Saturday, December 31, 2011

Defending the objective

All footballers have different tastes and priorities or philosophies. The school of thought you subscribe to,  will affect your point of view and what you value in each and every match. Here, the key is to understand the point system in place when you are playing league matches. Long ago, victories used to be awarded two points and a draw for one with none for losses.

The concept of three points for a win and one for a draw has made the share of spoils less attractive. One thing that remains is the vitality of the single point, if push comes to shove. To a radical view, it becomes an all or nothing affair, but to me, that is fatal.

The best and only approach for me is to understand that at kick off, the result is 0-0. It remains that way until a resultant force tips the balance of scales. The question of which way the favour goes will illustrate my point. If you are the one calling the shots, praise God, but if not, then we can not overemphasize the trouble of trying to come out of that pit.

As the whistle blows for kick-off, take that 0-0 as a point in the pocket. As the match wears on, think  of how much you are doing to keep that point. By the same token, keep in mind that while we have it on hand, it is not going to fee our families. This mindset sets you in a tactical platform even as you set up your team for the match.

It is a tug of war whereby you are sticking to your guns while trying to gain ground. Always make sure you end up with at least what you started with and even more at the final whistle. This thinking will make you think of building your team from the back going forward. It will make your training start at looking at closing the doors before probing.

Loosely, at first glance, it looks like a defensive philosophy, but then, you do not attack naked. Dressing up forms part of your defensive mechanism as you prepare to go out and fight. 

The same can be said in Cup matches, but then, you may just end up with that 0-0 score line while you do not have a penalty kick saving machine or a dead ball specialist. You may be pressed to avoid tha scenario at all cost. The other team may also have the same concerns and that situation will present you with loopholes to exploit as the concerns are going on.

At the end of the day, the approaches differ as a result. You will realise that the idea of being the co-Cup holders at kick-off is real. It will be either letting go of your end or getting the other hand to hoist the shield. You do not want a pound for pound boxing match. You just want to clobber the guy and walk away.

 Tournaments will present the best of both world if there is a round robin arrangement. You want to get points. You begin with half the deal that you do not want to give away and eventual deliver a knockout blow. You are still mindful of the knockout blow that may end your dream.

Depending on the outcome of the first few matches, you may play for points as if there were a Cup final. Everything is thrown into the match and you know there will not be a second chance to be in the same tournament for ages to come.

It is vital to note that big teams will field reserve team players in the early stages of the Cups and tournaments. This serves two things. The level of professionalism due to lower division team involvement may mess up the first team players and they may not cope. You do not want them to lose to bad playing armature teams. Of course there may be injuries. 

The other reason is that the fringe players will always through their all into the game as this represents an opportunity into forts team football. They also may be at the same level as the smaller teams they play, but they have the advantage of the brand they represent. It boils down in reading the situation well and make prudent decision, which may not always carry the day for you. 

After all is said and done, you must always have the pride of knowing you planned well and did the best there is and still failed. It is very easy to see if you have been beaten in mind games,and in that case, you cannot wait for revenge, either to the same team or whoever comes next.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How sorry Arsenal have lost the plot.

As one of the world’s best football managers and analysts, Mr Wenger totally ignores one of the fundamentals of the game. Like it or not, Arsenal’s last real match was sometime when their team sheet had the name EMMANUEL ADEBAYUOR on it. Not that he was playing anything to talk about. I am trying to draw a timeline.
I will spare you the long story of ‘Boys to Men’ approach that we have been waiting for since his kidsnet looked like the iPad 2 of football at the time. After the expiry of their ‘sell-by date’, due to high levels of expectation, someone thought they saw the Gunners play like Barcelona and told these aged kids. Usually, I get a lot of love from Emirates residents on the blog but somehow, they must have missed one of my post.
Trusting they will read this one, Barcelona do not just play everything forward just like that. They penetrate by opening crevices with side way passes that are a problem to deal with tactically. Arsenal have turned themselves into ‘route 2 football’. You will remember Wimbledon F.C being the masters of ‘route 1’. The newer generation must imagine Stoke City at their worst to get an idea.
Leaving the Barca-Gunner comparison, here is why cabinets at the Emirates will be trophyless for a lengthy while. Their last drawn home match against Wolverhampton Wanderers typifies their game since the last day they played football years ago and I stopped supporting them after a two season grace period.
Arsenal emanate from too much greed. The world’s expectation of their talent coming of age was summed up by Wenger when he said they want it too much. They are just too hungry. I am surprised he saw this today.
Just like Sir Alex Ferguson who have spent a good chunk in the century as an employee of Manchester United, Jomo Sono of South African side Jomo Cosmos, share the same lengthy service but for a different reason. He is the owner of his club and SAF just an employee.  Given this contrast, it extends to the general fortunes of the two sides.
Arsene Wenger has the privilege of comparing well with both in that he has a credible decade and a half at the Emirates, a close second by any measure to the Manchester United manager and he proudly shares the fortunes of the club with that of Cosmos.
(To keep those who are unaware of South African diski, footy if you are from another planet, Jomo Cosmos is owned by Jomo Sono and have been relegated and promoted from the local league a record times and they have never changed the coach).
Direct to the scrotum, Arsenal spend 90 minutes of the match attacking, attacking and attacking. A lot of teams die to have the capacity and the luxury of that offensive movement. Why this is futile is this. Football fluency is based on a forward force called the momentum of attack. The Gunners present themselves with this opportunity only twice in a match; at the beginning of each half.
Simply put, they push their opponents against the wall and get stuck there, toiling all day huffing and puffing for nothing. To have a baby, you must remove the barriers and all contraception, and this is what Arsenal are not doing.
In the forward movement of the team, the momentum gets lost, just like a very good back swing with a hammer and a strike on the head of the nail. Prudent game plans call for the restarting of the formula as it were, drawing the opposition out of the comfort zone of good defending areas. They way Tottenham Hotspur plays now, they may not need a second swing of the hammer to crack the nut. Arsenal does, but all they do is swing once and push the hammer with their might. It is the way the two teams play, and Spurs being the best team by far in the Barclays Premier League.
This poor approach by Arsenal has too fatal effects. It drains the team’s mentality to methodically formulate and orchestrate penetrative and productive probes. The match is seen as entertaining with a lot of, but sterile, possession. There is no room left on the pitch for Theo Walcott to utilise. There is panic as the central midfielders and defenders push ahead leaving yawning gaps behind.
The second ill of the unfortunate pattern of play is that it horns the defending skills of the opposing team. It becomes like a practise session and the defenders and goalkeeper get better with every futile attempt. Arsenal becomes the best team to play against and getting a point becomes a bonus to an otherwise great outing by defenders.
Of late, you will agree with me that the Gunners have been far more direct in their attempt to break down opposition. This is a vital sign of impatience and lack of leadership on the pitch. Robin van Pierse is a very good man and player, but being a striker and the teams expectation being that high, the energy to organise the team gets swallowed by the duties of scoring, hence he is more scoring than pushing his team-mates’ performance.
Take solace, this phenomenon is normal where a coach stays too long with the same crop of players without much productivity. The solution has always been to change the coach or the whole team. Wenger is like Jomo at Arsenal and selling many players like Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy has not changed much fortune, but I actually think it is not necessary as Wenger can turn that around. For now, they will fight it out for fourth spot against Chelsea and Liverpool and watching a few Spurs matches won’t hurt. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Some football lingo to take to the pub

Without trying to put the race issue to debate, there is a dilemma on which meaning 'Suarez' should take. Until now, being 'Suarezed' meant an irreversible and unfair advantage gained by one by unscrupulous means. This followed the way Luis Suarez stopped a last minute goal bound shot by hands in a quarter-final match against Ghana in the FIFA 2010 South Africa World Cup.  

Being de-Jonged is synonymous with a proverbial body blow is one's affairs after the infamous Nigel de Jong's FIFA 2010 South African World Cup final wild kick at an opponent's mid torso.

Let's get a little serious though. Football language is a little technical sometimes and even accomplished coaches get tongue-tied once in a while. Here is a few things to know to take your local coach off-guard or to earn yourself a drink from a friend.

Technique is the commonly used technical term is football nowadays, having overtaken the term 'skill'. Soon you will see why. The natural gift of a player is the basis of the term. It covers everything the player does with the ball. It is often defined as the relationship between the two. Some examples here would include ball control, heading, passing, running with the ball and shooting. 

In earlier days, this was referred to as skill. To many, it is still the same, only that the other is not preferred. This is not so. Skill will be the performance of technique under pressure. The ability to get out of trouble in tight conditions. This can loosely be dribbling, shooting and the like. One must be careful to leave that obvious but invisible line.

Tactics would be a whole subject that would need a day to dissect. In general terms, it refers to the relationship of one player with others, but as we will soon see, it is split into many aspects that may not necessarily involve team-mates. Mostly, it will be a situation without the ball, but not always as we will get to that.

There is individual tactics, group tactics, departmental tactics and team tactics. Individual tactics will be instructions given to a player concerning where to go and where not to go as well as when. It may be simple tasks with the ball, like playing a free-kick, penalty-kick, goal-kick, corner-kick or even a throw in. It could just be the goalkeeping issue.

As you have already rightly suspected, free-kicks that may involve 2 or more players fall into the group tactics. The same goes for corner-kicks and the like - to say who positions himself where and why. The departmental tactics may involve the penetrative runs of attackers, or the way defenders must behave and so forth. Team tactics will also depend on the general picture involving every one, say in a Cup match played over two legs. Total defensive behaviour may be required, so players may be requested to play zonal marking.

Zonal marking is another term that can earn you money. There is a loose understanding of this phrase. In contrast with man-to-man marking, where each players may be concerned with marking an opponent, zonal marking means 'only marking of players entering certain zones'. You can opt to  withdraw to the centre line every time you lose possession and wait for the opposition to come, or it could be the defending third.

The most common things coaches and media people do, is to mark the field with invisible borders. The common one is the defending, midfield and attacking thirds which cut the length of the pitch. There is more thirds than that. Smart coaches know how to mark longitudinally. Viewed from one's own keeper, there is the right, centre and left channels.

Then, on the same note, there is this expensive piece of information. These channels will depict the game or match strong sides. This depends on the number of players in each one of these channels. Watching any match, this phenomenon changes like Christmas tree lights. The concept as you may be getting it now, is determined by the ball movement.

If the ball moves to the far right corner, like flies to sewer, players get attracted to that part of the field, even those not partaking in the action, due to their interest, they shift towards that channel. The channel with the most number of people becomes the strong channel. Tactically, the prudent thing to do in winning the ball from that situation is to switch play to the weaker channel and counter attack.

Counter attack is normally known as a fast break after gaining possession. In proper football terms, it is only a counter attack if it is executed in 7 seconds or less, or in less than 5 passes. I was still interested in channels and the ball.

If you are defending, the natural instinct is to stay between the ball and the goal. For the defending player, he is referred to as being goal-side of the ball. The attacker becomes ball-side of the goal.  Sorry to mess up your mind. That is why you are not a coach.

Anyway, take an attacking player, at the right flank. Naturally, he has a goal-post nearer to him, normally referred to as the near post. To be a little sophisticated, it is permissible if you said that it is the first post, or primary post. The far post, by deduction, becomes the second or secondary post.

