Friday, November 30, 2007

Cup of Nations: Yobo Believes, McCarthy Dropped

Some Cup of Nations news as we inch closer to the January 20th start date.

First off, Nigerian defender Joseph Yobo thinks Nigeria's going to win it all in Ghana 2008. He believes Nigeria will be crowned African champions.

The 26-year-old, who plays for Everton, said the timing is right for consistent third-place finishers Nigeria to go all the way in next year's finals.

"I have played in three Cup of Nations tournaments - in every minute of every game, and each time I have picked up the bronze medal (for third place)," Yobo said.

"In Ghana it is time for the team to go one better and I know we can do this."

Nigeria finished in third place at the 2002, 2004 and 2006 Nations Cup and have not won the tournament since 1994 when they beat Zambia 2-1 in the final.

"For some reason we always collapse in the semi finals and I don't know why.
We should definitely make the final next year, if we get there the team would do everything to win the trophy."

"All the players in the Nigerian team are in a good mood - Yakubu and Anichebe (fellow Everton players) are doing well - we all just want to make our country proud.

"Plus playing in Ghana will be great opportunity - because it is so close to Nigeria it will be like playing in a second home," Yobo added.

"We'll try and take advantage of this and the fact many of our fans will be there to support us."

Nigeria don't have it easy. The Ivory Coast, Mali and Benin share space in Group B and will be looking to advance to the knock out stages.

In other news, South Africa have dropped Blackburn striker Benni McCarthy for the 2008 Cup in Ghana. Brazilian coach Carlos Alberto Parreira refused to reveal why a striker he had battled to get back into a goal-shy Bafana Bafana squad was suddenly surplus to requirements. Strange, indeed.

Rumors swirled around the hotel where the squad was named as to why the joint-leading South African scorer with 29 goals had not made a squad to be captained by Blackburn team-mate, defender-cum-midfielder Aaron Mokoena.

Some observers suspected South Africa struck a deal with Blackburn manager Mark Hughes to leave McCarthy out as Premiership clubs brace for a mass exodus of stars for the tournament which starts January 20th.

When Parreira took over South Africa, his first serious challenge was to woo the temperamental McCarthy out of self-imposed international retirement since the 2006 Nations Cup in Egypt.

McCarthy, who burst into prominence by scoring nine goals at the 1998 Nations Cup in Burkina Faso to help South Africa finish second, claimed he was wrongly accused by national association officials for stirring a bonuses storm.

Parreira eventually got his way after a five-minute meeting in England and McCarthy scored on his return against Zambia in Cape Town two months ago to draw level at the top of the goals list with retired Shaun Bartlett.

South Africa, the first of the 16 finalists to name their squad, have been drawn with Angola, Senegal and Tunisia in Group D at the Nations Cup finals.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Chief of 2010 World Cup Believes in South Africa

Interesting piece by Reuters' Mike Collett about Danny Jordaan, the man leading the South African charge towards 2010.

Jordaan's had to face a lot of challenges as the chief organizer of the 2010 World Cup. From work stoppages at stadium sites to incessant questions about his country's preparedness for the tournament, Jordaan has handled all inquiries with class and style. He strongly believes that South Africa is ready to host the games and his enthusiasm is contagious.

Have a read at Mr. Collett's recent article about the man behind the 2010 World Cup.

Danny Jordaan is a man with a raft of problems but he shows no sign of panic or fear.

As the driving force of South Africa's preparations for the 2010 World Cup, Jordaan has much to contend with.

"It is absolutely inevitable that if you are putting on a World Cup then there are going to be problems, big problems in some cases, but it's how you deal with them that matters -- not that you have them," he said in an interview with Reuters on Tuesday. "Of course there are things we worry about but we are not worried that we cannot solve them, that is the key issue."

Jordaan, 56, is the chief executive officer of South Africa's World Cup organising committee and has just passed a significant milestone on the long road he has been traveling to ensure the finals will be played in his country.

Sunday's draw in Durban for the preliminary tournament, a glitzy 90-minute affair staged in Durban, went off with barely a hitch.

As the finals inch closer, Jordaan admits his main concern is the stadium rebuilding programme. While he is convinced that every seat in every stadium will be in place in time for the kickoff on June 11, 2010, there are still hurdles to overcome.
"We will not sleep peacefully until the day the stadiums are all finished," the former member of parliament and anti-apartheid activist said.

"Stadium building programmes have become such a major news item. People read about it day to day. In the past, people decided to build a stadium and they built it, simple as that. But now the media seem to focus on every nut and bolt as it goes in.

"I understand why and while it puts us under enormous pressure, a lot of pressure from the media...we are comfortable with it."


He is not so comfortable, though, with the idea that striking construction workers could hinder plans to get the stadiums finished on time.

"We will never call on the workers not to strike or condemn them because the right to strike is a part of the culture of our democratic society but the stadium building plan is also a national priority.

"The workers may have conflicting interests but our interests are that the stadiums must be finished on time.

"This is a national priority. We must resolve these matters in a way that all of our interests are taken into account."

Another issue close to Jordaan's heart is making the World Cup accessible to some of South Africa's poorest citizens by introducing a cheap category of ticket costing $20 for the opening-round matches and making 120,000 of around three million tickets free to residents.

He has also pledged that some of the World Cup finalists will stage some of their training sessions in townships and poorer areas, so those who cannot get to matches will have a chance to feel a part of the World Cup.

"Perhaps they will not train there every day and of course some training sessions are closed. But we have stadiums suitable for World Cup training. We want to make the World Cup as open as possible to as many people as possible."

Sounds like a good plan. So far, so good Mr. Jordaan.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Update on FIFA Chief's World Cup Comments

A quick update on comments made earlier by Sepp Blatter regarding crime and safety in South Africa.

Seems the Austrian tourist killed this weekend in Durban and mentioned near the bottom of my earlier post was former soccer player Peter Burgstaller.

German newspaper Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung reported on its web site that the murdered ex-SV Salzburg goalkeeper had been invited to the preliminary draw in Durban this weekend by Germany's Franz Beckenbauer, a World Cup winner as a player and coach.

"The murder of Peter Burgstaller is very depressing," current German coach Joachim Loew was quoted as telling German sports news agency SID.

"There is crime everywhere but we're going to put the security issue near the top of the agenda ahead of the 2010 World Cup. Everyone knows there is enormous poverty and crime in South Africa. We're going to have to be prepared for that," Loew said.

Burgstaller died from gunshot wounds suffered on a golf course near Durban on Friday, reviving the concerns over high crime rates which have dogged South Africa's preparations for the tournament. Police said the motive for the shooting, which took place on an estate surrounded by an electric fence, was thought to be robbery.

