Monday, January 28, 2013

Highlanders Academy? What is an academy?

Highlanders Football Club of Zimbabwe held an Annual General Meeting in which it was claimed the Chairman, Peter Dube refuted the claims that there is an institution called the Highlanders Academy. Whether it was a response to a raised issue or putting the record straight, it is interesting that the issue has nine lives.

In South Africa, any youth clubs and structures are referred to as development sides, while the northern neighbours call it juniors. Around the world, it is plain youth development. Whatever the case, many develop these structures under the main clubs as feeder operations to the senior teams that play in different levels of the local leagues.

Before the tenure of Dube, Themba Ndlela sourced the expertise of youth development program from overseas. The First Sports Mobile Academy of Canada partnered with Highlanders junior development in a venture that was named the Highlanders Academy. It turned out it was not registered as such, but the project was in progress.

For political mileage, this has been used to throw eggs at the face of others instead of working for the good of the club. For starters, many sought the definition of the ‘academy’. Others shot the idea down as a fraud. In many ways, the arguments for and against the academy bordered around misinformation and ignorance.

The unrealistic expectations were that the institution to be labeled an academy, a few things needed to be in place. Zimbabwe has their standards which are guided by Fifa. Fifa leaves much leeway for the national association to register and monitor these. All the details rest with, in their case, Zimbabwe Football Association.

Without questioning the integrity of that association, as an example, their rules may be massaged to favour a certain structure or institution. In 2012, I tried to shed light of what an academy is, according to Fifa.

Fifa expects an academy to recruit junior players, house them in dormitories, feed and school them. It means that there should be enough buildings, training grounds and qualified teachers. In the event that the minors come from very far or another political territory, the academy must transport and house the parents as well.

Without losing track of the Chairman’s statement that there is no Highlanders Academy but Highlanders Juniors, it all depends on the context and the actual reason why he had to bring that up.

Junior development is a general youth and talent nurturing. Many want to ponder on the differences between the two. An academy is a professional way of developing talent as compared to anyone or institution trying to do the same. The equipment and manpower is one aspect that separates the two.

Given the professionalism involved, the academy then assumes a certain shape and direction in terms of planning and approach. A thorough analysis of the views, objectives and vision get outlines as a philosophy.

The culture of the institution is meant to has to be maintained from the under 8 age-group going up. The common problem is that the senior teams usually get experienced coaches who have philosophies that differ from the academy, but life goes on in that case. The academies and clubs do not change their culture and philosophy to suit the coaches as they are usually passers-by.

Training methods match the traditions of the club with the common aim to be best. Achieving that is variable. As an example, some traditions and philosophies may include the fact that the ball must be moved around with pace and on the ground. The other may be that the ball must move from one end of the pitch to the other with minimum time and touch – the long ball.     

I think many of these things are available at Highlanders but the Chairman and a few people want to call them something else. When it comes to infrastructure and registration with Zifa, it becomes another issue.

Actually, the registration is just $1500.00. An issue alluded to the Chairman is that the set-up was not in the interest of the club. That is despite rumours that the paperwork is spot-on and players are contracted. Just in case that is not true, that paperwork will need the same legal team that worked with them. The Highlanders lawyers remain the same over the tenure of all chairmen.

Zifa will or may make other demands that Bosso may fail to meet to be registered as an academy. One thing for sure, all the issues highlighted in terms of Fifa are but decoratory. For starters, it is only Real Madrid, Ajax and maybe Barcelona meeting the criteria of Fifa. Manchester City are the only club in England in the process of building an institution that will accommodate 120 players. There is no one else.

Just as an example of how other academies work, let us look at Aston Villa, and this is typical. Players come from the local vicinity. The attend school and then go to play football in the afternoon. Depending, many attend school three times a week and the other days, they play football and Aston Villa arranges tutors for the missed classes.

This means that Villa has to liaise with schools and give the students the material they must be studying. It can be twice and once a week. There may be times that the players miss other lessons, in which case Villa makes arrangements. Again, if Villa find a new recruit further away for convenient commuting, they must find a accommodation for the player and his parents close by, as well as the school. The academy pays for their upkeep and fees.

The English regulation requires a certain distance from the academy to the point of residence of the player. In cases where it is not so convenient to transport and house the player, say from around Manchester, Villa can try to see if there is a similar situation that clubs in that country have. If the players match each other’s capability in a way that a compromise can be reached, they swap the players in some sort of deal.

As one can see, the deal can involve just training without transfer, but the problem here is that the philosophies may not match. Usually it would be a permanent arrangement, maybe for some time with some clauses.

One of the most important things to note here is the age of the players in question. At 8 to 12, many things can be overlooked because the players are too young. Many teams do not commit much in such cases because at or after puberty, the player personality change and the players may even decide they do not want to pursue football as a career. Much care is taken in investing in these players.

The Highlanders set-up has the capacity to do most of that, if registered through Zifa and there are no vultures to seek political mileage in shooting down an idea because it was seeded by the Ndlela administration. That cheap politicking seems to be rearing its ugly head far too often and it may cost individuals some elections.

Care must be taken to understand that many clubs already to take care and manage the players’ football, academic and social activities. The stakeholders have to be parents and school and again, something Bosso has done before and can still do. This was regardless whether the structure was labeled an academy or not.

The sudden excitement to refute that label and the haste to dissociate with the possibility of such is interesting. The ignorant trying to enlighten the blind catalyse the decay process threatening to divide the club into fanatical factionalism, a farce synonymous with Dynamos of Harare.

Whatever induced the subject, one would like to believe the prudence and integrity of the chairman is not dragged into the mud. He may have a great plan and vision, but trying to fight the definition of the development program is a minor part of his mandate. With or without his explanation, the value of his role and function is not dented. He has the support of many people for a sterling job done last season.

Many had wanted to believe that his administration did not savour inheriting the coach signed by his predecessors, and that he also wants to shed the ‘academy tag’ away. Mr. Dube is not so small.

He may not need to know that the youth development as an academy means a thorough approach in nurturing the juniors and a professional attitude in dealing with the parents, Zifa and the players, but that is what Bosso has always been done. As chairman, he can always choose the name that sounds sweet to his ears, or to the rest of those who raise the issue at the fall of the hat.

Whether there is a plan in place to make things better or not, it is not clear. Any further plan that the club can have on junior development easily qualifies as an academy as long there is funds to meet the criterion set by the national association. The rest of the issues are just academic and the executive committee may waste their time and energy trying to rename the project as, say Centre of Excellence, in which case, the electorate does not have to waste time and energy voting for a crew that will lose time and focus disputing that naming and its definitions.

