Baying for blood

BELGIUM defender Thomas Meunier promised to go for the kill early against Tunisia today.

The Belgians are looking to pile pressure on England for the top spot in Group G.

They lead the group after a 3-0 win over Panama in their opening match, but only on goal difference after England downed Tunisia 2-1.

A strong result over Tunisia would force England to respond against Panama tomorrow, setting up a blockbuster clash between the European sides on June 29 to top the standings.

Meunier was reluctant to look too far ahead, saying Belgium’s top priority was advancing to the last 16.

He said Belgium, ranked third in the world, wanted to impose themselves early against 21st ranked Tunisia.

“The best way to beat Tunisia is to go for the throat early,” he said.

“If you score in the first 15 minutes, then you can just control the rest of the game.”

Meunier expects all-out attack from Tunisia, who need a win to retain hope of qualifying for the knockout phase for the first time in five appearances.

“They’ll come at us and try to win to stay in the competition,” the Paris St Germain rightback said.

“We’ll have to be careful in defence.”

He was confident in the abilities of a starstudded squad that has been called Belgium’s “golden generation”.

“We must play our game and use our quality,” he said.

“We shouldn’t even bother what Tunisia want to do, just put everything in and finish this game off as quickly as possible.” — AFP

Short passes

Untimely distraction

IF Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes engineers are not fully focused on Formula One before Sunday’s French GP, blame it on football. The four-time world champion conceded he would keep one eye on England’s group game against Panama, which kicks off two hours before the race. “It’s going to be harder to focus on the race,” the Briton said. “The game will be on, I’m sure my engineers will keep an eye on both things at the same time, as will I.”
— Reuters

Bank on us — in 2026

BRITAIN’s top central bankers held an unusual vote during their policy deliberations this week — which nation is most likely to win the World Cup. But full details of the Monetary Policy Committee’s discussions — which typically revolve around British interest rates — are only published eight years later. “You’ll have to wait until 2026 to find out which member’s football knowledge matches their understanding of the UK economy,” Bank of England Governor Mark Carney joked.
— Reuters

New tickets, please

GERMANY’s Sami Khedira gave a cool response to an attempt at provocation from a journalist ahead of tomorrow’s vital game between the teams. The journalist, from a Swedish tabloid, tried to wind up Khedira by offering him fake airline tickets to Berlin, in the event the holders lose to the Scandinavian side and find themselves eliminated. The Juventus midfielder politely refused, saying: “We’ll need them on July 16.” That’s the day after the final! — AFP

Bad bet

PORTUGAL captain Cristiano Ronaldo explained the growing stubble on his chin was the result of a bet with teammate Ricardo Quaresma. “My new beard? That was a joke with Quaresma,” he said after the 1-0 win over Morocco. “We were in the sauna and I started shaving. I left a bit and said if I scored against Spain, I wouldn’t shave until the tournament ends. It brought luck, I scored. So, I’m going to keep it.”


Legacy at risk

GERMANY’s phenomenal World Cup consistency means the reigning champions have not been eliminated in the group stage for the last 80 years — but that could all change tomorrow.

At every edition since 1938, Germany have made it past the group stage.

They did not compete in 1950 as they were banned following World War II.

Not even five-time champions Brazil can boast such a record, with the South Americans having failed to get out of their group in 1966.

But when Joachim Low’s men take to the pitch against Sweden for their second Group F match, they will be painfully aware defeat could mean the end of one of the longest World Cup records.

A shock 1-0 opening loss to Mexico means they need at least four points from their remaining matches to progress.

Tepid and lacklustre against Mexico, the Germans showed none of the strengths that carried them to the 2014 title and victory in each of their 10 qualifiers.

Instead, they were easy prey for opponents who outsmarted them with quick breaks.

“We have two important tasks to complete and we must win both games,” striker Thomas Muller said. “We want nothing but success.

“It doesn’t matter who plays, everyone has to do what they’re asked to. If they stick to that, everyone can set up or score goals.”

For the Swedes, however, it is a golden opportunity to advance, knowing their opponents are under extreme pressure.

“We’ll do everything we can, and be as smart as we can with and without the ball,” said winger Emil Forsberg, whose team won their opener 1-0 against South Korea.

A draw could also be enough for Sweden.

“The longer the match goes, the more desperate they’ll get if they haven’t scored,” Forsberg added. — Reuters


Hattrick hunter

KUALA LUMPUR — Carolina Marin is not only Europe’s answer to ending Asian monopoly in women’s singles, she has already shown signs of becoming one of the greatest.

