Monday, July 28, 2014

Barcelona’s Tiki Taka program to benefit Zimbabwean football?

Barcelona coaches came to Zimbabwe to run a two-day coaching clinic or seminar starting today in Harare, courtesy of Castle Lager, the league sponsors. The timely intervention to the deteriorating league game is a two day event expected to equip the Premier League coaches and other mentors from around the country.

Attending the clinic will be one thing, while implementation is another. The Zimbabwean Castle Lager Premier League match between Dynamos and Caps United yesterday proved a little better than their appalling clash in the NetOne sponsored One Wallet. Despite immaturity in decision-making and tactical awareness, the players from both teams played direct football, launching the ball forward. This clinic may help.

This eyesore of a game has some positives as it gets the ball into the penalty box very quickly and early enough before the opponents settle and shut the door. To complement the numerous raids, the strikers take these opportunities with decisive feet and score goals.
What makes it more interesting is that the shooting is taken quickly on sight. There is no time to control and think twice. This catches the goalkeepers unawares. This instinctive and predatory behaviour requires execution of technique under excessive pressure, therefore perfecting high-level skills.
With a slower version of the South African game, the Zimbabweans find the ABSA Premier League a free scoring assignment. These players benefit two things by playing the high-tempo kick and run game. It teaches them to defend efficiently by reducing time and space for the opponents and dispatching the ball quickly.
The other valuable lesson comes at the other end of the field, where the strikers learn to pounce on the less suspecting defenders and score before the goalkeepers have positioned themselves. They learn to deal with the ball very decisively and quickly under pressure and finish well. Doing these things in competitive matches prepares the individuals to be quick and versatile.
The problem is that the midfield creativity is eliminated. This launching and shelling game, the defenders work excessively, causing the central and defensive midfielders to withdraw to assist in the defending. You may associate this with the great central defenders that league has been producing lately.
By-passing the centre of the park makes these matches very ugly and uninspiring. It is this kind of football that characterised Division One matches when I coached in that country. The reasons for playing that way included the very bad bumpy surfaces we played in and the poor refereeing as the hometown decisions were the order of the day. The strategies required to clonk the ball away from the 18-yard box and send in into the other 18-yard area to avoid bizarre penalty calls.
That negative side in the top league emanates from the promotion and relegation mechanism. With just 16 teams in the top league, Zimbabwe has a massive 32 team Division One divided into four regions. The league demotes four teams and promotes four. That is the source of their problems.
The league relegates reasonably experienced teams while extremely diluting the game with mediocre quality from lower leagues. That league requires an additional two teams to make it an 18-team league. The country needs to restructure the game completely, ask the sponsors to double the funds for the Premier League to carry Division One football under its wings.
The PSL would need only two streams of the First Division where the winners go up and the bottom two PSL teams facing the chop. The national association currently administer the four Division One leagues and they promised the winners top-flight football. The Castle Lager Premier League only prepared to accept two teams and relegate two, but that did not pass.
The status quo will not last long. One hopes that the Barcelona coaching seminar will bring in the sense of Tiki Taka to that country’s game. It will never wipe away the blasting of the balls, but the prospect of the combination of the two styles will win Zimbabwean clubs the Africa Champions League and the Warriors the AFCON.
What do you think?

How Orlando Pirates beat Kaizer Chiefs to win Carling Black Label Cup

The first Soweto derby of the season, the Carling Black Label played at the FNB Stadium proved that South African football is on the ascendance. This pre-season tournament, now in its fourth year, got fans to vote for their preferred starting eleven players from both Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates.

Without Simphiwe Tshabalala, Bernand Parker and Knowledge Musona through injuries, Chiefs brought in Willard Katsande replacing Simphiwe Tshabalala, Katlego Mphela and Kingston Nkhatha to the starting line-up.
The match needed 18 kicks from the penalty spot to decide the winner after the 0-0 fulltime stalemate. Let us say, 19 kicks, as George Maluleka missed the regulation time penalty that was awarded to George Lebese when Rooi Mahamutsa felled him wide on the right. Maluleka had to hit the same spot twice, the left top corner of the cross bar.
Chiefs controlled the first half, while Pirates displayed a very mature brand of football. If that match was anything to go by, the local game grew by leaps and bounds. The passing, ball control and decision making was excellent.  
Both teams took particular shapes and each unit engaging the opposite in direct confrontation and combat seen in the 2014 Brazil Fifa World Cup. The ball moved from the back into the midfield and passed through to the final third. The players showed a lot of trust in their teammate’s abilities by passing and supporting the player in case they needed an outlet to pass the ball.
To match the daring passing, the ball control surpassed the expectation as the midfield battles saw players turned and ran with the ball in a congested area looking for spaces in the attacking third. This exhibition by both teams excited the crowds and coaches alike; however, the conclusion of the attacks never matched the moves from behind through the preparation zone.
The wing play and penetration into the final third became the point of weakness of the whole match by both teams. The ball was never played wide often enough, and in rare moment that the ball was played to crossing areas, it was done very late with defenders already in good defending areas.
The Chiefs defence kept their line and shape and easily thwarted each attack from Pirates. Given that it is the beginning of the season, defensive and midfield work takes priority, as much as physical conditioning. The teams showed exceptional quick passing and ball control skills. The interception by both sets of defenders proved sharp enough as they blocked each other’s attack completely restricting the entire match to less than 3 shots on target for each team.
One hopes that the Zimbabwean football fraternity watched and took notes of how the game should be played. There is no need to photocopy the whole match, but the concept of the game should fundamentally be followed. Highlanders, How Mine, Dynamos and Caps United of the Castle Lager Premier League played a close resemblance of the game.
Pirates and Chiefs did not play the way the Dutch or Germany played, but it showed they followed the modern trends of the game. If the rest of the ABSA Premier League teams and the National First Division follow the same pattern, the South African football can be said to have come of age. One hopes that it only gets better.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Highlanders lose crucial points to Bantu as Dynamos blast Caps

Highlanders Football Club failed to score for the first time at Barbourfields Stadium this season when they locked horns with city rivals, Bantu Rovers. Bosso played a subdued match, coming under excessive pressure in a match many consider the fading giant lucky to come out with a point.