If the arguments are to meet the Fifa standards, something Manchester United, Arsenal or Chelsea cannot match, then it is an issue that will hinge on the expenses until maybe Aspire of Qatar can take over the club. Potential sponsors will have issues with the kindergarten bickering that wastes wind. It could be that the current regime does not want to work with FSMA because, again, they had a relationship with the previous leadership. No one would like to think that the leaders can be that childish. I believe the club will be looking for funds to do everything in their power to register an institution that is in the interest of the club and not themselves as individuals.

That Highlanders Football Club Annual General Meeting came and went without much fuss, with the acknowledgement of the supporters association as well as mapping the way forward for the club. This will be followed by the Vice-Chairman and Treasurer elections are on next week at the Club House. A lot of people handed their nomination papers for both posts.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

South Africa, Carpe Verde through; Morocco and Angola out

South Africa conceded in the 9th minute due to poor defensive work from a corner-kick by Morocco. Two defenders sandwiching an attacker and both failed to make contact with the ball. Itumeleng Khune is as tall as the scorer and a foot taller with extended arms but he had bad take-off and poor judgment coupled with a mistimed jump to fist the ball away.

There were a few free-headers from corners after that. Bafana failed to combat competitively in midfield, that unit being caught on the wrong side of the ball more often. The Moroccans utilised their speed in those transitions to counter-attack.

The body shapes and player distribution became unbalanced and there were many North Africans unmarked in dangerous areas. The midfield cohesion and support was a little inadequate. This overloaded the defense.

The most contentious issue with the whole defensive behaviour of the team was lack of anticipation. Bafana Bafana failed to get to the ball first, save for Furman. Furman’s ball control, passing and general composure dictated the pace in midfield for the hosts. His maturity proves why he is the captain of Oldham Athletic.

The attacking unit was as guilty, even their inter-passing play. The general lack of patience on the ball going forward saw the launching of long balls to Katlego Mphela and Tokelo Rantie. The tussle for the 50-50 balls drained much energy off the front two resulting in poor co-ordination between the two.

Morocco seemed content with the single goal as they realised further attacks exposed their defence. Thuso Phala was on song pulling the strings on the right hand flank.  

It must be said that Bafana were the vicitms of questionable officiating -  firstly with penalty opportunities denied and wrong offside calls. Itumeleng Khune had to make the best saves of the tournament more than twice.

May Mahlangu complemented Furman later in the match, his efforts being rewarded by a classy equaliser with 20 minutes on the clock remaining. It was his interplay with Bernard Parker after a Siyabonga Sangweni venture upfront that created a chance to curl the ball around the forest of defenders past the goalkeeper.

A lapse in concentration in defence presented Morocco with an easy goal through six pairs of legs. Sangweni had the last laugh as he ventured forward once more, latching onto a through ball by    to fake a first time shot and then playing two touches to bend the ball around the goalie delicately. It was a classic finish by any standards and coming from a central defender.

The Cerpe Verde beat Angola by 2-1 to qualify alongside South Africa and Ivory Coast to the quarter-finals. Morocco and Angola joined Algeria on the elimination list.   

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Ivory Coast qualify as Togo eliminates Algeria

Yaya Toure did not need my endorsement to pull off a coup, in a match in which Gevinho was man-of-the-match and Didier Drogba started from the bench. The three-gun salute handed to the Tunisians followed the four goal salvo we saw 24 hours ago when Burkina Faso blasted Ethiopia.

The African Footballer of the Year does not need me as a fan, but nonetheless, he is making good progress in impressing me. I don't doubt his quality but the problem is me. A few flashes of tactical awareness as well as unquestioned individual brilliance did not convince me that Africans can compete outside their sphere of influence.

There were pockets of good decision-making, obviously a result of the experience these players gained in the Barclays English Premier League and the French League. Where decisions were bad, the execution of technique cancelled matters out, given the opposition did not capitalise to punish the wrong decisions.

It was a solid and round performance by African standards, but still lacked the tactical maturity of the game at national levels. Tunisia had hoped to steal something out of the match with Drogba benched.

The former Chelsea cult hero came on and nearly registered his first 2013 Afcon goal. He proved a thorn as his presence led to that Yaya goal after Gervinho had short the Elephants ahead in the first half, and when Tiote scored with his first touch after coming on, it was a master stroke.

Algeria huffed and puffed firing blanks as they have done in their build-up to the tournament, as well as the 2010 Fifa World Cup. I cannot remember the last time they hit the net in a tournament. Their adversaries, Togo, started slowly, sizing up their way up.

The Togolese always played the inaccurate long ball, which was spot on just on one occasion and Emmanuel Adebayour punished them, beating the goalkeeper on a one versus one.

It was a basic route one football, a long ball from the back and then a ping-pong heading tennis from Adebayour to  Romao onhis left and then to Adebayour’s path. The tall Tottenham Hotspur striker outpaced the defender and slotted the ball under advancing goalie.

A physical battle in midfield ensued and that brutality led to several claims by the North Africans for penalties. The referees did not bow down to pressure. Algeria forced their way into the final third often but failed to direct the final pass or the shots.

As the attack swarmed the Togolese penalty area, it seemed the desperate attempts would yield something for the Algerians but it was vain attempts. It was until the drama of the broken goalpost that stole the show in the last five minutes.

The upright post broke at the base and the wobbling posts and nets had to be replaced, though it took far too long. To add unsolicited drama, the match officials played the five minutes and then added thirteen more minutes.
That gave Togo one more counter-attacking opportunity. A through pass from the centre circle was chased by substitute Wome, who had a few touches and slotted the ball once again, under the advancing goalkeeper to make it 2-0.
The Algerians became the first team to be eliminated while the Ivoirians were the first to qualify with their 100% records each.

Chipolopolo booking their early ticket home

As the Afcon champions, Zambia have placed themselves in a perfect spot to fail the defence of their title. A 1-1 draw with Nigeria stamped their departure date as the last day of the group stages, soon after their encounter with Burkina Faso.

Chipolopolo may buy time by netting a handsome tally against the ‘upright men’, the Burkinabe.  This is given, as all might have noticed the naivety of the fluent and free-flowing Ethiopians. The North Eastern nation plays well going forward, but their central midfield and central defence leak like a sieve.

Not that they leak, but are too confident, to the detriment of their overall performance. Nigerian will steam roll over them, especially if Steven Keshi is brave enough to field his fringe players who have nothing to lose but everything to gain.

The Zambian predicament is worsened by the one foot Burkina Faso has in the quarter-final after crushing Ethiopia 4-0. That score-line will be a confident booster and the physical West Africans will push the champions to the maximum.

