Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Is Di Canio's end coming so soon or it was brilliant Benteke?

Not being a fan of Paolo Di Canio, I somehow feel sympathetic about the 6-1 drubbing Sunderland received from Aston Villa. I have been to Villa before and think they have the right ideologies of the game and also that they should not be where they are now. By contrast, I do not know the Italian mentor, save for his much publicised antics as a player and coach.

That gives me an opinion that has shaped a certain figure in the game. Remember how one popular English politician ran after Di Canio's appointment to the post? Characters like him can be charismatic and appealing. As coaches, they do not possess the acumen needed for the job but float with their comic ways and 'playing t the gallery'.

I had a piece on this page, about how easy it is for such to get results without methods. The problem becomes the lifespan of such manipulation of the players. The methods swing between blackmail and sheer ridicule and 'escapeism'. The results may swing from very good and very bad in short spells of time. What actually keeps them employed is the other scenario where results come while their charisma lasts.

At the 'sale-by' date, teams crumble and the big paying masters begin to wonder. At the flip of a finger, these coaches are hired elsewhere for the routine to come full circle. This is just one event. Di Canio may be different. Sunderland may have switched off just for the night. I only hope it is. If not, they will be fighting for their status in the league from early on in the coming season.

I remember watching an interview while he was coaching at a lower level. He strongly criticised his players in very bad and embarrassing ways. I like his ability to speak his mind anywhere anytime to anyone about anybody. It is one thing thing to be frank and another to be rude. One can never be diplomatic all the time but once in a while, one has to think twice.

I am yet to hear his thoughts about the game, but knowing how he is being looked upon at his new role, he has apologised to the fans, maybe a sign of changing times or we are still to get it, especially about the players. I cannot guarantee they have not been told in their faces but soon, we will hear about.

Again, let me praise the predatory of hat-trick hero, Cristian Benteke. I am a big fan of his. I hope he keeps it up and congrats to Villa for their incredible victory.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Gareth Bale star of the game as Luiz Suarez embarrases

We grew up knowing rugby players have leather balls. In dressing room pep talks, we encouraged players to develop leather skins, and now literally, players need leather skins.
The trouble magnet in Luiz Suarez made it irresistible for fellow professional to boo him at a function to honour England's best performers. I am not sure how proud he was to be among them but man who stoop that low don't care an inch. 
Thanks to his dentsist, because his teeth are not that sharp as we saw. Suarez faced racist accusations before, among other small issues in England. In Holland, he also bit an opponent. He is football enemy number one in Africa after his 'Hand of the Devil' blockage of Asamoah Gyan's 2010 South Africa Fifa World Cup quarter-final winner.
This could be the beginning of his end, a man-made end that can only be described as self-destruction. While he is recycleable, Liverpool seem to honeycoat the whole saga, presumably to wipe away the shame and make him a good disposable material. 
This must not take the shine off Gareth Bale's deserved PFA and YPFA accolades, but many won and faded. His big money move, like many others before, may put the final nail in that coffin.
In the recent past, the years of Tottenham Hotspur's ascendance, he was the catalyst of their ruthless slaughters. By design or by default, it became the death knell to Arsenal's beautiful but sterile game.
One hopes that Bale keeps his feet on the ground, stays at White Hart Lane and gets a good paycheck from Mr Levy. For all that to happen, Spurs need to pull off some stunts and acrobatically land in the Champins League.
Unless the Londoners do that, which they need to by hook or crook, the Welshman's future will never be the same. I am not convinced of his potential to blossom elsewhere, unless it is at Manchester United, and Sir Alex Ferguson has not jotted his name on his shopping list, but the man is known for his aces up the sleeves.
That said and done, congratulations to you Gareth. See you soon.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Spanish football is not gone, but going.

Liverpool's Luis Suarez's fang testing drama, immediately followed by the Manchester United's title winning antics orchestrated by the crazy boot of Robin van Persie, was overshadowed by the paltry penalty from his club and the FA. If he bit my son, with chances of rubies, I would have him locked up.

Anyway. the latest debate in the football world right now, of the shift of football power from the English to Spain and to Germany is very interesting. After a single swallow, it is summer to many fanatics and pundits. Firstly, there is still second legs to be played. After then, let us talk football. I am not saying Bayern Munich and Borrusia Dortmund chanced their way in the first legs in their Champions League semis, but wait and see.