Bantu Rovers did their homework and dominated the match as they exploited the left wing where Bosso were found wanting. The Highlanders defence fought hard to deal with a Bantu striker and could not construct a move to open their opponents defence. The stalemate favoured Bantu as it was a point gained while Amahlolanyama would consider two points lost.
Dynamos came from behind to score twice in the second half. Caps United had taken an early lead but failed to stretch that lead out of reach for the Harare rivals. The Green Machine wasted numerous first half chances and they were punished in the later stages of the match.
It took a few minutes for the equaliser to come as poor marking characterised Caps defence. The goalkeeper was also at fault as he came off the goal-line for an acrobatic atempt to fly past his head.
Lack of pressure on the ball and lousy marking sealed the Dembare victory as a deflected shot was not cleared by the defenders. The second attempt whistled past the goalkeeper into the net to seal the victory.
Highlanders’ lead on the  Castle Lager Premier Soccer League table was reduced to a single point.

Ephraim Shakes Mashaba is Bafana Bafana Coach. Hit or Miss?

The SAFA House is occupied by people who take the country, their jobs and the national team very seriously. Black or white, foreign or not, many thought this had no bearing on the choice of the South African national team coach. It mattered a lot. South Africa needed to recapture its football soul and play diski the only we know how.

The previous coach, Gordon Igesund did a very good job for the team after he took over from Pitso Mosimane. Danny Jordaan came to lead the national association that had taken a direction to win now and at all costs. He made it his mission to development structures from the bottom, and to implement a possibly less popular youth policy.
By looking into the future, Jordaan seemed to pull the plug off the reasonably successful tenure of GI. Regardless of who led Bafana at that point in time, they would not add any value to the team and their play. An overhaul seemed harsh but it was necessary. The team could not score goals as the current crop of players lacked basic technique of movement with and without the ball as well as shooting.
Now that Shakes Mashaba is back after a few flirts with the senior team in the last decade, SAFA made a brave functional choice in choosing the current Under-20. After that educated choice, the national association has to close one yawning and serious gap now. They need to forget about the Kaizer Chiefs’ Stuart Baxter and hire Gordon Igesund as the Technical Director of SAFA. Many confuse this post to one connected to the national team.

This post is a FIFA requirement for general football development matters. Merging GI’s experience and progress with Bafana and the new regime of Mashaba’s roadmap, the two will have a common destination. There can never be a better combination, as Mashaba will have nothing to change from GI’s way of playing.
What ESM brings to the team is fresh, younger and motivated set of players who have not tasted too much disappointment or have been called ‘a bunch of losers’. As a national youth team coach, many of the players under his wing already aspire to don the senior team jerseys. The GI mandate should be delivering technically mature players from the grassroots.
In my article regarding development structures, I wondered if there was a system to supply these tournaments with well-coached layers. I questioned support for the players ineligible for the next tournament. A man of GI’s calibre will be wary of that and with the SAFA President’s idea of developing the game from bottom, South Africa’s game is going places.
The results may not be come straight away, but in two to six years, there will be an obvious direction of things. Not that Shakes is the best coach in the country, but his selection speaks volume of the intentions of the organisation. There are ample structures to support the man at the helm. This is the best choice of coach by the National Executive Committee of SAFA.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Are CAF courses worthwhile?

With Jarcqi Shipanga, Brave Gladiators coach and CAF Instructor
Since the Confederation of African Football decided to follow the global trend of licencing coaches based on the common UEFA pattern, many countries implemented the licensing system and afforded coaches the CAF C, B and A qualifications. I am personally at the beginning of that chain despite the fact that I qualified for some equivalent.

My personal observation, having attended the best in South America and in Europe, is that all the course material is the same. What the system does is to equip coaches with uniform qualification based on the elementary, intermediate and advanced coaching material, most of which matches UEFA and FIFA modules very closely at each level.

What happened before, as I went through all the different level materials meant for the CAF licenses, is that what I taught as Level 1 and 2 was regarded as Level 3 or 4 (Advanced) in some countries and even in the current set-up. Regardless of where one acquires their badges in Africa, there will be a certain degree of understanding of their knowledge, aptitude and understanding, provided they started with the current system.

In attending the courses from the low level, the challenge is the interaction and even the examinations. Does one participate to the best of their knowledge and ability, or stoop low as a novice? Both scenarios have a danger. One does not want to be correctly answering each and every question and arguing the basics that are not necessarily correct at a higher level. That can extremely annoy the instructor big time.

To also take a back seat and let others digest the course material and assimilate all the data can be boring as well as raise question marks about your credibility, because the course directors and instructors have your CV, which they suspect you doctored anyway.

That is not helped by the examination time as the candidates begin to wonder on the requirements at that level. How much details suffices or is inadequate, is a source of another headache when writing the examinations or doing the practicals. The battle is fighting the urge to provide TMI (Too Much Information) yet providing relevant information and coaching.

One common aspect at different stages of learning is in mathematics. One divided by four in lower grades, the answer is; it can’t. At a higher level, things change. This is the dilemma of working at lower levels.

National associations have been asked to run ‘equivalent course’ for those coaches with foreign certificates or extensive prior experience as coaches or players. This noble idea had holes in it. Equivalent course students write examinations, in most cases, it is oral. Missing some bits of class makes a mammoth difference. The answers to their questions include the material from the level of the course of their ‘equivalent’.  

Otherwise, it is great to see the continent trying to bring at par all colleagues, and that parity is aimed at bridging the gap with Europe’s best. CAF Pro is being drafted and should be in line with the UEFA Pro. CAF and UEFA are working on the syllabus and the instructors for these courses.

This is Africa and those responsible for running the courses are less likely to freely help people they think will take their positions. (Who cares about positions?). If you are somewhere out of the ordinary, you will have to hassle big time, but good luck. See you in the next class.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Why Mpumalanga Black Aces does not belong to Mpumalanga. This is a game of numbers

Mpumalanga Black Aces break my heart as they belong to Gauteng. They have a Witbank name, a Johannesburg base and a Nelspruit home ground. How come? MBA spent a few First Division One seasons in Emalahleni, sometimes sharing the training facilities with archrivals, Witbank Spurs. That did not end on that clash of interests.