"I just want to say how much we deplore that a tourist from Austria was shot dead on a golf course. We deplore that as we would deplore all death or casualties in any country," Blatter said. "This tourist was not a member of the delegation coming for the draw and to make a parallel between FIFA's presence here and this death is not right. In a city of 3.5 million people some crimes will happen as they would in many other countries. On Friday evening in a tram station in Zurich a young girl of 16 years old was shot."

Unfortunately, South African crime will continue to be an issue as the Cup gets closer. In some ways, shining a light on the crime issue is a good thing. South Africa can deal with these problems and other countries can help out, now that their interests are affected.

Still, let's hope this isn't the main crux of news coming from the country. Optimism should be the word of the day. As the official World Cup saying goes, "Celebrating Africa's humanity," not "Exposing Africa's Negatives."

FIFA Chief Speaks About 2010 World Cup

FIFA boss Sepp Blatter had some interesting things to say at this weekend's 2010 Preliminary Draw in Durban, South Africa.

Speaking ahead of Sunday's qualifying draw for the 2010 Cup, Blatter said the World Cup could help solve the social ills of the hosts South Africa by acting as a catalyst for development.

"After having meetings with the organizing committee and local organizing committees, we are very confident that we are still going strong towards the realization of a wonderful event," Blatter told reporters in Durban.

Strikes have stalled building and renovation work on the 10 stadiums which will host the tournament.

But Blatter said he had spoken with some of the workers and was sure that any industrial disputes could be resolved.

"The World Cup is the biggest event in the world of sport and that's normal there are problems ... but all problems have a solution." He's an optimist, at least.

He also said the Cup could help alleviate some social problems, like apartheid and rampant crime.

"The Republic of South Africa has made a big, big effort twice to organize this competition. If a country is asking to organize a World Cup they know exactly what it means when they want to go in this big, big competition."

The killing of an Austrian tourist over the weekend in Durban has underlined fears over safety for visitors in a country where around 50 people are murdered every day.

But Blatter said such a crime could occur anywhere in the world.

"In a city of 3.5 million people, some crimes are possible like in all other countries. On Friday evening in a bus station or tram station in Zurich a young girl of 16 years old was shot ... crime is everywhere," added the Swiss-born Blatter.

Africa Gets Rave Reviews in First World Cup Test

Kudos to the South African Organizing Committee and FIFA for putting on a brilliant preliminary draw show.

The hosts put on a smooth-running show, with just one little glitch in Sunday's draw, sending visiting delegations from more than 150 nations away on Monday in various degrees of hope, expectation and, in a few cases, dismay.

Only 31 will return to join South Africa in the 2010 finals at the end of the two-year qualification trail of twists and turns.

The hosts stuttered a little when the build-up to an announcement of the tournament's slogan ended in embarrassment. South African organizing committee chairman Irvin Khoza was just about to reveal that "Celebrating Africa's humanity" was the choice when he was cut short. Television producers switched over to open the international feed to more than 170 countries, leaving the audience in Durban's International Convention Centre bemused and bewildered. But that's about all that happened.

The draw produced some controversy, particularly for England whose delegates looked shocked when the fates conspired to land them in the same European qualifying group again as Croatia.
Only four days earlier, Croatia crashed England's expected progress to the Euro 2008 finals with a shock 3-2 victory at England's Wembley Stadium.

Other teams came away happy. World champions Italy look sure to dominate a group in which only Bulgaria and Ireland should provide meaningful opposition and European champions Greece were beside themselves at getting nothing harder in their group than Israel and Switzerland.

South Africa will be thankful they do not have to qualify as hosts. The African section of the draw doubles as the qualifying competition for the 2010 African Cup of Nations and South Africa were drawn in the same group as traditional continental heavyweights Nigeria.

The organizers will no doubt congratulate themselves on switching the Soweto derby between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs to Durban for the occasion.

Saturday's thrilling 2-2 draw, and particularly the uninhibited and passionate support of more than 50,000 fans, left a deep impression on international soccer visitors and whetted their appetite for what should be the biggest sporting party in history in 2010.

Honestly, I'm buzzing with excitement!! I can't wait!!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

2010 World Cup Preliminary Draw Results

So the FIFA 2010 World Cup Preliminary Draw is over and we're seeing some interesting groupings. Let's get to it and give some initials reactions on the Road to 2010 ...

First off: Africa, consisting of 12 groups of four. Winners and the best eight runners-up will advance to five final groups of four. The winners - plus any team second to South Africa (this goes towards the 2010 African Nations Cup as well) - will make it to the first World Cup to be held on African soil.

Group 1: Cameroon, Cape Verde Islands, Tanzania, Mauritius
Group 2: Guinea, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Kenya
Group 3: Angola, Benin, Uganda, Niger
Group 4: Nigeria, South Africa, Equatorial Guinea, Sierra Leone
Group 5: Ghana, Libya, Gabon, Lesotho
Group 6: Senegal, Algeria, Liberia, Gambia
Group 7: Ivory Coast, Mozambique, Botswana, Madagascar
Group 8: Morocco, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Mauritania
Group 9: Tunisia, Burkina Faso, Brundi, Seychelles
Group 10: Mali, Congo, Sudan, Chad
Group 11: Togo, Zambia, Eritrea, Swaziland
Group 12: Egypt, Congo DR, Malawi, Djibouti

Initial reactions see Group 4 as a tasty one, with Nigeria facing South Africa. Although I see both teams advancing easily, especially with SA guaranteed a spot in 2010. Besides that, Group 6 with Senegal playing Tunisia is interesting.

Ok, on to Asia:

Group 1: Australia, Iraq, Qatar and China
Group 2: Oman, Thailand, Bahrain, Japan
Group 3: North Korea, Jordan, Turkmenistan, South Korea
Group 4: Lebanon, Singapore, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia
Group 5: Syria, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Iran

Yikes, look at that North v. South Korea match-up. Think that'll be a passionate one or what?? Also, a rematch of the Australia-Iraq match from this year's Asian Cup.

In Asia, there's a first group stage with the top 2 sides from the 5 groups of 4 advancing to a final group stage. The winners and runners-up of the two final groups of 5 advance to the World Cup finals with the two third-placed sides playing off for the right to play an Oceania side for a final World Cup spot. (That's a mouthful ... I'm confused now. Read it slowly. It makes sense.)