The woes at the Camp Nou and weeping and gnashing of teeth at the Bernebeu may not be temporary setbacks and surely, they are not events but a process. The rise of Real Madrid under Jose Mourinho saw the decline of Barcelona, a process that ate into the Spanish football philosophy and devoided the progression of the west European superpowers.

Mourinho made irrelevant the national and traditional way of playing football in Spain, naturally by his club's tradition of buying talent. The home-grown development players approached the game in that famous tiki-taka fashion that is being exposed by the Germans. Many wrongly believed the Germans were the masters of defence, but 4-0 and 4-1 results are no traits of defending.

For many years, the English were known to be strong and physical with the long balls demanding the hard-running game. The defensive tactics of the Italians were admired by many while the impenetrable Germans got their tags for their high concentration levels that made them unbeatable.

Barcelona came with a strong Dutch philosophy introduced by Johan Cruyff, and during the days of the physical game, that type of football was unplayable. The maturity of tactics ushered the advent of mind games and the balance between pace and accuracy. Spanish football, especially Barcelona, depended much on the accuracy, a trait Real Madrid never had. It reminds one of the Brazil of many decades ago, when they came to Europe and complained that the Europeans kicked them and did not allow them to play football.

Madrid came to a point where their aggression translated to quick attack at the transition period, that is a time the ball changes hands (feet). Working on the strengths of his players, The Only One managed to increase the efficiency of moving the ball around without dropping pace. The Galatico managed to win the ball hastily and spring into attack, naturally by the speed of Cristiano Ronaldo on the ball. 

Those 4x4 results in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals in Germany over the Spanish got the tongues wagging. It can be looked at in terms of what exactly transpired on the day or from a global picture. On the day, Barcelona were without Lionel Messi, well almost. It was a 11 versus 10 affair, just to give the Spanish some excuse, but it was their own making. Over and above, if one tossed the ball up anywhere on the pitch, Barcelona defenders will reach it last because of their height. That is what the Germans exploited.

The next day was however different. Real Madrid's central defence is probably the most aggressive in the world today. If one runs at them, the ball carriers are bound to bounce off and retreat, usually with scares to show for it. Dortmund went round the central position knowing Pepe and crew will bring them down or they will defend facing their own goal. Again, that is what happened. 

The calmness of taking the goals bordered around the situation of turning a goal opportunity from those wide positions or from the penalty spot. The German attack were prepared to be tackled and take the penalty kicks or score clean. There was a balance of both events and the good thing is that Mourinho was watching. But why did it come to that?

Big matches used to be unpredictable. Technology made football too difficult. The calamities at hand are surely a trend of times but the Spanish are not yet finished because they will be back. There will be long and wide studies by all four camps as to what transpired.

Germany teams fought with grit, winning first and second balls. Their confidence in duels and combats fed off the vociferous home support. They have the mental strength to hold their nerve in the return legs. Their dilemma will be the point where they have to draw a line - the line of engagement. Defending deep will result in dead ball situations around the Messi - Ronaldo territories, and committing too early up field inviting the two to run with the ball into the spaces available.

If you are a fan, it is foregone, but if you are a footballer, it is game on. These matches are not over by any measure. For both Spanish teams, besides being outplayed, they were unlucky. They may be unlucky again, but if not, you will see what I am talking about.

But, has the balance of power shifted? Not yet and the second leg results will determine that. Actually, they may be points of reference as events of a process that started some time back while people enjoyed the dinosaur football Barca played. Football has since scurried off in the direction of the discipline of the strategy based on fast ball pace on the ground and effective transition periods taking place in the final third. The new concepts of countering the counter-attack are being employed effectively.

The game now depends on the collective effort of committed tacticians who compose 60-70% of the good teams while the value of technicians has diminished almost completely. The deterioration of individual dependency is seen at Barca, how much they cannot function without Messi. Real will suffer the same in the absence of Ronaldo. 

Teams without stars blossom and function effectively. Only yesterday, Liverpool blasted Newcastle 6-0 in the absence of their talismatic Suarez, who many had come to believe was among the top five players in the world today. It must be appreciated that some football philosophies are meant to be trend setters and all the other coaches, usually the selected few, work to diffuse them. The rest swing in between without a clear-cut grasp of the intentions of the concepts. In this case, Barca and Spain's tiki taka may have come full circle and the antidote is the German pace and aggression going forward, as exhibited by both Dortmund and Bayern. 

