Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Chistmas to you all

This is to wish you all the best for the holiday season. Please play safe in all things. Do not drink and drive and keep an eye at all road intersections for careless drivers who are in a hurry to die. Keep children away from the drivers' seat and passenger seats. Fasten your seat belts and provide special kids seats. Rest after every 3 hours if you drive long distances and eat well. Have good sleep and make sure to hydrate yourself with drinking plenty water. Above all, enjoy yourself responsibly.

Happy holidays.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Jose Mourinho on Coach of The Year; 'Give it to me' and he is right

The year is drawing to an end and I have good memories of the 2010 football, especially the FIFA World Cup. The controversies of the tournament led me to write one article in which I suggested FIFA should abolish offside rule altogether among other laws. One reader made the best comment ever on the story. 'My bro, you are going crazy now, you are losing it. I am serious'. That is my highlight of the year.

Talking of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Spain were victors without playing much football. Their first and second round encounter were lucky affairs that showed much fatigue on the part of the Barcelona contingent that made the bulk of the players. It was a breathe of fresh air to see the traditional owners of the Cup, Brazil and Germany, to some extent, Argentina, France and Italy were not even in the final.

Spain were coached by Vicente del Bosque. He proved to be a good tactician and though a little boring for a conductor of orchestra, he won the FIFA World Cup. Spain did not a perfect record but achieved the objective. Among the contenders of the Coach of the Year, is Carlo Ancelotti of Chelsea, Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United and Pep Guardiola of Barcelona.

Jose Mourinho wants it and has openly said, 'Give it to me'. This is why. At Inter Milan, he won the ultimate national cup, the national league and the European championship. He did that is style. Basically, he won everything there was for him to win. He ran out of competitions to win and did not have competitors at all. That puts him on top, whether you like him or not.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Knowledge Musona is a world beater

It is now common knowledge that Knowledge Musona played no league football in his native Zimbabwe and that his signing by Kaizer Chiefs was subject of the ridicule of a 'buy one get 2 free' deal synonymous with Chinese $1 shops. His performance yesternight against Mpumalanga Black Aces has underlined the fact that he is arguably the best thing that has ever happened to South African football in recent years.

There is one thing where this is pointing. Zimbabwean is of age, and it has no money. This is supported by the fact that Zimbabwe players earn about $200,00 a month, but then, the ABSA Premiership players will take home a 100 times more. Statistically and officially, the Zimbabwe Premier League is stronger and a better league that South African football. This is according to CAF. This is despite the fact that South Africa is loaded by sponsors and attracts the best African players. Their development structures and level of competition are not good enough.

But then, how then is South Africa lacking?  In so many ways. The South African Premiership Champions League representatives have not gone anywhere since Orlando Pirates won it in 1995. SuperSport United have been representing South Africa in this league for ages. With the resources as they can have any coverage and footage of any match of their choice at any time, they have not made an impact at all. They could only manage to subdue Pirates, Chiefs and Sundowns and then nothing else. They flattered to deceive.

Generally, South African football receives way too much attention and television coverage from Supersport and the SABC-TV that even fans do not go to the stadia any more. It was a sore sight seeing empty seats during the Soweto derby. The huge sums of money and TV coverage becomes a quick fix for clubs and no one really cares about tomorrow and hence the whole thing is just a big fuss.

As a result, the South African Premiership is now ranked as the 16th best topflight league on the continent compared to Zimbabwe's 12th position. They have 7 points and Zimbabwe has 17, a point behind Cote d'Ivoire and Angola — who occupy joint 10th place. For this reason, Zimbabwe have 2 Champions League slots while South Africa has one, with Motor Action and Dynamos getting those slots. Dynamos' exploits in this league are the reason why Zimbabwe football has this rating and they have a preliminary round bye.

Who is the best, you may ask. The Tunisian football league is.Tunisia stood top with 96 points followed by Egypt (87), and Nigeria (75). Others listed in the order of merit include Sudan (54) Democratic Republic of Congo (46), Algeria (27), Morocco (20), Mali (20), Cameroon (19), Cote d'Ivoire (18), Angola (18) and Zimbabwe (12).

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sir or Sheik Alex Ferguson? United may change hands

A Qatari royal family are said to be on their way to owning Manchester United for a mere £1.5 billion. This is peanuts for someone from a country that will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, as long as you drive your car. Oil prices have been consistently high at about $80,00 a barrel. Over the years, oil-rich countries budget with the assumption of crude oil costing $60,00 a barrel and hence, the extra $20,00 is excess and the governments record budget excesses over over $300 billion.

The American family, the Glazers stand to have a 100%, as opposed to the Hicks loss at Liverpool, since they paid £790 million five and a half years ago. With rumour of £252 million debt having been 'paid by Qatar Holdings' owned by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, it seems the issue is beyond a point of return.

Will it benefit United to go east, or will it be a death knell to the already mediocre team?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Highlanders' Champions League draw

The Mighty Bulls of Harare, Motor Action, lifted the championship in Zimbabwe, with Zimbabwe Premier Soccer League runners-up spot going to Dynamos, perennial power houses in CAF Champions League. Dembare have been excluded from the first round of the Confederation of African Football Champions League first round.

The Zimbabwe champions, Motor Action drew Cnaps Sports of Madagascar in matches to be played on the weekend of 28-30 January next year. They will be looking to doing well and emulate Monomotapa and Dynamos, who have played in the mini league of the championship. It will be seen how they will fare after rolling past the Madagascarns.

The most disappointing team of all time when it comes to the Champions League, is Highlanders FC of Zimbabwe, who were drawn to play against Nchanga Rangers of Zambia in the first round of the Caf Confederation Cup. Bosso may seem to have the material to take them far, but their resources and management is still to convince me they can lead a lead past the first half of any international match.

Nchanga have been a power-house before and need to be taken seriously. Zambian football has since lost the shine of the 1980s and 1990s, hence they are bouncing back and mean business. With more funding and better preparations, Bosso will have done a lot to get to the next draw. The leadership should give caretaker coach the funds to attend preliminary coaching courses and further studies as the time goes by. He has 'men skills' to manage the players, but the game is so dynamic and scientific than it was a year ago.

The Draw

First round (First leg: January 28-30, second: February 11-13)
ASFAN (NIG) v JC Abidjan (CIV); St Michel Ouenze (CGO) v Enyimba (NGR); US Bitam (GAB) v Astres Douala (CMR); Real Bangui (CAF) v Mouloudia Alger (ALG); InterClube (ANG) v Township Rollers (BOT); East End Lions (SLE) v Djoliba (MLI); Diaraf (SEN) v Ports Authority (GAM); ASPAC (BEN) v Deportivo Mongomo (GEQ); ASEC Mimosas (CIV) v Cansando (MTN); Motor Action (ZIM) v Cnaps Sports (MAD).

Raja Casablanca (MAR) v Tourbillon (CHA); Ulinzi Stars (KEN) v Zamalek (EGY); APR (RWA) v Club Africain (TUN); Recreativo Caala (ANG) v St George (ETH); Elan Club Mitsoudje (COM) v Simba (TAN);Mighty Barrolle (LBR) v Kano Pillars (NGR); Wydad Casablanca (MAR) v Aduana Stars (GHA); Fello Star (GUI) v ASFA Yennenga (BUR); ; Vital'O (BDI) v Cotonsport Garoua (CMR); Ocean View (ZAN) v Vita Club (COD); SuperSport Utd (RSA) v Matlama (LES); Young Buffaloes (SWZ) v St Michel Utd (SEY); Zesco Utd (ZAM) v Liga Muculmana (MOZ).

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Do not bet on Tevez going to Man U, he is heading back home

Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs are squeezing hard the back of Mamelodi Sundowns in the ABSA Premiership after victories over winless Moroka Swallows and Bidvest Wits respectively over this weekend. Pirates put 2 past the Birds with Teko Modise on song and Knowledge Musona punished the Students with a low free-kick. Nyasha Mushekwi made sure the Mimwana Phezulu remained on top with a solitary strike that kept Sundowns clear at the top.

TP Mazembe seemed overwhelmed by the occasion withdrawing into a cocoon in which they were buried by Inter Milan in the FIFA Club World Cup final in Abu Dhabi. The Africans took too much caution in their approach and their attack was even more lethargic for a team that have an excellent scoring record in the Cup.

The midfield was ever erratic in throwing away possession easily and the defence was ever in tatters, leaving too much spaces between personnel. The finishing was so pathetic that even without the goalkeeper, it is hard to say where the goals would come from. The team lost all cohesion and compactness and were over reliant on the long balls and distance shooting that would make rugby penalty takers a little jealous. Inter scored 3 beautiful goals and the win ensured Samuel Eto'o has won all club football accolades in his fantastic career. Better still, he scored one of the goals in the final to ice the act.

Carlos Tevez will play for Manchester United in the next life. To expect Sir Alex Ferguson to take him back after he left throwing sinks and kitchen tables at every one and everything in sight, is to grossly underestimate the ego of the best manager in the history of the game. I am not a fan of SAF but surely, at his worst, he will not accept Tevez for free even to make him an 11th player in a crisis where he needs numbers against arch rivals Man City.

It is hard to see how he will leave Manchester City to start with and surely, not many will be keen to have a problem child who does know what he wants. Spurs would do with his skills but they do not have the kitty for his appetite. Spanish clubs may fancy their luck aside Chelsea and the Italians. My bet is, if he leaves City, he may as well head back home. He made far too much for his expectation and it is confusing him.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

If you care about what I think about the UEFA Champions League...

The UEFA champions league first legs in 2011 will be played on February 15 and 16 and February 22 and 23 with the return legs on March 8 and 9 and March 15 and 16. The final will be at Wembley Stadium on May 28.