As for Oceania, qualification is composed of two rounds. The first round took place at the 2007 South Pacific Games, where the top 3 teams (New Caledonia, Fiji and Vanuatu) advanced to a final round group stage with New Zealand. The winning team will then playoff against the 5th-placed Asian side for a spot in the finals.

Ok, on we go ...

To North America, where all member associations have entered the qualifying competition, which starts in February 2008. Three sides will qualify by right for South Africa 2010, with a fourth team going into a play-off with the fifth-place finisher in the South American zone. But to get there (or understand how to get there) requires some hard work. Qualifying consists of two preliminary rounds to reduce the 35 entrants to 24 and then 12 teams, followed by 3 semifinal groups of 4 (likely to occur in the second half of 2008), with the top two in each group advancing to a final 6-team group (held during 2009).


Anyways, here are the groupings:


Barbados v Dominica
Turks and Caicos Islands v St Lucia
Bermuda v Cayman Islands
Aruba v Antinga and Barbuda
Belize v St Kitts and Nevis
Bahamas v British Virgin Islands
Dominican Republic v Puerto Rico
US Virgin Islands v Grenada
Suriname v Montserrat
El Salvador v Anguilla
Nicaragua v Netherlands Antilles

The rest of the nations join qualifying in the second round when they will be seeded again based on FIFA World Ranking. The winners of the 12 two-legged ties will move into round three.


USA v Winner Match 1
Guatemala v Winner Match 2
Trinidad & Tobago v Winner Match 3
Winner Match 4 v Cuba
Winner Match 5 v Mexico
Jamaica v Winner Match 6
Honduras v Winner Match 7
Canada v St Vincent/Grenadines
Winner Match 9 v Costa Rica
Winner Match 10 v Guyana
Panama v Winner Match 11
Haiti v Winner Match 12

This next round is done on a league basis, with three groups of four countries. The top two teams in each group advance. The final stage sees one, six-team group from which the top three will qualify. The fourth placed team earns a play-off against a nation from South America.
Honestly, does it have to be this hard?? This is confusing ...

Anyways, on to Europe where qualification is somewhat simpler. Then again, graduate level Calculus is easier than North America's qualifying ...

European qualification starts in September 2008. The 53 national teams will be divided into eight groups of six teams, and one group of five. The nine group winners will qualify directly and the best eight runners-up will play home and away play-off matches for the remaining four places.

Group 1: Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, Hungary, Albania, Malta.
Group 2: Greece, Israel, Switzerland, Moldova, Latvia, Luxembourg.
Group 3: Czech Republic, Poland, Northern Ireland, Slovakia, Slovenia, San Marino.
Group 4: Germany, Russia, Finland, Wales, Azerbijain, Leichtenstein.
Group 5: Spain, Turkey, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Armenia, Estonia.
Group 6: Croatia, England, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Andorra.
Group 7: France, Romania, Serbia, Lithuania, Austria, Faroe Islands.
Group 8: Italy, Bulgaria, Republic of Ireland, Cyprus, Georgia, Montenegro.
Group 9: Holland, Scotland, Norway, FYR Macedonia, Iceland.

Juicy match-up in Group 6 with England once again meeting Croatia.
Italy doesn't lookin danger of not making it and Holland-Scotland looks fun ...

As for South America, whose qualifying already started, here's how the group looks after 4 games:

Team Pts W D L
1 Paraguay 10 3 1 0
2 Argentina 9 3 0 1
3 Brazil 8 2 2 0
4 Colombia 8 2 2 0
5 Venezuela 6 2 0 2
6 Uruguay 4 1 1 2
7 Chile 4 1 1 2
8 Ecuador 3 1 0 3
9 Peru 2 0 2 2
10 Bolivia 1 0 1 3

South America has the simplest system. Ten participating teams play each other twice in a single group.
The qualification process takes about 25 months. The top 4 teams advance to the World Cup finals while the 5th place team goes into a playoff with the fourth placed North American nation.

The fun's just started! So what do you think???

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Free World Cup Tickets!

If you don't have to pay to get into the World Cup, life's grand!

South Africans are learning this today after FIFA announced they will give 120,000 free tickets to South African residents for matches in the 2010 World Cup finals, FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke said at a news conference on Saturday.


It was announced on Friday that South African residents would be able to purchase specially-priced cheap tickets for the finals and the price for first round matches, apart from the opening match, was set at 20 US dollars on Saturday.

As well as these Category Four tickets being sold, Valcke added: "the cost of the 120,000 free tickets in that category will be met by FIFA's commercial partners."

It will be decided shortly whether those free tickets will be given away as prizes through the commercial partners competitions, or handed out on a first come, first served basis.

Valcke said measures would be taken to ensure the free and cheap tickets would not be sold on to fans overseas."We are working on measures to make sure there is no black market," he added.

Danny Jordaan, chief executive of the local organizing committee, added: "We cannot announce the measures three years beforehand as people will try to develop counter-measures. Our target is the poor football fans in this country and if there is someone in an England shirt or Belgium shirt in that seat we will know something has gone wrong."

The most expensive tickets for first round matches was set at US$160, rising to US$900 for the most expensive tickets for the World Cup final in Johannesburg on July 11, 2010.

So I'm pretty poor ... can I get a free ticket PLEASE?

Friday, November 23, 2007

2010 World Cup Draw Format Announced

So the preliminary qualifying draw's almost here. What's in store for the teams on Sunday in Durban, South Africa?

FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke is the Master of Ceremonies for the event, which begins with the Stage Three draw for the Asian Zone. The North, Central America and Caribbean Zone is the next confederation to come under the spotlight, with the first three stages of their preliminary campaign decided upon in Durban.

Approximately an hour into proceedings, Europe will be buzzing with anticipation when its 53 teams are divided into nine qualifying groups, before the evening rounds off with the draw for the African Zone, where 48 teams will be placed into 12 groups of four teams.

I can't wait! Make sure to come back to 'Road to 2010 Final' where we (I?) will post more info about the draw in Durban.

When Will Africa Win a World Cup?

This, an interesting, thought-provoking article from the BBC about Africa's expectations regarding the World Cup.

Pundits have long said it was a mere matter of time before an African nation lifted the World Cup trophy. But so far, expectations haven't been met.

No one's really sure why. Maybe the infrastructure isn't there. Maybe the players don't gel well when they come together in a huge international tournament. Maybe they're just not good enough at the moment.

It's a wonderful topic of debate. What do you think?

Read the article and post your comments.

Pele's prediction that an African team would win the World Cup before the end of the last millennium never materialised.

And recent experience has dampened expectations of African glory as the continent prepares to host the tournament for the first time.

