Evra: Suarez will feel my presence

Luis Suarez.
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By the numbers

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Barca beware

Juve's knockout of heavyweight champions suggests they will not be pushovers in the final

ON TOP: Juventus' Arturo Vidal (above) and teammates celebrate the goal by Alvaro Morata that ultimately helped them beat Sergio Ramos and his Real Madrid team on aggregate.
ON TOP: Juventus' Arturo Vidal and teammates celebrate the goal by Alvaro Morata that ultimately helped them beat Sergio Ramos (above) and his Real Madrid team on aggregate.

 

Juventus had us fooled.

They were supposed to make up the numbers in the Champions League semi-finals.

They were not expected to upstage the powerhouses, not least Real Madrid.

The assumption was that they would make a fight of it, but eventually fall victim to the big guns.

Obviously, they didn't read the script. They did the unthinkable. They defied fate. They knocked out the holders.

With nerves of steel, the Old Lady came back from a goal down in the second leg to draw 1-1, and in the process knock out the Galacticos 3-2 on aggregate yesterday morning (Singapore time).

At a corner of the Santiago Bernabeu, a small pocket of away fans celebrated wildly amid the prevailing gloom.

Be afraid, Barcelona.

If Lionel Messi and Co. are expecting a stroll in the final on June 6, they will walk right into an ambush. Real's downfall over two legs is the perfect warning.

Juventus' excellence in Europe this season has come as a surprise.

A traditional powerhouse, they, like all Serie A teams in recent years, have gone through a slump in the continent's premier competition.

Their finances no longer allow them to compete for players in the top bracket. Their previous mediocre displays in the Champions League make it even tougher to attract the very best.

This vicious circle eats into the spirit and tenacity that once made Italian clubs one of the most feared.

Prior to this season, Italy, one of the big four in European club football, had provided only five of the last 32 Champions League finalists.

Germany contributed seven, while England and Spain led the chart with nine. This time, Juventus have bucked the trend.

They built a team around a spine of fiercely loyal stalwarts - goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, defender Giorgio Chiellini and midfielders Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio - and then found the other missing pieces of the jigsaw.

Their astuteness in their transfer dealings was remarkable.

They spotted the potential of Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba and Alvaro Morata and they saw value in veterans such as Patrice Evra and Carlos Tevez.

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri killed off Real with a counter-attacking game that demanded high and aggressive pressing.

In the face of an intimidating star-studded attacking force helmed by Cristiano Ronaldo, Buffon instilled confidence in the Chiellini-led backline.

The midfield quartet of Marchisio, Pirlo, Pogba and Vidal held their ground in a disciplined and tactical performance, leaving Tevez and Real old boy Morata to inflict the damage up front.

At times, they came under siege, but they were never over-run.

It is clear where Juventus' strength lies. In 12 Champions League fixtures, they have conceded only seven goals - three less than their more gilded final opponents, Barcelona.

The potent mixture of organisation and defensive solidity often trumps flair and imagination.

Five years ago, Inter Milan booted Barcelona out in the last four through sheer grit.

Chelsea, in the 2012 final, reduced Bayern Munich to tears on their home ground with a similarly systematic display.

Juventus will no doubt start the final in Berlin as the underdogs.

But Barcelona must ready themselves for rough ride, one which may end in disaster if they don't heed the warning signs.

Botanic Gardens head fusses over the plants

Singapore Botanic Gardens director Nigel Taylor plays detective and uncovers interesting facts about the national landmark sleuth Gardens

Singapore Botanic Gardens director Nigel Taylor

The position of "director" brings to mind someone in top management, issuing instructions from an air-conditioned office.

But Dr Nigel Taylor, 59, director of the Singapore Botanic Gardens, has no qualms getting dirty on the job.

Dr Taylor, who joined the Botanic Gardens more than three years ago, is always asking, "Why?"

Driving a buggy around the grounds, he will wave cheerfully to his staff gardeners. And it is not uncommon to find him on his knees, fussing over a germinating seedling.

He told The New Paper on Tuesday that he knows the Botanic Gardens so well, he believes he can navigate its paths blindfolded.

Dr Taylor is a former curator at Kew Gardens in London, which holds the world's largest collection of living plants.

He is so passionate about the Botanic Gardens, he has been acting like a detective, digging up information that even long-time employees are unaware of.

Last year, he uncovered the true colours of Burkill Hall, long believed to be a colonial black-and-white bungalow.

He said: "It is actually an Anglo-Malayan style plantation house, but had been wrongly painted by the Public Works Department since the 1960s.

"The exterior is supposed to be completely white."

ACCURACY

Dr Taylor was fielding a media query on black-and-white bungalows and had wanted to be sure he was giving accurate information.

But his research showed that the historic building had different architectural features compared to a black-and-white bungalow. Old photographs confirmed the house used to be white.

While both types of houses have an overhanging roof, the external wall of Burkill Hall is further from the edge of the roof, leaving a large porch that would shelter the plantation owner from the tropical weather.

Dr Taylor presented his case to architectural historians and looked for surviving examples of a plantation house in the region.