While with the same visual still in your head, the attacker's intention is always to deliver the cross in an area at the far post. This area should be not overlap much past the post and should be far away from the goalkeeper's command. You have landed in the 'prime target area'. At this area, many goals have been scored due to the traffic having been concentrating on the stronger channel ignoring the prime target area. Clever attackers will always  lurk on the blind side to surprisingly pop in with a goal.

This presents to you the 'prime scoring area' but as you may realise, it is purely statistical. One way of seeing a tactically aware wing defender, they ensure they can always see the ball and see the man so that as the ball is in flight to the prime target area, they follow the movement with quick little steps. And so does the goalkeeper.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The most overlooked training aspect of the game.

Mostly due to ignorance and turning a blind eye to detail, many teams and top coaches take one thing for granted. I must admit that until I watched the last El Classico myself, I would not have noted this to write an article. It is something I had done with my teams, especially at amateur level.
Let us think this way for a while and see if we can make head way. I will draw contrasting examples to make a point, but this is applicable at high level, as it did in the Barcelona versus Real Madrid a few days back.

Say Barca, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal or Spurs are drawn amateur clubs in big Cup encounters. Does it matter who wins the toss and they get to kick-off the match? It does, and by how much? A long way.
First and foremost, the questions of whether it is a home or away fixture comes in. This takes into account the home crowd; whether it will be a happy full house or it is an away encounter without any spectatorship.

Take it the big team is playing away. In this case, they may be the ones to kick off the match. The ball should be meant to go around and make every member of the team touch it as often as possible. This has two effects. It settles the nerves and ascertains the superiority of the team before the novices get excited of playing against the Wayne Rooneys and the Rafael van der Vaarts. Train this with your team.

The ball possession also sends the message to the terraces that the big boys are in town. The coach must therefore make his team understand this. Here I am assuming the big team has their first choice players in the park, which they should most of the time. Possession for extended periods at the beginning is key.

Reversing the order of things, the smaller team may be the one getting to kick-off. Being amateurs and their coach not following this on, they will be very nervous and trying to figure out how to get autographs of the accomplished pros. The big team will have to pounce like a hungry wild cat onto the prey and get the ball back lighting fast.

Your team may be the small amateur side playing in front of your home crowd. The responsibilities are the same. Make sure that the big team and their fans get the memo that you are here to stay, by simply keeping the ball, moving it around fast and accurately. This settles the nerves of everybody in the team. It will give you an earlier indication as to who is in it and who is not.

The other advantage of this is that it brings the crowd into it and the boys will love when the stadium breaks into song. From there on, it is the bigger team to question if they can cope. Some may even start looking at the stage to see where they are and what is happening.

Be warned about failing to win the kick-off. It is not necessary to dive into tackles and try to win possession in swift sweeping motion. It will be essential to be patient and steady. The normal tendency will be to lose shape and the discipline of the strategy when the experienced professionals move the ball around.

Your team will need win the vital first tackle and get the applause of the home crowd, and then keep that ball for extended periods of time. Less emphasis should be placed in rushing forward to score. Failure early on may sup all the confidence the players have and they may withdraw.
The other scenario when you are the top dog and playing at home and you have to kick-off, is to send the long ball into the small team’s box and chasing looking for the early mistake before the nerves settle. The message to the novice boys is, ‘Here comes trouble’. They quickly note that they are in the wrong league and are in danger. The same can be done even if the smaller boys kick-off and they send the ball back. Sprinting to the ball and crowding them will make them feel outnumbered and then they will be prone to make mistakes.

This brings the point of the El Classico. This happens even in the big league. Real Madrid were on the score sheet with less than half a minute on the clock. They could have doubled the matters minutes later. The problem with big clubs of equal egos, it goes beyond the tactics and Barcelona were back in the game after being let loose by Real.

Real had matters under control for the first 12 minutes and Barca had no answers to their movements, but they let themselves down by their sloppy attitude in scoring. Cristiano Ronaldo could have killed the game, not once and not twice.

The point is, the way Real started the match was not a dressing room issue. I can tell you they spent so much time working on their strategy which worked well, albeit temporarily. At least, fortunately for their preparation, they knew they were at home. It just came to who was going to kick-off.

That classic example also showed a point I would have missed. At high level, that kind of pressing must produce results quickly, because the pace cannot be sustained by men who are not on steroids. The energy demands are extreme and you need the positive results when fatigue takes its toll.

At lower levels of the game, the difference may be minimal, but if you have a good eye, you will not miss it. Take time to plan and practise kick-off, just as you do with corner-kicks and penalties. It may be the one thing that saves you a point, a Cup or a job one day.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Race verdict slap on the wrist to Luis Suarez