Barcelona attracts Arsenal with alarming regularity in this tournament, and they even give them a hiding with the same consistancy. The reason is simple. Barcelona has men and Arsenal boys. Will we see boys turning to men? Not in our life-time. The Gunners can only go a gear up with a new set of players or a new manager. Barca blasted Gunners 6-3 on aggregate in the quarter-finals last season and gunned them in the 2006 final. It was nice having Arsenal in the Champions League. There is still another season, next year, hoping Lionel Messi will not be eligible for the encounter then.

The same can be said of Tottenham Hotspur. They had an amazing run in the Champions League so far and my prayers were always that they draw a tough team to play. They had fantastic trips to the San Siro for the memorable encounter with holders, Inter Milan and now return there for a date with seven time champions, AC Milan. As an after thought, AC are better than Inter for now, and that is the tonic Harry Redknapp needs. I feel for the San Siro crowd. Gareth Bale will haunt them for life.

Manchester United will spend much of their Champions League preparation time doing work for the Barclays Premier League. This ensures they regain the championship, but drawing  Olympique Marseille, those who think they know, will tell you it is a plate of chips. This Manchester United is the worst side ever to take on Europe. While they has been praise of how well they began to defend and getting result without playing well, that is coming to an end. Marseille are a hard nut and it will be sad to lose for champions in such an easy fashion but like the Gunners, they will be concentrating on the league.

Chelsea are to play rookies, FC Copenhagen. Chelsea will make light work of the former  Swiss heavy weights who have become very ordinary in recent years. Such teams make good prey for the ‘men at work’ attitude of The Blues, who are seeking a comeback. Copenhagen will suffer the indignity of meeting the team that will be ruthless in atorning for it’s recent dismal performances. Didier Drogba started the season playing a blinder after blinder without scoring but providing essential supply for Nicolas Anelka. No one has tried to return the favour and the team is badly suffering. The bosses did not help with firing the first team trainer, but that has now been water under Stanford Bridge.

European champions Inter Milan drew Bayern Munich. Bayern will seek to revenge the loss at the last season's final. Inter buried Bayern 2-0 in the final that was played in Madrid. Diego Milito was the double scorer in what turned out to be a simple workout for Inter to clinch their first European crown for 45 years. As it turns out, Inter struggled under Rafa Benitez and their qualification was an anti climax for the defending champions as they came second to Spurs. Bayern’s fortunes were different, as they ran rampant with their 5/6 win group stage record, and they will surely made a light meal of the Italians.

The real deal is the Real Madrid versus Olympique Lyon. Real have a good reputation in this tournament, lifting it 9 times winners. They have never been the same side that made it their annual habit to house the Cup with the big ears. Jose Mourihno has been trying to break all records, including winning this cup with 4 different clubs. The Special One lifted the Cup in Portugal with FC Porto, England with Chelsea and Italy with Inter Milan.

All eyes are on him after he transformed Madrid to a fluid playing side, though not to the level of Barcelona. Mourinho is smarting from the embarassment he suffered from the UEFA suspensions and fines for issues concerning evading player suspensions when he ‘ordered’ Xavi and Ramos to receive silly yellow cards to miss the dead rubber of qualification stages. Barcelaona hammered him for 5 and I pity Olympique Lyon, as hell hath no fury like Jose scorned.

AS Roma had a soft opponent in Shakhtar Donetsk of Ukraine. Shakhtar are a gifted side without a doubt, but they are easy meat and ready for the taking. I had prayed for teams like Spurs not to draw them as the attitudes would sink and the English would struggle against them. Arsene Wenger knows what I am talking about. It must be said that Roma are not the side of years back, but they have been dishing out some decent football and one can only hope they were not flattering to deceive.

Finally, Valencia gave Man U a torrid time and showed that they real mean business this season. They will play Schalke 04 of Germany and betting against them will be ill-advice for any invester and by that, it does not mean Schalke will give it up easy. It does not necessarily mean putting United on the back foot in the group stages is a licence to advance, given United were not upto scratch in technical terms, but psychologically, they are on cloud nine and they are the last opponents to draw at this stage.


Roma v Shakhtar Donetsk
AC Milan v Tottenham Hotspur
Valencia v Schalke 04
Internazionale v Bayern Munich
Lyon v Real Madrid
Arsenal v Barcelona
Marseille v Manchester United
Copenhagen v Chelsea

Tell us, where is it gonna go?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Bosso must take stork, seriously, as the season ends

After an incredible 11 match run by Highlanders under caretaker coach, Mkhuphali Masuku, players will take a deserved rest wondering when their pay cheques will be liquid for once. Bosso plays a relegated FC Victoria of Masvingo with basically a 2nd string side, for obvious reasons. The match is a dead rubber for both teams as it counts for nothing, despite the points and pride at stake. 

The Bosso leadership must take stork of what took the team to hell and back and count the cost of their decisions. It does not take a rocket scientist to see that some actions came from the heart and not the head. No matter how much passion drive you, when it comes to business, emotions do not count. Knowing the leadership well, they are capable of doing exactly that, and Bosso will be a team to beat next season.

Juicier is a once in a million case of the team fighting for the championship on the last day playing teams begging for their survival in the top flight. Leaders, Motor Action play Lengthens while 2nd placed Dynamos are away to Black Mambas. Lengthens and Mambas will play in the top league next year depending on how they play this weekend. Actually, only one of the 2 will be up there.

The matches determine who wins the championship and the Division One partakers next season together with confirmed floppers, Bantu Rovers, FC Victoria and Douglas Warriors. Numbers suggest Mambas are a better bet to stay up. Assuming Bulls and Dembare win, Mambas will have to concede over a dozen goals to go down. This is not a message Madinda Ndlovu will want to hear or send to his players. They will be playing to win it at all costs, and they can.

FC Victoria v Highlanders; Bantu Rovers v Shooting Stars; Eagles v Hwange; Gunners v Douglas Warriors; Motor Action v Lengthens; Black Mambas v Dynamos

Log Standings

P W D L F A Pts GD
Motor Action 29 19 6 4 49 17 63 32
Dynamos 29 19 6 4 42 13 63 29
Highlanders 29 16 6 7 30 19 54 11
Gunners 29 13 11 5 41 25 50 16
Hwange 29 14 8 7 42 30 50 12
Caps United 29 12 9 8 40 28 45 12
Monomotapa 29 12 8 9 41 29 44 12
Shabanie Mine 29 12 7 10 33 33 43 0
Kiglon 29 8 13 8 28 29 37 -1
Eagles 29 7 13 9 15 22 34 -7
Shooting Stars 29 8 8 13 21 30 32 -9
Black Mambas 29 7 8 14 29 33 29 -4
Lengthens 29 7 8 14 26 43 29 -17
Douglas Warriors 28 4 8 16 15 43 20 -28
Bantu Rovers 29 3 8 18 13 37 17 -24
FC Victoria 28 4 5 19 23 57 17 -34

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Premier League needs these changes and now.

The unbranded Zimbabwe Premier Soccer League season is due to end and the league leaders are said to be negotiating with potential ‘sponsors’. The Chief Executive Officer is said not be disclosing those for now and for obvious reasons. Note that I said ‘sponsors’.

Speculation, though very unnecessary, is that it is cellular phone networks that are engaged in the negotiations. If, indeed, there is more than one sponsor, that is very good news, especially if they are not from the same category of business, like banking sector, motor industry and sports wear.

This means the PSL must fight that whosoever they engage to sponsor the league do not walk away without any deal in football. Everyone they are talking to must have room to sponsor the game one way or the other. Such will take away the conflict of interest. If Econet bankroll the league, for an e.g, they will have their name on the kit of the clubs. CBZ can also have their name on the sleeves. There will be room for say LG, Twalumba Holdings, Africa Lotto, Afro Foods and Delta Beverages to have their names at the back of the shirts.

There must be flexibility that those in current negotiations must at least sponsor the clubs, if they fail to secure the real deals. As long as they have interest in the sport, they should not be allowed to have a have all or nothing approach. They need to be utilised and people must support their endeavours as well. There is no better time to work together and it is everybody that has to do it. All must be aboard now.

What is actually needed is that the League ask the government through ZIFA as in the government-to-government basis that brought Reinhard Fabisch and many others after him, for Germany companies like Adidas and/or Puma to kit the league and supply match balls. This must have to come with training as well as warm-up kits. These arrangements are mandatory for any league today, however small. All this, need very aggressive negotiation by the league and the good understanding of industry to participate and involve their customers in the sports and their products.

It is understandable the corruption, the errors, the waywardness of some individuals and teams rocked the country. The new year must see all turn over a new leaf. The PSL must give the captains of industry confidence and the same captains must assure the league of their trust regardless of the the likely teething problems that will surely come their way. The PSL will have power to run and rule the league if they have a muscle, cash in this case. With that, they will be less bad guys and teams as indiscipline will not be tolerated.

Clubs like Dynamos and Highlanders will have the knowledge they can be shown the door and the league will be even smoother in their absence. The league also must have a way of having a full-time CEO or COO who is independent and unaligned in club football. It will be necessary for teams to adhere to the rules and regulations of the league and national association without exceptions. 

Seeking to manipulate every word of these for selfish benefit can be curbed if the league and ZIFA get a full-time Disciplinary Committee chairperson who is a top notch attorney for the disciplinary cases as well as interpretation of documents and other cases within days of their occurrence. This is an area where other sponsors are needed, to pay for the full-time CEO and the Chairperson of the DC, who has capacity to transparently rule on simple cases alone and instantaneously.

The PSL must design means and ways to attract people to the stadia. It must be fun and people must look forward to going to the stadia. Competitions like raffle draws, music performers and artistes must be asked to promote their acts live while fans get free entertainment. There must be aggressive means to market matches.  Clubs must also try to woe their supporters by playing good football. They must give incentives to build brands all want to be associated with.

