Monday, April 28, 2014

This title is Liverpool's. See why.

Liverpool suffered an obvious defeat against Chelsea. Given that The Blues blasted Manchester City home and away, as well as the top teams in the English Premier League, this fixture was bound to go that way. It is by the same fashion that The Reds will land the title. Liverpool have been dealing ruthlessly with small teams. Crystal Palace and Newcastle fall in the class of small teams. It is a given that they will bag the points to get their total to 86.

The icing sugar is that Chelsea, in comparison, suffered humiliating defeats by smaller teams. Small teams do not come better than league-anchoring Cardiff and survival-hunting Norwich. One or both of these teams will take away the points from Jose Mourinho's side. Struggling teams normally ignore conventional football and hence, tactics from the rule book are rendered useless. And that is The Only One's strength. He can plan all he wants but he needs luck too. At best, he can win all the remaining matches and amass 84 points. 

What is the cherry on top for Liverpool is that Everton suffered a shock defeat by Southampton and they have a mission to accomplish. Roberto Martinez promised his employers Champions League football. For him to deliver that, he needs those points against Manchester City. Despite that, the Toffees are the team of the season outside the top three on form alone. One can argue about the resurgent Crystal Palace, but no one can bet against Everton especially at Goodison Park.

Besides, there is Aston Villa who beat the Citizens already this season. They are also fighting for their lives. Sam Allardyce's West Ham United has been known to be party spoilers. He threw spanners into Chelsea's works earlier this season. Despite the chilling form of Yaya Toure and Sergio Kun Aguero's return, it is hard to see the blue side of Manchester collecting all 9 points at stake. A total tally of 86 is possible for them, but any drop will hand Liverpool the title in a platter. There is nothing that delights the Big Sam like adding sand to the cake.

To summarise, Chelsea and Man City will drop points and Liverpool will not. As if you didn't know.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

You do not have to like Jose Mourinho

Many had it as breaking news when David Moyes was fired. That could never have been. Anyway, the safest bet now is him resurfacing at Tottenham Hotspur next season. Take that as breaking news if you have the appetite. Ryan Giggs took the team with a bang but he will have a few more years to wait until he can manage a team on his own. Tim Sherwood has a lot to learn and he will come right.

What made this post necessary was two sides of a coin. Brendan Rogers is a great manager who I have admired since he played fantastic football at Swansea. That sexy football was transferred to Liverpool, where he made a cheaply assembled team of youngsters to be superstars, to be on the brink of a historic league championship status which I still think they will win. I had Manchester City as my prediction, I hope they do but the Reds have this thing under control despite the hiccup.

All laymen and expects knew what Jose Mourinho would bring to the table when he came to the Kop. Having a dilemma of the UEFA Champions League and the Liverpool tie which had a potential to decide the title destination, the Special One would bring and park the bus. He threatened to make a boring match when he talked of being 'not helped' and 'thinking only for ourselves'. Many did not get what he was trying to say. It is now water under the bridge but BR was supposed to read into that and work at it.

JM  is renowned for his tactics, but what does that mean? He studies teams and managers. He had all Liverpool's plans in his palm. This usually works differently in comparison to what I admire BR for. The Liverpool gaffer would rather work on his team and have them do the best at what they are good at. That has lethal effects if implemented successfully, unfortunately, not this time.

What should BR have worked on? That is very easy. How to move a parked bus or crack it open. He was obliged to work o breaking down that Chelsea defence by either playing more in his own half and lure The Blues out of that final third and then send Luis Suarez or Daniel Sturridge on their bikes into the box. Since Sturridge carried a knock, he should have started. Raheem Sterling could have been sent in there to run at defenders with the ball. Rogers prefers to pin Chelsea there and hoped to tear that novice back line to pieces.

The Only One had an ace up his sleeve; not an ace at all if you ask me. He made sure Liverpool chased without success for an early goal. The delaying tactics from the first whistle was to buy as much time as possible as the hosts registered goals in the opening minutes of the games they played in this season. It worked well. The next issue that JM used was the home supporters. He caused them to be anxious and doubt their own players' ability. He caused a 'genocide' tension with good effect..

Chelsea then had that man-barrier that stood there in a very stubborn manner. They took their time to do everything and the referee was not bothered to caution the perpetrators, preferring to do better timekeeping which he did not stick to. As a bonus of shutting Liverpool out, Chelsea scored a goal after an error by the trusted Steven Gerard. JM solidified further the defence to fortify the unlikely three points. As the Reds pushed for an equaliser, a striker in Fernando Torres was introduced to put the final nail on the Liverpool coffin.