As traditional powerhouses Denmark struggled to unearth talents in the mould of their former world champions Lene Koppen (1977) and Camilla Martin (1999), Marin arrived from football-crazy Spain to break China’s dominance by winning the world title in 2014.

She defended her crown the following year and added the Olympic gold to her stellar collection in 2016 to prove her success was no fluke.

The first Spanish shuttler to achieve world and Olympic success, Marin failed to secure a third world title last year after losing to eventual winner Nozomi Okuhara of Japan in the quarterfinals.

The defeat has made the 24-year-old ever more determined to complete her hattrick in Nanjing next month.

“When you’ve won everything, it’s hard to be excited about playing but I make it a priority to set new goals everytime,” said Marin during a promotional event as La Liga ambassador at Sheraton Petaling Jaya yesterday.

“Injuries made it tough to remain world No 1. There are ups and downs in every player’s life but the ability to deal with these situations separate you from the rest.”

The world No 6 will use Malaysia Open beginning on Tuesday at Axiata Arena in Bukit Jalil as tuneup before making an onslaught on the World Championships.

An ardent football fan, Marin has been routing for Spain at the ongoing World Cup in Russia and expects them to emerge champions for the second time.

“Despite the early draw with Portugal, we can still win the World Cup,” she said confidently.

Does she follow any club?

“Barcelona have many good players. Andres Iniesta, I love him as a person. He’s really humble,” said Marin.

“I’ve not met him but would love to one day. (Lionel) Messi is the best player in the world but he’s struggling with Argentina.

“That’s because Barca are a better team.”

The way forward

LE CASTELLET — Red Bull’s decision to switch from Renault to Honda engines for the next two seasons looks a positive step, according to Dutch driver Max Verstappen.

The 20-year-old, who has a contract for the duration of the deal, said at the French GP on Thursday the announcement came as no surprise.

Verstappen added he visited Honda’s engine factory in Japan last year and was impressed with what he saw.

“The performance they showed this year, the improvements they made and especially in Canada again, it all looked positive,” he said.

“They keep developing, putting people in the right places.”

The youngest race winner in F1 history, with three career victories so far, Verstappen is seen as a future champion.

The Honda engine, however, has underperformed since the Japanese manufacturer returned with McLaren in 2015.

A similar lack of reliability at Red Bull would be a major setback to Verstappen’s hopes.

But they introduced an engine upgrade in Canada two weekends ago that helped Red Bull owned-Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly go from the back row of the grid to 11th place.

“I believe in it and the team clearly believes in it because they signed the deal,” said Verstappen.

“You have Honda working for Red Bull and Toro Rosso only, so it’s purely designed around your car.”

His father Jos was a test driver for Honda’s F1 project in 1998 and would have raced until the death of technical head Harvey Postlethwaite led to a change of plans.

“It’s a nice coincidence,” Verstappen junior said of the renewed Honda connection.
— Reuters

Transformed post Gold Coast

KUALA LUMPUR — Syed Syafiq Syed Cholan has taken great strides from being a fringe player into a national team mainstay after an assured performance at the heart of defence during the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

Syed Syafiq, 23, was constantly hit with injuries as a junior, curtailing a longer stint with the Tigers.

But he cleared all doubts with a solid outing in Australia in April.

Although down with a knee injury picked up during the friendly series with Olympic champions Argentina, he is looking forward to help Malaysia win the Asian Games gold.

Success in Indonesia in August will guarantee an automatic Olympic berth at Tokyo 2020.

“Commonwealth Games was my first big tournament, although it was a bad start losing to England 7-0,” said Syed Syafiq, back in training after the Hari Raya break.

“After the game, we gathered in captain Shukri’s (Mutalib) room and assessed our performance. It was evident rectifying the setbacks in defence was key to our improvement.

“It helped us play better against well organised and clinical higher ranked teams.”

Syed Syafiq also learnt valuable lessons during the six friendlies in Argentina, where Malaysia won one, drew one and lost four matches.

“I was getting better every game. The tough pre-training helped and there’s marked improvement in everyone’s fitness level,” added the Perak-born player.

“We matched Argentina for the full game.”
Syed Syafiq will utilise the new-found confidence to help Malaysia beat main rivals India for Asian Games gold and improve on their 12th spot finish in 2014 at the World Cup in Bhubaneswar (India) in November.


Data usage to back up businesses

DREAMER, aristocrat, knight or doubter.

Four words hardly associated with data but this is just one way Qlik, a leader in business intelligence, helps entrepreneurs get ahead in the game.