Finally, both clubs and the league must employ mercenaries to get sponsorship. South Africa had people negotiate multi million rand deal on condition they will receive predetermined cash for it. This works wonders. If one brings say $5 million sponsorship from the diaspora and they walk away $250 000 cash rich, who can complain, and I believe, it will be soon that the PSL will be turning away deals.

What should the league be doing to attract sponsors to come forth?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Something very wrong about Carlos Tevez

I am tempted to express my great disappointment about one of the finest footballers on the planet. Carlos Tevez was almost winning my heart soon after his departure from Manchester United to City. He represented something I believe a player should be.

Tevez always came to me as someone with a big heart and ambition. He reflected great workmanship and work-rate. The Argentinian captain scored fantastic goals and seemed an inspiration to many. He projected an intelligent outlook and was set for successes.

The 2010 FIFA World Cup did not do him much favours and he was an ordinary players despite his toil. The failure by his national team that included Lionel Messi under the guidance of Diego Maradona, took a lot out of him as it knocked his football down, they say. He cried of leaving football altogether, or even going back to Argentina.

Tevez was reported to be unhappy with the coach and he was quoted as missing his 2 daughters. Reports went further to say he had a depression problem to deal with. Whatever the reasons came by, each one of them ate away any respect I had for the talented man I now feel guilty to call talented.

Someone though, is not telling us the truth. Tevez cannot be missing his daughters. The guy earns so much money that he can either have them move in or they can visit him every weekend. The sheiks give him enough money that it cannot be an issue at any day. It could be the agent takes all the money and leaves him with peanuts, but I do not buy it. Still, the guy throws tantrums like confetti. For him to be under 28 and say he is tired of football, he must think we are as childish to believe it. 

Diego Maradona was seen at the Craven Cottage when Manchester City decided to run riot over Fulham. Could it be that Tevez is sabotaging Roberto Mancini to pave way for Diego? Someone must tell us the truth here. We saw how much performance the presence of Maradona drew out of both Tevez and country man, Zabaletta on the day.

Maybe, it could be that he married a wife who will neither get along the English and their European weather, or the Spanish lady is just allergic to the language and cannot stand the disgust of her children speaking and learning English. The Abu Dhabi billionaires can build an insulated house with the cheap reject crude oil to give warmth for the family 24/7. They can hire home school Spanish teachers for his children. This can benefit a lot of other Spanish footballers' children if they can pay for the services as well to reduce expenses.

At the end of the day, I am not the only one who now mistrusts Carlos Tevez. His potential employers will be wary of him. He is a far less professional than the world thought. For his exploits and talent, what a waste. If comes round and tells us he is now sorted out, you will believe him at your own risk. In the meantime, let's all seek the truth and if you find it, please feel free to share. For now, we leave it that we are conned.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

TP Mazembe, as I said before, are the real deal

My ink has not even dried on the blog concerning how much of a revelation Democratic of the Republic of Congo and African champions, TP Mazembe are in playing textbook football. They have made history becoming the first African team to reach the FIFA Club World  Cup final after a stunning 2-0 victory over Internacional of Argentina, 2006 Champions, at the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi.

TP Mazembe are purely men at work 24/7. They graft tirelessly for each other. Fear does not exist to them and they can not be intimidated at all. Mulota Kabangu scored a beautiful goal for a 53rd minute lead, followed by a Dioko Kaluyituka wonder goal with 5 minutes of play remaining. TP beat 1-0 Mexican side Pachucha 1-0 in the quarter-finals in a hungry lion-like manner. It was a performance that would give one confidence that one day soon, Africa will lift the FIFA World Cup.

As we speak, one more win, in their next official match will see them crowned the champions of the world. No team outside the UEFA and CONMEBOL federations have ever reached the Club World Cup final before. Their passage was not an easy one. Internacionale threatened to tear them apart with some Barcelona type of football, but the Africans put their best foot forward, refusing to be bossed around like a slave and holding their heads high with a disciplined performance.

The South Americans wanted a piece of the Congolese as early as the 12th minute and several good saves from goalkeeper Muteba Kidiaba kept them in the match despite efforts from Sobis, headers from Tinga and Indio in the 18th and 20th minutes. TP resorted to route one football, evading dealing with the more slick and creative midfield of the former champions who wanted to become first 2-time champions.

It was a reminder to the rest of Africa, that football is not based on colour or geographical location. Southern African teams like Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates, Highlanders, Dynamos, Power Dynamos, Nkana Red Devils and Kabwe Warriors, to name a few, better take a leaf from the solid performance of Mazembe, especially on the tactics of how to wear your opponents down without giving much away. It is always a case of forgetting who you are playing, casting away all doubt and playing 200% with heart.

Shibobo for shibobo, tsamaya for tsamaya, mpama for mpama, there is no equal to Southern African talent. There is however a big psychological gap as you go up north and west. Southerners generally, unfortunately, feel inferior to the northerners and westerners. TP Mazembe have torn those form books and are now basically world beaters. They have the least pressure going into the unexpected final with nothing to lose and I wouldn't bet on them losing. I must agree that winning it will be a big feat, but not impossible. VIVA AFRICA!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Manchester United beats Arsenal 1-0 to go top

Manchester United came into the Barclays Premier League home encounter against leaders, Arsenal, with a sole mandate to outnumber them, basically by inviting the full participation of goalkeeper van der Sar. Naturally, the Gunners front runners lost a lot of energy chasing loose ball and ran out of steam when they had solid and sound decisions in passing the final ball.

United midfield bullied the disjointed Arsenal link, winning all second balls and forcing the blunt preparation zone work of the visitors to constantly retreat. It developed to be a one way traffic as Arsene Wenger failed to have any answers to Sir Alex Ferguson's not so clever tactics. Sir Alex ensured all attacks bypassed the zone that is operated by Alex Song, eliminating him off the equation, and drawing Samir Nasri off offensive areas to the centre line.

The long ball always caught the Gunners defence wrong footed, with crosses from both wings troubling the young and inexperienced goalkeeper. Worse still, the lad had a lot of nerve-wrecking moments with numerous back-passes to deal with far too early and very often. Generally, Arsenal played not to lose and that was exactly what they were inviting.

The tirade of United attacks found Nani probing the right channel and delivering a deflected cross that almost shaved Ji Sung Park's forehead skin off before hitting the inside second post and nesting in the net for an opening goal. Arsenal failed to having any telling passes in the final third of the field. They could not get their rhythm at all and surely were outplayed.

Andrei Arshavin and Tomas Rosiscky were quite prominent in the opening stages, eventually running out of steam with time, as Michael Carrick, Rafael, Nani and Park dominated the midfield with amazing ease. As expected, Chamakh suffered a great deal of 'ball malnutrition' until after half time.

The second half saw the Gunners up the stakes early on, increasing their ball possession statistics and creating more obvious chances, but not troubling van der Sar. Arsenal were lucky not to sink further after Rooney fed Anderson who fluffed the golden chance against the run of play in the 54th minute. The match began opening up and Chamakh nearly got an equaliser a minute later, only for Fletcher to clear the ball for a corner. United started to depend on counter attacks as Arsenal pinned them in their own half.

Fabregas and Robin van Persie came in for Rosiscky and Jack Wilshire and almost changed the Gunners' fortunes. Clichy conceded an unfortunate penalty that Rooney ballooned over the bar. Theo Walcott had to replace Arshavin with 12 minutes of play remaining while Ryan Giggs came in for Anderson in the 84th minute. Rooney nearly made up for the missed penalty but found the keeper alert, but it really didn't matter.

Are Manchester United back to winning ways for good, or it was a fluke?

A lesson for teams like Highlanders, very free

There has been a few unfortunate or fortunate cases depending on the verdicts and point of view you may elect to suit yourself, in matters that have since been dubbed Asiagate by the Press of a certain nation of diamonds.

Unfortunate because of the immoral acts and hence the banning of leading individuals in betting scandals from football and the fall in the rankings of Zimbabwe in FIFA standings. Yet, fortunate enough for those who made the quick bloody buck and are still smiling at the dirty dollar power. Another name for it is, 'easy money'.

African champions, TP Mazembe were also investigated for Far East betting scandals. There may be a case for them to answer, but I will tell you something. TP can play ball. They were a revelation, at least to me, when they beat Mexican champions at the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi. The team is a well oiled machine with tremendous potential.

Of note, is their pace. The accelerate and maintain an attacking momentum consistently. The passing accuracy is a joy to watch. The length and weight of the ball is always superb. Then there is the ball control to match. It is one synonymous with great players of old. Highlanders had players like Makheyi Nyathi and Benjamin Nkonjera. Team-mates always referred to these guys as magnetic to the ball.

The team is extremely competitive and fights for each other. The confidence rubs off the other players and as the match wears on, the cohesion improves the mentality of the team. The sorry state was the finishing in front of goal. Nonetheless, teams like Highlanders have a lot to learn because they are in the same mould. They must compete at the same level. They still have to arrive at the mini league stage and that is exactly what it takes to get there, and it is not magic.

I wish to get your comments if you watched the same match.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Should Highlanders Striking players play without pay?

Highlanders players are on strike over unpaid salaries and bonuses. They have been playing on hungry stomachs after the departure of Mohammed Fathi, throwing their bodies on the line for Mkhuphali Masuku, but hunger has taken its toll. Bosso has been seeking to find common ground with the players, but their next match against Kiglon at BF is now doubtful.

Hopefully, this was a season for a lot of lessons for Bosso. As we all knwo, education doesn't come free and it is a pity that the lessons that the Executive leant, have been lessons to previous committees who have 'degrees' on the matters of governing the sport. The Chaiperson and company embarked on extremely expensive education.