By the same token, Ethiopia have no desire to play anymore and while that lack of pressure may be lethal, it will be wise to play them with a motivated side of fringe players who have a point to prove to the Nigerian population.

As of now, The Burkinabe and the Super Eagles are through, unless the former give it away in a silver platter.  

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Many waited for the Kidiaba bum dance in vain

The scorer of the penalty that saw Ghana beat Mali 1-0 will miss the next match for celebrating that goal. Mubarak Wakaso had received a yellow card in the previous match for descent. Two articles ago, I questioned the wisdom, or lack of, punishing those overcame by the emotions of achieving the ultimate aim of the game.

Let us not get into the merits and demerits of pulling off the shirt in celebrating the goals. In his case, he might have drawn out a detailed plan of what he will do after the kick. Many players have not much luxury to stop the ball, scratch their heads and ponder what they will do after beating five defenders and scoring the winning goal. I wish football was like that.

Anyway, he scored and will miss the next game for being overjoyed. Many others infringing on the laws of the game, endangering the lives and health of others will go on unpunished and enjoyed an extra match of the 2013 Afcon.

Of that less enticing affair, that is all one can say. Did I write something about decision making at Afcon 2013? Niger saved the DRC from much trouble by poor judgement and decisions. It is their alarming proportions and consistency that I am compelled to repeat myself.

Niger could have been 3-0 up by the 28th minute, having exposed the backside of DR Congo and failing in executing the finish or final pass. Congo had their moments but they were not clear-cut opportunities and they were far in between.

The defensive behaviour of Niger was impressive as they tracked down and chased every ball, winning essential possession nearer the opposition goal often. They failed to pay themselves for the efforts. They had commitment and fighting spirit to win back possession.

Penetration into the final third was however questionable.DRC were guilty of the same though they could not put away gilt edged chances of their won in the second half. The match was value for money. The transitions from defence to attack and reverse were quick and enterprising, the ball quickly being transferred into the attacking thirds of both teams and from right channel to the left.

With better precision in front of goal, the match would have qualified as a thriller. The technical and tactical aspect of detail was the usual big concern as many waited for that Kidiaba bum dance celebration. The 0-0 result was the fairest result under the circumstances, Niger earning their first ever Afcon point.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Afcon 2013 ; South Africa 2 - Angola 0

South Africa  came to the party on a productive Moses Mabhida afternoon with a near polished performance punctuated by a goal in each half, the first from an Orlando Pirates defender and the other from a Kaizer Chiefs striker.

Siyabonga Doctor Sangweni volleyed from an acute angle on the blind side while Lehlohonolo Majoro waltzed his way through the Angolan defence and from an acute angle once more, slid the ball into the net. It ended 2-0.

The presence of the immense pressure of expectation counted for nothing as the hosts played a free-flowing game, a little bit more methodical than the previous encounters since Gordon Igesund took over.

The former Moroka Swallows coach was a relieved man when Sangweni ventured forward to give the Bafana Bafana that elusive goal. That opened the flood-gates for the rest of the tournaments and suddenly, South Africa look like champions in waiting.

That victory was complemented by the 1-1 between Carpe Verde and Morocco may not have handed Bafana Bafana any perceived advantage. It would have been preferable to have the Moroccans win and have them face the hosts looking for a single point to qualify for the quarter-finals.

The way the islanders played, they have the ability to play in the quarter-finals. Morocco have lost their touch over the years and they have to dig deeper against South Africa to produce the required result.

What made the South African game a little different was the urgency to attack and win the ball back at the soonest possible convenience. Penetration was superior and the delivery of the final ball was effective.

The attacking players saw much of the ball and the Morocco defending had lots of defending to do. The execution of the ball by Sangweni was tip-top. A few more polished moves and clinical finishing could have handed Gordon Igesund’s men a bigger scoreline.

The defending unit never gave a thing away. The midfield operation was cohesive and functional, thwarting and smothering attacks while threading the balls into the necessary and vital spaces.

That smooth operation brought into life the roles of Tokello Rantie and Katlego Mphela as attackers. Furman, Parker, Mahlangu and  Phala started being more effective on the offensive by their unit always exposed the defense who happened to be resolute.

The midfield ventured forward and was turned inside out by the pace of the Angolans. Save for Mahlangu and Furman who maintained a central midfield presence, the central position looked secure. Letsholonyane and Oupa Manyisa added defensive steel and the attacking flair appropriately when they came on

It was however Majoro who came in and became ever so useful by his runs and offensive movement on and off the ball. With better finishing, he could have taken the match ball home tonight.

Bafana won their first AFCON match since 2004 when they defeated Benin in Tunisia. The best is yet to come, if they can take that performance a gear up. They ran their socks off but that was not top gear.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

AFCON 2013; How scoring a goal is criminal

At the conclusion of the first round matches, there is not much we have not seen or said. The game level remains a huge concern and the cutting edge is missing. I eagerly awaited the Arab-African football hoping for a surprise treat. It was more of the same.

This gives me the opportunity of writing less on more important issues. Cote D’voire and Togo produced more than 2 goals in a match that featured the best of African stars. Yaya Toure opened the scoring and Gevinho scored one of the best goals of the tournament to beat Emanuel Adebayor’s Togo 2-1.

It was from Yaya’s lofted curling free-kick that was volleyed by the outside of the right foot on the left side to the roof of the net by the Arsenal man. It was until the injury time of the Algeria versus Tunisia that Gevinho’s gem had a rival contender of the best goal.

Tunisia were subdued and arm twisted in the later match. A moment of brilliance saw the ball being rifled from 40 yards out into the right top corner in a stunner that will be hard to emulate. It was a goal of class worth winning any match.

This brings me to a point I once made about the game of football. Fifa always insisted on the human element of the game in refusing goal-line video technology. The same human element of the game is the emotions that go with the success of the ultimate aim; to score goals.

Even sexual orgasm is known to have less effect on a man than scoring a goal. Fifa expects the players to then sit down and decide whether to pull off the short or not. They want all concerned to think of their actions after that feat.

The important goals scored in the tense matches count for everything to the individuals and the teams. The spontaneity of the reflex is one element Fifa must understand and redress. While the argument has been about the messages on the under shirts with varying and offensive messages, it does not hold water.

Many thought it was an issue with visual sexual assault on women. Others argue that if allowed to go on unpunished, other players will remove their shorts and underwear. All are valid arguments, but there are many women attracted to the game by the prospect of ‘body viewing’, the same reason men get attracted to women tennis.

As for the messages on undershirts, remember Mario Balotelli’s ‘Why always me’. The shirt does not have to come out, but we read the messages. If the officials and indeed Fifa, think that it is unsporting behaviour or ungentle-manly conduct, it is absurd and crazy to be polite.