As for Madrid, it was just a once off unfortunate incident that I believe can be reversed. The good thing about the German football is that it is a national program played across the leagues. The same is being tried in England, where academies try to follow the same philosophies up to senior level. From under-8 players up to the Premiership, the ideologies are the same but the breed of foreign coaches and managers ingraining their own philosophies complicates matters.

Spanish football is not gone, but is surely going

Friday, April 12, 2013

Was UEFA semi-final Draw fixed?

Let's rely on my not-so-genius memory, as many will attest. I have not much time to research but save for the cases you know, my memory has not betrayed me fatally but do not make life-decisions made here.

Bayern Munich played Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League around 20 years ago, give or take 2 years. The draw pitting Barcelona and Bayern in a semi-final whose first leg is to be played at the Allianz Arena is not suggesting that it is deja vu.

Last year's runners-up Bayern will have to navigate past Barca, an easier feat now than it can ever be as it has been proved that the Spanish are breakable, especially without Lionel Messi. Messi may be fully fit by then, changing the dynamics.

In that very bad twist of fortune, Real Madrid also travel to Germany to face Dortmund before the return legs in Spain. The prospects of either an all-Spanish or all-German final at Wembley Stadium on May 25 will be the talking point for many pundits.

In my every day song, the chorus is that Barca are fading and by the end of the semi-final, I may have to reconsider and conclude that they are faded. They were bullied by AC Milan, only going past just. They beat Paris Saint-Germain in the quarter-finals, again, just, on away goals.

Bayern are newly-crowned Bundesliga champions and appear the most solid team so far. Despite all this, I do not fancy them, but I am not sure how long the brittleness of the Catalans will last.

On the other hand, Madrid, who eliminated Galatasaray this week, are playing their best football under Jose Mourinho, or for the first time since the dominance of La Liga by Barcelona. It will be the two sides’ fourth pairing overall in the Champions League.

Dortmund have a young and energetic squad compared to the Spaniards, but their gods had to more than smile at them to see off a determined Malaga who felt robbed. One could be tempted Real will revenge for the Spanish.

The truth is that The Only One is caught in two minds. Rumours of him going back to England and his personal ambitions to be The Only Special One make this one interesting. It's not rocket science that Jose will head elsewhere if he wins the Champions League, and his team has the capacity to do it. Sentimentally and tactically, they are favourites at this point.

Realistically though, a minimum of 180 minutes of the 2012/13 Champions League football must elapse with two victories for them. This means beating a dynamic and versatile Borussia and then seeing off cultured Barca or Bayern. It would be nice to have the Spaniard against the Germans in England but time will tell.

Talking of England, I wondered if failure to have representation at this point meant the Barclays English Premier League has lost some shine. This is prompted by the lost of Newcastle and Tottenham Spurs in the Europa League last night.

It could be small technical faults and Chelsea may win the second tier Cup anyways. If these events are a measure to go by, it places Spain and Germany as the kings of league football. As relative as that may be, there may be some truth depending on how much football you talk about.

England has the money to attract the best players. I am not sure the same can be said by the coaches/managers. That translates to excellent technical levels that are void of tactical football in the league. My personal opinion is that the world outside England strikes a good balance of cash, talent and tactics. Anyway, that's a topic for another day.

For now, we await the first legs to be played on April 23 and 24, with the second legs to take place on April 30 and May 1. At least you have the liberty to forget reason and think by heart and you dream your team will kick bottom. For us, we start scrutinising details that range from possible line-ups to personalities that make the squad.

The margins of error in the execution of each pass or ball reception, as well as the speed of decisions and time spent on the ball will influence and be influenced by what happens away from the ball. The possible politics surrounding the refereeing is inevitable but one hopes that the true champions will win it by themselves and for themselves.

There has been enough cry about UEFA deciding the fate of the title by the 'disenfranchised' side like Malaga, and while I disagree with their racism issue against them, it is high time cases that saw Didier Drogba sanctioned a few years back, become extinct. I think this is a quality semi-final line-up and while it could have been fixed, I do not think so.

Semi-final draw
Bayern Munich v Barcelona
Borussia Dortmund v Real Madrid

Friday, April 5, 2013

How CAF got more out of AFCON than FIFA out of 2010 WC

An uneducated opinion reasonably thinks the Fifa World Cup makes more than a Confederation championship. That stems from the logic that big is more. CAF made more cash than Fifa in their 2013 AFCON held in South Africa compared to the 2010 Fifa World Cup at the same venue.