Books and postcards pointed him to various locations in Singapore and Malaysia, but he was out of luck, leading him to believe that Burkill Hall is the last of its kind.

Burkill Hall, built between 1867 and 1868, is named after the Botanic Gardens' former directors Isaac Henry Burkill and his son Humphrey Morrison Burkill.

Its matching verandahs and high ceilings create a wind corridor on the top floor.

Dr Taylor said Burkill Hall's original whitewashed walls will return when it is repainted later this year.

The house is not the only mystery he has solved in his work at. Others include the origins of a strange arrow in the middle of Symphony Lake.

How did he manage to solve so many mysteries? He said: "There's no magic to it. You just have to be a bit of a sleuth."

Did you know?

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Dad tells court: It's hard for me to control him

Deaf teen steals buses for joyrides for third time.

STOLEN: Muhammad Salahuddin, 17, shouted at Mr Toh Hoe Kok when he boarded the bus and put up a fight before the police arrived.

He got interested in buses at 16.

Desperate to drive one, the deaf boy stole and drove two buses in January.

His parents repeatedly told him he couldn't do this especially after police officers had descended on their home several times to investigate his crimes.

When he stole a third bus, his parents chose not to bail him out as they wanted the authorities to teach him a lesson.

The first incident was on Jan 31, when Muhammad Salahuddin Omar stole and drove two buses and was arrested.

Despite being released on police bail, he stole a third bus on March 8 to go on a joyride. He went to Woodlands Industrial Park E8 and stole a green and yellow bus. It was valued at about $200,000 and belonged to AZ Bus.

Yesterday, Muhammad Salahuddin, who turned 17 last month while in remand, pleaded guilty to stealing the vehicle owned by AZ Bus, driving under the age of 18 and driving without insurance.

Six other charges relating to his earlier offences in January were also taken into consideration for sentencing.

District Judge Siva Shanmugam asked Muhammad Salahuddin why no one posted the $15,000 bail for him.

He replied in sign language through an interpreter: "I don't know if my parents can come."

Judge Siva then called for Muhammad Salahuddin's father, who was sitting in the public gallery.

His father told the court he was ashamed of his son and that it was best to let the law deal with him.

He said he first realised his son had developed a keen interest in public transportation sometime last year.

Muhammad Salahuddin would attend exhibitions on public transportation with his elder brother and play computer games related to buses.

The boy's father told the court: "I don't want to bail him out so that he would not commit more offences. I already helped him so many times. It's hard for me to control him."

He added his son had made mistakes not once, but twice.

"Because of what he has done, officers from Jurong to Clementi to Woodlands Police Stations have come to my home. How ashamed I am," the father said.

He said his wife felt the same and that it was best that the law took care of his son.

SORRY

Muhammad Salahuddin, who was unrepresented, said in mitigation he was sorry.

"I can't believe I made such a big mistake in stealing the vehicle. I feel like I wasted my life by this mistake."

The boy also said that he wanted to complete his studies and look for a job, and hoped that he would not have a criminal record to his name.

Judge Siva called for a pre-sentence report to determine Muhammad Salahuddin's suitability for probation and reformative training.

The court heard how he had stolen the third bus just two months after stealing the first two buses.

He chose AZ Bus' vehicle as it was automatic and easier to drive.

He boarded the bus by pressing the emergency exit button and climbing into the vehicle.

After searching the front of the bus, he found the ignition key next to the driver's seat and drove off.

At about 2pm, AZ Bus operations executive Toh Hoe Kok, 56, arrived at the industrial park and found the vehicle missing.

He took out his mobile phone and tracked the bus via a Global Positioning System (GPS) on board the vehicle.

He found it to be travelling along Kian Teck Road, in Jurong, and told one of his employees to follow it.

But when Mr Toh's colleague located and approached the bus, Muhammad Salahuddin did not stop.

The boy then continued to drive the bus onto the Ayer Rajah Expressway, before travelling along Jurong Town Hall Road, Boon Lay Way and Jurong Pier Road.

This was when Mr Toh got into his own vehicle and went after the bus.

He tracked the bus to Bukit Batok Central before driving in front of it and stopping it.

By then, Muhammad Salahuddin had driven for about 45 minutes and at least 60km.

The case will be heard again on June 4.

"I don't want to bail him out so that he would not commit more offences. I already helped him so many times..."

- Father of Muhammad Salahuddin Omar

SP student with perfect GPA score used to be gang member

These graduating Singapore Polytechnic students are Gold Medallists, an award given by their poly for academic excellence but they tell LING YUANRONG (yuanrong@sph.com.sg) that they had to overcome challenges to achieve success

(From left to right) Mr Yong Ming Jie, Miss Khoo Hui Ting, Mr Jenson Seah
"They didn't neglect me because I wasn't an outstanding student. They gave me a lot of attention and help every time I troubled them with my questions." - Mr Yong Ming Jie
"It helps to try to find joy in what you are doing, too." - Miss Khoo Hui Ting
ROUGH START: Mr Jensen Seah dropped out of school just months before his O levels, to the disappointment of his parents.

