nothing.

Unfortunately for India to be a healthy democracy, we need two national parties. So, time has come for a reboot of Congress. No other party has the pan India reach that you have and nor do anyone have truly national leaders.

And don’t worry you don’t need to bring your kids along for this.

By now you will have many reasons for why Congress lost, but only one for why the loss was this bad – that Congress, unlike BJP or the Left, is not a cadre party. Having a strong cadre is like having a stop loss in the stock market, keeping bad from going worse.

But building a cadre based party takes time, which you don’t have.

One of the main issues that has plagued Congress over the years is dealing with the ego of the regional satraps. Unless they inherit the role, national leaders have to work for it, from local to district to the state and beyond. Many will have national aspirations, bringing them in conflict with the national leadership and/or other state leaders, causing them to leave. Most of these breakaways fail and rejoin like K Karunakaran or BS Yeddyurappa. But like Sharad Pawar and Mamata Banerjee have shown, some can survive outside the party pretty well.

The trick is to retain the regional satraps without splitting the party.

For this, you need to give decision making powers in the party to the voters.

No. Not just party workers, but the entire electorate.

This way no antagonism will be directed at the national leadership. A political leader’s success lies in his winnability, while a political worker’s success lies in his contribution to his party (Keep inner party situation as it is).

I understand that there has already been an attempt to do this in a limited scale but failed to receive any electoral success. The reason was that it was done internally. You needed to engage with the ordinary voter and not just the few who will vote anyway for Congress.

For the upcoming election in Maharashtra you have an ally in very much the same boat as you. Instead of sharing seats, invite candidates from your ally for each constituency and do the same with Congress. Open your party offices to anyone with a voter ID for the constituency to choose from the candidate palette and nominate the elected candidate for actual candidature irrespective of party.

Engaging more voters – Check.
Reduce intra party conflict – Check.
Reduce conflict with allies – Check.
Get more votes – Status Pending.

If it works well and good, but if it fails it will not drastically vary from the results you expect to get, considering the drubbing already received.


RB Kollannur
Unseen Ink
inperceptus resero

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

An Open Letter to the Prime Minister from a non BJP voting Keralite

Posted by RB Kollannur on May 18, 2014

Dear Mr Modi

Thank you for bringing a stable government to India. I had expressly voted NOTA because I do not believe the current political setup of India can deliver stability, but you have shown me that I can be wrong.

I come from a state that is not sending any of your party colleagues (or allies) back to the Parliament. Even our neighboring Tamil Nadu is sending only 1 BJP MP.

I can assure you it is NOT because of your campaign slogan “Ab ki baar, Modi sarkaar”.

Most of us in Kerala understand Hindi pretty well.

I am sure some of your close confidantes have explained the uniqueness of our home state. We have a historic tendency to behave differently from the subcontinent. We already have the infamy of voting for Congress after the Indira Gandhi dictatorship. We elected the first Communist state government, that too freely and fairly.

Perhaps, it is your plank on economic development that failed to resonate with the voters in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Both states have sustained economies similar to Gujarat during UPA rule and grow at a pace similar to that of Gujarat. So, both states chose to stick with the ruling party in the state in order to align the centre with the state needs.

One worrying negative that I found in the economy of Gujarat was the remarkably low rural consumption numbers. It was indicative of a state government focusing only on urban development ignoring the rural area. However, this concern was laid to rest for me by Bharat Bala, who had produced a video on rural Gujarat earlier at your behest, at a recent CII conference. He saw rural Gujarat to be content the way it was. It also told me that you had your eye out for your entire populace, not just the urban ones.

While India has given you a mandate to rule freely, it is the Hindi heartland that has given you the resounding hurrah. They have complete faith in your ability to lead them out of BiMaRU. It would benefit our nation at a global level to have this core part of our nation delivering economically.

We often underestimate our ability at the international level, which is why we do very little at the UN. In 1939, MK Gandhi got SC Bose kicked out of Congress. The international repercussions of this event are largely lost on most historians. But suffice to say, the resulting alignment of Indians with the British in Second World War turned the tables on the Axis Powers in Asia and was crucial to an Allied victory in WWII.

The news from Ukraine is very bad. South East Asia is looking over its shoulders for China worried it may follow Russia. China needs more activity to sustain their economic growth. US and Europe are looking on, afraid that they may be forced to intervene. The world will look towards the newly stable India.

On 28 June 1914, the heir apparent of the 1000 year old French noble house of Metz was killed by a Bosnian freedom fighter. The world was at such a heightened state of alert that the assassination led to WWI.

The world is nearing that stage now. We will soon know when the die will be cast.

So, tread wisely.


RB Kollannur
Unseen Ink
inperceptus resero

Next  : An Open Letter to the Congress President – On reviving Congress

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Expect Heavy Mango Showers This Summer

Posted by RB Kollannur on February 25, 2014

It is election time once again at Lok Sabha. The results will not be remarkably different from the last. Neither national party will gain majority on its own and will need to rely on the clot of regional parties to govern the nation. But there will be one minor difference to the whole election story – the beginning of the emergence of a new national party.

Or not.

Entry into the elusive upper echelon of the Indian democracy is a difficult and arduous task. The Indian National Congress needed over six decades to reach a semblance of self rule. The Bharatiya Janatha Party needed close to five decades to achieve power in Delhi. But come this May, we will all be keenly watching for the national success of Arvind Kejriwal and his two year old Aam Aadmi Party.

The idea that Kerjriwal has raised is a remarkable one. The Indian populace is frustrated by the political class of the nation. So, Kerjriwal has given them a new one.

It has reached a stage where even Bharat Matha needs pepper spray to escape the rape of her Parliament. Most of us have been couch coaches in the Indian political ballgame, but now many have stepped on to the ground to engage in scrimmage. People from every walk of life, a writer here, a rickshaw driver there, the list of Indians lining up for candidature for AAP is many.

It is phenomenal the way AAP has raised the expectations of everyday man. It is amusing to see my father, a career Communist, despite being a noted businessman, to rave about a party he is still unlikely to vote for. Despite the support AAP has generated among the people, it can only be of any use if they can get it converted into votes.

It is likely that Kejriwal could win the election, if he competed in every single constituency.

But he cannot.

A nascent party lacks the mechanism of a national party to provide societal leaders needed to run for election in every constituency. It is here Horatius will stop an outsider from ruining the carefree lavish of the Indian Parliament.

Every candidate who is not Arvind Kejriwal will come with their own baggage, which will impact their losability.

For example, the front running candidate for my constituency is a writer of decent repute. But will she be able to fully inculcate the persona of Arvind Kerjriwal whom the electorate will probably be more ready to vote for? Will she be able to inspire people like my father, who have had no qualms for supporting a government against whom he had gone on a hunger strike twice, and get them to vote for AAP?

As for me, there will be only a slight modification this time to my vote in last general election, thanks largely to the Supreme Court of India.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »