Monday, January 31, 2011

The Bosso meeting

The Highlanders Football Club Annual General Meeting has come and gone. As predicted in this blog, finance was the big issue. Without getting into details, Bosso are in the red. Very red. There have a huge budget, budget deficit and an average sponsorship. US$94 000,00 per year by BUSCOD is a drop in the ocean in football terms. That is basically my annual salary if I were to coach them.
Highlanders suffered a loss US$122 000,00 last season. If it was just a matter of figures, then simple mathematics will tell you that their worries are just US$26 000,00 away, if US$122 000,000 minus US$94 000,00 is still the same. Alternatively, because the total deficit is US$357 000,00, subtract the US$94 000,00 Buscod money. Add the current budget deficit of US$ 80 000,00. Effectively, it's US$ 94 000,00 minus US$80 000,00 IS US$14 000,00 and add that to the US$357 000,00 then you get US$371000,00. Bosso is in deep trouble and you expect players to stay?
The cry about players leaving the team raised eyebrows but unnecessary concerns. The Ngodzo brothers are said to be leaving the team. Why people expect them to play for peanuts is my concern. Tshilamoya tried their best in getting Joel Ngodzo ZAR 50000,00 signing on fee. This is a cool sum, but only until Platinum FC of Mimosa coughs US$70000 signing on fees. People must stop insulting the intelligence of players. It does take a genius of course to pick the best amount, and Joel is one.
Selfish and sometimes short-sighted as we are, players have families that we do not support. They have dreams to fulfill. Players agents are also business people. It becomes unfortunate is they touch Bosso players. A FIFA Agent is being made to feel like a traitor. His actions benefit the players and himself, while fans that are not helping the team are paying lip service. Paying lip service does not pay.
Agent X was barred from meeting as he is labelled the force behind players exodus. FIFA grants the licence based on dealing in the interest of players professionally at all times. The same agent is not necessarily dealing with players in a particular direction. He is authorised to do business anywhere anytime within the laws of the territory of the association in which the players move to and from.
The AGM itself was attended by a mere 300 members and the rest of the fans will be shouting and asking questions about decisions they should have made. A lot of club supporters find themselves not engaging in team activities and are swift to complain about team performance. Let people help the team, and if and when they can not, they must not hold back the players. Players come and go. Yesteryear, most played for nothing and that time is gone. Gone with the wind.

One of the biggest and genuine concerns was that of players' contracts. Most valuable players are leaving as free agents. An easy answer, assuming that the Executive Committee slept on duty, is, 'where was the money to renew the contracts?' On the balance of scales, supporters have left the team in the hands of the few, regardless of their incapabilities. The masses have abandoned their joint responsibilities to take interest in the affairs of the club. It does not help to witchhunt only when things go wrong. The rot did not start today. If you start aside and look, it will be worse tomorrow morning. This is my promise to you.
It is time to erase memories of casual football of the 1990s and the last decade. In this decade on, money talks. If a player moves and there is no money to keep him, is that the problem of the Executive Committee? Maybe yes, because they must source for sponsorship, but what is your contribution and why did you vote in a cabbage inot that position. Let the players move to greener pastures in peace and embrace them when they come home. Support youngsters who want to make their name and do not compare them. They will deliver.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Shappa Buccaneer

Football is coming home. South Africa will the 2017 African Nations Cup tournament, after hosting the successful 2010 FIFA World Cup and still hope to host 2014 FIFA World Club Championship as well as the FIFA U-20 Youth and FIFA Women U-20 tournaments. Bidding is one thing and hosting, another.

The real deal is that Orlando Pirates are the top team in the ABSA Premier League after a 2-0 victory over Free State Stars at Botshabelo Stadium.The Happy People were made happy by speedy Tlou Segolela in the first half. Andile Jali scored the second late in the second half.

Kaizer Chiefs had a comfortable 3-1 win courtesy of Siphiwe Tshabalala who scored twice, after having spent days overseas hunting for English football contracts. Chiefs moved to 2nd behind The Sea Robbers with this win over Maritzburg United at the FNB Stadium.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Torres and Liverpool now a tired story

Too much speculation just kills my appetite. That is why I was never tempted to say anything about Fernando Torres of Liverpool. Rumour mongers are having a field day and that's good for them. Him leaving Liverpool for whoever and Luis Suarez coming in will never be big news for me. For Liverpool fans, anything Liverpool is news.