The game is about goals and most of them, the explosiveness of the emotion and release of adrenalin cannot be measured or controlled. If Fifa do not know that, they do not what they are running.      

The DRC goalkeeper, Kidiaba’s celebrations are the talk of the town. The bum-bump dance of the eccentric figure has been entertainment, thanks to the DRC’s two goals. We’ve seen that before but then, Fifa medical/sports medicine department could ban the move as being detrimental to the health of his seating cushions.

You cannot control the emotions at all times, though is Kid’s case, it’s a little bit of a show, as one can see from the beard and the hair. He is a masterpiece, as a creature.
The point is that the scorers of the best goals find themselves booked and miss the opportunity to dish out more stuff after the cautions. There are moments when the yellow card does not matter as the players are overcame by everything. The problem is that it counts against one as a discipline issue, rated along dangerous play.

New football and the 'land of the upright men'

At the group stages of the AFCON 2013, take it that your team has a point at the first whistle. There is two elsewhere. The primary objective would then depend on who you are. One team is content with the single point already gained by donning the uniform and taking to the pitch. The other drops that point and chase all three from the word ‘go’.

Firstly, I have to say Africans are decent and civilised people. They excel in their being and in their coming in and going out. The barbaric crowd that hurled water bottles and vuvuzelas into the Mbombela Stadium football field when Zambia played Ethiopia are from another continent, maybe planet.

There is fresh football as firstly dished by Ethiopia when they disrespected the champions, Zambia, at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit, and then the way Burkina Faso refused to be bullied by a star-studded Nigeria. I admired Ethiopians football until their fans threw missiles into the field.

For starters, one has to admire the East Africans abandoning their home soil and sojourning to Nelspruit, which was turned into Addis Ababa. What was special about it was not the numbers, but the cheer and the noise they made for their team. Even after the match, they behaved like they won the AFCON Cup.

I was embarrassed, firstly by the pushing at the ‘park and ride’ bus and a man who got into the bus and blocked the way, refusing passage to other passengers, really for no apparent reason.  Then the throwing of items during the red-carding of the goalkeeper and the Chipolopolo was way too much.

The Ethiopian number 8 played a blinder as an individual, my player of the tournament so far. As a collective, the East Africans patiently assembled goal-side and let the Southern Africans play football at pace and until they stalled.

Their transition was as patient as the African champions scurried for cover, they found themselves in sixes and sevens as the patient and lubricated penetration proved smoother and more effective.

While this gave time to Zambia to regroup, the Zambians found themselves covering unnecessary spaces, exposing themselves to the exquisite touches of the Ethiopians. Chipolopolo came looking for a physical contest which the Ethiopians were never interested in. They subscribed to the short crisp passing and slow movement occasionally punctuated by a long ball.

Their undoing was shooting a pass too early during the early stages. One obvious aspect to their confidence was the deafening crowd. If they can receive the same support for their next two matches, they will be a huge problem for Nigerians.

Ethiopia opened the Zambian defence with deft touches and deliberate central balls and were never under siege themselves. Their earlier chance that saw the ball bounce over the bar, the naively and hastily taken penalty that was saved by Kennedy Mweene could have taken wind out of their sails, but was testimony of their intentions.

Once the Zambians scored through Collins Mbesuma, a goal resulting from poor concentration at the back, left the Ethiopians a little paralysed. The second half saw them restore their tempo and the inevitable goal came while there was still time for either team to win it.

The match was quite a decent affair and the spirit of the Zambian players and their commitment to tackles and chasing was rendered useless as Ethiopia dished out a brand of football that I always cry about.

The most interesting aspect of their brand of football can see them rented to pieces by finer and opportunistic teams like ruthless Nigeria. Depending on how the Super Eagles shape up on the day, they may be in trouble with the Ethiopians. That will be a match to watch for me.

The West Africans were stretched by the less known Burkina Faso. The minnows were physical and showed less respect to the former champions. The men from ‘the Land of the Upright’ fought gallantly and matched their men fighting tooth and nail.

The prospect of watching them play Ethiopia is appetising. The Burkinabe used the ball and the pitch width very well. They looked to create chances and pushed forward with reasonable force.

The belief in their own abilities was what made so much difficulty for the Nigerians to find the second goal despite that early opener. It was amazing how the Super Eagles could sleep on duty and concede in the last minute.

Judging by the way the Zambians and Nigerians went about their business, one has a feeling they did not hit top gear. The problem with that is, there may never have the opportunity to.

One cannot shake off the feeling that this may be a tournament of the minnows. In both matches, the contests of interests were unit against unit and tactical awareness was a little better, though, both giants, Zambia and Nigeria were guilty of, again, poor decisions at vital moments.

I repeat that football requires good decision-making skills, moment after moment by everyone. Those guilty of not meeting the demands will exit the 2013 AFCON before we enjoy their company. The fortunate part is that there is lack of wisdom to punish the poor decision makers.

How long that honeymoon will last remains to be seen. Many teams will rue that ineptness soon. At the end of the day, Africa must remain the land of the upright as the tourney steps up a gear and pressure mounts. Scenes at the Ethiopia versus Zambia match by the fans must never be tolerated.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Decision-making pathetic at AFCON 2013

The African game currently displayed on the South African shores is exposing worrying trends of how much retarded the continental game has been since the turn of the century. It could be how much faster the world developed leaving Africa behind. Compare that with the 20 minutes display Arsenal played against Chelsea in the second half. It was the Gunners’ best football in over five years but it lasted 20 minutes.

Just before the beginning of the 2013 AFCON, South Africa fired blanks and hope was that things would pick up on the opening match of the tournament. They were sterile once more and to find the spot, maybe they need a GPS.

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s TP Mazembe were at different level a few years back, reaching the Fifa Club World Cup final. In a viral post I did about their adventure, I labelled them as the real deal. African football was supposed to be on the rise but what happened? TP Mazembe seems to have not filtered down or maybe swam upstream to the national team. They looked at home when they played the world’s best in that final at the United Arab Emirates.
The South African 2013 AFCON has so far produced a stalemate between the hosts and the tournament ‘minnows’, Cerpe Verde. The next match saw four goals as Ghana and DRC shared the spoils. Again, one needs to look at the Manchester United versus Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 draw, basically when the ball is passed and where it goes.

What has been a glaring truth is how much regressing the game has been. For entertainment, maybe there was something to cheer in the four goals scored in Port Elizabeth’s Nelson Mandela Stadium. Except for playing by heart, DRC offered nothing at all, neither did the over-rated Ghana.