Amahlolanyama paid for playing football that did not attract spectators. People want to spend their hard earned cash on quality week in and week out. Bosso went on to give away Dynamos huge sums of money and points when the crowd caused the abandonment of a league match at BF. They took an ill-advised route of taking football to court of law for their own mischief. Bosso walked off Dembare in the BancABC Cup which they decided not to win.

Owing gazillions to Madinda Ndlovu, Vusumuzi Dube and others, Bosso went on to let the Fathi case go to court while they knew they had to pay. Now they will pay his and the costs. In all their unwinnable cases, they have to pay costs too.

As if it cannot get worse, they must just pay what they owe him, Madinda Ndlovu and now, a long list of their players who have amassed 10 wins in a row. That is a lot of money and now, their number one priority. What more can they tell the players? It is Christmas time and their children and wives are waiting. Garden and Home technicians are getting their salaries and end of year bonuses and I can not accept my wife running away with technician, no way.

Highlanders bosses said they are certain the match against Kiglon will be on as they run around to 'talk to a few people'. I guess this means they will have secured funds by then. If they come your way, give them your credit card and pin number and let they boys have something for the feastive season, please.

Meanwhile, Dynamos will finally engage Caps United in the 'Bosso delayed' BancABC Sup8r final at the National Sports Stadium. It may be that the players are 'Cup sick' at the thought that they should have been playing in the finals or at least, if the money was not wasted chasing a dead case, they would have been paid their dues. It must be pointed out though, that the monies wasted were the monies that were not even available.

How else can Bosso raise money, instead of moving from door to door?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Congratulations Harry, congratulations.

I introduced my children to good football. First, to Arsenal of the great Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Patrick Vierra, Cesc Fabregas and Jens Lehman to name a few. Then, there was a sensually stroking Barcelona who they watched at Loftus Stadium in Pretoria against Mamelodi Sundowns. This was a great team of Ronaldinho, Lillian Thuram, Thierry Henry, Xavi and Iniesta among others. Lionel Messi has since come in and Ronaldinho gone.

The problem is that my children are completely human. They do not know the end of a good thing, actually, the beginning of a good one. They have since split to following Arsenal, Barca and Real Madrid. They did not see Tottenham Spurs coming, even at my expert warning 2 years back. They always thought it was a beginner's luck for Harry Redknapp.

When Spurs qualified for the UEFA Champions League, they said I befriended Harry. I told them I do not know the guy. They prophesied how Spurs will be humiliated in Europe. I disagreed. Now that the group of death is concluded and Spurs are on top of the champions of Holland, Germany and Italy, who happen to be holders of the Champions League, there is talk of how much they will suffer in the knock-out stages. Children! They do not know a good thing when they see one. I can only guess they will be saying how much Spurs will fail to defend the title if they won it. If they defended it, it will be how impossible it will be to defend it again and again.

Football is a game of 2 halves and 90 minutes in total. You make your own luck by fighting a good fight. It is necessary to have the material with which you believe your complete product will satisfy you before others. Given that Spurs are no powerhouse by any measure, without comparing them to anyone but themselves, their season may as well be over and that will suffice. especially for their fans. These are the years that will live in their hearts permanently. It is unimagined history for many, except for those like my sons. At least they never expect much from Spurs as they are labelled 'terrible'. And Harry doesn't care.

The London team achieved this feat amid their most trying times in terms of personnel. They have a complete 2 sets of central defenders, their most priced midfielders and the hottest striker for them and England on the surgery table. I am talking of Gomes, King, Dawson, Kaboul, Huddlestone, Modric, Van der Vaart and Defoe. This a spine for any teams that could have conquered any league any day regardless of who you fielded along them. As we all know football, this does not guarantee that these would have made the team better, but a sane coach with such players in good health and chooses not to use them would be crazy. Harry is crazy, but not that much.

With their history, resources and personnel, Spurs will not mind even if the world ended today. They are on a high and to believe this is the end of their glory, is for you and me to worry about. They have the least pressure to impress going forward. This is actually what a team needs for success; less expectation, from both themselves and others.

As for my children, I should have forced football down their throats and made them into Messi, Ronaldinho and Ronaldo of Brazil. This modern thing of letting childern become what they desire to be, is just not on. Look at the William sisters!! Ok, enough..

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Chris Hughton firing by Newcastle is racist, period.

Newcastle United fired Manager, Chris Hughton, for racist reasons. He is not white enough. Earlier this year, I had queried the absence of black managers in the Barclays Premier League. As much as it sounds odd and awkward to discuss gays, especially if you do not understand their act, we beat by the bush, hiding behind a finger. There was always going to be a politically correct way to justify his dismissal.

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley and managing director Derek Llambias found the correct phraseology, "show business enough''. It may not have been them with a racist attitude, but the Sky News that they claim did not visit St James' Park often enough as each visit from the television station pockets the club £500,000. Maybe Sky TV have a valid point. Their viewers may be racist enough to switch off their sets every time Theo Walcott, Jermaine Defoe, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Micah Richards, Darren Bent or indeed, Chris Hughton appeared on their channel.

So many black players turn up for Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Blackburn Rovers and many others. Didier Drogba, Emmanuel Adebayor, Salomon Kalou, Michael Essien and Alex Song are the cream of the Premiership. There is a long list of fantastic black footballers who drive the clubs, literally.

Hughton was expected to submit predictions for future games which he then had to discuss and compare with the Newcastle chiefs' own set of tips. Ashley and Llambias expected Hughton to listen to the bosses valuable input before matches. They considered themselves fundis of the game.

The accusation that he was 'milking the crowd' after a 5-1 Newcastle beating of Sunderland, in the Tyne-Wear derby when the fans chanted his name is just as ridiculous. These issues are familiar to many of us if the team is doing well and the management have an eye on someone. I was once accused of winning matches by goals from wingers, defenders, or by 1-0 margins.

Hughton suffered further crazy inputs from his bosses. His treatment of players like adults was perceived as 'weakness' by the men in charge. The man was managing his team his own way and it was effective. I was very much surprised how pedestrian they were in the last few matches. I guess the goons paid players to lose.

As of now, Martin Jol and Alan Pardew are rumoured to take the post. Former Liverpool ace, Peter Beardsley is in charge in the interim. Jol quit his Ajax jobs hours ago. There is a claim of Andy Carroll leaving as a result of his closeness to the former manager. It is a player many teams will try to land at their training grounds.

Newcastle football experts claimed the club needed someone with experience. If Hughton took the team from the Championship to the Premiership, achieved two club records in the process; 102 points to secure promotion and the longest sequence of unbeaten 17 league matches, they will need a man of Messianic powers to do much better. Maybe the Magpies will be in the top 4 this season and eventually champions the next.

If you ask me, it may be the other way round. Those players are a fragile lot with volatile characters. Above all, why should racist mentalities and ideologies rank high and file above good? It is a big shame for the team and indeed the Barclays Premier League. All the best Chris.

Highlanders could have been in it with 2 matches to go

Highlanders dropped their first pair of points under care-taker coach, Mkhuphali Masuku, when they drew 1-1 with title favourites and log leaders, Motor Action. The Mighty Bulls have been in fine form and coming a Bosso side that has been steam rolling was never going to be an easy task. They actually just managed a point as Highlanders could have collected maximum points with better luck.

Bosso can now only get a maximum of 59 points, not helping their cause even if the top 2 teams lose all their matches. Motor Action and Dynamos are tied on 60 points, after Dynamos picked up valuable points against relegation candidates FC Victoria. A 3-1 win put the championship wide open.

Bosso earlier surrendered easy points to Dembare due to crowd trouble. The match was abandoned and the disciplinary committee awarded the Harare giants the points. Tshilamoya could have been in the hunt and they could have been motivated to beat The Mighty Bulls themselves to put their point tally to 55, leaving the Bulls with 59 and Dembare with 57.

That being water under the bridge, hats off to Mr Cooper, with a fine run that has even thrown him for the Coach of the Year nomination. One can only hope for continuation at the beginning of the new season. Rumours of Benjamin Moyo, Rahman Gumbo, Willard Khumalo and myself coaching Bosso are now abound, but as we all know, do not change a winning formula and such distraction do not help the executive committee, the team or the fans.

                       P W D L F A Pts
Motor Action 28 18 6 4 45 15 60
Dynamos   28 17 7 4 38 12 60
Highlanders 28 16 5 7 29 18 53

Monday, December 6, 2010

2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups; A piece of my mind.

Money talks, especially if it is a petro dollar, and I know. The Russians and Qatari nations will host good FIFA World Cups without much doubt, but the Russian political mysteriousness is a concern, as much as the Muslim extremists are to the Qatari bid. New frontier theory and other conspiracies might have given them an upper hand, but then, the justification of a less likely money maker winning over the best financial prospect boggles the mind, given that the 2010 South Africa World Cup has been shrouded by the revenue issues and 'empty' stadia that were full.

Qatar will do a different world cup and issues of terrorism need to be addressed in time. This Arabic and Muslim nation has never won any major tournament or are a powerhouse by any means. They have a passion for sport, proven by the Aspire Sports Academy. This well-funded project is true express of the necessary passion that the world needs to see. More so, the tradition and culture of the game has been taken away from the main stream of Africa and the Middle East and taken to Europe and the Americas.

Given that Africa hosted a record breaking FIFA World  Cup, Qatar should host it also and successfully. You need to look at the state of the art stadia they intend to build to comprehend what petro dollars can do. Frankly, the United Arab Emirates would have been a fancier candidate, given Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the World capital cities.