Torres has been 50% what a striker should be and he is their best player. Hopefully, Suarez will be keeping goals as he did in the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa in the quarter-finals against Ghana. Liverpool will do with such antics until everybody comes to the party.

Another unnecessary speculation has been that of Edwi van de Saar successor. Whoever it may be, it may never make a difference to Manchester United. May be United fans really care about some special, but any goalkeeper will fit into the United set-up at this moment as they not struck a particular playing pattern.

The is news that Higglanders of Zimbabwe has secured a huge sponsorship for the season from a supermarket chain, Buscod. The deal is worth US$94000,00. As earlier reported, and from my personal experience, that is a coach's annual salary. Companies must chip in with salaries of assistants and players. There will be need for travel and accomodation expenses.

For their gesture, people need to support the business fully and it is hoped the players will step up their act and take off from where they left.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The storm is over - Modise

(Originally from

The Storm is over …!” Teko Modise tweeted on Wednesday and by Thursday it was clear that the direction in which he had blown was Mamelodi Sundowns. Modise met with Brazilians management in the afternoon to iron out his personal terms and he will be unveiled at a press conference this morning at Chloorkop.

Earlier on Thursday, meanwhile, Modise sat in a natty red bow-tie, while Buccaneers chairman Irvin Khoza announced his imminent departure. A hastily arranged press conference was expected to merely give the results of an investigation into Modise’s actions, with the midfielder suspended this month by Pirates, after absconding from camp ahead of an Absa Premiership game with Santos.

Modise claimed he had answered an urgent call from his wife, after their house had been broken into.
Pirates, it seemed, wanted proof. Khoza, however, dropped a bombshell in declaring that Pirates had decided to leave the disciplinary charges alone, because Modise was on his way out of the club. “We are gathered here because of a notice sent out to the media indicating that the club have finished the Teko Modise investigation,” said Khoza, brandishing a file with Modise’s name on it.

“We had concerns in terms of what happened at the training camp (Modise left without permission), and subsequently what happened at gym the day after the game. Everyone was supposed to attend, and Teko did not … We had to investigate the reasons for him to abscond. “(Today) we took Teko inside to indicate to him how we intended to proceed with this matter. We had to discuss a call with Teko and his manager (Jazzman Mahlakgane) – that call was an offer to secure the services of Teko. We asked Mr Mahlakgane and Teko, as to whether we should proceed with the DC, or if they wanted to accept the proposed offer. We wanted to keep the player.

“The player decided to settle for the offer proposed … Orlando Pirates have acceded to the request from the player and accepted the offer from Sundowns. Teko has now left for Sundowns, any disciplinary action would have no purpose.” Khoza admitted that Orlando Pirates had tried to do a swap deal with Sundowns involving Mozambican winger Elias Pelembe. The Brazilians, however, were unwilling to give Pelembe to Pirates, so the Buccaneers accepted a cash offer.

Modise’s departure comes after a frustrating season at Pirates, where he has barely played – clearly not a favourite of Pirates coach Ruud Krol. The Bucs midfielder had been unafraid to vent his anger on twitter, but he cut a more modest figure in Houghton yesterday.

“First and foremost I want to thank the chairman for the opportunity he gave me,” said Modise.
“He told me my life would not be the same again when I signed. At the time I didn’t understand, but after playing a couple of games I realised the impact of the statement he had made.

“I tried my best within the team, I got so many opportunities, I played over 50 times for South Africa, I captained South Africa, I captained Pirates as well. I thought I had done everything I could in four years with the team. There are so many young players coming through, like Mark Mayambela, like Daine Klate, I think they should get the opportunity to shine.

“I want to thank the chairman for the opportunity to further my game and I wish them the best of luck as they are doing well in the league.” Khoza added that in the absence of Modise, Pirates’ No10 jersey was again to be retired. “When Teko came to the club we made a promise, we identified him as a player to wear the No10 jersey. We were hoping one day that somebody would better the performance of Jomo Sono,” said Khoza.
“Now that Teko is leaving it will depend on who comes through at Pirates to force us to recall the No10 jersey.
“For now it remains retired in honour of the outstanding performance from Jomo Sono during his career at Pirates,” said the Pirates chairman. - The Star

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Liverpool in good win, Spurs hunting.