Frankly Luis Suarez’s 8 match ban and a few coins for his alleged racial utterances has been a hot topic. The guilty verdict has not been taken lightly by the club and its fans. It could be that his bosses believe he is innocent, or they think there is a conspiracy to do their resurgent game down.
I actually think no matter how guilty Suarez was, they would hurt because the Uruguayan is the best thing that has ever happened to them since Steven G. Liverpool and their fans would make the same noise had it been their player who suffered the crippling damage from another player, assuming it was a leg breaking tackle from Patrice Evra.
The debate of whether this or that was said by Suarez to Evra has been bringing insinuations of the credibility of the offended, which is racist in itself. Let’s accept the verdict is out and Suarez is guilty. The question of being racist and saying something racist is being thrown into the fray by commenting fans and pundits alike.
This depends on the level of interaction on the involved parties but nobody reports a case unless they feel aggrieved and this occurs in tense and serious situations.
I do not intend to get into the merits and demerits of racism, but on the actual case and verdict. The Reds are cry-babies. They may be covering for the FA, who I feel are a let down. Suarez deserved a harsh sentence for his acts. Liverpool are concerned about his irreplaceability in their line up than having a case as a barometer for future references.
Suarez should have been banned for the rest of the season mainly to set precedence. I am not writing FA laws or advising the FA board on their affairs. Maybe it is the ceiling for their system. At this point, I am left with no option but advise Evra.
The French defender should press criminal charges and have Suarez locked up. It could be that the territorial laws are also generous to drive the point home.
Given the fact that these are high profile players in the world’s most popular sport, this case needed high profile attention to deter those with a tendency, that racial tendency to undermine Africans. In that case, hauling Suarez to the Hague would get everyone talking.
I am not saying Evra will not do this. There is time for Suarez to appeal and Evra has not said he is ok with it, if it is within his right to accept the verdict as fair or pardon the offender.
John Terry’s case is also being looked at, hence there is a tense atmosphere and for now, all we can do is hope for his innocence. We would not love to see two players mingling with politicians at the Hague, but racism, is a political crime for me. This will be the only language the perpetrators will hear.
In all this, I should have been stressing that Suarez’s appeal is pending, meaning he deserved less crucifying than I am doing now and I apologise. All this is meant to be, is to highlight the criminology of the case, if the judgement is upheld.
Judging from the child-like behaviour and reaction of Liverpool, Suarez will not even lose his dues from the team and they will pay his fine. This makes Suarez feel nothing for the crime committed, again, if the judgement is upheld after appeal.
It sounds like the team will take the punch for the player and that sends a message about the team’s view of racism in general. Shouldn’t they view this as injustice and discrimination committed by their player against another, than a give an impression that this a farce?
I put it this way, given their opinion that the accusation by Evra was not credible while citing other previous racial cases they claim unfounded. This reference is flawed because Evra never lodged complaints himself.
Three or four seasons ago, a lip reader said a certain Steve Finnan racially abused Evra while Sir Alex Ferguson’s staff of Mike Phelan and Richard Hartis at Stanford Bridge also said they heard a Chelsea groundsman insult Patrice Evra.
The problem for me is how suddenly Suarez is turning from ‘accused-found-guilty’ to a victim by both the club and fans. Evra is and must always remain a victim regardless of opinion and verdict. This is not to say whatever he says goes. According to the merits of the report, Suarez should have lodged a complaint before Evra did, to say that he reports a case of being a victim of Evra’s complaint.
At a closer look, this saga has shown a desensitised take on the racial attitudes in the game. I think there will be more to say after the John Terry  verdict, though we must note and acknowledge the difference between the two cases, but the FA, having called for the resignation of Sepp Blatter after the FIFA boss is alleged to have said there is no racism in football, will want to be seen as taking a tougher stand.
As said earlier on, a tougher stand is never just 8 games for a serious and criminal case of racism in football.  

The Science of Football

Let's roll something different. Football is always referred to as being scientific without further elaboration. This is either due to the assumption that everybody knows all aspects of the game, or lack of depth of the statements.

Basically, what and when one eats, where they sleep and how much of that sleep they get, their state of mind and emotional condition are just part of the bigger picture. The physical condition has always been the only parameter of concern to managers and coaches.

Furthermore, training and practise sessions have been progressing to an extent of making the whole process a widely studied subject with biological and medical facts.

The compilation of information and data and the utilisation thereof, is ever more important now than at any other time. The relevance of this exercise and the execution of the findings has made coaching not an everyday exercise for every Jack and Jill.

Given the statistics and data, one is expected to deduce, change and improve training methods. At this point, even the creation of drills and exercises, but again, within given guidelines as determined by own or expert research.

As an example, players usually train as a group and compared willy nilly to each other. The norm would be the urge to push everyone to the level of the others who are ‘better performing’ without looking at the reasons why certain performances are attained by these players.

To illustrate this point crudely, long distance runners will not spent time practising sprints, neither will sprinters run marathons all their training lives. The physical build, the roles athletes play, the conditions around and the need improving particular performance are some of the dictates of preparation or training.

In this digital era, thank God, there are instruments that will show the inputs and output of players as they perform. These can be utilised to record this performance from time to time and the filing of this information is so vital for reference. It becomes a barometer of performance and players will be encouraged if they see their progress on selected intervals, and when they do not perform, records will speak for themselves.

Many footballers and sports persons have died on the pitch, easily coming to mind being Cameroon’s Vivian Foe, who collapsed on the pitch during a Confederations Cup a few years back, only to die a few hours later. While incidents like this may be hard to detect at every occurrence, technology helped detect Nwankwo Kanu’s heart problem that needed delicate heart surgery. In the absence of these gadgets, Kanu may have not survived long in the game but after that successful operation, he went on to play over 10 years winning accolades. 

A different look of the science of the game, is the mathematics part; the statistics. This is a bunch of numbers that will mean nothing to the less shrewd mentors of our game today. To many, it is just for academic purposes. To the astute, every bit is a gram of gold and can mean the difference between a win and a loss.

Data can be used to map out a training session. Usually, this can be about your own team, showing the strengths and weakness at a particular time of the match, in a certain area of the pitch under certain conditions or phases of play.

Not to be forgotten is the fact that the information is almost as available and as vital as the same data of the previous and future opponents, and for the same reasons. The analysis of the stats can then be used to formulate a training session and the strategies and tactics of the matches as they come.

It must be noted that one does not have to wait for data and situations to occur to map out a training session. There should be a 5 year plan divided into seasons and then semi-annual, quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily programs. This will reflect the philosophy of the coach in general. The availability of collected data only means modification of training methods o the existing schedules.