Manchester City did themselves a lot of favour as Yaya Toure stole the show on his return from injury with a demolished performance that can be dubbed a one man show. Their victory ensured they travel to Everton hoping for the best in their duel and wishing their victims, Crystal Palace the best at Liverpool. As for Chelsea, they need an answer to more than one prayer. God answers prayers and given He is not red, blue or sky blue, I would guess red distinguishes itself well from the other two colours. If you are religious, you will however admire that the good Lord is very humorous.

It ended up a battle of wits and tactics. Whether one sticks his guns out and polish his team without throwing spanners in the other guy's works or works at the strengths and weaknesses of his opponents, the results will be different on different days. On this occasion, it happened exactly the way Jose wanted. If one does not admire Jose Mourinho, today they did not have reason not to like his work. It was an overall work well done.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

UEFA Champions League draw twinned the football styles

What if I put it to you, that Arsenal's Arsene Wenger will not resign any time soon unless he wins the FA Cup. Can we accept it as a fact that if, and only if that happens, he will resign immediately as he will not entertain an embarrassing exit from the club that he took to dizzy heights and was credited with revolutionising the English game after his arrival in London almost two decades ago. Her Majesty, the Queen of England has done enough to hold her horses in knighting a man who once deserved the accolade, but has been questioned by many after his extended success-drought spell. Statistically, Wenger's numbers surpass those of Sir Alex Ferguson, but SAF won what mattered the most in over 30 matches.

This is just to warm our appetite for the Gunners' lucky break if reaching yet another FA Cup final, a fluke if you ask me. Let us stop analysing the UEFA Champions League. First and foremost, Manchester United's elimination ends their season early. The Red Devils had just hit a purple patch in all competitions but that loss kills any fight in them. There is no incentive to go on as they will officially miss Europe's top competition, the biggest club competition in the world for the first time in decades. Anyway, that is an Old Trafford problem.

It is common knowledge that Barcelona hordes the ball, but of late, the wheels are coming off their wagon. They are third in the league after their elimination from the Champions League by Athletico Madrid. I wish to combine Athletico's win with the victory Chelsea enjoyed. This is due to the interesting fact of their similar styles. They rely on a grafting work ethic that proves toil never fails. More so, whenever possible their go direct and quickly. This has been the rise of German teams. Theirs can not be deemed route one football, but they duel and combat at every situation and grind the results. There is little nice about their display but then, if it pays, why not.

Many have taken Jose Mourinho's cry that he has no strikers. That is very untrue as he has, but his plans exclude them. In Samuel Eto'o, Demba Ba and Fernando Torres, he has men who come on the field and perform their duties and leave, mercenary style. They are at his disposal and they never fail, but The Special One does not want things that way. The indulgence of having the versatile Hazard and Oscar and the hard work of Willian makes Jose think that he can play and win matches with the three. The rest of his line-up become accessories to complement the trio. The interesting thing about him is that he is never afraid to cut and chop at anytime and for whatever reason. He may decide to stick with his plans no matter how fruitless. He has guts to stop a working scenario and try something new. Like him or not, he does not care about criticism. He is a risk taker, and usually a good one.

The Barcelona football has always delivered a cut high in terms of class. Somehow, when I told you that Barca are finished, I got ridicule. Their fall did not start yesterday. Their football is getting more square and sterile. They used to have penetrative pace longitudinally at their peak, but they are getting flatter and flatter. Their most influential players in Xavi and Iniesta have more passes to the side and back than forward. They now play the football that Arsenal played when the Gunners thought they played lie Barcelona. Despite the cutting edge of Messi and Neymar, the offensive dimension is stunted by the extra passes and more importantly, lack of space for the two to use. Both players thrive on running towards defenders with the ball at high pace. They dribble and leave defenders for dead like tornadoes. One can argue the quality of the coach. That type of football needs excessive concentration. That is why Bayern Munich can pull it off for now, because they are German.

For Munich, it is obvious that their players enjoy a small variation to what they did before Pep Guardiola arrived. He introduced a little more patience with the ball, but they were always a team that kept the ball well and took shots a pass or two earlier with each attack. This tactics works well if the attacking confidence is high and gets complimented by the calm finishing. As soon as goals dry, as in the Barca case, this can be fatal. The Spanish giants now need serious attention, an overhaul. Their attack is getting blunt, frustrated and unproductive.