"We need to lift the expectations but maybe 2010 is too early... Maybe in Brazil," said France's World Cup winning captain Marcel Desailly.

Cameroon's progress to the quarter-finals of the 1990 tournament in Italy raised hopes that Africa would be the next force in world football.

However, only one team, Ghana, managed to get past the first round last year in Germany.

The semi-finals still remain unchartered territory for African countries.

Desailly, who was himself born in Ghana, believes they are likely to remain so when South Africa hosts the world's finest in three year's time.

"The tournament in South Africa? It will not change anything," Desailly said ahead of this weekend's draw for the qualifying rounds.

"I am not happy at all about the performances of the African teams since the US in '94."

That was when Nigeria knocked Argentina out in the first round before taking eventual finalists Italy into extra time."

Carlos Alberto Parreira, who coached Brazil to victory in 1994 and is now in charge of South Africa, believes Africa will put up a better showing with so many players now turning out regularly in Europe's top leagues.

However, he acknowledges the continent's teams face a huge challenge.

"I believe this time, when you see the African players in Europe, in the big teams, they will do well. I am sure they will raise their performance," Parreira said.

"If we had one or two African countries reach the quarter-finals, it would be a huge success. If it was the semi-finals, it would be fantastic.

"We have to raise the barrier ... but it's very difficult.

"For three months they play (in Europe), then suddenly they've only got two days before a match. That's difficult for the team and for the coach."

Parreira said that inexperience was less of an excuse than in the past.

"I don't think it's inexperience. They were naive in 1986 and 90. Then they had the skills and technique but they were naive," added the Brazilian who has also coached Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates in the finals.

"Now 80 percent of some of the squads' players are in the big leagues."

Lucas Radebe, a former captain of South Africa and fallen English giants Leeds United, said teams in the past had been intimidated by the whole experience of playing in the world's most popular sporting event.

"The stage is so huge, you are playing against massive teams and you get stage fright," he explained.

However Radebe said such an excuse would no longer wash.

"We have been gaining that experience. There are no excuses, we have got the players," he added.

While individual African players may have benefited from playing abroad, their absence has undermined the quality and development of the local leagues.

Desailly said that too many African players were being shipped off to Europe at too early an age and found themselves surplus to requirements and greater emphasis should be placed on developing players at home.

He said: "We have to increase the level of the leagues in Africa."

"There are some players who should be outside of the country, they should be staying inside as when they arrive in Europe they find they are second choice."

Radebe, however, said there was no reason to be too despondent.

He believes African football was definitely on the upturn, pinpointing the emergence of countries such as Ghana and the Ivory Coast.

"The continent is improving in terms of quality. This is the time to showcase that talent, to show them that we can compete."

An African team's qualification to the final "would electrify the continent," he added.

Samuel Eto'o is the Face of 2010 World Cup

Talk about a great honor!

Barcelona star Samuel Eto'o was unveiled as the face of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa on Friday.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter on Friday unveiled the poster for the first tournament to be staged in Africa.

An image of the Cameroonian striker about to head a football, his face and neck superimposed on a map of Africa, will form the center piece of the publicity campaign for the tournament.

"You will have no problem to recognize first of all that it's Africa and you have the face of one of the most popular and well-known faces of the continent," Blatter told reporters.

"He was not able to participate in the last World Cup but what is more important here is to give this continent a face, a human face in football," he said ahead of Sunday's draw for the qualifying rounds.

Eto'o was only 17 when he appeared in the 1998 tournament in France but the "Indomitable Lions" failed to qualify for the last World Cup in Germany.

In other news, South Africans will get cheap tickets to watch the 2010 World Cup on home soil, local organizers announced Friday.

Certain tickets will be sold only to South African residents, they said. Details would be announced over the weekend after FIFA's World Cup organising committee meeting in Durban.

South Africa's 2010 Local Organizing Committee chairman Danny Jordaan said the special tickets were an attempt to make watching the finals as accessible as possible to South Africa's population, more than half of whom live below the poverty line.

Good move, as the spirit of the World Cup can now be shared by all.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Fantastic Goal Celebration!!

This video comes to us from the Who Ate All the Pies? footie blog via the Offside website where I'm the Valencia blogger.

This has to be one of the greatest goal celebrations of all-time!
The video is from Congolese club TP Mazembe Englebert’s 2-1 African Confederations Cup win away to Cameroon’s Astres Douala last month.

I understand what the goal scorer is doing. Simple stuff.

But what is the goalie doing????

Monday, November 19, 2007

2010 World Cup Comes Into Focus

We're 933 days from the opening game of the 2010 World Cup. The Finals inch closer and closer.

The footballing world is already abuzz with excitement as we head to November 25, 2007, the day Durban, South Africa hosts the draw for the 2010 World Cup qualifying ties and groups.

The ceremony, which includes a section of typical African entertainment, will feature the draw to determine the pairings and groups for the 2010 World Cup preliminary competition. Exempt from the draw are South America, whose qualifiers are already underway in a home-and-away league format, and Oceania, whose preliminary competition began with the South Pacific Games in August 2007. The draw will commence with the Asian zone, followed by CONCACAF, Europe and finally Africa. The results can also be followed live on

Dr Danny Jordaan, the Chief Executive of South Africa's Local Organizing Committee, is very enthusiastic: "As the first official associated event of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the preliminary draw is of paramount importance to us at the organizing committee. We have a unique opportunity to demonstrate our ability to organize a world-class event to an expectant local, continental and international community. We've worked tirelessly for months on end to ensure all is in place for this special occasion and we are confident that all visitors to our country will revel in our uniquely African hospitality."

Some of Africa's finest musical talent will be performing at what promises to be a highly energetic and dynamic Preliminary Draw show at the Durban International Convention Centre. The theme is 'Africa is the theatre, South Africa is the stage,' and that has been reflected in the artists chosen to perform. According to Lesley Sedibe, the architect of the Preliminary Draw Show, it will be "infused with color and texture" and even the draw pots will be African-themed.

Jordaan added: "It is important to express in a concrete way, what we mean when we say it is an African World Cup, but it is also an excellent World Cup and every aspect must suggest that."

The Preliminary Draw, the first official FIFA event for the 2010 World Cup on African soil, will be watched by a global audience of millions across the world.

Arguably the most recognizable music will be excerpts from the world-famous Disney musical, The Lion King, which this week celebrated its tenth anniversary on Broadway.

One of Nelson Mandela's favorite groups, the internationally-renowned Soweto String Quartet, whose music is a fusion of the dance rhythms of local kwela, mbaqanga and swaying African jazz will also be part of the festivities, as will MTV Music Award winners Freshlyground, one of the country's most successful bands.

