Monday, March 12, 2007

Special words from the Special One

We talk a lot about the African contingent at Chelsea, England’s reigning champions.
But rarely does “The Special One", Blues manager extraordinaire Jose Mourinho expound at length about them.

Mourinho praised the character & contribution of his African players on Monday at a news conference. Chelsea, second in the English Premiership behind leaders Manchester United, are playing quarterfinals in both the Champions League (Valencia) and the FA Cup (Tottenham).

"The African players have a special character," Mourinho told the conference.
"They are a strong personality group in the team. They like to win, they like to work, they are team players. And they give a big contribution, not just in football terms but also in psychological terms.
"They are people who are difficult to break, people who want to give everything -- not selfish or thinking about themselves but about the team. We are very lucky with that group of boys."

Ivory Coast striker Salomon Kalou (pictured, above) kept Chelsea in the FA Cup by scoring a late equaliser for a 3-3 draw on Sunday with Tottenham Hotspur.

Ghana's Michael Essien was also impressive. He was unlucky to score an own goal that gave Spurs a 2-1 lead in the first half.

Mourinho paid further tribute to an African contingent at Stamford Bridge which also includes Ivorian striker and top scorer Didier Drogba and Nigeria midfielder John Obi Mikel.
"John Obi and Salomon are also great talents - I keep saying this," Mourinho said.

"Salomon is adapting and improving and for John Obi (pictured, left) it was a big, big, big shame that he had this four-match ban after the Carling Cup final (for a silly fight at the end of the match). The way he played against Porto home and away and against Arsenal, these were three big matches and he was exactly in the point to make the jump."

Mourinho was proud to see Drogba named African Player of the Year, but believed the 29-goal striker should have won by a bigger margin from Barcelona's Cameroon forward Samuel Eto'o, the winner from 2003-05.

"I'm surprised a player with the fabulous season he's having won the trophy by only five points. I couldn't believe that,” Mourinho said.
"Of course, Samuel is an unbelievable player and I think he deserved to win the trophies the seasons before because he was amazing.

"But in a season where Cameroon doesn't play [in the] World Cup and Samuel is injured for four months but in which Didier goes to the World Cup and to the African Nations Cup final and is playing better than ever I think he was very unlucky to win the trophy by only five points.

"But I think you can see with Drogba, Eto'o, Essien and the others not in the awards, the top quality of African players and African football at the moment."

Beautiful words by the Chelsea manager. It’s great to see the African lads getting their due respect. Now about that tie against Valencia ...

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