It is known how vicious a dog can be after it tastes blood. Now, we are taking of a hungry 'teenage' lion cub that has the strangth, pedigree and opportunity. There is one thing lacking for the inexperienced wild beast; killer instinct.

Tottenham Hotspur seek Diego Forlan for GBP 9,000,000. Their fairy tale Champions League run and now within striking distance of the Barclays Premier League title, they have just woken up to see anything is possible. Gary Bale has been a revelation and the arrival of injury prone Rafael van der Vaart. It remains if they will get the Diego deal done.

Anyway, the story is that Liverpool are back and I congratulate them. I will not be a prophet of doom nor be a bearer of bad news. No matter how the win comes in, a win is a win. Their victory over Fulham takes them to the highest point they ever been this season. That is huge news.

I have been numbed by headlines today of veteran Manchester United goalkeeper, Edwin van der Saar, retiring. I thought we knew it all along. I was wrong. Anyway, we will be sending our cards and hope to be playing in the testimonial match soon.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Manchester rule, unfortunately

As if to confirm that a team does not have to be good to win the Barclays Premier League, Manchester United retained their position at the summit of the log with a Dimitr Berbetov show of a brace over Blackpool. United of a few years back, deservedly won several league titles on their own quality performances. The deception of pretenders to the throne coming in to add the numbers has always been with us.

For over a decade now, the championship has been decided on how well Manchester United played. It is unfortunate that this time, regardless of their below par exhibitions, they rule the roost. It could be that they are experienced enough.

Arsenal, for their part, are talented enough. Manchester City and Chelsea are rich enough. At the end of the day, this season, no matter how much United are not turning up, there is really nobody to raise a finger for the championship they own. It may be too early, as they always tell me, but then, should the champions lull for the rest of the season and wake up on the last day? Chelsea should know better.

Dispatching a small team like Ipswitch should never be any cause of celebration, unless you have not had anything to show for your footballing prowess. The Gunners booked a berth in the Carling Cup final with a neat 3-0 victory. It never was a big  deal to win the respected Carling Cup, unless it would be in conjuction with the Premiership, Championships' League or indeed the FA. We will let the Gunners celebrate this one. It will be a very long wait for anything bigger.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Clinical Chelsea ruthlessly blast Bolton

Do Chelsea think that their 4-0 win over struggling Bolton Wanderers means anything? I don't. The Blues for once, proved lethal for the first time in a long while, but they do not have my sympathies, not yet. They will be singing more blues a little longer when they face real boys in the Premeirship.

It took a stunning world class strike by striker Didier Drogba. A second goal by Florent Malouda and 2 more by Nicolas Anelka and Ramires did the trick. They have some ground to make against leaders, Manchester United who have a game in hand.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Borussia Dortmund are back

They used to be the benchmark of football the world over. They dominated Germany football and Europe for a while and then faded like stone washed jeans, but Borussia are back.

The end of the great AC Milan era of Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten and Frank Rikjaard in the late 1980s, brought a sharp but brief craze of complete football dominance that differed from the pressing Arigo Sacchi philosophy obtained from basketball tactics. It was neither the Ducth total football born of the Johan Cryuff generation.

Borussia Durtmund strangulated opponents by totally subduing them the entire 90 minutes. They became a standard that was immediately emulated by neighbours, Bayern Munich, which saw the two teams reach one UEFA Champions' League final at one point. Their tactics and prowess was always accredited to massive mental strength enabling them to concentrate the entire match.

It was during those days, that even for one to be considered a coach, they needed a German qualification. However, the German and European giants went into hibernation, being a shadow of Bayern Munich, Leverkusern, Shalke 04, Kaiseslautern, Eintrancht Frankfurt, Werder Bremen and others.

Now, Borussia are back, and with a bang. They are 11 points clear at the top of Bundesliga, and with a goal difference of 31, they mean business. Having played 19 matches, they lost twice and drew as much. If they reach their potential as we know it, Barcelona and Manchester United have something to deal with. It could be the end of their dominance in Europe.

It will soon be seen if they can restrict teams outside the Bundesliga to the same psychological wrestling only they can win. It took teams to be well polished in their play to implement a strategy that could afford them a sniff the goal. On their part, Borussia needed a single shot at goal. The luxury of the second would be just that, excess.