Judith Sephuma, whose debut, platinum album 'A Cry, A Smile, A Dance' was released in 2001 and won several awards, will also be part of the show's line-up, along with three of South Africa's finest voices, the Afrotenors - Africa's answer to the Three Tenors

And last, but by no means least, one of Africa's most celebrated artists, Senegal's Yousssou N'Dour, will add his distinctive West African flavor to the draw. N'Dour, who performed the Official Song for the 1998 FIFA World Cup will become the first man to appear at a FIFA World Cup Final and a Preliminary Draw when he takes to the stage.

The draw itself will be conducted by FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke, who will be able to count on such famous names as South African legends Kaizer Motaung, Jomo Sono and Lucas Radebe as well as Ali Daei (Iran), George Weah (Liberia), Abedi Pele Ayew (Ghana), Kasey Keller (USA), former French World Cup winner, Christian Karembeu and Marcel Desailly (France) as his assistants.

I wish I could go! Thanks to for the information presented in this article. It sounds like a wonderful event and a great way to kick off the countdown to the 2010 Cup.

It's almost here, folks!

Nigeria Cup of Nations Plan to Affect English Clubs

English Premier League clubs will not be too happy with Nigeria's plans ahead of January's African Cup of Nations.

Nigeria plans to call up their players a full two weeks before the African Cup of Nations begins in January. This will affect several English Premier League clubs.

Those set to lose their African stars for up to six weeks include Newcastle United, Portsmouth, Chelsea, Manchester City, Sunderland, Everton and Wigan Athletic.

Nigeria's team manager, Berti Vogts, announced his plans and made it clear that attending the training camp will not be optional for players, but mandatory.

Former Scotland boss Vogts, a World Cup winner as a player with (West) Germany, told the Liverpool Echo: "That is the way that things have to be and there will be no exceptions.

"There will be a two-week training camp and all the players will be there.

"They will not be allowed to arrive later."

The Premiership players likely to be called up for the Nigeria squad are: Joseph Yobo, Victor Anichebe and Yakubu Aiyegbeni (Everton), Kelvin Etuhu (Manchester City), Dickson Etuhu (Sunderland), Nwankwo Kanu and John Utaka (Portsmouth), Obafemi Martins and Celestine Babayaro (Newcastle United) and Julius Aghahowa (Wigan Athletic).

The Cup of Nations is a great boon to Africa. But it affects all the major football leagues. When will the governing body of African football see fit to move the Cup to a more appropriate month? Will there come a time when clubs don't allow players to suit up for their countries? It's a very interesting club vs. country debate that isn't going away any time soon.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Africans in Spain

Despite nagging racism problems, Spain's become a breeding ground for African talent.
Here, an article from the BBC about Spain's growing love affair with African midfielders.

With Spain's ruling that Africans count the same as EU players on Spanish squads (each team is allowed only 3 non-EU players, limiting opportunities for Latin Americans, Africans and anyone not European), opportunities will open up for Africans in Spain.

It has taken a long time but African midfielders look like they are finally getting accepted in Spain's La Liga.

In the past African players in Spanish football have been noted for their skills at finding the goal, or stopping them.

However, the men in the middle have been usually ignored.

Strikers like Cameroon's Samuel Eto'o, the only African to top the Spanish first division scoring charts and pick up the prestigious Pichichi award are obvious favourites.

Goalkeepers like the Barcelona player's compatriots Jacques Songo'o and Thomas N'Kono are another breed appreciated by Spanish football fans.

But ask them to name an African midfielder and many people would have scratched their heads in the past.

Not now. "Diarra, Toure, Keita... black midfielders are now in fashion," observed the prestigious Spanish football magazine Don Balon on its front page this week.

Real Madrid's Mahamadou Diarra, Barcelona's Yaya Toure and Sevilla's Seydou Keita have set the standard.

Not only do they play for last season's top three teams in Spain but they are also among the first names on their coaches' team sheets.

"Toure is a very impressive player, he's very strong physically," commented Barcelona president Joan Laporta, the man who signed the US$16.6 million cheque to buy the Ivory Coast star from French side Monaco in the summer.

"Diarra is very important to my plans. When he's not in the team we miss him," added Real coach Bernd Schuster in admiration of his Malian midfielder.

Seydou Keita has quickly made himself a fans' favourite at Sevilla.

They're impressed not only by his hard work in providing continuous service for his team mate and fellow Malian Fredi Kanoute, but also a spectacular goal against Real recently.

Why African midfielders have not made an impact in Spain until now is potentially a cause of much debate.

One reason, although most people within the enclosed environment of Spanish football would be reluctant to admit it, has been racism.

Spanish football clubs are only just starting to shed themselves of some of their racist attitudes.

In particular, the belief that African players struggle to impress in the more technical roles on the pitch, long after most English, French and German football clubs have cast aside such doubts.

Another is that African midfielders themselves are now better, and can comfortably hold their own at top clubs, after being talent-spotted earlier and given more exhaustive coaching.

"I am not sure what sort of player I would have been if my first club (Spanish second division side Poli Ejido) had not spotted me playing in a tournament for immigrants," said Valencia's 19-year-old Nigerian-born Stephen Sunday.

"But they saw that I had some physical skills and gave me a lot of advice about how to best use them.

"I now really enjoy the responsibility of being the linkman between the defence and attack," he added.

The talented teenager was in the Spanish squad at the recent Under-20 World Cup but has not yet closed the door on representing the country of his birth.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

2010 Status Update

Every now and again I like to update everyone on my progress towards my original goal of getting to South Africa for the 2010 World Cup.

So how am I doing? Good, I suppose.

The World Cup's a few years away and although I have time, the steps need to be taken now in order to assure I'll be there cheering on Brazil, Spain and the USA.

That's what I'm focusing on right now: How do I get to South Africa?

In the meantime, I'm working on getting to Ghana for the African Cup of Nations in January. That's proving to be a tough cookie. My thinking is that a trip there can boost the blog from a straight rhetorical of the African football world to a true narrative from a soccer lover's point of view of the inner workings of the African game. In other words, instead of cutting and pasting the news, I'll actually be there to report it. That'll make a world of difference.

I'm also still thinking of assisting a children's charity through my work. There's one in particular I'm thinking about but I'll keep that to myself until the time is right. I'm not quite sure how to tie the two together. Does anyone have suggestions?

The rest is just cosmetic:
How do I make the blog look nicer?
How do I tighten the writing?
What's the theme of the writing?
How do I get more people to read the work?
How can I make some money to get to Ghana and South Africa through the writing?