Qlik Asean managing director Suganthi Shivkumar said the key factor behind a business lies in data, adding that to further boost a data-driven society, Qlik has developed an online data personality diagnostic test which assists entrepreneurs in knowing how well they understand data.

“By taking part in this, you understand what personality you fall under and we have broken it down into four a data aristocrat, data knight, data dreamer, or a data doubter,” she said.

A data aristocrat is someone who has advanced skillsets and experience in data analytics while they can serve as a mentor to help others while a data knight is confident but driven to become more data literate.

An entrepreneur falls under the data dreamer category if they are still in the beginning stages of data literacy while a data doubter is a person who is too often sceptical of the value of data-driven decisions and the importance of it.

“Depending on the result, Qlik will provide a pathway to guide them to be more effective in their data journey.”

Successful entrepreneurs have always relied on some form of data to boost profit, reduce losses, when managing a crisis situation and to monitor performance within the organisation.

As we move forward, collecting data is more than just reporting some numbers on a sheet of paper with tables and graphs.

Collecting data can be tricky because of the financial cost, time, difficulty of execution and more problems associated with data collection.

Suganthi said the key factor behind a business lies in data.

“Data tells you a very powerful story. With data an entrepreneur can increase revenue, decrease cost and manage business risks in a more organised structure.

“If they carefully understand the story their data is telling them, they can take corrective action, cease opportunities and avoid sub-optimal operations it won’t only help a business to survive but to thrive.

“Traditional businessmen used to depend a lot on their gut feeling, it works to some extent, but wherever there are limitations, data will back it up.

“If every business is backed up with strong data, it can only improve,” she said.

Qlik has over 25 years of experience, along with 48,000 customers and 1,500 partners who provide customers data analytics or solutions in various institutes such as banks, insurance companies, retailers, manufacturers, public sector organisations and educational institutions.

She added that 100 per cent of their efforts is focused on helping organisations harness the power of data and to provide them insights into their business.

“Everyone knows they are flooded with data. But how do you truly make use of it?” Suganthi said.

She added that although the company’s focus was to provide companies an in-depth look at their data what she truly hoped for was for the birth of a data-driven culture especially in Malaysia.

Qlik contributes to this aim by having a data literacy programme, which has been very well received by their clients.

“For instance, as kids, we went to school to write, but it’s never enough. You are still writing years down the road, but you improve your skills and that is what data literacy can bring.”

The programme, she said enables an entrepreneur to understand four key factors in relation to data the ability to read, work with, analyse and argue with it.

“The reason behind our programme is simple, the stronger the root, the stronger the tree strong data insights helps you make strong decisions.”

Earlier this month, Qlik announced the start of its Qlik Sense Tour, which spans across 48 countries alongside 100 partners, to showcase the power of analytics to transform data into powerful business tools.

Over the course of the tour, they will showcase exciting new feature releases including its multi-cloud strategy and innovations in augmented intelligence that surface the most important insights from an expanded set of data discovery.

In Malaysia, iEnterprise Online Sdn Bhd — a subsidiary of Ancom Berhad has been partners with Qlik since earlier this month.

It was awarded Qlik’s New Asia Pacific Partner of the year in June 2018.

iEnterprise Analytics and Big Data chief executive officer Loh Chian Hong said its customers have seen a substantial growth since switching over to Qlik from other data collective and reporting methods.

“It’s quite fair to say our customers have easily seen an increase of sales by 10 to 30 per cent without doing much additional work and just by analysing the data they have.

“International customers primarily have talked about the higher percentage of improvement since the switch.”

Loh added that with Qlik, a company can achieve its goals three times faster.

“We can develop something faster with a lower risk. In business, if you take too long, it changes and time to market is important as you would like to take competitive advantage over competitors,” he said.

“Most businesses focus on outgoing issues — sales and marketing primarily. When one does not get the results they sit back and question themselves — What happened? How can I avoid it?

“Most of the time they will tell you they do not know they have failed because they hardly analysed. There’s a reason to why things happen and where do we get the clarity? Through data.”


Preserving heritage through sketch

EVERY Sunday, a group of people gather around various heritage buildings in Ipoh.

Known as the Urban Sketchers Ipoh, they are armed with sketch books, pens and paint, furiously going about trying to preserve the buildings through their art.

It started with only two members back in 2014 and now has about 100 people in the group.

Its leader Chin Kok Yan said the group met every week and draw from 9.30am to noon.

“Sometimes we continued in the evening too.”

Speaking to Malay Mail recently, the advertising agency owner said there was no right or wrong way to sketch.