Pirates restore order

As order of things were to have it, the owners of the ABSA Premier League top spot have taken their rightful  place for once. Orlando Pirates needed a bad defensive behaviour of The Students, Bidvest Wits, who led 2-0 at half time and eventually surrendered 3 second half goals. The Sea Robbers did not need the support of the Happy People, only 5000 coming to watch the match. That is a shame.

Supersport United came into the party with a handy 1-0 victory over local archrivals and championship pretenders, Mamelodi Sundowns, in the Pretoria derby. The faded champions eased the worries of coach, Gavin Hunt, who used the sniper instincts of Erasmus. Matsatsantsa a Pitori may be on their way back.

It was all tears after tears in the Dube Birds camp, as Moroka Swallows were hit for 4 by Usuthu. Swallows coach, Gordon Igusend was frustrated by the way they gave too much space to Amazulu. Trying to get out of the relegation zone may be a tough call, but not impossible for Izinyoni, who had a cool 3-1 victory a few days back.

One team assured of not being in the league next season by their own undoing, is Mpumalanga Black Aces. Amaziyoni just managed to keep their heads over the water in the play off last season, by they are not Premier League material. Recycled football may bring a glimmer of hope here and there, but their case was concluded by yet another defeat, this time a 0-1 margin to Santos.

Hopefully, there will be something to say about Kaizer Chiefs soon.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Premiership is very weak

This is now for Manchester United to lose, they say. Jose Mourinho was cocky when asked about the best League in the world. His Real Madrid side then led Barcelona by a point after dropping 2 points through draws with 12 matches played. In England, the leaders then, Chelsea, had already dropped over a dozen points. He should have just said 'Not the English Premiership'.

Since then, faded Manchester United have managed to regain both their form and top spot without breaking a sweat. United can afford to play badly and win the championship. It is all about them and nothing else. Sir Alex Ferguson have been strolling in the park, and seem to be engaging higher gears. No one is raising a voice and they know it.

Basically, the Barclays Premier League is very low in quality. A one man band. Emerging teams like Manchester City and Spurs, do not have the pedigree to match The Red Devils at all. Chelsea have failed to collect a 'registered mail' United sent them. They are a proud lot delivering less. Arsenal are the perenial nearly men until Arsene Wenger goes or the team is overhauled. Under archiving knows them by name. I cannot even type Loserpool, but it is early days, as you may say.

It was a class act of former Tottenham Hotspur hitman, Dimitr Berbetov who scored a hat-trick and Darren Bent's debut goal that won it for Aston Villa after switching for a cool sum from Sunderland, making the headlines. Manchester United walloped Birmingham City 5-0 and their neighbours, Manchester City lost by a solitary goal to relegation threatened Villa. Arsenal romped to a confortable 3-0 win at the Emirates against Wigan Athletic, with Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Pierse on song.

Liverpool had a fantastic victory over Wolves, winning 0-3 away. Fernando Torres rewarded Kenny Daglish with a great performance and good goals, while Spurs were in a disappointing Newcastle 1-1 draw, Aaron Lennon stealing the point at the dearth. Everton were held 2-2 at home by West Ham.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Africa allergic to good governance and success

As soon as it’s African and it sounds like a fairy tale, there is a witch ready to throw a spanner into the works. That Zebras fairy tale runs of wins over Tunisia, Malawi and Togo is catching up with Botswana. Players are complaining of not being paid well or on time. There is a raw.

Players were vowing not to fulfil Wednesday's friendly encounter against Sweden in Cape Town. The meeting with the Botswana Football Association (BFA) chief executive officer, Judge Mookodi, is reportedly having been advance payment of their appearance fees.

It sounds there was not friendliness and it was quite a lengthy meeting that did not yield much. The politics of football are all over, but exactly when things start going well, there is someone wanting to take the glory or hijack the success of a colleague.

Will such ever leave the continent? Not in our life-time. There would rather be no success of the whole initiative than for individuals to fail. These things are prevalent in Southern African countries; hence not so many teams and clubs have conquered Africa from this part of the Dark Continent. It is a shame.

Stanley Tshosane had done a remarkable job, and making Botswana the team of the year. Their progress and exploits surpass the winning of the FIFA 2010 World Cup by Spain. Well, surely, if a team has Ike Cassillas, Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Iniesta, Xavi, Fernando Torres and David Villa, they can win anything anytime. But with all due respect, the Zebras are nobodies.