They must, however, shift a stance of women attending the football matches. It is standard to see a sea of white robes of Rabbis and Sheiks, without any blemish of black, a traditional women attire. This must change. Women like the sport and deserve to be allowed to watch the world's best players strutting their stuff on the turf. I would prefer to watch muscular figures in the presence of the fairer gender indeed.

England took everything for granted in their bid, given the Barclays Premier League is arguably the best globally attracting large live and TV audiences locally and abroad, and the passion of the game. Their major downfall was their 'holier than thou' attitude. Very soft and superfluous rewards for votes looked very modest and amateurish. They should have known someone would walk away with an oil well somewhere and they thought they had the bull with the horns. Guess who got gourded.

Their dislike of a vuvuzela did not help. You curse the vuvuzela you are doomed. Football is not a tennis match sport it is in England anymore. Not that the ear damaging noise is good, but there must be transformation to the singing and clapping of hands during the matches. Anyway, they had done some good homework in getting their 2022 bid off the way so they could fight against weaker European nations than the US and Australia. This freed the US to get their chance for the 2022 bid. All this strategy was ill-advised. Given that Europe won the 2018 bid, it made some sense as an after thought.

The other European bidding nations had still a hangover after the Germany 2006 World Cup as they are geographically close by. Russia is a little different from the normal trend or mainstream Europe, but then the weather is a big issue with me.They claim the summer temperatures were about 25 degrees centigrade, but we all know the truth. England was going to be the perfect set-up. If you look at the stadia, Wembely, the Emirates, the Goodson Park, the City of Manchester, just about any, in England, it would be folly to say they needed much renovation to meet the FIFA funny standards.

The United States of America, like England, were well poised for their second World Cup. They were confident of outdoing other favourites, Australia. There is no doubt the nation had the capacity to exceed their 1994 version, given the technology and the diversity of the people. The theory of the English game being too tired given they cannot win anything may have taken the crucial votes from FIFA members who voted by hearts. England may have won this bid, had they managed good results like a final berth in any of the tourney since 1966.

At the end of the day, my sympathy goes to the ill-advised England bid that was destroyed by journalists. The US, have trivial issues to solve and the Obama factor is on the negative, given the racist nature of his Presidency. Russia were never my bet, nor yours, but if we were voters, we may have offered double the support. As for Qatar, the World Cup in the desert was never my idea. The Doha International Airport is just a tiny pocket, but given the money and the 12 years to prepare, they will all the country urbanised.

All said and done, England will have the opportunity bto host the FIFA World Cup after North America (2026), Africa (2030), South America (2034) and Asia (2038) depending on whether they manage to change FIFA and force the rotation out of the way and arm-wrestle their way to glory. Malta, a nation of 300 000 citizens may even beat them by then. There is no guarantees as we have seen.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Chiefs rule over Pirates

Kaizer Chiefs defended their Telkom Knockout Cup on Saturday with an incredible 3-0 slaughter of Orlando Pirates at the FNB Stadium. This came fresh after a last month 3-1 drubbing in a league clash at the same venue.
Chiefs were just too powerful for Pirates as they ran rings around the confused and clueless opponents. The Bucs ran like chickens without heads and literally froze in crucial moments both going forward and on the defensive.
Amakhosi had their story right straight early on and were 1-0 up due to poor defensive behaviour and they were punished by double scorer Sithembiso Ngcobo. Siphiwe Tshabalala killed off the Sea Robbers with a typical clinical finish at the end. Chiefs secured the same title twice in one year after they won last season's Knockout Cup in April this year, due to the provision for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Abafana bokuthula noxolo made history by winning the competition for the 13th time since it was launched in 1992. They are in good mood and they may be title contenders if they carry the form forward. Knowing football players, it is a performance they will only draw out of their resources only for the not-so-Happy People.
Pirates looked completely lost at the FNB Stadium and it was funny when they cried and layid back on the grass, some with their faces in their hands after the match. It looked like they felt dejected or robbed. What a watse of emotion!

Arsenal enjoy the summit while it lasts

It was an amazing Samir Nasri that saw Arsenal dismis host Fulham with a lot of ease. Fulham fought a good fight though. Nasri danced and dazzled the hosts defence and fired 2 very crucial goals. His mesmerising footwork will be key to the aspirations of the Gunners. He has been equally key to Alex Song and Lukasz Fabianski.

Chelsea's loss of steam is still an eye saw for many and they lost the top spot to Arsenal after a 1-1 draw with Everton. Didier Drogba converted a penalty to level the score and points, but truly, The Blues are just singing the blues.

Tottenham Hotspur released some pressure off the gas pedal and dropped vital points at Birmingham City. Manchester City did their campaign a lot of good with a Carlos Tevez goal. Manchester United will have to play their match sometime after the frozen pitch rendered the fixture unfulfilled. This will see the Gunners warm the spot for a while. It will be seen how United will respond in trying to make up for lost ground.

West Brom beat Newcastle by 3 beautifully taken goals against 1. Sunderland were 1-0 victors over West Ham.

Where do you think the Premiership is going given the inconsistency of the perennial contenders?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Russia and Qatar to host 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups.

Russia and Qatar will host the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups. The announcements of the historic events were made by FIFA President, Sepp Blatter in funfare and style. There was so much emotion and disbelief on the part of the nominated nations and their bidding teams. There was as much disappointment and sadness to the homeland of football as the heartbroken English realised the next time they will have a chance to do so will be in 2044 as the tournament will rotate the world continents.

Russia budgeted $4 billion for the stadia, of which 5 will be built from scratch. It will be new territory and history making as FIFA goes east Europe and the challenge is attractive enough for football as end of the monotony of the game will be the legacy of the FIFA President who promised radicalism cup on being elected, and he is not disappointing.

Qatar have crazy petro dollars and will be building the state of the art stadia with insane climate control technology for the extreme desert weather. The first Middle East and Muslim nation to host the FIFA World Cup, complete some crazy moments of the game ever. Just this year, Africa showed the world an incredible spectacle when South Africa hosted the first ever 2010 FIFA World Cup. It was an event that was met with scepticism from nay sayers, but then went on to break so many records and introduced the world to a different class of celebration.

The Russia and Qatar bids may not have been easy choices by any means, given that the historical custodians of the game, England had proved they will have 100% returns all round in financial terms. They had hosted the FIFA World Cup before in 1966. They had David Beckam, the football's most recognised and influential figure of all time. They had Prince William, heir to the Throne and charismatic Prime Minister, David Cameron in their powerful bidding team.

The way South Africa hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup was surely a catalyst in winning the bids for smaller nations. It was almost like, if Africa can do it, surely, why not Russia or Qatar. In all fairness, central Europe hosted the 2006 version in Germany. Given also the fact that the USA hosted the 1994, breaking new ground and crossing political and religious barriers, Qatar was a balanced option. Qatar also fell in love with the vuvuzela and I can promise a better version of the instrument or even better. That is the beauty of taking the game to other areas and traditions.

Frankly, the Qatari delegation will have sleepless nights pinching themselves. They surely thought they were making numbers. Nonetheless, they did a great job and believed in themselves. It was a bid they built from the bottom with nothing. In comparison,the English almost wanted to hold FIFA at ransom as the owners of the game. It was a valid point though, they somehow needed to host this tournament for once, but then, they seem to want to host it to win it.

I will not take anything away from the deserved winners of both Russia and Qatar. Congratulations.

The true Kaizer Chiefs vs Orlando Pirates Derby in Telkom Cup Final

Kaizer Chiefs will be playing Orlando Pirates in the derbiest match of recent times in a Telkom Knockout Cup final this weekend. Chiefs beat Pirates 3-1 in a league encounter but went on to lose by the same margin against rookies, Vasco da Gama. The Bucs have since recorded successive victories over Maritzburg United.

If you know your football, these stats count for nothing. They will tell you how this is a whole new game. Pirates and Chiefs have met in the Telkom Charity Cup and the MTN-8 semi-final as well as in the league encounters. One thing brewing is that there will be thunder and lightining at the FNB Stadium at the weekend.

In the league encounters elsewhere, Motor Action  drew 1-1 with Gunners to completely thwart any mathematical chances for Highlanders to win the title. Dynamos lost to Kiglon by a goal to nil but are still within touching distance. Motor Action will be in action against Bosso at BF this Sunday.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

UEFA judgement is nonsense

If Barcelona's 5-0 hammering of Real Madrid is anything to go by in footballing prowess, surely West Ham United's 4-0 whitewash of Manchester United cannot be. At best, it is a fluke, but frankly who cares.

West Ham anchor the Braclays Premier League, the position they have guarded jealously for a while now. Their Carling Cup victory over the team at the other end of the table is likely to boost their confidence in the coming matches. They always played well but failed to get the results.

Manchester had always managed to get results without playing a thing. It could be time they started to earn their points and place in the top of the league. Last weekend's 7-1 win over Blackburn Rovers showed their good side but was largely due to lack of interest from Rovers. West Ham were in a less charitable mood. For United fans, the least said about it the better and I will not speak. 

Arsenal are still in familiar territory in the Cup. It is still to be seen if they will be reaching their dreaded area of supremacy for once. Their 2-0 victory over Wigan Athletic came from a gifted goal and Nicklus Bendtner. Arsene Wenger's side has all the ingredients they need to win this one and for me, this won't mean a thing about their ability. It is well well overdue and at this point, the Gunners should have been too tired to win this Cup or even the FA Cup. They are a teams that should be gunning for the UEFA Champions League final.

Talking of the Champions League, UEFA slapped Jose Mourinho with a heavy fine of EUR40, 000 and ban, to add salt to the 5-0 defeat to Barca at the weekend. Real was fined EUR120,000 while players Xabi Alonso, Sergio Ramos, Iker Casillas and Jerzy Dudek were fined around EUR17,000. This followed what they called instructions to have players be suspended for the final group stage matches so they could be available for the more important knock-out stage.