Previous and next matches will have a lot of say on how the training should be conducted. This will include whether it is cup matches, tournaments or league matches. It will depend on the previous results, as in whether the match was won, drawn or lost and why.

While statistics for public consumption is nice to the ear, it may not be as useful to the coaches and managers, but good mentors will always find a way to utilise data as long as it is accurate. It becomes imperative that whoever collects and supplies information for technical purposes be schooled enough to know what to look for and enter this information as accurately as possible.

Good coaches will see and hear many things others cannot observe. This eye for details will be the difference between a coach and a fly-by-night. Fly by night coaches comes across disregarding planning and detailed approach to the game and playing mind-games with players. They enjoy a lot of success in the short term.

When the wheels come off the wagon, they start to press panic buttons and the tumble from glory is a shameful hard fall. Some will control the situation by using the statistics as a psychological tool, and this can be vital if done correctly.

The best scenario is to utilise the data for improving training methods and performance as well as a psychological weapon. Here, a point coming to mind is when a team for the next home fixture did not afford a shot at goal in the previous match. A coach or manager will challenge his players against this, emphasising, say, the 20 shots his team fired in their own last match.

Either way, there is more science to the game that paper or cyber space can take. In this era, good coaching is about observing, finding and utilising this to better the group you work with. Knowing your team is a science on its own. Remembering how different your team is from the last group you coached gives you a head start. Dealing with the players according to their strengths in terms of talent and attitudes will get you unsolicited mileage in a surprising way.

As a good coach, get to know well the social aspects and interest of everyone. Get to their way of life with tact and draw a line between business and social life, because you will not endear yourself well if you come across as a dictator though with some players, it helps.

Read minds and do it well first time every time.
(Only by Keutsepilemang Ndebele for

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Storm in a tea cup at Bosso

Highlanders Chairman Themba Ndlela was meant to leave for Canada where he would attend an administrators' seminar. Initial reports mentioned the financier of the trip as First Mobile Sports Academy whose technical director is Isaac Mbedzi.

There were questions of the motive of inviting Mr Ndlela for education purposes given that he may not be in office within the first 30 days of the New Year, after the Annual General Elections. Mr Mbedzi brokered a partnership between Highlanders F.C and First Mobile Sports Academy forming a Highlanders Football Academy, a very good thing for Bosso junior policy. There were suspicions behind the motive and Mbedzi came forth to clear the air, addressing the Bosso Legends who had poised the question.
Thank you Legends for posing the direct questions to me as a Highlanders Supporter and as the said Director of the First Mobile Sports Academy. Our partnership involved me helping Highlanders junior teams regroup and rebrand, to a more secure youth policy of an academy with an aim to scout, develop and try and market the product beyond the Highlanders First team. The agreement was not between Ndlela and the FMSA but between Highlanders and the FMSA.

The initial stages involved me training the coaches and players in transition and inviting two players from Highlanders to be guest players in the international youth tournaments which took place in SWEDEN and DENMARK (Gothia cup and DANA CUP) in JULY 2011.The First Mobile Sports Academy offered and paid tickets for two players Norman Zimba the Goalkeeper and Trevor NDLOVU whom I felt would make an impact in EUROPE but I was disappointed that the said players withdrew at the last minute because of lack of travelling documents which they first said they had ready. 

We extended the invitation to 4 more players who failed to come because it was claimed they had no accompanying adult. We also extended an invitation to CANADA and EUROPE to the Chairman of the Board and the Chairman of the Executive with us paying for one ticket and accommodation for the two men and with Highlanders paying only for the ticket for the other.

You may ask why we decided to invite them to these tournaments? We wanted to expand our contacts and prepare Highlanders structures to be able to consolidate the new structures by themselves when times come for them to stand on their own and even for them to build direct contacts and links independent of the FMSA and yes, I know Ndlela's term is expiring but he is not Highlanders nor an enemy of Highlanders.

So if he had a mandate and duty to carry on until the end, who am I to come and dictate how Highlanders are supposed to run their things. I asked for a delegation to CANADA trying to link Bosso with the three major league soccer teams and taking advantage of the invitation extended to the FMSA to this year 's third edition of the Canada showcase who run the seminar and it’s not guaranteed that our academy will be invited next year for me to wait for elections and it’s open even to those who can buy they own tickets and get the visa.

The First Mobile Sports Academy is a business company registered in CANADA and anytime the Bosso family feel we are not helping them attain specific goals, they can just ask us to move out of the agreement or partnership and the FMSA or me as the founder won't regret it because it was not meant for mileage but to help the structures of our team, only we chose to do it with monitored accountability.

Those who are into soccer will realize that we did promise and fulfill promises of helping not only to HIGHLANDERS but to the ZIFA Bulawayo province and we will continue to help our junior teams until we get our youngsters back to national teams. Go to ZIFA Bulawayo and enquire more about this and then ask me the same question about wasting when I do stuff for junior players. And my answer will always be there is NO waste with kids. The first time I came I saw the juniors playing using kits with names like NGODZO, SIBANDA at the back and I promised to supply them with uniforms and will still do that until they all wear uniforms with their names and now the challenge is to see them with football boots and yes, we will still try and source the boots with or without the current executive.

There is an upcoming trip in JULY for the players to the Gothia cup and DANA CUP and there is nothing to hide or politicise about it. It is very open, first to HIGHLANDERS Academy players and then to Bulawayo Junior teams, provided they can pay their own ticket and we will cover the accommodation and flights within Europe.

My question to you Bosso Legends is, why didn't you ask me those direct questions when I was there in Zimbabwe, noting that I was conducting all training sessions at the HIGHLANERS Club House and watching matches there or even or the Barbourfileds stadium where we had 5 Junior DVD games?