I guess there were intimidation threats by the leadership to expel those in the forefront. This is usual and unnecessary. If the underpaid players complain, the employers tend to twist that to indiscipline and it rarely works. The Zebras, on their part, went on to lose 1-2 to Sweden, not a bad result by any account. The outcome proved their position as the 12th best in Africa is no fluke.

Friday, January 21, 2011

D-DAY for Bosso

As Highlanders Football Club head into the polls at the traditional last weekend of January, the 30th to be specific, all eyes will be on the Executive Committee report, especially the monies. While there was not much money coming in, the interest of where it was going will still be high.

For starters, people will be pacified by the appointment of former player and assistant to Mohammed Fathi, Mkhuphali  Masuku, who was employed full-time, albeit for one year. Mr Cooper acted in that capacity with incredible success.

The Committee will be harshly judged based on scarce resources and difficult environment under which the team operated. There was no proper sponsor to bankroll the team. The team must have spent a substantial amount in its court battles with debtors and legal firms.

Former coach, legendary Madinda Ndlovu was owed a cool sum, as did Fathi, besides Vusumuzi Thsinga Dube.  The Executive members coming in, will have to deal with these issues and fresh ones. Bosso’s best goalkeeper of all time, Captain Oxo, Peter ‘Umangoye’ Nkomo is owed $14 000.

One hopes that Cooper does not get distracted constructing his CV, spending precious training time sending applications to ‘Coaches Wanted’ newspaper columns. But then, with a one year contract, that is part of the deal. Besides that, he will be wondering how much money he will be owed by this time next year, and will have to budget for his lawyers as well.

While that was never supposed to be even the least of his worries, Cooper gets the team into their strides next Tuesday, with the majority of his generals absent. The tried and tested players still in their prime seem to be heading out of Emagumeni. It is still to be seen if there will be meaningful transactions, and if so, what will get into the player requisition kitty. With a tattered record financially and in paying terms, there is all likelihood of getting tattered material.   

There teams rumoured to pay $30 000, 00 signing on fees and $1000, 00 monthly salaries besides the $200, 00 winning bonuses and the lot, Bosso has a very long way to go. The people that raise the noise the most when the teams does badly, are partly to blame. Tshilamoya has fans that support the team only in good times. They abandon the team when they are needed the most, both in match attendances and financially.
In one of the most embarrassing episodes in the history of the team, Highlanders played home matches in front of about 200 paying supporters. There have not been much pledges or support to foot the bill when the players were in camp or for their salaries.

Supporters and fans need to chip in with money and attend matches at the stadium, regardless they voted the people they like to run the team. Bosso should never play in front of an empty stadium. Before you have anyone to point fingers at, ask how much money you contributed for the players’ welfare, at least, and how many matches you attended. Otherwise, just shut up and listen. All opinions focusing on the way forward would be welcome to take the team to its rightful place.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Where to South African football?

Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs have always been the symbol of South African football, regardless of their lackluster performances. They command huge followings in and around the country. This is despite the dominance of faded Supersport United and the riches of Mamelodi Sundowns. It must be said that Bloemfontein Celtic draw probably the biggest crowd in South Africa in their home matches if all things are equal.

As it stands, South African football has represented the continent well by its coverage on TV and cyber space. The quality of play has not matched the promise expected by both locals and outsiders. Many coaches and observers have tried to get SAFA and the ABSA Premiership management teams to implement one form of reform or another. The easiest thing to do has been nothing and that is exactly what we got.

Super diski, as we call our football, has always had an Achilles’ heel. The game here has depended on foreign material since the early days of the end of apartheid. In those days, Orlando Pirates won the Africa Champions League with players like Jerry Skhosana, Helman Mkhelele, Mark Fish, Sizwe Motaung and William Okpara name but a few. Not long from that point, Mzansi were the African champions in 1996.

From the dizzy heights of being both club African champions and continental big fish, South African football has been a laughing stock, as seen by the CAF league ranking a few weeks back. Ranking 17th in a league that is well funded and has that much history and general pride and self esteem, is such a shame. Details of what might have gone wrong may vary and excuses may be given, but the bottom line is that there must be change. That change will not be coming anytime soon anyway.

The past decade has seen South African Footballer of the Year accolades going to foreign players for the majority of the times. That goes for the Top Goal Scorer and Rookie of the Year Awards. From the days of Wifred and William Mugeyi, George Nechironga, Collins Mbesuma, Benjani Mwariwari, Tico Tico and now, Knowledge Musona, you will see the point. True comparison result proves our players are just inferior. It would be necessary to find out why.