This has nothing to do with all my assertion that African football speaks French, though that is part of it. The Confederation of African Football was dying to host their tournament in South Africa after the successful Fifa World Cup in history, but the opportunity was ever present as long as the intended hosts, Libya, were not French speakers. The rebels that killed Qaddafi presented the CAF's case on a silver platter.

For starters, let me educate you. CAF is not part of Fifa. They are independent. National associations look at the domestic game and guard all matters jealously, and like South African Football Association, SAFA, affiliate to a federation that is the custodian of the global game, FIFA.

The confederations do not represent the global game, but continental interests. Theirs is to organise tournaments while adhering to FIFA rules and regulations. They can design their qualification rules and design their own styles of governance and operative agendas.

To many, they are a step between national associations and FIFA and how wrong. They are just another body that associations choose to belong to. You may be wondering what this has to do with anything.

The 2013 AFCON hosts did not benefit much from their troubles. CAF pocketed hundreds of millions in American currency. The common view would be that the FIFA World Cup matches have a global audience, which is very true and that is why FIFA make an effort to afford the universe the spectacle of the games.

The citizens of the world will always have an interest in how the world's top 10 footballing nations play and there is always a good number like myself always pushing the underdog. That makes the whole World Cup very attractive and interesting.

When it comes to AFCON, I guess other tournaments like CONCACAF, UEFA and AFC, the interests are quite localised. There is not much global interest. This specialised interest makes for the difference these two bodies go about their business and marketing strategies.

As for AFCON, the CAF members states will do anything to show on television other African teams and players showcase their ability to broadcast and measure their size against other nations. Nations like Cape Verde, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Nigeria will do anything to get rights to televise the matches, of course for different reasons. Smaller nations were making history and took the opportunity to be known. Bigger and more accomplished nations are basically football-crazy.

Taking advantage of these dissimilar appetites to show the African country that hosted the first ever World Cup, CAF charged around $750 000 for these rights. Many nations broke the bank to purchase these. FIFA had charged just around $100 000. These figures may be in Euro and not dollars.

CAF enjoys a rose relationship with the Arab rich north where it has headquarters in Egypt. It is not to say the petro-dollar has anything to do with the many championships Arabs and French speakers have. It is purely coincidence, but really?

Kenya could not host AFCON in 1996 according to CAF standards and it was South Africa who chipped in and did that superbly, winning the championship. That left a bitter taste that the trophy crossed the equator. Zimbabwe were pencilled to host the 1998 version but the fears of the trophy staying put saw the AFCON moved to Tunisia.

There has not been much love between the north and south as evidenced by how Danny Jordaan made history by the way he handled the 2010 World Cup bid and the hosting of the world's greatest sporting spectacle.

Bringing AFCON to South Africa was just a good business idea they could not resist and the hosts enjoyed being a condom the entire month.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Pirates' ABSA Premiership wrecked as Chiefs rule, just though

After Orlando Pirates were held to a 0-0 draw by the University of Pretoria in a Premier Soccer League (PSL) match at the Orlando Stadium on Saturday night, it was evident they had hit a brick wall. The TUKS defended for dear life and The Ghosts coach, Roger de Sa complained that the students came just for a point.

He had a point but the point is the season begins with everyone on 30 points. The University of Pretoria's best bet was to keep the point they had before kick off, that lose it or indeed donate to the Sea Robbers. That result saw the defending champions on 43 points, trailling Amakhosi by a cool 7 points after the Naturena Boys beat Bloemfontein Celtic 3-0.
"They came here for a point and sat back and waited for the counter, we expect that and have to expect that from all teams," De Sa said after the match.
Chiefs huffed and puffed earning the respect of the linesman and the referee on several occasions as Siwelele could have had penalties that could have changed the match result and probably the championship destination. They created their own luck and that is football.

The obvious fact of Pirates failing to defend their title is as bare as the truth of Chiefs being not good enough to do it for themselves despite an extremely talented line-up that makes Mamelodi Sundowns jealous. Manchester City would do with what Stuart Baxter has, really, but they have not lived up to their billing save that The Happy People are a pathetic lot at the moment.

Andile Jali and Oupa Manyisa suddenly look as over-rated as I initially suspected. Their contribution to the title fight favours Kaizer Chiefs. The usual suspects in Collins Mbesuma, Dane Klate and Tlou Segolela blatantly fire blanks with chilling accuracy and one can only cry for the return of injured Thulasizwe Mbuyane.