In my assessment of Athletico and Chelsea, I mentioned some directness of their football. Real Madrid are extremely direct but their game is complimented by pace. As soon as Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale get on their bikes, no scooter can catch them. Their downfall is their careless defending. The chief culprit is Ramos. Pepe complements his antics well too. With a little cool heads at the back, they would play a sustainable type of game with ease. Real Madrid depend on sound absorbance of pressure and as their opponents push forward, they leave reasonable space between their last defenders and the goalkeeper. It is that space that the scampering Bale and Ronaldo will attack with the ball to great effect. This becomes the exact difference between Real and Barca. Real attacks the space by utilising it with excellent running with the ball technique while Barca. depend on running at the defenders with the ball in tight spaces.

The Bayern Munich way would be classified as the Barca way with a tint of the Madrid football. Given that the Germans were drawn against Real Madrid, it makes it an interesting pairing that will give the Spanish some advantage somehow. With Bayern though, their attack is not as narrow as that of Barcelona. Ribery and Robben stretch the game wide and they come at high pace, Ribery going wide and sometimes to the by-line for the cross while the Dutchman will drift in from the right, drop a shoulder and curl the ball around the goalkeeper inside the far post. Still, they take an extra pass before an attempt at goal. There is likely to be more aggressive attack with entertaining outcome here that in the other semi-final where grit will outwit grit.

The best part of the draw is that we will be exposed to extreme types of football in the final. That is the solid game of either Chelsea or Athletico and the direct and clinical Real or Bayern approach. Either style has its own pros and cons but the interesting thing will be how useful the coaches use the tools at their disposal.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The beautiful game's sorry site

I travelled to Swaziland before hitting the highway to Botswana on a football fact-finding mission. The Swazis were very forth-coming and helpful and the Ba Tswana a little jittery and suspicious of my intentions. They kept their cards close to their chests as if I was there to steal their jobs.

The levels and standards of the game in each country is very low. The salaries are bad. Training grounds are grassless and very hard. For an idea, even the 3rd tier teams in South Africa and Zimbabwe have better training facilities. The school grounds of Mzansi are light-years ahead. I was really gutted.

In Swaziland, I met a long lost friend I first met a decade ago in Brazil. Boy Mkhonta is now Technical Director there, taking the reins from another Brazilian graduate, Sibandze. The man's passion has grown and he is doing a fantastic job and was extremely helpful.

I could not meet my other Brazilian classmate in Botswana. Ex-Zebras coach, Stanley Tshosane was too busy with personal affairs and all our appointments failed to materialise. He promised to make amends. There were also unsuccessful attempts to meet Rahman Gumbo and Madinda Ndlovu.

It was a privilege to have the time with Barry Daka and share some moments and catch up on our fruitful past together as coaches and administrators of the game. My feeling was that Mr Daka feels he did enough for football and that he was prepared to die on the pitch. The sad part is how the game treated him wherever he went.

Many people have raised concerns about the heroes of the game who made the people, city and country proud and yet they have nothing to show for it. There are many examples of players and coaches who only can show you scares that they received for the joy of their fans and nothing else. Few will have medals to prove their prowess then. Many struggle to have meals on the table for their families.

Could the blame be on the economy or their mismanagement of their own affairs? Is the environment not good enough to have the sportsmen and women live happily ever after? Can't the situation improve and who is responsible for the demise of the former heroes?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

About Delma Lupepe, Bossolona, let us think deeply

The last time on the subject of Delma Lupepe, I was completely misunderstood. If this was politics, I would say 'misquote'. My idea is not of giving Highlanders Football Club to Mr. Lupepe, but to bring Delma to Bosso. We observed that he could be desired for limited use by many as they consider him a huge risk as one comment went. I may agree only as far as his involvement is concerned depending on how you view it. What may be acceptable to him could be a role just as an active partner or at worst, a passive one. 

To put it into perspective, many thought that may be a parasitic situation. One Tshepo Mabalane was of the opinion that he was autocratic. "From a distance, Delma appears to be in the Kaizer Motaung and Roman Abrahamovic type of administrator who could be good for Man City, Chelsea or TP Mazembe type of situations." He thought Bosso needed a Perez or Joseph Bartomeu who have great respect of development structures and can spend millions on a nine year old, people who can let a star player of Yaya Toure's calibre go for the sake of their home-grown talent.

The fear that many have of him is the exact reason why he is the reason he should join the club. The many of his ruthless deals and both the obvious and underground networks became the juicy part of the possible marriage. Football is not for monks anymore. It is not a game for sissies. His appetite for power and hunger for success cannot compare with a human being I know. Cunning as a fox and with an eye for detail, his stand on the things he believe in, the same reason we crucified him, can be harnessed for the game, his success and the region.