Supersport United won the championship so many times and failed to make an impact in Africa despite the resources they have. Rounds going about nowadays is how the top teams in the league are coached by foreigners. While I do not want to believe that these guys are better, Sundowns, Chiefs, Pirates and Ajax are indeed under the tutelage of aliens. What I can not confirm is whether it is the quality of the coaches that makes the difference or the quality of the squads they have. For me, the later is true.

Another argument is whether foreign players, in this case, Knowledge Musona the current top goal scorer, is a cut above the rest. That is an undisputed fact as of now. What is the South African football strategy to get players of the same quality? Nada. What I can tell you is that there are people of the same quality who are not playing football. I have coached a tertiary institution and I can tell you that for a fact. The system must encourage such people to see it worthwhile to play football. It could be also, that the most fans going to the stadia are foreign too.

Given that South Africa is rarely a force even in the SADC region, with all the potential sponsorship for its benefit, a COSAFA version of clubs maybe something worthwhile for the nation to consider. This will measure the clubs’ preparedness for the champions’ league and measure any progress of the nation’s football; first at club level, then higher.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Good for Steve

Now that the money has chancged hands and the medicals almost conculded, I get safely say the transfer of Steve Pienaar from Everton to Tottenham Hotspur is a good deal for Schillo. Personally, moving away from Goodison Park was a bad idea, only in playing terms.

Protracted talks and negotiations probably soured relations and the move became imminent. All the names of high profile European leagues and teams made me numb and freeze, because, the way Pienaar plays his football, it was never going to be in his playing interest. Chelsea, AC and Inter Milan and whosever came up, was only going to be good only for his bank account. Of all the things that could have happened, he ends at White Hart Lane, by far the most suitable destination for various reasons.

Spurs have a clever and tactical manager who likes and appreciates individual creativity of a player. Harry Redknapp knows what he wants and he gets it. Steven is guaranteed a fair share of the game if he is willing to have his input in training, and he does. Pienaar plays exactly the way Spurs do, and will fit like a glove in a hand.

The benefits that are way above the GDP70 000 per week, are that Bafana Bafana will have a confident player in Schillo. His presence will also boost the confidence of rookie, Bongani Khumalo, who recently moved to Spurs from Supersport. Their fellowship will benefit each other for both club and country.

Without any doubt, Pienaar's football is the number one winner hands down.

Highlanders announce coach

Bosso are said to have formerly engaged the first team coach with a mocking one year contract. It is usually amateurish clubs and mentalities that do not have the balls to engage a coach on a proper long term basis.

Mkhuphali Masuku has been appointed substantive coach for the Bulawayo giants, who are said to have hired Jerry Sibanda as team manager. Masuku took the football world by storm last season, replacing the respected Mohammed Fathi to whom he was assistant.

It is not clear who will assist him, and whether he was given the mandate to romp his sidekick. Given that he has a one year job, it is very unlikely that his employer can give him that latitude.

Mr Cooper was taking no prisoners last season after taking over the crumbling wagon and glided through 9 successive wins and 2 unfortunate draw and a Cup final silver medal. He will be expected to pick up where he left when the season resumes this year.  

Highlanders will be operating with a different line-up as they are likely to lose a few key players who have run out of contracts and are looking for greener pastures. Hopefully, there will quality replacements available for Mr Cooper to prove his mantle.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The best form of defence is DEFENCE

Once in a while I get asked what I think is the best formation. The problem with the answer to the question is trying to gauge the level of understanding of the individual asking the question. The answer differs to a coach from that of a fan. I will balance the two.

The issue of formations will lie on the philosophy of the coach and the fan’s understanding of the game. Given that the world is not ideal, coaches work around the material available to them. At the end of the day, what this provides us with, is a pattern that is usually seen when the team takes a defensive position, that is, having lost possession of the ball. This is the only moment you can determine the formation at play.

Personally, I love to have a Brazilian Ronaldo type of central attacker, or at least a van Nisterlrooy or a Romario so as to bang in everything that gets into the penalty box and can work independent of immediate support. Conventionally, I should build my team from the back, but we break the rules for now. His contribution in defense will be vital in pressuring the defenders and goalkeeper only in particular situations.