There's so much I want to say and so much I'd like to write about. The question is, how do I get to that point?

This blog writing process has been amazing. I've learned a great deal about Africa and its football through the posts. I'm amazed at the number of people that read the blog and befuddled to see the different places my writing goes. It's all so surreal at times.

I love football. It's a game that's strangely put its talons into my soul and refused to let go. Try as I might, the game seeps into my thoughts, my language, even my dreams. I can't escape it. People may say I'm trying to direct my life to involve football more closely. I'd say that's true. But on top of that, I'd like to use my writing ability (I'd like to think I have a small amount) to inform, educate and entertain.

I'd like to inform you that African football is vivid, colorful and wonderful.
I'd like to say that Africa isn't a sad sack continent as is often depicted in Western media. From the people I've met from there, it's a unique, lively continent, full of joy, full of passion, full of hope for the future.
And of course, I'd like to make you smile, carrying you along with good humor and a smile on my face as we all make our way to the Final game July 11th, 2010.

So I'd say the journey's going as good as it can so far. I'm certainly enjoying the ride. Can't wait to make it to Africa.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Will 2010 Stadiums be Ready?

This isn't new news, but it's discouraging nonetheless.

Word is 2010 World Cup organizers are saying two of the stadium being built for the tournament face "very very tight" deadlines to be completed on time.

Is this cause for concern? Or just more non-news?

Every major construction project faces delays and overruns. Regrettably, the eyes of the world fall on South Africa and their staging of the 2010 Cup as an indication of Africa's business viability. I say regrettably because it feels like Africa's being tested with this Cup. 'Pop quiz, folks!'

It's a little unfair. Contingency plans weren't being talked about in 2004 while Germany faced their own delay worries en route to a smooth 2006 World Cup finals.

Regardless, these are the stakes. The stadium sites causing concern are in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth (mock-up pictured above).

"Things are on course generally, but with two stadiums the timelines are very, very tight," said Tim Modise of the tournament organizing committee.

As a result, plans for Port Elizabeth's Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium to host the 2009 Confederations Cup, a sort of mock-run of the Cup finals every hosting country stages, may be shelved.

The Local Organizing Committee (LOC) for the Cup is confident that it will be able to successfully deliver the tournament according to the schedule it has set for itself, says international affairs organizing committee communications manager Tumi Makgabo.

Consistent Euro-Afro-pessimism, in which many people doubt the capabilities of an African country to host a large-scale, world-class sporting event, is largely due to ignorance, Makgabo says, adding that the country has a good record of hosting major sporting events.

She accepts, however, that South Africa has not hosted an event of this magnitude before, but says that this does not mean that the country will not be able to host the tournament. Communication of information is the best way to overcome the pessimism, she says.

I fully expect South Africa to host a wonderful, successful World Cup. Why such pessimism from the football press? Let's give South Africa a chance, stadium delays or not.

Many Winners in WC 2010

One of the many positives of staging the 2010 World Cup in Africa is the potential economic windfall South Africa's neighboring countries could stimulate.

One such neighbor is being very aggressive in trying to get that money into their country: Mozambique. (Above:Wimbe Beach, Pemba, Mozambique)

You can't really blame them. Mozambique is one of the poorest countries in the world. If they can garner come much-needed cash from residual tourists in South Africa during the Cup finals, why not go for it? They may be poor, but one thing they do have is pristine sandy beaches (as you can see above) and quaint colonial cities. The former Portuguese colony also has a low crime rate unlike South Africa, which is grappling with one of the world's highest levels of violent crime.

Deputy Minister of Tourism Rosario Mualeia told Reuters that the impoverished southern African nation hoped to lure at least 150,000 tourists to its shores, or about one third of those expected to visit host nation South Africa during the World Cup.

Mozambique is also negotiating to host training and base camps for some of the teams that will qualify for the finals.

"We are near to South Africa and the crime rate in Mozambique is not as high as the host nation," Mualeia said in an interview in the northern Mozambican city Pemba.
"Many fans would be prefer to be in a quiet place and Mozambique has the environment for that."

The Mozambican government plans to spend at least $600 million on hotels, casinos and other leisure facilities as part of an effort to capitalize on the tourism boom expected during the one-month World Cup, which begins on June 11, 2010.

Mozambique is experiencing an economic boom. Tourism revenues have provided crucial foreign exchange for the government's public works programs.
The bulk of Mozambique's infrastructure, particularly its roads and ports, were destroyed during a 17-year civil war that ended in 1992.

"We expect to earn more than $150 million from tourism this year and to double that in four years as more Europeans discover sand and sun in Mozambique," Mualeia said.

Tourism generated $144 million for the former Portuguese colony in 2006.
The bulk of the country's visitors come from South Africa, Italy, Germany and a handful of other nations.

I think Mozambique is going about this the right way. Why not try and get some of the treasure the World Cup promises? Why not try to bolster their image through the spectacle of the Games? Remember, these are Africa's games, not just South Africa's.

I think I'll have to pencil in Mozambique in my travel itinerary. A nice day on the beach after watching some world-class football sounds about right to me ...

Friday, November 9, 2007

More from Etoile's African CL Victory

This, a report from the Confederation of African Football's website regarding the second leg of the African Champions League final, won today by Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia.

Etoile Sahel of Tunisia stunned title holders Al Ahly of Egypt 3-1 on Friday to win a first African Champions League title. No one outside Tunisia gave Etoile a chance at Cairo Stadium after they were held 0-0 two weeks ago in the first leg of the African Football Confederation (CAF) club showpiece.

Victory was particularly sweet for the men from the Mediterranean
resort of Sousse as they were crushed 3-0 by Ahly at the same ground in the 2005 African Champions League decider.

Lifting the trophy completed a clean sweep of CAF titles for Etoile
who had won the Cup Winners Cup and CAF Cup twice and the Super Cup and Confederation Cup once.

Ahly were seeking two records: a third consecutive title and sixth
overall but the early second-half dismissal of defender Emad al Nahas turned a match the Egyptians were poised to win.

Etoile took the lead in first-half stoppage time through Afouene
Gharbi only for Al Nahas to equalise five minutes into the second half of a thrilling final watched by a capacity 50,000 crowd.

Needing to score again under the away goal rule Ahly laid siege to
the Etoile goal until Al Nahas was shown a red card by outstanding Moroccan referee Abderrahim al Arjoun.

Ahly never regained their momentum with 10 men and survived a few
scares before Amine Chermiti put Etoile ahead for the second time two minutes into stoppage time and Mohamed Ali Nafkha added a late third.