In the matches played so far, technically and tactically, this has been a sorry site and with common these trends, there is a lot to see. The standard of the game that is worrying extends to the psychological aspect, besides the technical and tactical awareness. The Central African nation depended much on counter-attacks, badly executed by wrong choices and losing of momentum.

The biggest problem is the decision-making. Africa is miles, thousands of miles away. When to and not to pass tops the list. Hanging on the ball too long and less often, playing too early need addressing so badly. There were moments where both teams were guilty of carrying the ball and then slowing down until defenders made recovery runs and retrieved the ball.

The poor decision making can be due to a few problems. The triggers that must come from supporting players are themselves either wrong or badly timed. Even then, one would expect to get one aspect right and then work on the other. Either way, the coaches are responsible for recognising and rectifying these.

Where there is a reasonable quality level of triggers and their timing, the passing quality and choices have been out. The extension of the problem automatically becomes the ball reception. The positive first touch is never a strong African attribute, but these teams have professional players.

It must be understood that some factors contributing to the technique is the quality of the above issues, but the decisions of the receiver, regardless, have been pathetic. Namely, the choice of the part of the foot to use among other things leaves a lot to be desired.

I will try to explain the point of a trigger. If one has to make a pass, there has to be a reason why that pass is played. It could be into space which teammates must create, to the feet of one who indicates or is positioned to receive or to a running player, in which case the decision still has to be made as to how close to feet the ball is played or how far into space ahead of the running player.

Many times, these can be predictable and it is not rocket science. Tactically aware players and teams have the understanding that certain events will follow a pattern which must be trained upon. The movements and timing become a little synchronised.

This is the big draw back in the African game. There is no harmony or synchronisation of anything. At higher professional levels, that is what coaches work on. African players plying their trades overseas know and use these methods daily.

The Mali and Niger match was an improvement to the first two matches but there is a lot of work to be done. The decision-making consistently lacked but was a little better. It could have been a fluke that a few things seemed right.

The match was obviously scrappy and no flow at all, but the efforts to decide on time and execute well was visible. By half-time, there was no shot on target. The two teams are tactically above what has been witnessed so far and cancel each other effectively. It takes a genius touch and approach to separate good organisation.

While Mali were superior in many ways, Niger had the commitment to fight for each other and getting first to the ball. They fought for the second balls and tried counter attacking. They were guilty of tough and late tackling, again, a decision-making issue.

When and where to tackle and how may be the problem African club coaches have to address, but a lot of these players come from big leagues. It boils down to the national team coaches being unable to diagnose and prescribe proper training sessions to deal with it.

If one asks me, these are the very issues national team coaches must address, but remember who hires them; laymen. Many times, Niger shot at goal desperately from distance when there were better options for an extra pass or space to attack. The anxiety reflected on the abilities or lack of, of the mentors.

Interesting enough, Mali withdrew into a cocoon while Niger settled and began to pass the ball. The lack of rhythm of these events shows that they just occurred by chance. Self-confidence and suddenly found belief can catalyse the reactions, both mentally and physically.

Mali got on the score sheet at a time they pressurised the naive Niger who were a little immature by depending on sporadic raids. Seydou Keita had hit the posts twice but managed to tuck in a loose ball fluffed by the goalkeeper. It was the first three pointer match and fittingly so. That goal was a result of bad decision making by the goalkeeper. He could have punched that ball.
Niger's undoing was the less than enough utilisation of opportunities that befell them. They really got a lot of things right, better than Ghana and DRC combined, yet they have nothing to show for it. That is the sad state of African football, but I will not crucify the continent’s game yet, given there is much room for improvement.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Bafana Bafana must hit the goal spot

Watching Saturday night's Bafana date with the Algerians, it was not really that cosy romantic outing, as rubbery as it was. The hosts flirted well but the Arabs did not buy it. South Africa managed to dig deeper into a cocky situation that is desperate. Precisely, when it mattered, they failed to hit the spot.

As hosts, they have a free ticket to the tournament as well as having a new coach in Gordon Igesund, a few  warm-up matches old already, the expectations of doing well on the basis of the latest shows sends chills down my spine. They played a goalless warm-up match against the North Africans ranked second on the continent after their loss to Norway just days ago.

A draw following a loss is an improvement. Referees being less sympathetic following SAFA 'match-fixing scandals' make it an uphill task for the home country. While there were deserved penalty situation, the officials looked the other way. The bottom line, Bafana failed to do what championship contenders do; to convince themselves, the officials and the crowd that they are championship material.

For that to happen, Katlego Mashego and Tokello Rantjie have to score and not just once. They must do better than their displays so far. Bernard Parker, again, Shabba and Yeye must be more creative and ruthless.

The midfield has to work hard to close down attacks and make Bafana very hard to beat while being creative to open up opposition. There is not much time to sort that out. Judging by the recent inconsistency, playing the next six matches without a loss does not sound realistic and that would be fatal for the local game. Actually, scoring a goal in the next match is but a hope.

It is no brainer that the game of football presents us with similar supernatural trends in leagues and sometimes globally over certain weekends. One weekend or so in a year, we get all fixtures drawn, some weekends there are huge scores and in others, the ball just won't get into the net.

There are single matches that we witness and one gets assured that they will never produce a goal even if played for the duration of our lifetime. At least with Bafana, they threaten more with every match. Thinking like Igesund, a man does not enter the arena and climax, or should not. This patriotic optimism is built on emotion and hope.

When facing journalists, the coach puts up a brave face and assures the nations that 'cometh the moment, cometh Bafana'. Behind closed doors and in the dressing room, I guess he is banging the doors and keeping the water bottles, curses and swears. With clenched fists, he pounds the walls and rants his garments. What the team needs to do now, is to save him the blushes. Bafana must play to appease him. They may not have it in their feet and brains, but then, it must come from the heart.

As a football loving nation known for spectacular stadium shows and passion, they owe it to the fans. Following a mind blowing 2012 South Africa Fifa World Cup display on and off the pitch, the impromptu Africa Cup of Nations presents an opportunity for a better spectacle, again, on and off the pitch.

The difference is how the run-up to the tournament was positive then and lacklustre now. It was bigger nations then and smaller ones now. It was Carlos Alberto Perreira then and Igesund now. It was a mediocre run then and it will be better now.

A few days before meeting Carpe Verde in the opening match of the tournament, the South African hitmen are aware their preparation are nothing if they are linient and goal shy. There are no prizes for guessing that their priority will be to hit that goal spot. Ayihlomi' hlasele! 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Adam Ndlovu must be honoured

Historically, the Barbourfields Stadium stands had been known as Soweto, Mpilo End and lately Edgars and Empankweni. I have no idea if Luveve Stadium and White City Stadium have any names. I really can neither confirm the dressing rooms have names also.