Behind him, I would seek a deadly attacking midfielder of the Messi, Cantona or Maradona quality. His role will be to supply and feed the finisher. This guy must be exempt from all defensive duties. This will save his energy for what he is best at, to do simple things without error. Usually, players not caring to defend are found in very good offensive spots when possession is regained.

It will be vital to have wingers like Ashley Young or Shaun Wright Phillips and Allan Johnson. This gives you the width, precise crossing, finishing if needed and the general arrogance that I like. Above all, these type of players are capable of at least 50 -60 % defensive duties when they have to track down and even falling back behind the centre line to close either channel. They give you pace in the vigorous penetration going into the final third with excellent dribbling speed and their threat to score or pass well.

At this point, there is need of strong and physical ball winners in the mould of Patrick Vierra of old, Emmanuel Petit, Dunga, Marseilly Desai or Michael Essien. Key to their characteristics is the anticipation and then their interception skills. The combative nature of the modern game will require them to be a duet that is not in tandem, but square. This closes traffic in the centre channel of the field and suffocates opposing offences. Usually, they shepherd the other team across the field. They may not have good aerial skills, but it helps if they do.

At the wing back position, I prefer the old fashion fullback that strangles his opponent the entire game, without letting any cross into the box. Ashley Cole, Gaily Clichy or Patrice Evra would find it hard to be in my team. Wingback positioning becomes vital not to overload the central defence and goalkeeper. They should be able to be compact, coming to the central defensive position to constrict the spaces between themselves and the centre back when the attack is coming slowly and surely. They should anticipate well as their interceptions will be as vital so as not to dive into tackles in desperation. In case they find themselves in attack, the solid central defenders must find themselves drifted to that position until the attack is over.

The central defending position is an interesting for me as the package must come complete to fluidity. I prefer to have a stable character that takes no prisoners at all, grounded there and being protected by a smart partner who works around him. This will remind you of Terry Butcher, Tony Adams, Lucas Radebe, Gerard Pique and Lothar Matheus when he switched positions. Carles Puyol, Lucio, Lillian Thuram and Onouha have the versatility to be around these stoppers and sweep in front, at the sides and back with equal ease. They give the midfield the necessary impetus when going forward and you do not suffer heart attacks when they are off position drifting with play, as you have things covered.
Now that we are finally at the beginning, I have hard choices to make in terms of examples. As a matter of principle, I want a crazy goalkeeper. More for me, is the organising ability than shot stopping and coming out for the cross. A vocal character and confidence giver comes on the mould of Bruce Grobelaar and Peter Schmichael. There would be a lot of Chilavert and even Higuita to complete a line up. Here I am looking at someone who will throughout a defender into the stands for letting a cross come in, or is beaten by a silly ball or even just for poor judgement. This man must be an animal feared by both his team-mates and rivals alike.

My formation will be thus a 1-2-4-2-1-1. This is a goalkeeper, 2 central defenders, 2 central defenders in line with wingbacks, the 2 midfielders and a nimble footed cunning attacker behind the goal poacher. The reason that there is no multitude of those labelled as strikers is simple. The attackers need space to flourish, hence there is no need to take up good space by our own personnel and worse, our men will attract further men into vital areas. Maybe we can say it is a 1-6-3-1, but then, this gives the impression of a defensive arrangement, of which it isn’t.  You will realise that the wing channels are open to attract wing defenders out of our attacking positions for the midfielders and strikers to exploit.

My stubborn football character will let me keep my stance and hope the opposition conforms. In cases where it is not so, because of a lot of rehearsals, the match will be up for the taking as the training will have rendered such movements lethal. Do not be fooled, the best form of attack is ATTACK and the best form of defence is just that, DEFENCE. Attack well and defend well. Period. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Spurs were the losers, but SAF strokes 'Arry'

With all Barclays Premier League matches drawn this Sunday, the biggest winners in the stalemates were Manchester United, and of course, the losers Tottenham Spur. In an entertaining and blood warming romance between the two protagonists, it turned out to be just a sterile affair, both teams spilling wide of the target finishing 0-0.

United were obviously the beneficiary of 'soon-to-be-fair-refereeing' (I am trying hard to be polite here) having travelled, got a point, maintained an unbeaten run and shot to the summit of the league above neighbouring arch rivals, Manchester City. By contrast, Spurs were at home and could have overtaken Chelsea for the top four spot. Despite what happened, Harry Redknapp was not ready to call any decision a 'farce'.