“As long as you have the interest, you are welcomed to join us.”

He said sketching can also be a good family activity.

“Instead of family members being preoccupied with their gadgets, parents can bring their children to join us.”

“Even if you do not bring art paper or pens and colour pencils, we provide them for you.”

The 51-year-old admitted he was not a sketcher initially.

“I was more into photography but as time passed, I started to sketch. Taking photos is different from drawing. With photographs, you just need to snap at the right angle and be done with it.

“I wanted more. I wanted to sketch a building before it became dilapidated and sadly, Ipoh has many such buildings.”

The father of two a boy and a girl said he started sketching with his daughter in 2012.

“As I used to have a group of photography friends, I invited them to sketch with me.

“But over the years, not many stayed on. On the bright side, our group grew as news started to spread about us.”

Chin said the group’s name may be Urban Sketchers Ipoh but they had ventured outside the city to places such as Taiping and Kuala Kangsar.

“The rule of thumb is the buildings we sketch must have heritage value.”

Urban Sketchers, he added, started in the US in 2007.

“In Malaysia, there are Urban Sketchers at Johor, Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Sarawak and Sabah. There are also plans to set up a similar group in Kedah.”

Over the years, Chin had sketched more than 100 buildings and inevitably some are repeat sketches.

“One of the buildings I sketched that has changed is the row of pre-war shophouses at Kampung Kepayang in Simpang Pulai. Where there used to be a row of shophouses, only two units remain.”

Chin said the group is a close-knit one.

“We used to have a senior member. One day I went to Melaka to sketch and received news the member had passed on in his sleep. It affected me deeply.”

Chin is also glad the group had helped to mend family ties of one member.

“There is a member who used to have problems with his siblings. They did not speak to each other and wished each other dead.

“But after joining us, the member started to open up his heart.

“He realised nothing is permanent and started to speak to his siblings again.

“This was after more than three decades of feud. I am glad the group has that effect on the members.”

Those interested in Urban Sketchers Ipoh can join their Facebook page to stay updated on their programmes.


In bed with Iron Man and Hello Kitty

THE homestay and hotel industry in Ipoh is known for its hipster decor, but there is a shinier, more “heroic” player in the form of Jia@Majestic.

The homestay, run by Wong Wei Tze, offers guests a unique opportunity to share space with Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and other Avengers.

Located in the Majestic tower complex, Wong pays homage to the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise.

Rooms are replete with posters, figurines, and furnishings out of a comic-book fan’s dream.

The Avengers unit is one of 12 at Jia@Majestic.

Each unit has a theme of their own.

“Other pop culture influences include units styled after Transformers and Hello Kitty,” Wong, 37, told Malay Mail.

The Sitiawan native said the most popular units were the Hello Kitty, Transformers and Avengers, which come as little surprise, as they have a stunning attention to detail.

In the Transformer homestay, posters of Optimus Prime are placed next to one of his catchphrases, while shelves of the “robots in disguise” line the walls.

Meanwhile, the Avengers unit can be viewed as a “shrine” to the franchise.

Visually-arresting posters of Thor, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, and Hawkeye adorn the walls.

There is even a room dedicated to Iron Man, complete with a sculpture of his mask and hand blaster jutting through the wall.

Curtains, couch cushions, and blankets are all adorned with the images and logos of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

The attention to detail is what stands out in each unit, down to the paint colours.

This can be seen with the pink motif in the Hello Kitty unit, for example.

One assumes Wong, who is responsible for the decor, is a fan of the franchises.

He is not.

“I get the ideas from my two children, because this is what they like. I cannot say I’m a big fan of these franchises,” Wong said.

“I do my research to find out what goes with each theme. That takes three to four months, and a lot of time is spent on shopping websites because many of the items are only available overseas.”

“I buy a lot of them from collectors, and there are times where I have to bid high, because the collectors refuse to let them go.”

Besides pop culture themes, other units feature creative motifs such as “Room of Quotes”, the plush toy-filled “Teddy and Fren” and the golden “Where Midas meets Angels”, which are popular among honeymooners.

There are traditionally-decorated units, featuring English, industrial, and multi-coloured styles.

Wong wanted to bring something unique to the local homestay industry by creating thematic styles for each unit.

The idea, he said, echoed the themed homestay concept spreading throughout Taiwan.

“The market demands something different, and I was attracted by the idea after visiting Taiwan recently.”

The themes are worth the trouble for Wong, as his homestay attracts around 200 visitors per month and numbers are steadily rising.