UEFA are over the top with this one. They must never involve themselves with such issues at all. All the bans and fines combined should have been handed to Ajax Amsterdam for failing to give Real Madrid enough opposition. Even other teams in the group are liable for what happened. Basically, teams that qualify early will also field weaker teams to rest their best players. Those teams do not get punished. If the same justice applies to all teams, assuming they are all equal, the scenario must never be allowed to prevail. Teams must be forced to field their best teams always.

If that is not the case, Real were  free to do as they please because Ajax did not give them reason to play with 11 men and these players were wasting their own time playing a team that was not interested in offering opposition to Real. For Ramos and Xavi to be available when they are needed most, Jose knew what was available to him and he used it. The noise, bans and fines are just too hypocritical. That is nonsense.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Barclays Premier League is at its weakest now

This week, the Barclays Premier League news is awash with the fact that all teams were on the score sheet in their fixtures for the first time since 1992/3 season and a record 41 goals were scored equaling other 2 seasons gone by. Thanks to a classic top drawer Dimitr Berbetov's fine 5 against disinterested Blackburn Rovers. As an attack minded individual, I appreciate the statistics, but then, someone was not defending well for this to happen. Probably, everyone defended badly. I can not stand bad defensive behaviour at all.

At the beginning of the season, we saw half a dozen goals being scored by traditionally bigger teams against emerging teams with ever so much ease. I raised the question of whether the gap between the top teams was getting bigger. I realised it had nothing to do with big or small. Many teams had players coming from the FIFA World Cup being rested and the replacements having a point to prove. Those who played straight from South Africa were in peak form, but are they on the decline after a burn out?

There has been surprises by big teams of late and prizes for smaller ones. Defending champions, Chelsea are suddenly struggling after hitting a double dozen in the opening 5 matches or so. Manchester United are very far off their best and are at the top of the League. Arsenal have the weakest defence in the league after Tottenham Hotspur, but no one is scoring much against them to match the porosity of the central defence as seen by the 17 goals they conceded so far.

Spurs had been making it a good habit of missing penalty kicks without even consequently losing those matches. There is no pedigree to punish any sloppiness. The league is down, down, down. All coaching concepts of either punishing or being punished for mistakes is history. These teams have the weakest defence technically and tactically but statistics do not necessarily support that. Any movement towards the middle causes them more discomfort than does the cross to the vampire. It is so easy penetrating their defenses they wonder how teams do not bypass Alex Song and then walk through the nets.

With all their talent and cash, Manchester City are nowhere near where they should be. They huffed and puffed against Stoke City who could have taken them to the cleaners, with 5 or even 6 goals, had Fuller taken full advantage of their jitters and taken responsibility in the box. With a little composure and accuracy, Stoke would be sitting pretty.

The state of the league is shocking to say the least. The match Chelsea played against Newcastle left a bitter taste in the mouth for both sides' fans. The Magpies were so sloppy and care-free that the Zimbabwe Asiagate came to mind. Many can claim that The Blues have boardroom instability, but then, are Newcastle playing is solidarity with the enemy. Remember that the St James Park side just hit some big team for a good number but at the weekend, the looked deliberately lost.

Would bringing in Rangers and Celtic strengthen the Premiership? Is it a case of good teams playing whichever way they want and get the result? Judge yee!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Barcelona embarasses Real for 5 with magical Messi on song

Jose Mourinho was out-thought by Pep Guardiola in the first half of one of the biggest fixtures on the planet when Barcelona hosted Real Madrid at the Nou Camp in a La Liga encounter which produced 2 goals for Barca in 17 minutes.The pace of passing and accuracy thereof by Barca was digital. Madrid literally chased shadows, failing with extreme and chilling accuracy to complete 2 passes in succession.

Madrid had it in good control for a routine Barca short pass movement, as they fortified the rear centre to restrict penetration in the middle by short passes. The tactic was efficient to sterilise the movement with and without the ball for Lionel Messi, Xavi and Iniesta because the short passing game was nullified by the number of personnel behind the ball at crucial moments. That was exactly what Guardiola had in mind.

Barcelona exchanged several short passes at one channel in the middle third and then a long defence splitting  diagonal pass beyond the defence line. Xavi and Pedro finished with class and ease respectively. Real did not help themselves by the way they toiled so hard to get the ball and give it back without Barcelona without even trying to win it back. The regularity of this abhorrence irked The Special One more than the loss of concentration that led to the 2 goals.

Cristiano Ronaldo and company tried far too hard with little benefit until about the last 10 minutes of play to half-time. They temporarily took control of the match, winning a crucial free kick that missed the target by a hair-line. Otherwise, they were no match to the slick and accurate passing of Barcelona.

It was more of luck than expertise that the lead was not extended as Messi mercilessly ran rings around the Real midfield and defence in the second half. Barca came off sharper being first on the ball and winning the second ball. David Villa, with his mesmerising runs, was always well picked up by Messi's through ball, but it was until the 56th minute that Villa converted the 3rd goal following a failure to convert an easier opportunity seconds earlier. 60 seconds later, the same passer, same run and same ball resulted in the 4th by the same scorer. 

It was the real Barca that came back in the second half against a seemingly fake Real Madrid that seemed haunted by the Nou Camp. Beside the crisp passing, the ball control was incredible. Lass Diarra, brought in at half time to minimise the damage was vital in winning essential combats but the battle was already lost. Bojan replaced double scorer, Villa, and almost scored twice with his first and second touches. There was time for the fifth when a young player Jeffren completed a 5-0 drubbing of the Galatico.

What was notable about Barcelona football, was the timing of the pocket runs by the attackers and the slotting of the ball into the pockets. The diagonal runs eliminated the whole flat four defence in a single movement. If it was a case of Messi versus Ronaldo, the later lost badly. As for Mourinho, it was a TKO by Guardiola. Madrid know too well that the championship is not over as there is lots of points to fight for but tonight, they were just outclassed. Knowing Jose, he took a hint.

FIFA goal-line video technology and common football misconception

Football usually takes a different view on a few issues of a general nature when compared to other ball sports. Rugby union as a matter of rule, can elevate a team-mate in a line up to snatch the ball away. That will be ungentlemanly conduct referred to as unsporting behaviour. Still on rugby, it is common for penalties to be taken with medical personnel still treating players on the field. The list goes on.

With Super diski, the most controversial rule and the most contentious is the off-side rule that keeps evolving to make it simpler and easier to understand. The simplicity makes the whole thing more complex, given the official fail to apply the basics correctly. FIFA asks referees to always give the attacking players  the benefit of the doubt in all cases. You would expect more 'off-side' goals to be scored, but contrary, genuine ones get ruled as illegitimate. This goes for a few cases as well, but strikers diving have made it worse for attackers to be trusted.

Actually, there is one issue in football that gets misunderstood by the usually vocal but less informed. The role of a captain. In cricket and rugby, these have powers and make very vital decisions and defends their people. The football captain role is more ceremonial than in these sports. His role is limited to communication channels outside the field. On the pitch, he only tosses and is expected to talk to his coach to relay messages to the team.

The skipper has no right whatsoever to challenge the referee, his assistants or their decisions. If he does so, he must be cautioned and shown a yellow card. He has no authority to defend any player in his team against the referee. None. To the referee, he is an ordinary someone like the rest. The officials will deal with him just to simply issues and relay messages instead of addressing the whole team. If you thought the captain is the lawyer for players treated unfairly, visit and google the laws of the game.

While there, just check out something funny about FIFA's stance on the goal-line video technology. It was announced that they will give it a good thought and look only at the aspect limited on whether the ball crosses the line or not. They will be doing this to leave much of the game at the exposure of the human element that we want removed to start with. FIFA also say these methods slow down the game, but it is the players mobbing the officials and the 2 officials consulting that takes much more time and still get the decisions wrong.

With so many appeals in each match, surely using technology to look solely at the ball crossing the line and nothing else, is a waste of time in itself as well as resources, given the cost, convenience and maintenance of the equipment is for those cases occur once in a blue moon at each stadium while other contentious decisions rob good teams of their hard work results.

Really, how many times do teams have a Frank Lampard no goal case in ordinary leagues and matches? Yet so many goals are wrongly disallowed as offside or whatever. Worse, penalty appeals are turned down and teams suffer the bad decisions.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Man U maintain top spot, thanks to inept Chelsea.

Chelsea were just the usual pathetic outfit that has been running out of attacking power of late. Newcastle were guilty of not even trying to resist any attack from The Blues, exhibiting the 'STOP IT, I LIKE IT' attitude towards Dider Drogba, Nicholas Anelka, Flourent Malouda and Salomon Kalou.

Andy Carrol and Ameobi never got a supply they thrive on. Alex was so sympathetic that he gave Carrol the killer pass to beat Petr Cech. After that, the Magpies never bothered to threaten the visitors at all and they were unperturbed when Chelsea equalised through Kalou.

Tottenham Spurs were forced to made 2 first half early changes due injury to both Van der Vaart and Kaboul. Defoe and Bassong replaced the two and their contribution was not so positive to start with, struggling to come to terms with the tempo of the match.

Skrtel stabbed in a poorly defended free-kick before the break, to break the Spurs heart. The Liverpool defender headed the ball to a David Ngog's arm and it dropped at his feet and he toed the ball past Gomes. Jamie Garragher cleared Defoe's effort off the line before he felled Peter Crouch for a clear penalty case never given.

Defoe had a luxury of a now boring routine penalty miss that Spurs seems to be specialising in. At least they managed to grab an equaliser from the same Skrtel who turned a Modric cross past Pepe Reina. An action packed nail biting affair was almost decided when Defoe finished off an Aaron Lennon headed pass that was nodded by Crouch but the referee ruled it offside. Lennon was to complete a change of fortunes as Spurs recorded a rare Barclays Premier League victory after a Champions League campaign.