The Bosso Legends appreciated the response as it was informative and enlightening. ‘We comprehend the efforts and the love of the game that you have shown especially to our team Highlanders. It is what the club needs right now. You also need to understand our concern that the resources meant for the club should fully benefit the club and moreso in the long term.

While you rightfully say that First Mobile Sports Academy wanted to prepare Highlanders structures to be able to consolidate itself when time to stand on its own arrive, we felt it was a big risk for the club to invest in someone whose future with the club was not certain. It has come as a blessing in disguise that the trip has fallen through. We hope our questions did not offend you and we hope the next persons coming into the office will receive the same support you have given and vice versa.

Now let us get to your questions why Bosso Legends did not ask you these issues during your visit to Bulawayo-Zimbabwe. As you may know by now, we are a group of former Highlanders F.C. players. We have members that have high coaching profiles in terms of Zimbabwean and African standards. There is nothing that our members would have loved more that meeting you and sharing ideas especially on junior development, but being an affiliate of the mother body who happened to be your host, we had to wait for an invitation from them. Let’s not get you into the club's politics. We hope when you come next time we will get an invitation from you.

As a response, Mr. Mbedzi put the record straight. ‘The truth is, I never took the Bosso Legends as a separate organ or entity from Highlanders Football Club and will never doubt the composition, abilities or fitting profiles of its members, but if a name and role of a person is brought forward to engage or extend an invitation whenever I visit or you visit then that won't be a problem to me.

I fully understand as a person who grew up within the systems of the team the need for public accountability. That is why I was a bit surprised to get questions and request to halt an opportunity which I personally forced hoping to create the earliest possible contacts for our team and the halting request was based on an assumption that the current chairman was going to lose an election, which had nothing to do with me.

The intention was or is not to bring the Bosso Chairman but to be able to facilitate a visit by Highlanders delegation to wherever my Academy is invited, and to see people thanking God for the failure of an opportunity shows a serious problem within our team. Personally it is embarrassing for me to take other teams’ players while we could be doing this for ourselves. Highlanders is bigger than ACES academy but we must ask the questions of our commitment.’

However, there will always be concerns as raised by this point of view; ‘Thank God the trip was a failure. Now let’s look foward to a more rewarding association with Mr Mbedzi in uplifting our junior policy.  Maybe Ndlela could have leant a thing or two on the running of teams/clubs albeit at junior level. Anyway, Mr Mbedzi, let’s not get you involved in that club politics but we accept your extended hand.’

Should this make Mr Mbedzi feel better? Judge yee!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Man U won when they had to and Spurs lost the match they needed to lose.

In the interesting weekend events are highlighted by the final arrival of Wayne Rooney to the goal scoring charts and the baby cry from Spurs over their loss to Stoke City. Both teams are my favourite in the English Premier League and for different reasons.

Firstly and more importantly, Manchester United stood up to be counted and played a match they deserved to win on the balance of play. It could have been a result of a wake up call after the Red Devils found themselves booking a Europa League ticket when they had the opportunity of the real deal, the UEFA Champions League.

Barely a week after I tore their football behaviour to shreds, they picked themselves up, dusted off old form and scored a vital victory that even put neighbouring arch rivals off balance. Moneyed Manchester City came unstuck against a determined Chelsea and lost 1-2 on Monday night to keep United just 2 points behind them.

Victory for the Blues saw them climb to 3rd, replacing Tottenham Hotspur who lost a thriller at Stoke. Spurs are 4th on goal difference but they will be back and this is why.

For the few days before the next match, manager Harry Redknapp will be at pains to complement a good effort the team made and how the obvious blunders cost them an arm and a leg. He will tell the players they did a good job. That psychological massage has a sell-by date - the first half of the next match.

Spurs will feel like doubling their efforts to fend off committed teams and incompetent officials to make a statement about the Stoke match. The first 45 minutes of that match will show a resolute spirit of a wounded lion. Whether they will have anything to show for their sweat and blood, is another story.

The manager will get into that dressing room bellowing and barking at everyone about either failing to score half a dozen goals or just a single one for that matter. Either way, his point would be, ‘you think you have done enough, you think you are playing well. Do you think this is acceptable? Have you forgotten all your toil at Stoke City? What have you to show for it? Nothing! Nothing! You think I will accept this? No! Never! I want more and now.

This will be so regardless of the goals Spurs will have bagged by then. This line of thought will be the Spurs technical department strength and weapon. This makes Spurs more dangerous to play against. The problem will be the match officials who may want to prove a point. The referees may decide to compete with the inept officiating that was so embarrassing that the diplomatic Harry forgot his art of being a Mr Nice guy.

Let’s forget about bad jobs and talk about the good job Stoke did. City came in charged and with a particular game plan to make Spurs not to play. That killed all the flow Spurs would have. Gareth Bale, Rafael van der Vaart and Luka Modric never arrived till half time. Aaron Lennon was isolated and that eliminated Emmanuel Adebayour. To note, Scott Parker contributed more to Stoke’s cause and he donated possession with his usual precision.

That aside, the usual suspect in long throw-ins, Delap, was benched and that was enough to fool Assou Ekotto to push balls out for throw-ins. In the first half alone, and from the same spot, there were over 5 dangerous throw-ins by Shotton. Two of those were fatal.

Many can say that Redknapp was fed his own medicine. He has always been a fan of Peter Crouch. He loves target men who have an eye for goal. Crouch did not have to do much, but in Gallas and Kaboul, you could see Harry’s fear in them. They had no solution to his threat. Etherington, being ex-Spurs, like many others, cherished punishing the former pay master.