After the promotion to the bigger league, the kraal became too small for the two bulls. Besides, Amaziyoni wanted class and the training grounds and facilities were not first class. The Puma Stadium did not meet their professional standards. The MBA owners’ response to that need was to renovate and expand.

The custodians of the stadium were in no mood to permit that, as many stakeholders were involved, including the rugby community. Speculation has it that the local Municipality’s response to the request for land to develop a new facility did not go well. It is not clear if the land was available to start with.

Let us do the numbers now. Mpumalanga as a province has about 3 000 000 people, with Witbank accounting for about 322 000. Compare that to 2 000 000 Namibians and bear in mind that the capital city, Windhoek, whose population is around 295 000.

Witbank, and indeed Mpumalanga has no ABSA Premier Soccer League team, while Windhoek has 9 Namibia Premier League teams, 7 Division One team, 12 Second Division teams. Emalahleni and the whole of Mpumalanga has only Witbank Spurs in Division One. There are only 3 ABC Motsepe Second Division teams in the city and 38 SAB Third Division teams in the region. These numbers do not add up.

Maybe it is not about number, as these are exciting football times. As much as figures do not lie, they lie. If numbers are anything to go by, China and India would win all Fifa World Cups. Brazil would have won the latest version because they have around 20 million registered professionals playing in their 21 states and overseas.

How much you believe in that, I leave it up to you, but the issue close to my heart worries me about the communities’ ability to build homegrown town heroes. The small cities lost many cult heroes to bigger towns for obvious reasons. The playing ground being a little level, the population is content to sit out and live the past. This also brings the subject of yesterday; the foreign coaches in our national team.
While mentioning over 20 000 A Licence coaches from Spain, Germany and France, Danny Jordaan should be delivering a local coach, given his numbers that South Africa has 67 of them. Supposedly, the 32 coaches are involved with local PSL and NFD teams, one each for Amagluglug, Amajita, Amajimbos, Banyana Banyana, Basetsana and so forth. It means there is still over 27 over qualified coaches in either lower leagues or unemployed.

Anyway, the stadium is rarely occupied when Spurs plays their home games. We are sometimes unaware that they play at home. The marketing can be better but that is subject for another day. The point is that unless Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates are in town, there is never soccer fever because there are no home town heroes like Frank Makua or Dumisa Ngobe anymore.

When push came to shove, Port Elizabeth imported pride at a good cost. I believe Emalahleni could have taken a leaf from the act of bravery shown by the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality. They courted Chippa United, attracting them to move from Cape Town.

That savvy business move to PE is rumoured to be subject to R35 million exchanging hands. The Municipality knew the benefits that came with multi-million rand deal. Of course, Chippa United scored a good buck too.

Just as scrupulous, the Maritzburg Municipality realised the business potential of having a PSL team at their doorstep. Actually, rumour has it that Maritzburg United were the first choice team for the NMBM but their local City Fathers got wind of the news and hijacked the project. They counter offered their rivals and landed the deal. At the end of the day, both Municipalities got their fish and both Chippa and Maritzburg United smiled all the way to the bank.

You may be wondering where this is going. Emalahleni Municipality could have paid less for what the two other municipalities did for the same product. Mpumalanga Black Aces may be now looking for the same deal with them or any other suitor. The City Fathers could have upgraded the facilities to the required standards, or built new ones for the benefit of this team and the new ones coming up.

The City will have many more teams in both the Premier League and First Division and soon. The facilities are needed as a matter of urgency.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The future Bafana Bafana coach - African or not, or it does not matter?

Football administrators of Africa, take solace, you are not alone. At the end of the 2014 Fifa World Cup, half of the coaches who took teams there lost their jobs. Some had been with their teams for a long time while others reaped what they never sowed. Noble is the idea that teams look to set up structures leading to the next tournament, Russia 2018.

Look, Germany used the long standing Jurgen Klinsman’s assistant, Joachim Loew as head coach over two Fifa World Cups, seeing his project to fruition. Brazil appointed Dunga as a successor to his predecessor, well almost. Filipe Scolari replaced Mano Menezes whose short stinct followed that of the former captain after the elimination from the 2010 Fifa World Cup. Dunga had replaced Scolari prior to that.

If the Big Phil was not good enough then, what had changed? After that Dunga dismissal for poor performance, what has since changed? Time will tell, but among the 200 milion football crazy population, is there no one with the ability to take them to another level? I thought such impulsive behaviour was patented by Africans.

Given that South Africa will be announcing their own coach at the weekend, one wonders who that lucky guy is. Danny Jordaan speaks the language and I have always admired him and took him as one who walks that talk. SAFA never gave an official list of candidates under considerations and speculation is awash with foreigners.

That can only be security for failure to win the 2018 Russia Fifa World Cup as the championship is ever won by teams with indigenous coaches. In any case, the majority of nations enjoyed better success with home grown coaching stuff.

South Africa’s own records tell the tale, notably the only AFCON victory of 1996 under Clive Barker. Up north, Zimbabwe hired and paid handsome sums to expats, but it took Sunday Marimo in 2004 and Charles Mhlauri in 2006 to take the Warriors to AFCON.

Further north, the same happened with Malawi. TheFlames qualified for AFCON in 1984 under Henry Moyo and with Kinnah Phiri in 2010. Ghana has won the tournament four times, with a local coach guiding the team on all the four occasions.

The most successful football team in the AFCON history is Egypt who won the trophy seven times, mainly with local coaches. Ali Hassan Shehata did so thrice in succession from 2006, 2008 until 2010 when a foreign coach I regarded highly took them to the doldrums. The list of successful stories is endless.

What then makes the non-African coaches attractive given their poor record? They train in the same countries and do the courses that the Africans attend. The course contents are the same and many do not outperform local coaches in these courses anyway.