And this, from the Associated Press:

Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia beat defending champion Al Ahly of Egypt 3-1 to win the MTN-CAF Champions League final on Friday.

After a scoreless first leg in Tunisia two weeks ago, Etoile du Sahel scored twice in extra time to clinch its first victory in the competition.

Amine Chermiti scored in the third extra minute with a shot that beat Egypt goalkeeper Essam el-Hadary, before Moussa Narry el-Gheni sealed the win two minutes later.

Etoile striker Afwan Gharbi had given his team a 1-0 lead in first-half injury time.

Imad el-Nahas equalized for Al Ahly in the 49th with a powerful header, but 11 minutes later he was sent off by Moroccan referee Abdulraheem el-Arjoon for a foul on Chermiti.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak attended the game before 80,000 spectators at the sold-out Cairo International Stadium.

Etoile du Sahel are African Champions!

Congratulations to Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia, who minutes ago wrapped up their first ever African Champions League title, defeating two-time defending champion Al Ahly of Egypt 3-1 on aggregate!

Etoile scored three times in Cairo, becoming the first team to score in the Egyptian capital in this Champions League campaign.

Etoile took full advantage of a red card issued to Ahly defender Al Hass midway through the second half. Etoile will represent Africa in the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan next month.

Disappointment will be high at Ahly, who would have won their record third consecutive Champions League title with a victory.

Congratulations to the new champions of Africa: Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia!!

New African Soccer Magazine

In my time blogging about the world of African football, I've found resources to be limited.

Finding information can be like looking for clues in a crime case, piecing one bit of information with another to fit the puzzle together.

I'm proud to say there's a new resource for fans of African football on the Internet: New African Soccer magazine.

The magazine started some time ago and faded away. Now, it's back strong with a new team of writers and editors, eager to report on the fascinating world of African soccer.

Here's writer Jake Brown's take on the re-launch of New African Soccer magazine:

New African Soccer Magazine is the only monthly English language magazine and ezine dedicated to African football.

We provide all the news and views, twists and turns of the beautiful game from an African perspective. As the football world turns towards the 2010 World Cup in South Africa we want to show how much Africa has to offer, from the Premiership superstars in England and the biggest leagues in Europe to the vital grassroots of the African leagues.

We have experienced correspondents throughout the world and we deliver exclusive interviews, contributions from star players, intelligent discussion and all the latest news and views from club and international football in Africa.

It's a good magazine and long overdue. Much of the focus of football journalism has to do with Europe or South America. It's time for Africa to have a voice.

I'm proud to associate myself with New African Soccer magazine.

Support this voice of African football!

Eto'o Commits to Cup of Nations

Finally, a superstar player has come out to say he's definitely playing in the upcoming African Cup of Nations.

Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o, who plies his trade for FC Barcelona, has committed to play for Cameroon at the African Cup of Nations in January, according to reports in the Spanish media.

Spanish sports daily MARCA reported that Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain had met earlier this week with the player's representative Jose Maria Mesalles to discuss the issue.

During the meeting it was made clear to the Catalan club that Eto'o would play for his country.

Eto'o has missed much of the season with a thigh injury.

But he is expected to return to action before the end of November which will give him just a handful of games to get match fit before traveling to Ghana for the tournament.

He could miss up to four of Barcelona's league games at a critical period in the season. He could also miss the Spanish Cup quarter-finals, which are scheduled while he is to be on international duty.

Barcelona are currently second in the Spanish La Liga but only one point behind league leaders and bitter rivals Real Madrid.

"I don't know if they'll go (the African Nations Cup) and I hope they don't but we can't force them," said Begiristain last month, referring to Eto'o and the club's other African star, Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Toure.

Eto'o refused to reveal what his plans were when he appeared at a promotional event earlier this week.

"All I want to do is play football. This issue about the Cup has to be resolved between my club and the Cameroon federation," said Eto'o, answering the inevitable question about whether he would be playing for Cameroon.

Sources close to the player have told Spanish newspapers that Eto'o is frustrated because he feels he is in a no-win situation, and will inevitably be viewed as disloyal by whichever set of fans he abandons.

Eto'o is among several of Africa's leading footballers to have called in recent months for the African Nations Cup to be re-scheduled so that it does not conflict with the European leagues.

Cameroon face defending champions Egypt as well as Sudan and Zambia in their first round of the competition, which starts on January 20 and runs until February 10.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Kenya's Passion for the Game

I found this article on The, where I'm the proud author of the Valencia CF blog.

It's from Kenya's 'Standard' newspaper and speaks about not only the peculiar viewing habits of Kenyan fans, but also the extreme passion Kenyans have for the game.

Have a read at the article here or on Standard website. It's well worth it!

Although critics may deride football as a game of 22 (grown up) men chasing an inflated piece of leather for 90 minutes, ardent fans do not regard it as a mere game. To them, it is a way of life.

Football lovers in Kenya, especially the younger generation, have taken to the game with so much passion that one would be forgiven for thinking the game was invented by Kenyans. And nothing brings out the best and the worst of the fan like foreign games broadcast on TV, especially the English Premier League.

Indeed, one of the most underrated peculiar habits of Kenyans, apart from their use of the mobile phone, is their application of personal pronouns like ‘I’, ‘we’, ‘us’ or ‘our’ to identify themselves with their favourite foreign teams.

"Sisi Arsenal ni wanoma, tutashinda game zote zimebaki," says one loudmouth with a replica ‘Emirates’ polyester jersey tailored in Nairobi’s Industrial Area. (We, Arsenal, are skilled and will win all the remaining games.)

"Wewe wacha, mimi ni Man U damu na tutachukua ligi. Nyinyi hamuwezani," another one in a faded red T-shirt says. (Forget about it, I’m a die-hard Manchester United fan and we will win the league title. You are not up to task.)

"Mazee, jana tulipoteza mechi ya maana, hata sikulala," a fan of a losing team would chip in. (Yesterday, we lost an important game and as I result I could not sleep.)

Wrecking marriage

A medical doctor in Eldoret who wishes only to be identified as Dr Dorothy, is struggling to keep her marriage intact due to differences with her husband over her zeal for English soccer.

"I am a die-hard fan of Liverpool, while my husband is disinterested in soccer," said Dorothy, whose husband is an engineer.

She says that her friends, five married women, usually come over to her place to noisily urge on their favourite teams while her husband watches documentaries on another TV in the bedroom. For Dorothy and company, hurling a few choice words at opposing players and the referee is all part of the game.