I have been thinking deeply about this following the departure of Adam Ndlovu (MHSRIEP), particularly an attempt by many to have him laid at a special place and also because as a football person and having worked with Miro, I received unbelievable personal messages like many close to the club and game.

The Bulawayo community should start honouring their own first. There is five grand stands, two dressing rooms and other special rooms and a lounge at BF. There are two or so gates. There are several turnstile entrances. Add that to the five Luveve Stadium stands and dressing rooms as well as what is at White City, one counts up to a minimum of thirty ways of honouring the footballing heroes.

For Highlanders Football Club in particular, there are many rooms at the Club House and offices. One can never doubt how honourable it would be to name the office building the 'Adam Ndlovu' house. The Club House has that Vana Hlabangana Lounge and that was a starting point that was never followed up.

The time to respect the living and departed can never be more appropriate than now. In the Adam Ndlovu House can have the Tanny Banda room, the Peter Nkomo room, the Tymon Mabaleka room, the Thulani Ncube corridor or whatever.

Still at BF, why not have the Peter Ndlovu, Mercedes Sibanda grand stands? And as for the Mpilo end, it would be human enough to call it the Ephraim Chawanda or Ronald Sibanda grand stand. Muzondiwa Mugadza and William Sibanda or any other huge Bulawayo football names deserve a mention.

All the training grounds at the back of BF stadium can be named after great servants of the game like Ali Baba Dube ground. At White City Stadium people like Boy Ndlovu, Joseph Machingura and the list is endless.

The names like Benjamin Nkonjera dressing room at BF would inspire young players who come up the ranks looking forward to have their names given to the gate next to the police station or another structure. The youth need to see these things happen. They have to know their names will be immortalised.

Such things do not need to be done by Harare as it can be an excuse. The Board of Directors and the Executive may have to be active, but waiting for these busy people to take the initiative can be futile. The people on the ground need to take the bull by the horns and honour the faithful servants.

The stadium is the property of the City of Bulawayo council and I can place my balls on the vice that they will not hesitate naming the stands and even the stadia. It may take some consideration if BF can be renamed Madinda Ndlovu Stadium or someone of that stature.

To start with, the understanding would have to be on the construction of the committee that would be formed to see out the project. As essential as it is that Highlanders is a massive team, Bulawayo is and has been home of great football personalities that played for Eagles, Zimbabwe Saints, Amazulu and even Railstars.

The committee's task would include setting up an obvious criteria that among other things should be national caps and international football. The temptation to look at administrators will be great, but it is the coaches and players that deserve the praise and the honour particularly of the dressing rooms, stadia, and training grounds.

The Ndlovu family are still in mourning like all of us, and our prayers are still for the complete and speedy recovery of Peter Ndlovu. We will have to see that as soon as convenient, lest we forget, we get the motion and project going as a matter of urgency.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Highlanders head coach Kelvin Kaindu needs support

Exactly one article ago (, you will remember how I tried to make clear the small basic critical points a coach has to work with to influence the results of matches. This is more relevant after Highlanders head coach Kelvin Kaindu bemoaned the unavailability of Bulawayo city council stadia for his pre-season training.

Also worth noting is the complaints that many fans had with drawn matches in the last campaign which saw Bosso hand Dynamos the championship. Out of the nine draw, one being converted to a win would have been enough to win Highlanders their first championship since 2006.

In the most recent reports elsewhere, the Zambian and England trained coach rightly claimed that modern football required players to work more with the ball and focus on the technical aspect of the game. To achieve that, a proper football ground for preparations would go a long way in meeting his demands.

It is said that last month, the Bulawayo City Council flighted notices in the press advising that all its stadia would be shut down for maintenance purposes until the end of this month, an unfortunate development for Bosso who may size up with Dynamos in the Bob 89 Cup next month.

Chairman Peter Dube would be expected to say that all was in order given the history of the relationship of the club and the City fathers. To the coach, he needs the grounds when he needs the grounds. At the St George's Park Football Centre in England, i already mentioned that the facilities have two Wembley replica pitches, one in terms of construction as it is an indoor facility while the other has its precise measurements and materials made the same way and by the same factory machines as the home turf.

Kaindu is not asking for the replica Barbourfields Stadium or the grass that makes the BF turf, but some useful grass surface. One needs to stop thinking about how other teams do not have this or that. Highlanders is Bosso and is coached by Kaindu. That is the difference. It is not like any other team.

As he constructs the team likely to feature Hwange and Motor Action player Fortune Ncube and Mighty Bulls defender Thembani Masuku, he did not have runner-up Soccer Star of the Year Masimba Mambare, Bruce Kangwa and Beavan Chikaka, the last thing Bosso needed.

It has been noted the technical team contracts expired at the end of the season and it will be interesting how the line-up will finally look. If Kaindu was comfortable with his team, it would be the wisdom of Dube to respect that, not only for continuity's sake but for the football education of his team. There is so much to learn from the Zambian as far as modern concepts of training are concerned. Kaindu is also keen to further his knowledge.

Those close to the goings-on revealed that coach Kaindu had indicated in his end of year report that he was happy with his lieutenants and would love to continue working with them. There has been noise about the possibility of Douglas Mloyi, Willard Kumalo, Tito Paketh and Colsen Mabeza being considered for certain positions in the team set-up.

A few things may be set-up and records put straight during the club's elections next month that will follow the annual general meeting set for 26 January.The Treasurer and Vice -Chairman's positions will be contested in the elections that are set for 3 February.

Whatever the outcomes, the team comes first and the needs of the coach are paramount. The overall picture is that Highlanders will do well again this year and that is not enough. Well is never good enough, but one cannot help but smell complacent approaches given the second position the team attained last season. That is more so given the tone of how major players in the team are still to report for camp.

It filters down to the upcoming and aspiring players who adopt a lacklustre attitude to work. Winning does not come that way. It is a habit built on the strength of the strong and the support given to the weak by the knowledgeable. The Executive committee should be giving access to the junior team coaches to see the head coach at work and let Kaindu impart his knowledge to these junior coaches.

The coaching of the 21st century demands much research and support for the coach to afford him the tools he needs cannot be over-emphasised. There is no need to get panicking about non-availability of the training grounds. At this juncture, the technical team has to be spending much time on computers or TV monitors watching and analysing last season games to construct proper planning and scheduling for periods lasting 4 seasons. There is software to track individual player contributions that they need to study.

After all is said and done, minute details of training, either in technique practise or skills training are what have to be determined and rectified before the beginning of the season. This brings us to the point I made with the article referred to at the beginning. Essentially, these details need to be worked on at youth levels and continued with the first team.