As much as Spurs toiled in vain and were surely robbed in broad daylight and with so many people watching, and the officials erred big time, Stoke worked well for their victory. It is not like it came on a silver platter. They should be commended for the way they made Spurs not play football for a moment, that when they actually did, City had goals to show for their efforts.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Barca's El Classico 3-1 win a Real fault.

Winning El Classico 3-1, Barca proved they too, depend on luck sometimes. Real Madrid had control of proceedings until great defensive blunders of a Christmas gift nature. Jose Mourinho took over an ordinary Real Madrid and formed a formidable force to compete with Barcelona, arguably the best team in the world.

Alexio had no right getting to the ball that was delivered by Messi. When he did receive the ball, from a central position and under pressure, Cassillas had clear view of events and distance was with him to adjust, not easy but possible. Contrary to popular belief, that goal had nothing to do with the genius of Messi or the clinical finish of Alexio. It was a lax Madrid sleeping on duty.

As it stands, The Special One must change formation and quickly. Rumours that he is hunting down Frank Lampard gives the impression that he has come to this realisation, but the choise of his solution makes one doubt.

The Galatico’s problem is Mezuit Ozil. The German maestro is the weakest link in the Real team. Not that he is a bad player, but he is costing the team real mileage in the way Mourinho wants to play. With Cristiano Ronaldo on low gear on the left, Di Maria was at full throttle on the right.

Ozil’s duties were supposed to be, providing wall assistance for the two speedsters to deliver crosses on the byline and to pick the second ball from Benzema. On the particular day, Ronaldo was lukewarm and arrogantly off form, besides his extravagance in front of goal.

Dani Alves naturally closed down his path, needing Ozil to come across for one-twos and tearing away to the central position. Important to note is the intelligence of Di Maria in noting the lack of mobility of the German Ozil. The Argentine relentlessly probed the middle channel with the ball.

After collecting the ball from his half, he made ground, bound for the box directly, thus eliminating the need and use of Ozil. Given the fact that Madrid started on fire pressing from the final third at high tempo, it was going to be interesting to see the balance of scales had the usually dependable Ronaldo had been more clinical. However, as it turned out, the great and enviable work of Jose was made ordinary in the least as defeat at home was embarrassing.

Frank Lampard is a renowned midfielder and possibly a comrade in arms for Jose, but the role he has to play at Real will need a lot of work rate. Lampard is 33 and delivering at that pace will need him to be where he has never been before in terms of physical conditioning. A pound for pound replacement for Ozil may be financially out of reach for Real now, meaning Lampard is always a plan B for Jose.

Under the circumstances, Jose Mourinho can still be the best in Spain and Europe with what he has. He has to change formation. Karim Benzema and Hinguin must play alongside, not in tandem, but square. This will require extra attention from defenders, reducing the traffic of the opposition moving forward from the back even in counter attack opportunities.

Real can revert to the former tactic later in the match when every situation is under control. After all, Ozil is a good impact player and maybe then, he can start scoring again

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What football is the world watching?

Being bemused that United are out of the Champions League shows you are not watching football that is being played by the reigning Barclays Premier League champions, or the Barclays Premier League for that matter. The cyber space is literally littered with surprise comments and stories concerning the exit of faded Manchester United and moneyed Manchester City from the UEFA Champions League. United fans are basically shuttered while their foes are in jubilation.

Taking the current season by storm, City gave people the impression to be the real deal, which they might be soon, but for now, we have seen the separation of boys from men. Football is not played by hearts and emotions. Man U have not played football in ages and I have said it a million and one times, attracting the wrath of their faithfuls. Those receptive to facts and truth will attest to these claims.

There is two types of playing badly and winning. Sir Alex Ferguson has given us both in his colourful stay at Old Trafford. Only that now United have made it a tradition week in and week out to dish out the stale stuff and the bullied teams have just showed up and donated points. This charity only lasted in the Premiership. There are no favours in Europe.

To draw the contrast, on a regular basis, Manchester United have been well below par and that is being polite, because frankly, they have been boring. There is not much to say if the team is winning. However, there is Tottenham Hotspur, who will be out of sorts and pull off a stunt or two to win the match. The difference is the genuine failure to impress because their opposition come better prepared. Other teams make it a priority to stop Spurs from playing. United play badly no matter what.

Arsenal, who qualified well in advance, had the same problem of playing badly because al else went out to make their match unplayable. In those days, they also lost matches playing well sometimes. As for now, as a very mediocre team, writing about the Gunners is a strength supping exercise. You need a very good heart to finish their story.

Arsene Wenger has done well to win it with a match to spare and he had actually predicted the hard times at Manchester in qualifying. The superstitious will feel jinxed but then, who wanted to see the boring UEFA Champions League matches in the knock out stages! Well, as for Chelsea, it was a job well done, but frankly, the jubilation is only limited to qualifying. There is no rightful fan who will be banking on their passage after their inconsistency that is rumoured to emanate from dressing room issues.

Many believe that coach AVB is being undermined by seniors at Stanford Bridge because of his youthfulness. I do not buy that. Either it is his football or the general sabotage from his backroom staff. His troubles are a shade worse than Roberto Mancini of Manchester City. While the Citizens are sitting pretty on the EPL log, I am not convinced all is at peace. Carlos Tevez is finally going to Italy and he will surely fire parting shots soon.

Leading the EPL standings is a good feat and we will be asking questions when push comes to shove. The staying power will be vital and given the false impression that both Manchesters will perform better in the league as they devote their time and undivided attention to the domestic game, that may actually be their undoing. Chelsea have the experience to take the advantage of the dropped heads at both camps. It was going to be Arsenal and Liverpool's time to rise and shine, but they are far off the pace.