There is a school of thought that players offer greater respect to foreigners, particularly whites. If true, it means the administrators hiring these coaches subscribe to the same mentality. My observation has been that they are revered by the bosses and whatever these coaches say or need goes. Little attention is given to the requirements of locals. That attitude eats away the respect the players have for the coach.

Players need someone knowledgeable. Their confidence in their coach lies nowhere but in the oozing proficiency of the professional. If the president and secretary of the association take their man lightly, so will the players. As much as the salaries are a confidential issue, the players know. The peanuts that the African coaches get erode any respect the players have for the coach.

One muted idea of having a foreign coach boarded around the respect and fear the African referees have for the whites. If the match officials are that stupid, it could be better to import them from overseas. During a final qualifier between Cameroon and Zimbabwe in Younde, the year 1994, one Reinhard Fabisch got incensed by the obvious biased officiating and tore a $100 bill in-front of the commissioner, earning himself a hefty fine coupled with a suspension.

His white skin could not even earn a draw that Zimbabwe needed to kiss the USA ’94 tournament. The continent has always been encouraged to emancipate itself from mental slavery as none but itself can free its mind. However, the destruction of its football has been its quest for glory and its poverty.  

There is always doubt over the quality of coaches who come to Africa from Europe. They do not make the cut in the leagues that matter, the league where the best of African players ply their trades. It is in these leagues, where the African coaches who believe in their abilities, break the banks and pay for the tuition and flights to acquire the same knowledge, and then come to Africa and remain redundant.

Locally, in Gavin Hunt, Roger De Sa and Pitso Mosemane, Bafana would be well catered for. The South Africa media usually plot the downfall of local coaches, the same way the English destroy their own Three Lions. There are a few more South Africans with the ability to take charge of the team, provided they are armed with the authority to control every detail of the team by the association.

If the continent’s best players can fit in any team in the world, so can the coaches. The world is not ready, and will never be ready to afford an African coach a Manchester United, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or Juventus job. There shall never be a time in the history of human life when Shakes Mashaba, Riccardo Mannet, Norman Mapeza or Jamhuri Kihwelo will be considered to coach England or Spain. Never.

African associations must bring in extremely qualified and knowledgeable coach educators from abroad to uplift the upcoming coaching and desist from their reliance on the expat coaches. Given that coaches are the most recyclable items on the planet, it may be the joy to pull people down, as results have nothing to do with denying locals opportunities as head national coaches.

The Zimbabwe football is horrible, terrible

The Zimbabwean football is horrible. Terrible. At the beginning of the Castle Lager Premier League season, I went and watched a league match, a third round clash of a team that was runners-up to the champions twice in a row, playing against well-assembled debutants with an experienced coach, at their home-ground. Weeks later, I watched a televised One Wallet Cup matches when the cream of the country battled it out for a health kitty. What a nightmare, and I am not talking about the embarrassing torn goal nets.

It could be that I made comparisons between the recent 2014 Fifa World Cup matches and the Castle Lager League matches in question, but Oh boy! Even then, I watched South African third division matches in between and I could get the sense that the boys were young and amateurish in their approach but tactically mature.

Highlanders, Dynamos and Caps United are the country’s finest. How Mine are newbies but they traded blows with the continent’s best in the CAF championships. First, it was Highlanders and How Mine playing football on a bad pitch. Both teams hit the ball on sight. They ballooned and blasted the ball around to any direction. They ran, huffed and puffed.

One can advocate for such behaviour in the defensive areas, where you are forgiven to believe that anywhere away from the goal is good enough. That type of football tactics in the preparation zone can never be on. Highlanders midfielders failed to control the ball in midfield. They could not pass the ball to the next available person. Off the ball, they never peeled off from their markers to free themselves. Ball control was a big handicap.

The direct ball from the goalkeeper and the defence to the attacking penalty area characterised How Mine’s game. They tried to pick up a tall striker they did not have. Even with very tall Peter Crouch or Nikola Zigic, that type of play in a top league anywhere in the world is illegal. Vision, accuracy, penetration and decision-making were non-existent.

Dynamos and Caps United also played the type of football that Argentina needed to play in Italia ’90 when they had the racing Cladio Canigia. What was positive about Dembare vs Kepekepe fixture was that, they had the strength and condition to kick long and hard. The ball bounced high from the hard and dry ground, and the players jumped and duelled positively to head the ball.

The match lacked the time and space to control the ball and play it on the ground between teammates. That killed all tactical behaviour of both teams and turned into a very tight and competitive kick and run contest. The two teams spent the afternoon with their eyes elevated to the skies looking at the ball, hoping it would drop next to them. Physios must have attended to many neck injuries.

At one point, it was compelling to assume the teams were playing tricks on the spectators and the TV cameras. What bothered that line of thought was the enthusiasm and energy by which that was being implemented.

Playing a match at full speed without much thought in trying to pry open the opposition threw out of the window the concept of football being an invasion game. Armies never approach war that way. Not all weapons are clandestinely tossed with abandon to the enemies.

One great army general of all time, Shaka Zulu, employed in his warfare two famous strategies relevant to the game. His protective shield was long enough to do its job yet being portable. The spear was redesigned to be short enough to stab. This single aspect meant that the war was literally taken to the enemy. The spears were not hurled to the enemy as that restocked enemy resources and arsenal.

Shaka ensured that his army’s inventory after each attack remained intact. The soldiers reported back with a full complement of the shield and the assegai to initiate the next attack. To make his point, he killed his own men, if they lost any or both.

The second well-known tactical set-up of the strategy was the cow-horn formation. Meant to surprise the enemies, he had the front pathfinders who got the attention of the enemies. The right and left wings encircled the opposition and the whole force pressed in from the front middle and butchered them.

That is the exact concept of playing the game of football. The two matches in question never tried to recreate that scenario. That lack of patterns, patience and plan made it a terrible spectacle. There may be factors that influenced the performances. League encounters may be a different kettle of fish when compared to Cup games and tournaments.  