As we have come to expect, Spurs will not be surrendering points easily, as they refused to be charitable to championship contenders. Any good coach knows that if you are to win it, one has to beat fellow aspirants yourself and win home and away. For that reason, Spurs will be hoping someone beats United for them and that is not a championship material mentality at all. They, however, did not give much away.

Sir Alex Ferguson, usually expected in big match mind games, went straight between his opposite number's legs, gently stroking Redknapp's balls, saying Spurs are the contenders. Fortunately Harry is experienced and a realist enough to tell you somebody will have to give it to them. Spurs are not yet good enough to subdue City, Arsenal, Chelsea and United beside party spoilers, over the stretch of the season. 

Both managers showed respect for each other on the pitch, fortifying the rear to protect the point they had at kick-off. The tactics seemed to unfold simultaneously to cancel any decisive offensive raids. They praised central defenders of both their sides. Spurs felt a little undone by failing to score, and rightly so, but gave United a lot of respect. Any team failing to beat United now are average and that is not what Spurs need to be, both for their Premiership campaign and the UEFA Champions League.

Kenny Daglish started off well with a point after a home 2-2 derby draw against Everton. The fading Reds have been notorious for changing coaches like nappies and hopefully, the former icon and Liverpool legend will see them through tough times. Sunderland and Newcastle finished 1-1, as did Birmingham City and Aston Villa.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Now, who is the Boss?

Chelsea are like a guy ladies love to hate. He comes across with all the bling and cute smile, strong with a symmetrical shape of a true movie hunk or porn stud. He provides an ideal world and seduces you with romantic moves of a fantasy world, sensitive and a good listener. When it matters the most, he flatters to deceive.

The Barclays Premier League season started with The Blues sweeping us off our feet and dazzling us with crisp movements on and off the ball. They scored willy-nilly and provided top draw entertainment and value. They tore apart teams with mercilessness of Alexander The Great. Die hard fans thought, 'This is it'.

Only yesterday, did Chelsea record a second win in 8 matches. By any standards, it is a bad statistic for reigning champions and title contenders. That as it may, is their worst run in over a decade. Signs have been coming, with their hot/cold fluctuations in which Didier Drogba's scoring touch deserted him.

Initially, Drogba was the top dog, supplying his team-mates with seaters to finish off. They never reciprocated. Technically, Chelsea broke down. Nicolas Anelka and Flourent Malouda became their trump cards, scoring regularly. The reshuffling of the technical staff may be underplayed, but those closer to the dance floor will tell you how much impact it is having.

Manchester United always had their finger on the pulse, monitoring and measuring Chelsea's progress with an eagle's eye. Was that ill advised? Because for them, as they said, Manchester City and Arsenal were never a thread. Today, City are on the throne. As it may only be for a moment, their intentions are clear and United would be well advised to re-adjust their rear view mirrors and the blind spot.

United have a few hours to take the honours away from their bitter blue side with a win at Tottenham Hotspur this afternoon. Negotiating with Harry Redknapp may not be an easy task for Sir Alex Ferguson, but he has to promise him the English management job to grind out a result at White Hart Lane. It remains to be seen if Harry responds to SAF's seduction and flattery.

Spurs have the opportunity to topple Chelsea and keep the 4th spot. It may not be an easy task, but they are capable and you bet, Redknapp will not mind a bit of Scotch whisky after 90 minutes.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

I wish you well, Welcome

May I start by wishing YOU money, lots and lots of cash, all in crisp new notes only, with that strong smell of cash that I like, not thousands but millions in 2011. When that cash comes, remember 10% belongs to God.  Happy New Year to all the blog followers and readers. Circumstances have given the opportunity to write something new, not that old things are passed away, but in due time, we will have our football and reviews, God willing.

While it has not been possible to write on football, reading the Bible and writing things of God was never going to be a waste of time for both the writer and the reader. It may be a word or two, once in a while. 

Actually, I will writing one blog about such and please, cast your eyes upon it and maybe the year 2011 has been appointed you to hear and decipher such content for your salvation and your family too.

Football and sports in general, has always been associated with Greek origin. Their theatres and stadia are a reminder of the great Olympics and gladiators who entertained people with their bouts against beats. The Bible talks of the Greeks of the times of the apostles, how they sat and argued all day, and were always on the alert only for something new.

I hope we become different Greeks, who are changed by something new today. Peace. Diski coming.