As much as I like the Spurs play, for them to have a say will need great character and an extra ordinary 4 months to win the Championship. If their game is anything to go by, this could be their time. I will not count them in but it is not impossible, but this is not about the England, but Europe.

This whole picture tells a story. The runaway leaders of the league and the reigning champions are out of Europe; the most feared teams with huge budgets. Is the league now so small? Maybe not, given that the nobodies of the league as in Chelsea and Arsenal are in with a shout.

Frankly, both will surprise me by passing through the next round. It will take a miracle. I think either England is finished or the rest of Europe is coming up. Generally, the English game has been a faded history affair since the 1966 FIFA World Cup. The national team has been near, yet so far in both the World Cup and the European Championship. 

I would hate to gon political, but unavoidably, there may be a man grinning ear to ear at this strange state of affair. Recently, there has been racial stories rocking the English game and then FIFA President , Sepp Blatter of Switzerland. United lost­ to a Swiss side, Basel, in Switzerland, the land of Blatter.

The English FA has been accused to be soft and moving slowly in dealing with the John Terry and Luis Suarez racial issues while calling for the FIFA boss, Blatter, to resign. It sounded hypocritical but could his toasting at the trivial victory of the loss of the English team be justified? I guess he can say he is having the last laugh. Many believe he hates England and he is football enemy number one.

Thinking for a moment that United and City will have the advantage in the domestic game, or that they had diminished interest in the competition is notorious. They wanted it so bad and now that they are out, they are doomed, United more than City. Even the Europa League they will participate in will take a toll on them. They may want to use the league as a punch back for their fringe players.

The concept may work or kill the rhythm of the team. The merits of the state of affairs will be seem in not so distant future. At the end of the day, fans and foes of United seem to be feeling hurt and celebrating respectively. SAF was quoted as saying, "Of course we are disappointed. There is no other way you can feel. We had so much possession and opportunities in the last third but the finishing part of our game, you have to say, has let us down. We were careless. We let ourselves down badly." 

With all due respect, this is a very dishonest statement. The respected mentor should have known ages ago, before last season, that his non-deserved wins will catch up with him. If I saw it, come on, SAF should have known better, and not just yesterday or last year. The writing has been on the whole in flashing LED coloured flashing lights.

What is boring about this is the general observation of United’s mediocrity only now by so many. I don’t know what football the world is watching.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Legend Has Spoken: Chilling with Chuchu.

Talk of ‘bending it like Beckam’ is a relatively new, but the actual act of free kicks was mastered by the likes of the great Elvis Chuchu Chiweshe. No one can dispute the deadliness of the dead-ball specialist Chiweshe was and we should have had a term like ‘curling it like Chuchu’. It was the accuracy, power and venom of the free-kicks that were known as the ‘Chuchu specials’. Chuchu played for one of the deadliest Eagles Football Club team of all time, formerly Bulawayo Wanderers.

e-Diski: Chuchu, hello and long time.

Chuchu: Hello to you and all e-Diski readers and followers.

e-Diski: I am blessed by your presence and thanks for taking your time for the interview.

Chuchu: You are welcome anytime, but sorry for taking so much time to avail myself.

e-Diski: I understand. I have been in football before and there isn't much free time. So where are you based now?

Chuchu: I am here in Botswana.

e-Diski: Do you have any family?

Chuchu: Yes, I have.

e-Diski: What are you doing now?

Chuchu: I am coaching.

e-Diski: Who?

Chuchu: Gaborone United.

e-Diski: What was your favourite nickname?

Chuchu: Chuchu.

e-Diski: How did you get it?

Chuchu: It came from my middle name ISHMAEL. My brothers could not pronounce this name when we were still young. They could only say CHUCHUMAEL.

e-Diski: Wow, that’s interesting. I am not sure many people know that. When was your defining or breakthrough moment in football?

Chuchu: It was in 1983.

e-Diski: Where were you and what were you doing before then?

Chuchu: I was in Bulawayo and playing for a bus company team called Z.O.C (Zimbabwe Omnibus Company).

e-Diski: What was your memorable moment?

Chuchu: My national team debut. I was called to play for the national team and it was such an honour. I always gave it my best shot and enjoyed it very much.

e-Diski: What was the regrettable moment?

Chuchu: When I was red-carded while playing for Zimbabwe in Ethiopia in 1987. I felt I let the team down.

e-Diski: Who was your best teammate to play with?

Chuchu: There were so many fantastic players during our days. A lot of them.

e-Diski: Can you give us one name, please?

Chuchu: Garikai Zuze of Dynamos. He was an excellent midfielder and man.

e-Diski: And  your toughest opponent?

Chuchu: Japheth Mparutsa. He was one of the finest goalkeepers of all time.

e-Diski: What do you think of the game today?

Chuchu: It is a scientific sport and a lot of detail is in the game now.

e-Diski: Which is the best football team at the moment?

Chuchu: Dynamos.

e-Diski: Who is the best player?

Chuchu: Cuthbert Malajila.

e-Diski: What music do you listen to?

Chuchu: Gospel music. I listen to a lot of Zimbabwean artists.

e-Diski: Which is your favourite movie?

Chuchu: The Fugitive.

e-Diski: And actor?

Chuchu: Harrison Ford.

e-Diski: Thanks very much for your time and chat, and may God bless you.

Chuchu: God bless you too.

His team-mates at Eagles 'Mazhiya', included Boy Ndlovu, Stoneshed Moyo, Tanny Bando, Lazarus Mwambopo, Tito and Francis Paketh and Clement Balanda among others. He went on to play for Dynamos to end a very colourful career. He has coaching qualifications and coached Dynamos after hanging his boots. A man of few words and very humble.