The standard of the game in Zimbabwe may be deteriorating, because I have watched games from that country during the days of Joel Shambo, Stix Mutizwa, Shaky Tauro and Stanley Ndunduma of Caps United. These played found time to juggle the ball under the monitor of tough defenders like Alexander Maseko, Francis Shonhayi and Sunday Marimo. Shakeman scored with ease and accuracy of the highest level under immense pressure.

Highlanders had great players who played excellent fast, passing football in the likes of Willard Khumalo, Makheyi Nyathi, Benjamin Nkonjera and Madinda Ndlovu. Khumalo was known as the galloping General as he shielded the ball, galloped twice or thrice before making an incisive pass. Dynamos played with great confidence when they had Memory Mucherawowa, Clayton Munemo, Kenneth Jere and the like. They ran rings around teams and controlled matches at will. It may not be fair to make that comparison given that it was a different era, but from that point on, one expected ascendancy.

Zimbabwe has the best quality of players in Central and Southern Africa. The individuals are well groomed and motivated to perform, though not as cultured as the Zambians and the Congolese. That is why from George Nechironga, Gilbert Mushangazhike, Benjamin Mwariwaru to Tinashe Nengomashe, Ezrom Nyandoro, Knowledge Musona and Cheche Billiart, we have seen the best of Zimbabwean players influencing the direction of the South African football.

What then is the problem of the pathetic showing? Methinks the coaching has gone down. The best left the country for ventures in Botswana, Swaziland and overseas. Others left the game altogether. It is never easy for the current crop of coaches to access the resources to utilise latest technique training and follow tactic trends.

Their game gets amateurish frequently and rapidly as desperate players seek to attract attention for contracts outside the borders by trying to be too individualistic. The dire economic situation means there is no money for anything. The football administration lacks quality leadership as the thin corporate world shuns associating with perceived corruption at club level.

Is there a way out? Maybe not out, but for sure there is a way forward. That country recently held a CAF A Licence that they claimed I could not qualify for, being a foreigner. (CAF is for Africans, which is why Namibia enrolled me for one CAF Licence without all the drama.) The training of coaches brings the level playing ground for all teams as the standardised training and implementation of modern methods serves the league.

The country has to identify the philosophy and style of play to be followed by schools, the youth and the top tier teams. The clubs and their owners need to understand that the ‘winning at all cost’ mentality will never help their teams but will surely kill their football completely. Booting the ball all over the show in fear of playing proper football dries the spectatorship levels in the stadia and television. Sponsors will pull the plugs on the existing deals and those outside will never wish to associate with the game.

Sponsors want to associate with a quality product that consumers appreciate and get attracted to. Unfortunately, players running for the same ball, bumping into each other and falling down after clashes, rising from the fall and then blasting the ball to another set of players to do the same cannot be appetising. It is worse if the ball is completely missed as players hit air balloons.

At the midway stage of the league, the Castle Lager Premier League should be showing signs of maturity with players stepping on the ball, picking up teammates with pinpoint passes, neat overlaps and third man runs. The clear plan to achieve an objective must be there for all to see. Goal creation and intent must obviously be priority at club level before anyone laments about the national team. At least, for now, the league top striker has netted 10 times with 50% of the matches to go.

One South African observer claimed that the cream of Zimbabwean players is in South Africa. That does not hold much water because from my observation, RSA televised Varsity football proved a notch better. Many players in that league play in the SAB League, a division three platform, which is a fourth tier league of the country. Those players are not technical close to the Zimbabweans, but they are tactically superior.

The game is in the intensive care unit and a lot needs to be done there. Albert Einstein once said, 'Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds', but a spade is a spade and let the work begin.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

South Africa Football Play-Offs; The Good and the Bad

We posted about the debacle of the African football game a few posts ago. Since, I went to watch the SAB National Championship at the North West University in Mafikeng, an under-21 tournament for players assumed to ply their trades in the South African fourth tier league (3rd Division). The games should be followed by an offseason, then a pre-season for 2014/15 period. One expects the leagues to resume after August 2014.

In the same vein, I tried to make my way to a last Safa Second Division Mpumalanga match featuring Kwazi Football Club and Phiva Young Stars. Phiva needed a draw or a win to clinch the provincial title that will send them to Durban for the play-offs. Winning the SSD play-offs is a ticket to the professional National First Division. Appoll X1 waited eagerly for the outcome as they topped the league. It turns out Kwazi did not turn up and the points were awarded to Phiva, but Appollo still think there is a bone to chew. 

Now, after the end of the season one NFD team has been sold and bought. Siyavutha FC of Mpumalanga changed hands and relocated to KwaZulu Natal. They managed to sign high quality players, hire and fire a coach already. They have the second set of a technical team. This team will compete with Phiva Young Stars, if they win the SSD play-offs. Royal Eagles, as Siyavutha are now known, are in pre-season while the Stars still have to beef up their squad for the NFD with the left overs of all other NFD teams. Then they will have to assemble a technical team and enter into a pre-season and then enter the bigger league.

In all this, where is parity? Is the planning adequate on the part of SAFA in terms of dealing with the SSD fixture that delayed to completion of the league, ABSA Premier Soccer League who have to accept and assimilate the SSD champions into their ranks as the custodians of the National First Division and Phiva Young Stars who still have to get funding, players and coaches for the NFD? Stars do not have much choice in the matter, but it is within their rights to be rendered adequate and proper pre-season preparation.

FIFA claim that they stand for ‘Football Is For All’, that it must be played and enjoyed by all, anywhere anytime, but is it? How many players in your area are registered at each age-group? Who are the responsible people for development? What programmes are in place for youth development and talent identification? If you are unaware or you have no interest in this, you are not a football person.

Regional office and local football association must furnish all regarding;
(1). list of top coaches and which clubs they belong to.
(2). all qualified coaches and their level of qualifications.
(3). regional database of best players in all age groups.
(4). school teachers who coach and their qualifications.
(5). coaching course instructors available and their qualifications and level of instruction.

Besides the database of coaches in all the leagues under the control of the offices, the development programs for 2014/15, courses for coaches, referees, administrators as well as Sports Medicine and the dates needs to be availed for public consumption. One cannot be a football person without the knowledge of structures available in their town and region. The people responsible for each of these should be known and be accessible public figures. Coaches will need to know those responsible for organising and running the courses, and how are the courses are organised.