Suspicions of Benni McCarthy destabilising RDS following their last season fall-out while at different camps does not hold water but one cannot help smelling a rat. Pirates are pathetic to be polite. Camping in enemy territory and remaining that blunt in front of goal is something Africans attribute to being 'tied'. I think one could use the word 'curse' if it makes for good understanding.

Kaizer Chiefs on the other hand start and stutter and hope that the Pirates ship remains wrecked for the next few weeks. It may be high time the Glamour Boys took the honours as the complacent Orlando boys wake up from their slumber. One hope the wake up call will be enough to have them out of the blankets by the dawn of the next season.

Could it be RDS cannot handle Pirates, or that just that they are going through a patch to be overcome in due course, given that Chiefs are not doing much either, other than gleaning on the misfortune of a struggling neighbour? Whatever the answer, Kaizer Chiefs will grow in confidence and believe they can actually do it for themselves. From past experience, Pirates do not want to build a monster they will fail to destroy and so far, they are doing a very bad job of it.

As for pushing RDS into sea, I do not see it as a solution and especially now. The coach should remain until the end of the season and probably steady the ship in time to challenge for the lost titles. There is however a risk of doing a 'Sundowns' if Irvin Khoza does not nip the bud on the head. Even Kaizer Motaung knows that for now, their fortunes are purely the misfortunes of Pirates.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Highlanders win again

Highlanders 2 - 0 Harare City

Mthulisi now playing ingquzu

3 minutes stoppage time added

90' Bosso still lead 2 - 0 and players are now showcasing

Bosso now playing like Champions

Highlanders 2 - 0 Harare City

85' Rio scores the most easy tap ins,  it was a good pass from JB

84' Honest intercepting a dangerous attack from Harare City

83' Diya makes a point blank save

81' Milton misses a seater

76' Mambare, dribbles past two people and poor cross

73' Milton coming to the party

70' Bosso now playing purposeful football

66' Well taken shot from Milton, saved by Gonese

64' Mandla down injured

63' Highlan
nders 1 - 0 Harare City

63' Goal Highlanders, JB

Other results

FC Platinum  3 - 1 How Mine 
Triangle        3 - 0 Shabanie 
Hwange         1 - 0 Black Rhinos 
Monomotapa 2 - 1 Buffaloes 

61' JB, overbar

60' Save by Diya, the busiest goalkeeper today

57' Highlanders substitution, Kangwa in Graham out

56' Fazo back in the field of play

55' Fazo down injured

53' Honest test Gonene for the first time, Gonese save

50' Bosso 0 - 0 Harare City

Second half about to resume and Mthulisi coming in for the injured Bruce Tshuma....Munawa dropping to the right back position

Bruce Tshuma injured in the 1st half

Mthulisi warming up vigorously. He looks set to make an entrance when the second half begins

Bosso is poor today. Only Diya & Milton have shone. The changes made by kaindu seem to be backfiring. We wait for the second half..

Added time is up, Half Time

45' 3 minutes added time

45' Highlander 0 - 0 Harare City

41' Another freekick after a foul on JB

40' Munawa's shot blocked

39' Bosso gets freekick outside the box

38' Harare city wins a freekick in a dangerous position, Diya saves

37' Harare city striker hits sidenet after outpacing Bruce Tshuma

36' Swift counter by Harare City, Diya save Bosso, gets injured, treated back

35' Bosso gets a corner after a nice move

34' Foul play, Honest gets a yellow card

32' Bosso Substitution, Douglas out Rio in

30' Harare City causing problems in the middle of the park, Bosso chasing shadows

28' Good run 

26' Diya makes a crucial save for Bosso and Fazo clears

25' Still nil all, action swinging from one end to the other

20' Bosso 0 - 0 Harare City 

18' Mambare shoots over the bar

15' Bosso 0 Harare 0

12' Diya makes a save for Bosso from a Harare City free kick

8' Graham's goal dissallowed for offside

10' Bosso 0 - 0 Harare City

Match kickoffs, Bosso attacking Soweto end and Harare City mpilo end

Diya, Tshuma, Fazo, Inno, Honest, Douglas, Mambare, Munawa, Milton, Graham, Njabulo

Mthulisi, Rio, Knox, Ariel, Bobby, Hillary , Kangwa