Let us look at him as an employee. The credentials of the man as businessman and a footballer are never in doubt. There is obvious doubt of the possible intentions and his need for greed. It would be a fair assessment to say that he may grow too big for his shoes and become unscrupulous. The man is a natural deal maker, an authority. He becomes very aggressive and bullish when cornered. The Board and the Executive will not play the hide and sick where everybody is hiding and nobody is seeking. Lupepe can of course, speak the language and dance to the tune if needed.

First things first. Does Lupepe have the ability to make millions? Can he manufacture merchandise and items to grow a pregnant worldwide brand? Is he in need to make loads of cash? Then what credentials would one have to have? One thing, he will make millions, and so will the club. In his terms of engagement, there should never be any doubt that whosoever dances pays the piper.

The scope of the relationship would be limited to branding and merchandising as a Chief Operations Officer. His influence would be limited to just making money and nothing else. Bosso has strong legal teams and auditors to monitor him. Delma is globally well connected and the relationships he builds should benefit the club for life. Never should it be an option to have him influence the running of the club. His role should remain in the business side of Highlanders and build the Bosso brand as well to create a sustainable business wing capable of evolving and developing and stand the test of time.

All this, people know he is capable of, but can he be trusted? He will have to, given the potential of his vantage position in being associated with Mantengwane and being married to Tymon Mabaleka's sister. He needs the money, though not desperate, and there is money in the name of Highlanders, in the black and white shield with a spear and knobkerrie. His business acumen has no equal.

It should not be held back to deny him a dollar for a Bosso dollar deal. You can be sure he can build a million dollar franchise in Bosso and harness all its massive support that lies dormant in the diaspora. Another bet would be to hand him the rights to the name and brand and ask him to rack in the money from a distance, but monitoring someone else's business will not be easy at all. The deals and books would be hard to access and stock taking almost impossible. Audit report would be tempered with and all the accounting issue would be a huge mess.

I am convinced he would also get one marketing tool going, one I am passionate about. It is not the sale of merchandise and branding a few items. To many Bossolona sons and daughters, the honour of serving the club goes with their last kick of the ball for the team. What about music CDs and DVDs of the team's most memorable matches?

Back to my point. There is need for the Hall Of Fame. One simple thing that will make the names of the heroes immortal would be huge pictures in the stadium and dressing rooms. The away dressing room could be named Douglas Mloyi or Alexander Maseko This sends a message to the opposition that the goals will be hard to come by. The home dressing room could be Peter Ndlovu, inspiring the home strikers to go for the kill. The stands named after Madinda Ndlovu, Willard Khumalo, Benjamin Nkonjera and Peter Nkomo are just few examples of solidifying the history of the club and make the whole brand marketable. This, the Bosso supporters can do. All they have to do is to organise a march with a formal request to the City fathers who own the stadium.

Let us hear what you think by leaving a comment below and let's discuss.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Is Kaindu's courses Highlanders' demise?

Highlanders Bosso Tshilamoya of Zimbabwe lost a championship by goal difference twice in succession after firing Mohamed Fathi of Egypt and hiring Kelvin Kaindu of Zambia. After the near misses, the former Bosso speedy winger decided to equip himself to go for the jugular and enrolled for the UEFA B License. As a result of his self-empowering courses, the team lost a few friendlies and three pre-season Cups and the club is in shambles and the team in crisis. Crisis? What crisis? Exactly.

This is Highlanders Football Club after all. So, welcome! People judge the coach on a daily basis, game by game. In this particular case, it is unclear if people think Kaindu will be a better or worse coach after his training, but all they know is that they want results from the team he has not had time to prepare. It is also irrelevant if the team wins the championship at the end of the current season. The thing is that the team lost three cup ties in an row before the season began. To understand the situation, Mantengwane fans buy players and select the team. They know how to win the championship. If  a player is off form, he is rubbish. The same player turns hero the next day if he scores the winning goal. The most vocal of KK's critics are his best fans in good times. It is a pity.

The concern of the team being unstable with too much rotation has been raised by an elite few. It makes sense that the technical team should wait for the beginning of the season to see which players fit well in which positions. Conventionally, you expect a team building exercise in real competitive matches and not friendlies. The team should be winning as you make mistakes. And finally we did have some positivity from the analysts of the last loss, that Bosso did not concede a goal in open play.