Questions about the incentive and motivation for players and coaches in youth structures so as to attract competent coaches to coach the youths is essential, as the coaches needs to embrace development plan and implement it. Lower  leagues need enough competent coaches at every level as the Germans and other countries do. The competence of referees in these leagues and the referee development plan cannot be over-emphasised. It is common to overlook the competent Sports Medicine people and most of the time, nothing is done about it.

One can set themselves a target to find out, but the more they try, the harder they can fail. Go to your nearest football office and ask for any football database in Africa or any of the information above. As much as the Federation of International Football Associations preach ‘For the good of the Game’ one gets lucky to have public information public. It could be that it is never available, but either way, the responsible brothers make it classified information. It must be declassified and become public knowledge.

Colonisation ate our core and brainwashed us to abuse authority ignorantly or deliberately. The responsibility of amassing the data and information comes with the obligation to distribute and broadcast the same. Entrusted with public office, the bearers serve the masses for the benefit of the players of the game, coaches, managers, fans and all. The continent misses a system that can be availed to anyone at any time, whatever the reason.

I read several Technical Master Plans of many countries online. Strong and sound worded, but the materialisation of those remains afar off. The implementation either lacks funds or is entrusted to wrong people whose interests are to protect their offices and positions. Football is a business and bad products must be removed from the production lines and the processes terminated.

The African continent exports footballers overseas. As discussed in other pages, they perform well and become cult heroes in foreign lands, yet that does not translate to any success on the pitch on the motherland. The continent suffers from the natural wealth haemorrhage of the colonial past. That should be bad enough. However, given the football administrations’ international high profile flops, they remain innocent until proven guilty, and who is the jury? Them. Africa will forever remain the world laughing stock.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Did Pep Guardiola have anything to do with Germany’s World Cup triumph?

To confuse you further in the debate of the success of Germany in the 2014 Fifa World Cup, I throw doubts in your beliefs about the greatness of one Pep Guardiola. Sunday Oliseh even says that Tiki Taka is alive and sound., a point I greatly dispute. Few claim Die Mannshcaft went through the back door to have Beyern Munich hire Guardiola so he can coach the nine players in their squad to play the Barcelona way.  The theory is noble given that 2010 Fifa World Cup champions, Spain had Pep’s nine players from Barcelona. To the preachers of that gospel, that is not coincidence.

I will take you to the days before the Backlays English Premier League. Nottingham Forest was coached by Brian Clough. Many dubbed him useless as a coach and manager. His team ran on a shoestring budget. He relegated and promoted that team perpetually for over half a decade. He built a team and destroyed it. Built it up and destroyed over and over.

Pepe inherited a Frank Rikjaard Barcelona that was already playing a philosophy set up by Johan Cryuff of Holland. Cryuff introduced the system earlier, the Dutch football that Ruud Gullit tried to employ at Chelsea when he prescribed it as ‘sexy football’. Guardiola did a great job in maintaining a legacy that had lived and will live for many years longer. Those players had been doing the same thing, with a few more foreign contingent than they did with Pep. Rikjaard and Guardiola both played for Barcelona previously.

The former Barca captain took over treble winning Jupp Henynckes Bayern Munich side. The later coached a team left by both Andreas Jonker and Loius van Gaal. The influence of Pep was visible in many Munich matches, and some Germany matches. Prior to Guardiola’s arrival, Bayern dismembered the Spanish giants in the UEFA Champions League, proving their superiority and fluidity. How easy it is to say he brought a wholesome change to the squad and to Germany national as a whole. Both these clubs, Barca and Munich, had funds to buy anyone they wanted, anyone who played the way they loved.

Without much need to compare Jose Mourinho, who won the Portuguese championship and UEFA Champions League with little known Porto, Brian Clough who yo-yoed Nottingham Forest, Harry Redknapp who saved Tottenham Hotspur from relegation and took them to UEFA Champions League pinnacle in a couple seasons, one has to look at the margins of success and the resources. Keeping firm on what is there is a lot easier than building anything from the ground.

As for Germany playing Tiki Taka football, I am not yet converted. The Chileans put to death Spain. If Spain come back anytime soon, it could be a different story, but to say Germany Tiki Taka-ed, is a little bit over the top. They moved and passed the ball well. They had a plan in place before Pep arrived. Their game revolved around the quick recovery and long retention of the ball. The crisp one touch passing to open defences was never their strength. The biggest weapon in their arsenal was the mentality of stay strong and focused. The aggression in combats and transition was complemented by the precision passing and efficient goal scoring.

The table below will illustrate how playing too many needless passes was almost fatal for Germany. The Germany struggled against Ghana, only benefitting from the Africans’ na├»ve play. They survived the Algerian scare as the fasting Arabs succumbed to their nutritional demands of extra time. As for Italy and Spain, we all know their fate. They were not so fortunate.

GROUPS STAGE TEAM STATISTICS

#
NUMBER OF PASSES BY TEAMS
TOTAL
AVERAGE
1
Germany
1934
645
2
Spain
1913
638
3
Italy
1735
578
4
Argentina
1694
565
5
France
1576
525

 

Given these first-round statistics, France, Argentina and Germany benefited by going through to the next round. At a later stage, one can guess the champions had a field day of passing against a pedestrian Brazilian side. If one uses that data to claim Tiki Taka is alive, there can never be a misleading statistic. For the propagation and perpetuation of the name, and not concept, what Germany played can be accepted as a positive variant of Tiki Taka, the game both Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund played to reach the 2013 UEFA Champions League final.

Remember that Tiki-Taka is football characterised by short passing and movement, working the ball through various channels and, most importantly, maintaining possession. Germany maintained possession well without moving the ball with short quick passes through various channels. They made efficient use of that possession and made it count, sometimes against all odds.