It is this support that will separates Bosso from everyone else. They have a first class coach, and everything must be first class, from players, administrators, camp, transport and fans. Only then, can the club begin to think of itself as first class. Otherwise, expectation will remain just that; expectation. It will remain a case of so near yet so far.   

Thursday, January 10, 2013

South Africa versus Norway: Africa is miles off!

With the 2013 AFCON hosted by South Africa around the corner, comparing African and Europe comes naturally given the last warm-up match between Bafana Bafana and Norway in Cape Town. The Europeans won 1-0 and to many, by luck. The truth is that Africans are miles behind.

Many acclaimed African footballers are endowed with crisp natural abilities that make up for technical and tactical essentials of football that are well-practised in European academies from very tender ages. As seen over the years in South African football since the days of the 'shoe-shine' pianos, these are short-cuts to the real deal. The short-cuts deceive the world and indeed the players themselves.

At international level, young players go through a mill. They are grilled and pass through the furnace and then moulded in pattern shops of academies which give them an edge. It is not as complicated as I am making it but vital enough.

Pass for pass, ball reception for ball reception, the difference between the two types of players can be classic. This is due to the fact that a match can be won by that difference on just that one occasion.

Watching Norway beat South Africa 1-0 in Cape Town, it was amazing how much the hosts failed to make much of their possession and few Bafana players executed these basic skills meaningfully. With 64% possession and a defeat to show for their toil was based on the basic analysis of one or two events in 95 minutes.

To understand what I am talking about, one has to follow closely this explanation. The timing of the pass or the first touch of the ball reception, can be 0.01 of a second early or late, the pass that is a foot long or short, body position that is a degree to the right or left is all that is needed to influence the result. This depends on the level of technical ability of course, time spent practising the technique and skill and good decision making skills.

As one point of the new English football philosophy, decision making is the finer bit that should be encouraged earlier on in players' careers and many Africans lack that big time. Many acclaimed players like Simphiwe Tshabalala, Reneiloe Letsholonyane, Tokello Rantjie and Siyabonga Sangweni can do way better.

They survive and flow through by luck and sometimes by superior natural abilities. The problem with fluke is that their counterparts learn to deal with these when still young. Many 'big' African stars shun their national teams due to lack of details from coaches because the material fed to them is inferior but that is a story for another day.

Most of the attacking behaviour and patterns were not clear cut and the intentions were too disguised even for the South African team's good. The details of implementing the plan were ignored. In attack, the passing and ball control looked like it was spot-on, hence the higher possession rate.

That possession was said to be negative by the Norwegian coach. For me, that was not the deal. The distances and angles of the passes, the weight of the pass and as mentioned earlier, the timing, did not tally and thread through to produce a quality sequence of events to be productive enough. All these facets need to be precise in any single occurrence at least once to win a match.

Defensively, the same is true. The speed of approach to closing the man on the ball, the angles and distances of support to the first defender were appalling. These distances need to be right and especially in the 18-yard box, there can not be a mistake as there is no second chance.

Here, the difference between a foot and a foot and a half is the difference between a 0-0 and a 0-1. Getting first to the ball needs good anticipation. Interceptions can not always be possible in tight spaces where the ball is moved quite quickly and early.

Pressurising the man on the ball and fighting for the second ball to win it become mandatory. In the way the Norwegians scored their goal, a chain of events happened to perfection to their thrill.

There was no one to close down the crosser of the ball. The next attacker had ample time to play the ball square and then the ball was returned centrally. All these attackers received token challenges which would have been bad enough for amateur football.

The final two players touched the ball with minimum spaces and that is all they needed. The South African defence's priority became that of avoiding committing a foul, which they did at the expense of a goal. They did not have to be in that situation to start with.

At the same time, as you will remember, Norway knew they will not have such a chain of events working in their favour anytime soon but they kept looking for the opportunity, in what is daily termed making one's luck.

Back to the point I tried to make, one extra foot, a fraction of a second earlier as well as a degree or two angle could have prevented a Norwegian goal. The same is true in getting the goal the other end although not as easy because that is how Europeans work on the detail. They work in preventing to cancel such small advantages and do it well.

For Africans to come out tops, more had to be aligned, including fortune and referee's decisions. For the things they could have done for themselves, they failed dismally unless you were a fan enjoying football. Since they face fellow Africans in the same predicament, Bafana look to be on par with many nations but they have a few days to put their house in order.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Extra-terrestial Lionel Messi breaks records as usual

I have never been inspired by a single event like I have been by the Fifa Ballon d'Or ceremony but I am not sure exactly why. Argentina's Lionel Messi, won the World Player of the Year award incredibly for an unprecedented fourth year running. 

I heard people thinking that the the Barcelona player's 91 goals in one calender year, 2012 though being a record, does not count for much because he won nothing for the Catalans and Argentina. But the story here is that I am an inspired man.

By the time I went tot Brazil over 10 years ago, I had over 6 coaching courses under my belt. I had coached and managed teams in the first, second and third leagues and it was before my 31st birthday.After I cam back with my first international qualification, I had registered two teams and an academy, educated many coaches by the time I was 33.

My former course-mates have taken teams to Africa Cup of Nations, both Charles Mhlauri of Zimbabwe and Stanley Tshosane of Botswana. Farouk Jeyman of Fiji Islands works with Fifa. My coaching students are multi-championship winners across Southern Africa. What I met is people praising me for what I have done.

I have not yet produced. These guys made their mark -  their history. Since the Brazil trip, I have attended over 20 courses, clinics and seminars, mostly as an instructor. Until my recent FA International qualification, being a student again did not appeal much but I realise I have much to learn. I have plenty to achieve.     

It could be how much hard work needs to be done in the game that made me feel inspired. My previous article about Sepp Blatter's comments on racism must have agitated a great deal of what I feel. At the end of the day, it is the effect of the game in many people's lives. It inspires us but we choose how.

I have said and been proven right that Real Madrid and Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, who was second for the third time since winning the 2008 edition and Barcelona and Spain's Andres Iniesta are the best players in the world. One day, we hope to produce in this worked one player close to Messi.

"It's incredible to win a fourth in a row, amazing," said Messi. "I want to share this with my Barcelona team mates and my Argentina team mates." said Messi who scored 12 goals including his first two international hat-tricks for his country.

If humble people like that do not inspire one, it is interesting to see how else one can plug and suck the juice to carry on and take a further step in life. For the good of the game, I can only hope that sooner or later I will be on that podium for whatever reason. Dreaming? Yes and watch that dream unfold.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Sepp Blatter offside: What an incentive for racists!!

In a conflict between the hammer and a nail, the fingers can never be good mediators for obvious reasons. And how the solution lies with the behaviour of the nail when hammered, I just don't know.