Poly lecturers gave him second chance

As a secondary school student, Mr Yong Ming Jie was a regular at the principal's office and he would usually end up in the detention room after that.

He often got into trouble for handing in sloppy work in class and dressing in a scruffy manner.

Said Mr Yong, now 20: "I felt embarrassed to be called out in the middle of a lesson.

"It was shameful to serve detention too because the detention area was out in the open so everyone could see me."

Knowing his teachers did not think highly of him, Mr Yong was not motivated to work hard.

He did well enough in his O-level examination to pursue a Diploma in Interior Design at Singapore Polytechnic (SP).

But his attitude towards his studies changed after he met his SP lecturers, who encouraged him and believed in him.

"They didn't neglect me because I wasn't an outstanding student. They gave me a lot of attention and help every time I troubled them with my questions," Mr Yong said.

Touched that his teachers were willing to invest their time and effort in him, Mr Yong gave his best in every project.

It was not easy as he had no background in design and had to learn everything from scratch.

"Many times, I was tempted to give up. But I had come this far and I didn't want to go back to where I was in secondary school," Mr Yong said.

His efforts paid off.

Mr Yong, who will be graduating from SP next week, achieved an impressive GPA of 3.88, an achievement he attributes to his SP lecturers.

He hopes to pursue a course in architecture at the National University of Singapore.

"I (want) to help design and shape my home city, to be an architect who can help influence the cityscape of Singapore," he said.

"They didn't neglect me because I wasn't an outstanding student. They gave me a lot of attention and help every time I troubled them with my questions."

- Mr Yong Ming Jie


She beat stress to shine in studies

Many students find the first few months in polytechnic fun and exciting, but Miss Khoo Hui Ting's first taste of poly life made her miserable.

The 21-year-old, who will be graduating next week with a Diploma in Experience and Product Design, said she was initially disappointed that she had not landed a spot in her desired course.

She scored an L1R4 of 15 at the O-level examinations, which did not qualify her for a place in the visual communication and media design course.

Miss Khoo felt overwhelmed trying to cope with the projects for the course she was studying and would go home in tears every day.

Worried, her parents encouraged her to apply for a change in course or school.

But Miss Khoo did not want to throw in the towel and she persevered, telling herself to take things slow and to give herself less stress.

"In design, giving yourself stress is counter-productive and it actually stifles creativity. I realised I think better when I am more relaxed.

"It helps to try to find joy in what you are doing, too," Miss Khoo said.

With the help of supportive friends, Miss Khoo managed to attain a GPA of 3.89.

She has been offered a place to study industrial design at the National University of Singapore, but she revealed she was initially afraid to take it up.

"I considered working first, but I've decided to give myself a chance and I should not back down without giving university life a try."

"It helps to try to find joy in what you are doing, too."

- Miss Khoo Hui Ting


School dropout is now success story

At 28, Mr Jenson Seah is one of the oldest graduates in his cohort. And his journey to success is also more remarkable than most.

Next week, Mr Seah, who is getting a Diploma in Integrated Events and Project Management, will graduate with a perfect GPA of 4.0.

But his present success belies a past fraught with challenges.

As a teenager, Mr Seah was obese and used to be bullied because of his size.

"I had no friends in school," he said.

Loneliness prompted him to join a gang when he was in Secondary 2.

He played truant and was rebellious.

"(Academically), I was the last in class and my teachers all thought I was a hopeless case.

"They even asked me to leave school because they didn't want me to influence the other students," Mr Seah said.

Just months before taking his O-level exams, he dropped out of school. His parents tried convincing him to continue his education, but without success. At her most desperate, his mother even broke down in front of him.

"I was shocked to see my mother crying. She later fell into depression," Mr Seah said.

Still, that did not spur him to change for the better. Instead, it was a remark his younger brother made that jolted him to his senses.

"My brother, who is five years younger than me, said, 'Even I, someone who is not as bright as you, am trying hard to survive and do well. So why are you not trying at all?'" Mr Seah said.

So Mr Seah started looking for a job. But with only a PSLE certificate, he could not get the better-paying jobs he wanted and ended up taking odd jobs, such as delivering newspapers in the wee hours of the morning and going door-to-door selling ice cream.

Saving the money he earned, he bought 10-year series assessment books and practised them diligently so he could take the N-level examinations as a private candidate.

He passed in 2005 and took the O levels a year later.

He got a place in ITE College West, where he studied electronics engineering. His lecturer, Mr Low Hock Siew, saw potential in him and would often stay back to coach him.

Mr Low also urged him to consider what he wanted to do in life,which prompted Mr Seah to study events management and hospitality at SP.

"I like to help run events in the hospitality industry because I get to serve and meet people from different walks of life."

Both the National University of Singapore and the Singapore Institute of Technology have offered him a spot to study a business-related course and he is still deciding between the two.

"One may not be the best in life, but one should still try to explore and realise one's full potential," Mr Seah said.

"My brother, who is five years younger than me, said: 'Even I, someone who is not as bright as you, am trying hard to survive and do well. So why are you not trying at all?'

- Mr Jenson Seah

 

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