The Barcelona type of football would equal to walking the ball into the net as they intrinsically weaved the passes in the 12-yard box until the goal-line. Save for corner-kicks and goal melee scrambles, that did not characterise the Germany goals in the 2014 Brazil Fifa World Cup. A little more similar aspect of their game was winning the ball as high as possible, especially where they lost it. This made them dangerously pounce vehemently and attack simultaneously before the opposition defence organised themselves.

Many coaches and managers find teams like Barcelona and Bayern Munich and take them to the doldrums. The genius of Guardiola made sure such never happened. To credit Spanish and Germany titles to the man is a little too generous. If there are coaches worthy of Fifa World Cup praise, can’t we look at Joachim Loew, Alejandro Pasella, Louis van Gaal and Jurgen Klinsman? also in their successful 2012/2013 treble run. There could be some truth in that but then they were more defensive-conscious and played most of the passes in their own half.

It his analysis, Oliseh noted that German goalkeeper ‘Manuel Neuer and central defenders Hummels and Boateng were the initiators of most attacks and a passing game that averaged 645 passes in a game’, scoring 17 goals in six games (a goal every 34 minutes), with 64 attempts at goal. All Germany reaped was fruits of a work that began with the squad which campaigned in 2010 South Africa Fifa World Cup, when Diego Maradona asked Muller if he was a ball boy. It was their grand plan after the failure to deliver in 24 years, not the mastermind of the great Pep Guardiola.

As for Tiki Taka, until its revival in the future, it is gone. We welcome the trend of the new world order in football, a fast paced forward moving game based on quick transition by fore-checking and crossing into the prime target areas. The Spanish football has proved it passed its usefulness, being nothing more that romance in the child-bearing process.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The African football debacle

Maybe South Africa, Mali, Zambia, Burkina Faso or Zimbabwe could have won the 2014 Brazil FifaWorld Cup, had they hired Joachim Loew, Alejandro Pasella or Louis van Gaal. I am certain The Super Eagles of Nigeria or The Elephants of Cote D’Ivoire could have been champions if they stayed, played and worked in Germany under Joachim Leow since, at least, 2002.
You can take to the bank the fact that Phillip Lahm, Toni Kroos, Manuel Neuer and crew could have delayed their flight to Brazil for the World Cup and fought on the pitch, had they been under the banner and authority of Cameroon Football Association.
 
Lionel Messi, Higuain, Mascherano, Lavezzi and the squad could have received their money sent from Accra by plane, had they been under the control of Ghana. I am under no illusion that Stephen Keshi, John Appiah, Gordon Igusand or even Keutsepilemang Ndebele for that matter, could have reached the final of the 2014 Fifa World Cup in Brazil with Die Mannschaft under the Germany administration.
 

Where lays the African football problem?  Regardless, all African coaches lose their jobs in preference to the knowledgeable and expensive expatriate coaches. The African football system is sinking. One learns from the best, the champions.
Germany today rules the world football today because of a class of players they manufactured. I handed over a programme to identify and nurture some talent for the 2006 and 2010 Fifa World Cup to some country’s association as a thirty year old some years back. I still have copies, but as you as well know, they are now as useful and cryptic scrolls with the language of the aliens.

All countries claim to have developmental structures and programmes; South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia included. Mzansi have a fair share of structures in place, but these are very much mediocre and unproductive. The funding is satisfactory but it could be better. The problem is that not many people who need to be hands-on are involved. The other issue is that the programme promotes events than processes. Information dissemination is really bad.

In Zimbabwe, the structures are solid and one can easily put their fingers on the pulse, from schools to the clubs. Organised school programmes cater for all according to their abilities to deliver. Clubs depend on these development sides they call juniors to usher new talent. Few lazy teams get to the market every now and then while their products are supped by the other teams who cannot afford to splash cash.
Some clubs find themselves answering calls from suitors each year. Potential superstars are known and their ripe date gets eagerly waited. The weekly fixtures, results and logs are available for the public at the Notice Boards at the offices, in the print media, electronic media and social networks. Hence, the influx of players to the ABSA Premier League, and most of the imports from there have dominated the league.

The story is almost similar in Namibia and the common factor with Zimbabwe is limited funding. One walks into the national office and requests the database with regional players in all age groups.
The regional structures have a direction to follow, although few still need further persuasion. Lack of implementation is one thing, and availability another. The structures are there, and the people have access to what they need. People on the ground may lack the motivation to work, but they are aware what to do and where to seek help. Above all, that help is available. The availability of information in South Africa is a cause for concern.

Players identified in tournaments the previous year fade into oblivion the following year. Few privileged ones, not necessarily the best, due to the geographical or social proximity, will always be in the limelight. These get to centres of excellence or the High Performance Centre. There is no class of players expected to be the ‘real Bafana Bafana’ of tomorrow. This system causes players get discovered at 23, 25 and even 27.
At 17, it is too late to be ‘discovered’. Players must be identified and grilled at 6, 8 or 10. The only way to keep track of them is to have a useful database and keep following until they are national team material and keep coaching the national philosophy, that is, how they are expected to play as national team players. The national game gets a brand and identity style of play from that early age.

In this context, as all clubs around the world know, there is an understanding of the general change of heart and lack of interest by the youth as they pass through adolescence. Some decide against pursuing football and prefer other sports, other stop sports altogether and specialise in academics to be doctors, lawyers and the like. The associations and clubs incur expenses for a lost cause in such cases, but weighing the pros and cons, they are better expecting the best in each case.
All said and done, the data information should ever be available to the public, parents and coaches for case studies, for developmental use, for training relevant personnel, sourcing of sponsorship and many other reasons. The future superstars get used to being popular and abosb the pressure of playing in the big stage early. They tend to be better hometown heroes and locals eagerly await their arrival and watch them in stadia.

As it is, many top league teams in South Africa play in empty stadia. Nobody ever knows the involved players, as they are not part of the known community. DJs are more popular than players are. Yet the country claims football is a religion.
Someone elsewhere is happy with the calamity and debacle of the African game. Few will celebrate a true African champion. The plastic smiles will hide the resentment of the coming of age of the sleeping giant. It can be confirmed that this is one sleeping giant that will never wake up, thanks to its own people.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What the 2014 Fifa World Cup tells the world - Tiki Taka, Samba are dead and buried.