A sentiment against the excuse that the head coach was in the UK for the UEFA B License was that KK did not take passing and space creation with him to London. There was a general consensus of lack of seriousness and patriotism on the part of the Zambian. "Three Cups played so far in 2014, and we still wish 'it shall be well'. There is certainly something we are not doing right.", lamented one fan, another adding, "I'm actually tired of this 'it shall be well' thing. We need the championship this year".

Of the many comments and cries, it is not clear how many come from those who attend the training sessions. It could be emotional sentiments that have nothing to do with what the coaches see from the players at their disposal at the training grounds. "You have been given all best players and resources to take the league but I am doubting your commitment to the club." The rest of this comment was deeply thought and a grave concern of the way forward was a huge concern to the fan. What I am unsure of, is the truth of the statement. Does Tshilamoya have the best central and wing defenders? Are the midfielders the best in Zimbabwe? Is the strike-force one to reckon with? What about the goalkeepers, training grounds, salaries, bonuses and buses? With all due respect, I do not think it could be so, no matter how one wishes. Yet, KK must deliver with mediocre conditions, situations and circumstances.

My personal humble opinion was that it is still early days, the beginning of the season. KK does courses to coach Bosso better. There is sensationalists who expect the team to win by magic because it is Highlanders and they love and support it. Knowledge is power and as in any profession, nothing beats having the know-how, the education, and experience of course. The gaffer has still plenty to learn. He has the UEFA A and UEFA Pro to attend later in his coaching life. He still needs to know about 'periodization and scheduling', which are full-time courses on their own. The issue is that nobody cares. They want the wins and cups and championships.

If Bosso employed coaches who do not have coach education, they would need to depend on holy water and holy spirit. KK may feel the heat of his abuse concerning the training he undergoes overseas and leave the team. The benefactors would be his next destination, Bosso arch-rivals. The cruelty of the game is that even the unqualified can coach any team to victory. Highlanders can take that chance. I think we should not go there but I was just saying.

Thinking of how the coach can abandon a team in crucial times hurts, but we must understand what goes on in courses of that nature. The candidates have to complete assignments and meet certain deadlines. He's got to supply the information about his planning and execution of the job that he does with his team and hand that over to UEFA or the FA to see if he's on the right track. Any shortcomings found are pointed out and he has to come back and work on his shortfalls and go back again. The courses are very expensive and these organisations, UEFA and the English FA have a reputation to protect and ethics to live by. 

The margins of error in football success are minute and the variables are uncountable. Matches are decided by split seconds, one touch, a turn and a tight quick decision on the part of the players. You can coach all you want, but the options to execute those lie with the players. The coach is trained to identify the negligible details and ingrain that in the players.

Any aspect of football is not trained and mastered in a minute. Repetition is key. That is why players have to be trained from an early age until they retire, and usually the same things. Usually, all people clamour to say the coaches must say ABC. Football coaching is not verbal. It is technique training of repetition of everything over a life-time.

Also, a line-up is not a system as many would have us believe. It is the roles of the people in the line-up that determines the system. The players' form is one thing of concern. One day they are in good mood and play a blinder and then falter the next week. Others run hot and cold in the same match. Then there is the moody type and all. Usually, all of us at the stands do not know or understand these factors or players. There is no instrument to tell that a good player who is off-form is about to run hot or turn cold. You have 11 players to observe and another 5 who could better or worsen what you are dealing with. There is the 11 players of the opposition and their subs to take into account. That is football.

All coaches depend on those situations, how they turn out, to feed their families. A loss does not do any CV any favours. Factoring all that in, the coach with all his certificates, still has his error in judgement as an ingredient to that concoction. For football fans, the ball must go between the posts. If not, the coach is rubbish and when it does, the players are good.

Of the many other positives drawn from that last loss, there were still causes for concern as some found 'genuine reasons to ring alarm bells'. This was based on the team's lack of cohesion. The fan pointed out that all the pre-season hype had turned into agony for the fans. I think that opinion was far-fetched when it was extrapolated to Bosso 'fighting to stay out of the bottom three in this coming season'. This was in sharp contrast to; "I think it is good that we see the weaknesses now and hopefully they will be rectified as the season progresses. I still believe the team will gel and do the business where it matters most, especially towards the business end of the season."

Another sober thought was; "We have to support Kelvin Kaindu at all cost and expect him to plough back to our team. Barry Daka went to Brazil and Barretto to USA for their coaching advancement and they came back and won things for us and produced more coaches". The varied opinions can not all be correct. They just prove that one man's football is another man's folly. Football is an easy game and we all fight to complicate it.

Is it better for KK to go to the UK for his badges and the team sinks, or that the team sinks without his trips?