Guests have come from as far as Singapore, Taiwan, and France, staying for as long as one or two months.

Many are shocked and impressed by the units, and the positive feedback is a pay-off for Wong’s labour of love.

“They know t the units have special themes but they never imagine it looks like this. It’s something they don’t expect.

“That makes me really proud, and I’m also happy my children love it as well,” Wong said.

Flying fox (1)

Seven things to do in Banting

TOURIST tales in Banting are rarely written about. So we decided to take a short drive to the town for a short vacation.

Although we spent less than a day there, we managed to squeeze in several interesting activities.

The 30-minute drive from Klang was well worth it, whether you are in search of tasty food or outdoor adventures.


Tadom Hill Resorts

There is nothing like being surrounded by turquoise spring water along with a splendid view of limestone hills in the background.

The rustic resort in Banting is a perfect place for a getaway with your friends and family.

Among the facilities you can take advantage of are diving platforms, floating lounge chairs, tarzan swings, water swings and all-terrain vehicle rides.

If you love some competition, then there is a place for a game of rope pulling, beach volleyball and football.

Tadom Hill can take up an entire weekend, but we only spent about three hours there.

Heads up, it gets packed on the weekends, so a weekday visit will be great if you want to avoid the crowd.

Bukit Jugra

If you are on a tight budget but still want to experience nature, Bukit Jugra is the place to be.

There are ample of parking spots by the hillside.

Jogging and hiking trails are aplenty and upon reaching the peak, you get to take in a breathtaking panoramic view of the Langat River.

For the social media fanatics — this is the spot for you.

You will not miss the huge “JUGRA” signboard near the lighthouse.

If hiking does not get your heart pumping, shell out RM242 for paragliding. We regret not taking this on.

A 15-minute experience — up to an hour with safety briefing and preparation — offers a view of the well-preserved buildings of Jugra’s past.

March to September is the best time to go.

We spent about two hours here.

Morib and Kelanang beach

What is a day trip without a visit to the usual tourist destinations in Banting?

Just like any other beach, it is a suitable spot for a picnic or get together with friends.

Both beaches are only six kilometres apart.

The ambience was all right but the rubbish and upgrading works at Kelanang beach was a big no for us.

If you do not fancy Kelanang, then Morib is a better option, with more food stalls around.

We took 90 minutes walking at the two beaches.


Chicken rice at

Restoran Sin Loong Foong

Before our adventure in Tadom Hill, we visited one of the town’s most famous chicken rice shops, which is in Jalan Bunga Pekan in the heart of Banting town.

Unlike the usual chicken rice restaurants, the meat is served not in oil and light soya sauce but with a creamy sauce that is prepared with wolfberries, giving it a distinct herbal taste.

This restaurant seemed to be a favourite and after a quick chat with one of the workers, we were told it has been in operation for about 40 years.

We ordered a plate of char siew and chicken rice with two glasses of iced barley, a total cost of RM13. It is value for money.

If you are not a fan of chicken rice, the shop serves plain and curry noodle soup dishes too.

Beggar’s chicken at Bukit Jugra

You can find the beggar’s chicken shop on the way up Bukit Jugra and it offers a cosy place to dine beside a small stream.

What makes this dish special is that it is stuffed, wrapped in clay and slowly baked in the ground at low heat.

Preparing it can take about six hours. Customers are advised to book their meals before showing up.

To our surprise, it was slightly disappointing. There was a lack of taste to it but the meat was cooked well.

Adding salt to the wounds of our pocket, one whole chicken cost more than RM60.

But if you are eager to taste this unique dish, head to Restoran New Heong Kee in Ulu Kelang and another in Ijok.

Iguana and wild boar curry at

Chelliah Toppu Banting

The last stop before our drive home was the best.

Banting’s famous toddy brewery — one of the two licenced brewers of toddy, an alcoholic drink made from partly fermented sap of the coconut palm.

We did not visit the place for its signature drink but instead tuck in some iguana, mutton and wild boar curries that were delicious and cheap.

The three dishes with two glasses of iced water came up to RM21 while the prices of toddy starts from RM11 (1.5 litre bottle).


Jugra Insitu Museum

After hiking and watching people paraglide, we visited the museum at the foot of the hill to get to know more about the historical town of Jugra a royal town before Klang.

The museum is in a double-storey building, which used to be a police station.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the ground floor served as a prison and the upper floor was a courtroom.

It is well restored and has three exhibition halls of displays and dioramas of the building itself while two GMC C15TA armoured trucks used by the Royal Malaysian Police during the Second World War guard the entrance.

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