The 2014 Brazil Fifa World Cup came and went. Germany vanquished all and sundry and made history by becoming the first European country to do in South America. Amongst many firsts and surprises you already know, there was a question of the death of Samba football. Many think it never existed. The claim is that Brazil ever thrived on one many talents (once in a while two or three). The truth of that could be the hosts’ failure to perform without Neymar. The famous 7-1 loss is the tip of that iceberg.  That was supported by Argentina’s lack of sting if Messi got eliminated tactically. In truth, that Argentinian team was below par given an array of talent within the squad. All Germany did, was to eradicate his influence and then pounced and snatched the 2014 World Cup title from under their nose. Enough of the South American disaster.

In this exceptional extravaganza, Tiki Taka football proved dead and buried. When Barcelona failed in the UEFA Champions League and flunked in the L Liga race, alarm bells rang and the flashing lights beaconed. It never made headlines for sentimental reasons, until Spain came and proved the fact. The converted, the believers in the philosophy still think there is life, that it can still be taken to the intensive care unit and be resuscitated. One can be hopeful and claim that Spain were just ‘victory fatigued’.

Barcelona won too much in the last few years, so did Spain. Basically, the two (Barca and Spain) are more or less the same thing. Vicente Del a Bosque lacked motivation. After the 2-10 South Africa Fifa World Cup victory, he should have resigned. The new coach would have inspired the old warhorses. For the glory and employment reasons, he must have stayed, a noble idea. In that case, he should have overhauled that team. Having the World Cup medal, European championship medal, the UEFA Champions League and Club World Cup medal, I would never break a sweat, let alone a leg. Only the foolish would expect that anyway, that is why Spain left early for home.

Italy always present themselves as tough customers in any situation. After the horrible 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa were they were eliminated on the first round, few would bet against their resurgence. They have the quality of Andre Pirlo and Mario Balotelli to name just two. The former champions became the centre of attraction with their football and the discipline and defensive behaviour and pressing of their football godfather, Arrigo Sacchi. The 3-1 loss to Costa Rica embarrassed them, ushering the Azzuri through the shameful exit door for the second World Cup on the trot. It could have been they dwelt much on that, forgot to mould forward movements associated with modern football.

One could argue that Pirlo’s age had adverse effects, but he stood between the Italians and bad defeats many times. One thing best left alone, is the racist Italian football community. Balotelli never got the support of the ball supply needed to make an impact. This is not to say that his blackness had anything to do with it, but with a single quality pass, fortunes could have been changed. One must note that a record equalling 171 goals were scored in Brazil, proving the offensive modern game. Pressing remains the single most important tactic as proven by the champions, Germany.   

English football organisation and preparation proved insufficient. Talent and experience in imbalanced proportions became their downfall. The English Premier League quality came under the microscope. Given the touting as the best league, the team never measured up, neither did any team with a good measure of players plying their trade there. Belgium were one example of a team littered with talent gracing the Backlays English Premier League. They flattered to deceive. Few teams would relish the prospects of facing the team with Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling, Buckley, Lallana, Bailey and the like. Friendly matches do not demand the best of the teams.

Based on that fact alone, misjudging the capabilities of performance is the biggest setback. That team needed to go through the mill and face adversaries and adversities to mature. Until then, with all the razz mataz of the most watched league in the world, England will remain the laughing stock of the World Cups. Roy Hodgson started an excellent project which I think some else need to take to the next level, and now. One of the best qualities of the Englsih Football Association, is their poor choice of managers. From where I am sitting, they will let Hodgson stick it out, fatally blowing their chances away. As good as he is, he may not have the energy to transmit to the young Three Lions.

African talent counts for nought as maladministration reigns. The worst part of it is that the continent is proud of it. The way the football associations compete to display their folly is mind-boggling. As if that, the duels to portray the incompetence at top level had top prize money, the single mindedness and total focus on self-destruction, generation after generation, cannot be compared with anything in hell or earth. The continent boasts of top athletes in top leagues. These players trade with the best, they compete against the best. To leave their home leagues, they prove to be a cut over the rest. They get exposed to top training methods by the greatest managers of the game. Time and time again, they provide evidence that they can never be intimidated or under-estimated.

All the organisations do, is to prove to them that their overseas statuses mean nothing, that in Africa it is dog eat dog, and if one does not like the heat, they should leave the kitchen. No one is greater than a village donkey and the team listens to one army general, usually the receptionist at the national offices of the association. The lack of understanding that these players need huge insurances in case their careers are compromised, that they need a back-up system to enable them to afford medical treatment and surgery if need be, cause the unnecessary squabbles and in-fighting. The experienced players begin to bully the inexperienced and they pull their weight around. In retaliatory fashion, the young players begin to be selfish for the benefit of their future contracts. The tug-of-war, World Cup after World Cup, leads to one thing and one thing only – embarrassment.

How Fifa does not intervene, I do not know. I guess they do not care as long as Africans skin each other. What should happen, is the sanctions against teams behaving in that manner, for bringing the beautiful game into disrepute. In other words, ban the associations, the leadership and the countries from participating in the next two or three World Cups. By the same token, the ill-disciplined players holding the countries at ransom, should never have their big team contracts sanctioned. Such moves would be serious food for thought, if they affected big brothers in Europe and less so in South America. Probably you could be asking where they would get money and insurance to pay the mega stars. If one leads an organisation and they have no plan, they should leave their jobs. What does it profit an organisation to have a blind tour guide?

Many should have shared the revered blueprint of Germany success. The youth policy whose philosophy leads to national team football, is actually inverse. The national team philosophy is played throughout Bundesliga 6-9 (amateurs) as, of course from Bundesliga 1-5 (professionals). The schools follow the same. Actually, all football is played to produce the cup won on the 13th of July 2014 in Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana Stadium. Many countries try to do that, but the quantity of perfection is the difference. Few elements add up and the end product is there to see.

We wish to hear your thoughts and we next check on the football trends observed in Brazil.