He was almost on target with a swift move starting in  his own half, and racing all the way taking on a few defenders is his wake, only to strike wide with the last kick of the match from an acute angle. Modric could have touched the ball in, had he not lackened the momentum of his run. Liverpool showed a heart of a lion in this fight which they almost won. Are their days of glory back?

Highlanders on the roll as they brush aside

After sealing Bantu Rovers last week by a 1-0 win, Highlanders continued with their fairy tale unbeaten run under Mkhuphali Masuku. Bosso scored the all important goal by Menard Mupera. While the victories will not push the Black and White outfit to the honours, it augers well for the confidence of the team in the next season.

Highlanders have been having a see-saw of issues on and off the field but the morale seems to be sky high and the fans are having the time of their lives, living the yesteryear memories they thought they would never come to see again. Tshilamoya were facing relegation in the face weeks before Mr. Cooper took over. They have managed 27 points out of 27 by beating Eagles by another 1-0 margin.

The Monster in United finally comes out as Arsenal does do enough

A 5 goal salvo by Dimitr Barbetov in a 7-1 drubbing of pedestrian Blackburn saw Manchester United shake off what had been very boring exhibitions of how not to play football. United were the devastating self of old against a team that had no interest whatsoever in their fixture.

Wayne Rooney started the match and showed some class on and off the ball even though he did not score. Nani and Park Ji Sung scored the other 2. The fine performance took them to the Barclays Premier League summit after Arsenal had taken the top spot from champions, Chelsea.

The writing was on the wall just 2 minutes as the floodgates opened. From there on, Man U were on the roll and without really going an extra mile but managing to cut through Rovers like a very sharp hot knife gliding into very soft butter. That should never take away the shine United displayed, given it is common knowledge that they are capable of doing that week in and week out.

Arsenal had coach Arsene Wenger carry his heart in his hands for 90 minutes despite dispatching Aston Villa 4-2 away. It was a usual 2-0 lead that looked like slipping away with every breath. At 2-1 and the 3-2, Wenger was the least enviable person in the world for most part of the match until the final whistle. While it was the previous trends that have characterised the Gunners, it was that particular match's fragility that was a major concern.

Tomas Rosicky seems to be losing his shine with frightening consistency while Andrei Arshavin rediscovered his old touch and was very incisive in his penetration. Evergreen Samir Nasri was on target in great fashion, blasting a first half volley from a corner kick. Chamakh had given the visitors the lead earlier on, and scored his second early in the first half. Jack Wilshire scored his first ever Premier League goal from a pass from Chamakh who was marginally offside.

Do you think Manchester have rediscovered themselves or they are capitalising on the weakness of the nearest rivals? 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Mourinho could have put it in a Special Way

To say that UEFA saw right through Jose Mourinho's tactics in getting his players yellow carded to enable them to play the knockout stages of the Champions League is to over-rate them. They read it here. Arsene Wenger has always been an ambassador of fair play and decided to throw his weight on the unsporting behaviour of The Special One. Xavi and Ramos received suspension for time wasting.

Many Arsenal fans wrongly claim to be Wenger's biggest fans. I am. They should fight to be number twos. It hurt me as much as it will to Wenger, that Mourinho hit the nail on the head. Jose said Wenger should not be bothering himself with Real Madrid who won 4-0 on the night Arsenal lost to the Champions League debutants. He asked the Gunners mentor to seek words to explain why they have not won a single trophy since 2005.

That truth is not one to be said just like that and to the man of the stature of Wenger. "The history about the young kids is getting old now. Sagna, Clichy, Walcott, Fabregas, Song, Nasri, Van Persie, Arshavin are not kids. They are all top players." he added. On this one, I have been politely trying to put it across as the reason Arsenal won't be drawing my interests soon. The team has reached a ceiling and people think they need to mature.

The Gunners have come of age and they will not be getting a gear up soon. They now need to depend on others losing a gear, but Mourinho could have chosen kinder words.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Highlanders putting much effort to be unreasonable

Rules governing the game and the laws of the game are never the same. In the later, in a series of 2 or more fouls being committed, the referee punishes the more serious offence and usually, it is the second or last. In most cases, it will be case of retaliation which is is given the ultimate disciplinary action that the referee can mete. In the former, grievances are to be handled by the league organising the matches. If the aggrieved party is unhappy, the appeal within the same structures must be exhausted before the national association of the geographic or political territory can be sought to resolve the case.

After being booted for what should be the final time, out of the BancABC Cup, Bosso want to take the case further. The confederation (CAF) and finally the federation should be sought to address the issues. The federation (FIFA) has means to get the Sports Court deal with the cases. The court of law in any case is the last resort, but not if you are Highlanders FC.

A tired line usually used by lovers of rugby who hate football, is that, rugby is a hooligans' game played by gentlemen while football is a gentlemen's game played by hooligans. This sounds an insult to the gallant Bosso players who have been putting high class performance after another.

It would describe those who are supposed to be in the know and leading players astray. The court of law will rule on the rights of individuals and groups without prejudice, be it football individuals or groups. That route is never in the interest of the game, but the individuals and the groups.

The Bosso executive jumped the gun in their previous appeal and sought a court of law to rule their case. The ruling was a case that killed football. They want to resuscitate the game to kill it again. It is not necessary to think by heart. The decision will not help them, Dynamos, Caps or the PSL. It just kills the same football that the players are playing so well. The wisdom of the action that they threaten to take can go through a needle's eye. If only the costs were as small. Bosso has too much money to burn.

Anyway, talking good brains now, Harry Redknapp has not many friends and he will not be making any soon. Gareth Bale has been included in the best 50 players of the world list. Spurs will not be attracting many fans in a long while, except neutrals. As a lover of quality, I never found myself faithful to any team but one. I have been a HUGE fan of Liverpool, Coventry City, Chelsea, Man U and Arsenal before. As soon as they strike a bad note, I bid farewell. Seldom, it would be a better note being struck elsewhere.

For this reason, Arsenal forfeited my sympathy based on the off the mark Arsene Wenger who donated 3 Barclays Premier League championships, 2 FA Cups and a Champions League trophy in the last 3 seasons and Harry Redknapp who turned Tottenham Hotspur to a machine that operate slightly less than a Red Bull Renault that Sebastian Vettel used in F1 this season.

Spurs qualified for the UEFA Champions League spot with many people thinking they will be lucky to get it. They reached the FA Cup final with everybody thinking they will suffer. They got no pat on the back from anyone. This season, they are pulling off great results and are in the hunt for the 4th position once again. People waited for them to faulter in the Group stages of the European safari. They came off with flying colours. Instead of singing the praises of the feats they have achieved, they are being torpedoed relentlessly.

'They won't make here, they won't make it there'. That is only true if you compare them to Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United. That is actaully comparing watermelons to lemons. Spurs reached were no one expected to and that is that. What they have done so far, coming from where they were, is a feat no team will be able to emulate in a very long time. Out of 10, they moved from level 3 to 8. Manchester United have been on level 8 for 10 years.

In the league this week, it will be seen if they managed to srtike a balance of UEFA and English league matches. I have always tried to educate people, that league and Cup matches programmes are not the same and it differs for each and every tournament. The preparations will also differ. You do not play match after match and hope for the best. Striking the correct peak moments is critical and once you are experienced in that, you are well. This does not take into account lucky scenerios were nothing matters. Some teams glide the luck wave regardless how much the managers do not know. Real managers have visible plans that may or may not succeed, but you will see the plan.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Spurs, Barcelona cruise to victories while Man U scrap through.

Wayne Rooney tucked away a penalty against Rangers to advance Manchester United to the knock-out stages of the Champions League by a 1-0 margin. In a generally worrying and usual custom, United were never dominant and failed to stamp their authority in the crucial tie in Sir Alex Ferguson's homeland. Even at their worst, The Red Devils seem to be getting the results necessary and that will be pleasing to the former champions but a little worrying for whoever comes up against them.

Barcelona were pedestrian away against Panathanaikos. It was a stroll in the park as they rarely broke sweat in blasting 3 goals past a spirited but fragile Greek side. It was never going to be a question of the victory but the goals. It was 1-0 by half time from a Pedro goal to the far post. Two typical Barca passing movements were buried by Messi and Pedro sealed the deal for Real Madrid arch rivals. The 2 will meet on Monday for a very hot encounter.

Tottenham Hotspur never fancied playing at this level for ages and even when they qualified, the draw seemed the harshest ever. While they did not give themselves a chance, many also believed their road had ended before it started. They are in the last 16, affording to miss the penalty kick even. Central defender, Kaboul, converted a Lennon cross as early as the 6th minute. Modric was stylish and cool to tuck away a cool finish in the first half injury time before Crouch langed onto yet another Lennon cross.

Bale did  strike the cross bar from a free-kick and missed a penalty after Modric was fouled in the box. Now there is a question of them not surviving the knock-out stage, which is obvious. Expecting them to look forward now is gross, given there is more to see if they look behind than trying to x-ray a future they can only see when it comes. After all, even the present is wrong territory for them. I am certain they did not budget for the present even in their wildest dreams.

Football differs from live sciences because, while in mathematics you can make deductions, it has no 'therefore'. With the European giants likely to top their groups, Spurs will do themselves much good to do the same. Except for English sides, only Barcelona and Real Madrid are intimidating. Other teams can easily be dispatched by an inform Spurs. Depending on how much solid they decide to defend centrally, you can be assured the firepower will come to the party if the squad is injury free. Aaron Lennon need to be consistently in good form to complement Bale on the left. Suddenly, the team from White Hart Lane becomes a worry even to Barcelona in a very good day.