The recent racism incident of former Portsmouth and Tottenham player, Kevin Prince Boateng saw him lead his team-mates off the pitch during a match at Pro Patria. He was subjected to racist chanting from a section of the home fans and he insisted he would walk off again in any competitive match under similar circumstances. This is the aggrieved man speaking.

However, speaking at a conference in the Middle East, Fifa boss Joseph S. Blatter said Boateng's actions were wrong. Wow. He tried to explain how there must be a "zero tolerance" approach to racism but suggested that clubs should have to forfeit matches if their players force the abandonment of a match, whatever the reason.

"I don't think you can run away, because then the team should have to forfeit the match. This issue is a very touchy subject, but I repeat there is zero tolerance of racism in the stadium, we have to go against that.
"The only solution is to be very harsh with the sanctions (against racism) - and the sanctions must be a deduction of points or something similar."

Like all football players, Fifa is their home and Blatter their father. What Blatter is advising his children is to stand up tight and upright when the train approaches and never run away. What advise! I gave the football boss the benefit of the doubt with his 'handshake' story, but now, this is totally out of line.

Racial abuse is extremely traumatic and the reaction of the victims cannot be pre-programmed. It is one thing to deal with the racists and yet another to advise the victims on how to react. It is not the black players who are a problem and they are not the solution. They will never be part of the solution unless they banned to play.

Blatter misfired big time on this one. Leave the black players alone and deal with racists. This should be the focus of action by whoever runs the game anywhere. It does not matter how the victims behave. They must not be abused to start with. I agree that under all circumstances, the black players are responsible for their behaviour and actions in racial abuse cases, but they committed no wrong by being exposed to the elements.

How Fifa and Blatter could begin to say an abused player should have or should not have done is tantamount to condoning the racist acts while telling the world of the 'zero tolerance' to racism. It is bitterly disappointing that this is all that can be said and done.

Trying to elaborate on the moral of his argument, he said teams would lose points or forfeit the matches for causing abandonment. Who would be the cause of abandonment in such cases? The teams with black players would lose an abused players and be disjointed by the racist behaviour of other teams' supporters and fans, and then forfeit the match for that reason. What happens to the offending clubs? What an incentive for racists!!

The concern for Fifa should be the solution to the root cause, to ensure it does not happen. It sounds like calling white people to like black people. While they must, they do not have to. All they must do is to keep it to themselves, especially in stadia. Actually, some abusive team supporters have black players at their clubs. They cease to see these stars as black because they slave for the clubs.

Clubs that exhibit the hatred of blacks must be the ones to bear the brunt and wrath of the law and rules, not the victims, not the behaved and law abiding clubs and teams. No matter the excitement, I think the issue will be reported as having been taken out of context elsewhere soon, but either way, the position of the Fifa President is a careless one big time.


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Interesting tranfers so far.

The scuffle between Manchester City's black and white Italians during the week may overshadow some funny transfer news. One can write a book by Roberto Mancini and Mario Ballotelli. Why always them? Let's talk about Robin van Persie, Demba Ba, Daniel Sturridge.

Ba is a top-class striker and Chelsea a world-class team. Not just because they are European champions or that they have been to the Fifa Club World Club. These two's marriage is not my favourite. Ba is a clinical finisher and the cleaner the supply, the deadlier the man.

Like Fernando Torres, when the river runs dry, that form deserts him badly, and The Blues replicated the deal that cost them a lot of money when signing Torres, but I hope they get different results. The tall former Newcastle United hit man is well suited to play for Manchester United, who play to deliver opportunities for attackers on a silver platter.

By saying that, Robin van Persie would thrive at Chelsea as he can toil for the ball, create opportunities for himself and other much better that both Torres and Ba. It is harder to understand The Blues let Daniel Sturridge to The Reds exactly for the same reason.

Sturridge was denied opportunities at Chelsea when he looked set to realise his potential. He may actual come of age alongside Suarez and Sterling. All this points to what may be bad business by Chelsea but if I am wrong, I hope I am because I am a big Ba fan, then they may reap good rewards.

To try and prove a point both Chelsea and Ba performed exceptionally well in thumping The Saint 5-1. Southampton played well as usual, until the sucker punch from The Blues. Ba did not star but the two goals began to draw comparisons between him and Torres. What the two need is know they can work together.

As for Rafa the gaffer, he has to let them play alongside and leave them to partake in offensive duties. Chelsea can play any team with just nine players.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Harry's QPR take Chelsea to the cleaners.

Unlike many charismatic managers, Harry Redknapp has a special place in my heart, with or without reason. He is one man who took my sympathy from Arsenal to Tottenham Hotspur. He has not many fans and believe me he does not care.

The sweet 0-1 win over Chelsea at Stanford Bridge may count for nothing at the end of the season, but that was an extra further among plenty on the man's cap. Those struggling to love the man always talked about his backroom stuff. A good back has good backing vocalists and management stuff.

Harry had good times at Portsmouth and even West Ham United before then. His best years were at Spurs recently until he lost focus on the possibility of coaching England. Then, he appeared to hold almost two jobs at the same time and in the blink of an eye, he was jobless.

He may have the best years at Queens Park Rangers as he tries to resurrect what Africans would call a dead donkey. Now matter how low Rangers will finish under his command, if they survive the chop, this should be the fattest worm of his early mornings.

It will be hard to judge how difficult his task is at the end of the season, no matter the log standings. This will be due to the effect of the result against Chelsea. That victory may open doors for the team in a way that may make their 3 point collections casual. If a team needs motivation, there is no better opportunity than beating European champions, the Chelsea of Roman Abramovich of Stanford Bridge, London.

To many teams, it would be expected, even now by some, that the win was just a one night stand by QPR, by Harry does not do one night stands. He is in it to make babies. There is no doubt that there was extra motivation for the league anchors.

They needed points more than anyone in the Premiership. Shaun Wright-Phillips is an ex-Chelsea player and had, maybe not exactly a point to prove, but, some fond memories of his former home and it became an emotional home-coming. Chelsea rested their talismatic midfield orchestra of Mata and Hazard. The intentions were good but one is inclined to think it backfired on Rafa Benitez.

For QPR, they must have believed they had a chance but that is a remote assumption as that Chelsea could have easily beaten Manchester United any day. On his part, Harry rested probably the proud, over payed and overrated goons.

Those entrusted with carrying the club on their shoulders made it a point to take the chance to cement their positions, or just to make louder claims to be noticed in future matches. One expects that there will be no changes to the winning team, but the old horse may taste the FA Cup. As for the league, Harry must stick to the side that delivered.

With or without our love, Harry is the man.