Inter registered a 1-0 victory over Twente while Shalke beat Lyon by a 3-0 scoreline as did Tel Aviv against Benfica. Valencia raised the bar to thump Bursaspor 6-1. This will worry Man U as they fight to top the group to get easier draw for the knock-out stage. Valencia were 4-0 at half-time.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Praising Stanley is like praising myself, but it's good

One African book talks of a proverb of monkey, that, if it can jump between 2 particular adjacent trees without missing a branch, it deserves to part itself on the back. Generally, monkeys are notorious in stroking each other's scrotum to elevate the ego of the one they seek the favour of. It may not be a bad thing thing given that as human beings, we engage in flattery and even bribes to be in good books to the higher office or the ones that have what we need. Unfortunately, football coaches in Africa live in another world. They are not supposed to be coaching in this world.

In the history of the FIFA World Cup, only Zaire, Cameroon, Nigeria, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Angola, Senegal, South Africa, Ghana, Togo and Tunisia have represented Africa. Tunisia, among others, have done that more than once, besides also winning the African Championship. They are a team in that elite group of giants that no team walks into the field of play fancying their chances to walk off with the result. Few teams have pulled off stunning results and rarely did they achieve the feat twice, and worse still, in succession. 

Botswana, at the other hand of the scale, has been regarded as arguably the weakest team in Africa and without much much regard, in the world. But then, with all the foreign coaches and personnel coming in to teach Africans how to do football the African way, not so many administrative people see Africans as workers. Usually, if they do, it is not on professional grounds. After beating Tunisia twice in a row and in one season, Zebras' coach, Stanley Tshosane will not be doing any fellow Africans any favours, as his job is never guaranteed with each sunrise. He is both black and local. 

The Zebras maintained their unbeaten run with a 1-0 win over Tunisia in an Africa Cup of Nations match this week with a Jerome Ramatlhakwana's first half goal. They lead the group by 6 points after their total haul of 13 and need a single win to seal the deal. Tshosane is not on celebratory mode yet. His team also dispatched another FIFA World Cup participate in Togo with the same ease, showing how much he had developed the team character and belief.

He has managed to also keep unity and confidence very high in the individual players. His personal attitude has rubbed into the players and his employers, rare as this may be, are better off giving all the support they can for the benefit of the team. It is common that local coaches ask for 3 days camp and end up with the association bring players 30 minutes before kick-off and the expat coaches gets 3 months instead. The same is true with salaries. The expectation is that locals will hike to work and expats will be chauffeur-driven all day. Locals get criticism in winning and their counterparts from outside are not even touched in defeats and miserable performances.  

The Zebras' rise is astonishing in more ways than one. The best team to come out of Zimbabwe, dubbed the Dream Team, never reached anything worth mentioning and were labelled 'nearly men' for coming so close in everything under Reinhard Fabisch. To mention Botswana in the same sentence with football felt like a tongue twister. Suddenly, they seem to have qualified for the AFCON tournament without raising much sweat. Considering their technical and tactical ability, they are not really strong. They have not made any impact on the smaller and weaker regional COSAFA Cup for teams in the SADC region. If anyone at this time, is to list a worse team than the Zebras, it suddenly feels like a quantum physics problem in the days of Albert Einstein.

Believe it or not, Stanley Tshosane is a 'quantum physics' student of football from the Brazilian Football Academy in Rio De Janeiro. Coaches do football to unroll their inner selves and fashion their own styles of their understanding of the game. Their job becomes one of using people to act the coaches's thoughts and desires. Other football universities do a great job in teaching coaches to do this, but I have been in the same class with Stanley. He is not a genius in any way, but an applier of the correct systems and theories to practise.

As the Zebras make their debut under the BFA graduate, that is exactly what took the Zimbabwe Warriors in 2004. Sunday Mhofu Marimo Chidzambwa was at the same Brazilian Football Academy years before we were there. So did the successful Barry Daka. It may be a coincidence because other teams did not need mentors from BFA to achieve that feat. If you have one such guy next to you and you want results, pay him and let him do what he wants. It is a sure way to cry plenty, but only tears of joy.

You must remember that Botswana had made visits to Tunisia before with humiliating results. Tunisia also brought the ruthlessness to the Tswanas' home ground years back. While their victories and ways to glory are a case of labouring for the results, a win is a win, especially given the queue of people that have been baying for the blood of Tshosane. Teams sometimes play fantastic football without anything to show for it, and we do not remember those. Results stand the test of time and they will be remembered long after no one is around to testify how bad the match was. More usually, results tend to mould a team into a better unit which jells to a smoother and pretty sight with the test of time. An addiction to victory does not come easy but it can do wonderful things.

Botswana may have booked their place at the AFCON 2012, but they are still to settle the bill with a last confirming win if we do not consider other results. I must hasten to say that they have reached the promised land. For them it, and it will be the coach's hardest time of his career to keep their feet on the ground. Things will not get better in Guinea at the tournament. If players look to enhance their individual prospects of playing overseas than winning the AFCON, the better. They may even spring a few surprises. This may a one year wonder for the Zebras, if the greedy officials start to fight for the bragging rights and start to mud sling each other. African are warriors and this may be a very good excuse for a cool fight. After the fight is over, they will go witch-hunting. In the next life, you can rest assured I will not be African, nor black. I am done with that here.

The Champions League: The Good, the Bad and the Shrewd

Arsenal lost 0-2 in the UEFA Champions League, and they were at their worst against a Braga side that were determined only to play well. The hosts got rewarded with the points for that effort. It was Arsenal's 2nd defeat on the trot. There was never a clean final ball for a finisher, save for one that Theo Walcott received from captain Cesc Fabregas, a frame late, and the goalkeeper rushed out to collect the ball. Carlo Vela was brought down in lightning fast circumstances that the referee and the 5th official missed the action thinking the Mexican fell into a diving swimming pool. At least he was rewarded with a yellow card, which infuriated his coach, Arsene Wenger.

I underestimated the weakness of a great team composed of inexperienced skilled youngsters. They also did. It was not a case of Braga playing very well, but surely, they did, but rather a case of how badly the good Arsenal team played. Pity that those goals had to go throw Lukasz Fabianski's jealously guarded goal. No matter the size of the mountain rock, if you know constantly for extended periods of time, it will crack, as did the Gunners in the dying minutes of their fatal fixture.

Arsenal were just never penetrative enough, maybe expected, given they did not use their giant arsenal to overpower and subdue Braga. Braga were out passed immensely by almost a ratio of 3 completed passes to 1. That is not football these days. Chelsea had 27 attempts at goal against Birmingham City in the Barclays Premier League against 1. They lost the match by a single goal. Efficiency counts but of course, effort should be rewarded if we are to coach our children well.

 Chelsea were just as bad and made a meal of Zillina at home. They had to come from behind from the bottom placed team and scrap a late winner from Flourent Malouda who was set up by Didier Drogba. Daniel Sturridge had equalised at the far post for the Blues. Chelsea are dogged by unclear inhouse issues that make it hard for the team to do the job. They began the season with a steel attitude bullying teams to submission in the first 20 minutes. Their demise has given yet another dull team, monied Manchester City, a glimmer of hope in the championship. It was a boost that they will play their last Champions League match with a relaxed attitude after topping the group.

Real Madrid once again produced a scintillating performance that has confirmed to many that Jose Mourinho may be on his history making journey for a record 4th title in different league and countries. He did it with FC Porto that had Benni McCarthy, the Chelsea and more recently, Inter Milan. Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice. Karim Benzema, who may play at White Hart Lane next year, opened the floodgates after a cool move that involved Mesut Ozil. The 4-0 scoreline would be expected for Real, but that against Ajax of Amsterdam away, is a huge result.

While Jose Mourinho is a good coach, I think he went over board when he did what I reckon to a scheme to have a full squad for the knockout stage. His combative defensive link, Xavi Alonso was yellow carded fro needless and childish delaying tactics with the team already 4-0 up, picking a 2nd yellow and eventual red. Sergio Ramos did exactly the same thing and was also happy to be given marching orders. This makes the 2 available when Real need them the most in the knockout stage. The Special One did not need to carry liability when he is gunning for his glory. He is likely to field not one he intends using later in the last group stage matches.

In a special interview earlier, Mourinho just underlined the well know fact of the competitiveness of the English Premiership as very demanding and physical. He pointed out the tacticallity of the Serie A, proclaiming much thinking and preparation as the strength of the league as one had to scheme and outwit the opponents with preparation. He was at pains in explaining the technical aspect the players in La Liga make all the difference in Spain. The Special One underlined the gift of technicians of the world being assembled in that league, given Ronaldo and Lionel Messi just for an e.g.

The core of his message came back to give the English Premiership a big pat on the back, given that teams have an equal chance at the start of each league natch and that is evidenced by the fact that the top team, Chelsea, had already lost 15 points in the league. His Real Madrid won 11 of their 13 encounters and drew twice. They lead their bitter arch rivals, Barcelona, by just a single point. I guess with that, one has to make a personal assessment of the extent of the competition in each league.

Other results, AS Roma had to draw on their best performance to come back and win 3-2 against Bayern Munchen. Basel beat Cluj 1-0 at home while AC Milan won 2-0 away to Auxere in France. Shakthar opened their chances with a 3-0 away win over Partizan. Spartak Moscow lost Marseille who produced a first class performance in dispatching their hosts to stay in the picture of the knockout stages.

Tonight will see Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United, Inter Milan and Barcelona in action. It will be interesting to see the final shape of the groups but, there will be some that will go to the wire. It is expected that Spurs will continue with their Europe form. Barca will be favourite to wrap things up, but I have no confidence to say the same about hot and cold Man U.

Which is the strongest league in the world and why?