Late last month as Premiership sides Liverpool and Arsenal were sweating it out in a 1-1 draw, Dorothy’s husband came over to the sitting room and switched off the TV. He was apparently angered by the noise Dorothy and her friends were making, as they cheered.

"We argued in front of my friends and did not talk to each other for four days after the incident," says Dorothy, 35.

She adds: "Football is an integral part of my life. Some men think this is weird, but the truth is that there are more and more women football enthusiasts so we cannot be dismissed. Besides, countries like Germany and US have strong women soccer teams."

The medic says she was so excited last season that she was unable to sleep or eat properly for three days after Liverpool beat Barcelona 2-1 in the UEFA Champions League, at the Camp Nou, Spain.

A former MP from Western Province says he usually bets with his wife over results of Manchester United and Chelsea games.

"I am a Man U fan, while my wife supports the Blues (Chelsea). Last season when we lost the FA Cup, I had to part with Sh10,000 after our bet. She even teased me, saying the loss was a sign of what was to transpire come the December General Election," says the former MP, who sought anonymity.

However, like the politician he is, he did not take kindly to the comment about losing the parliamentary seat: "I was livid when she suggested I could lose the seat. The situation was so bad that we were not on talking terms for a whole week."

Another soccer fan, James Omondi, separated from his wife last year after he started ignoring her and got ‘married’ to the Spanish La Liga.

"I usually stay up late to watch the likes of Raul, Ronaldinho and Messi show their magical skills. Mid-last year, my wife of five years told me to choose between soccer and her," says Omondi, whose former wife left with their two children.

His wife walked out in a huff, as he spent most nights glued to the TV screen watching clubs like Barcelona and Real Madrid.

A Nairobi resident, Joseph Wafula, claims that one of his neighbours parted ways with his wife for good during the 1998 Fifa World Cup because Nigeria lost a game.

"Those were the days when Nigeria was very popular in Kenya. When the husband came back home, his wife taunted him saying, ‘N’goo, you have lost.’ The man was so angry he beat his wife and chased her away. The wife never came back," claims Wafula.

Drowning sorrows in beer

Nothing relaxes graphic designer Julius Juma, 31, more than communicating with an online network of fans. "The Mafans Soccer forum has over 1,000 members. We communicate frequently and I get about 50 emails per day, including ‘friendly insults’ from opposing fans," says Juma, a Chelsea fan, adding that the forum involves hundreds of Kenyans in the Diaspora.

Jimmy Aol, a journalist, says that in such forums one might find Manchester United being referred to as ‘Man Useless’ or ‘Manure,’ Arsenal as ‘A**h*le’, while Chelsea rivals refer to it as ‘Chelski’ or ‘Blue band boys’ and Liverpool fans are taunted as ‘Liverfools’.

Like many Kenyan fans, Aol knows the finer details of the players of the top Premier League players, including their former and current clubs, their pay and in some instances, details about their families.

"I know what each player earns. I even know the names of some of the players’ parents," said Aol with a grin.

For Richard Okiko, a business executive, visiting the Arsenal website,, is a good way to spend free time. "I check on news of injured players, our next opponents and even visit the blogs to read comments made by Arsenal fans about the club," says Okiko, 30, who started supporting the team while at the university in the late 1990s.

He explains: "This is because Nwankwo Kanu, currently a Portsmouth player, was playing for Arsenal and scoring many classic goals."

He says some students used to get into fights and there was widespread betting. "The betting would sometimes be in terms of buying alcohol for whoever won the bet," he says.

He adds that by the time he completed his studies at the University of Nairobi, the institution had not installed satellite TV. "We used to watch the Premier League in pubs and restaurants in town," he says. "After the matches fans would ululate, shout and wail along the streets."

Most fans Crazy Monday talked to said when their teams lose, they drown their sorrows in beer and when their teams win they celebrate with even more beer.

Mercy Atieno, 29, says she is an Arsenal die-hard. Her husband of one year also supports the same team. However, her two brothers are fans of Arsenal’s archrivals, Manchester United.

"I started supporting Arsenal in 1997. I guess I had to be inclined to a team that was a bitter rival of Man United," says she.

Atieno’s younger brother, Allan Odongo says he supports Man U because its manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, does not discriminates against any player.

"If we lose I get distressed and can go without meals for a day," said Odongo.

Beverly Kaluli, an accountant, is a Blues supporter. She cannot stand a Blues player missing a penalty.

"Every time a Chelsea player is about to take a penalty, I rush out of the room as I cannot stand watching him missing. And when we win a game, I proudly put on my Chelsea jersey," explains Kaluli, who started supporting the club after Jose Mourinho took over as coach. Although Mourinho’s departure ‘broke her heart,’ she continues supporting the club.

"He is a resilient coach who works hard. I will support any club he will move to but at the same time I will continue supporting Chelsea," says Kaluli, whose best player is the Ivory Coast and Chelsea striker, Didier Drogba.

Many Kenyans believe they can influence the results of games played on TV by crossing their fingers, putting on particular clothes or tightening the muscles of their buttocks.

It is also baffling that some Kenyans can simultaneously support two different teams in the same league or defect from a team that is performing poorly to one that is having a good run. Generally, fans of English teams are born supporting one team and die supporting the same team. In Kenya, like our politicians, some fans move from one team to another at will. "Mimi ni wa Bolton (I support Bolton FC)," somebody would say today. After noticing Bolton’s poor performance, the same person would say a few weeks later, "Haki ya mungu mimi kutoka leo ni Arsenal for life. I can’t support a losing team."

But is this Premier league craze good for Kenyan football? The local league is now in the homestretch yet few fans seem concerned.

One of Kenya’s soccer legends, Joe Kadenge, says that football in the country is dead. He cites the apathy to local football as illustration of how the sport has gone to the doldrums.

Kadenge told Crazy Monday that during his heydays, the game was in the hearts of many Kenyans."Mashabiki walikuwa wanapenda mpira na hata ghasia zikiwua mingi," he says (Fans loved the game and there were frequent fights between them).

Kadenge, 72, argues that soccer hooliganism was part and parcel of the game about 30 years ago, since every team played to win.

"Gor and AFC Leopards were the main clubs. The two clubs’ fans used to be emotionally charged," he says.

David Ochieng, 50, recalls the 1980s local soccer scene with nostalgia. "We used to carry stones in coats and socks. And when police started frisking us, we started carrying the ‘missiles’ in briefcases while we were dressed in suits," says Ochieng, with a hearty laughter.

The briefcases and immaculate dressing hoodwinked the officers, thus letting the soccer fans into the stadium with their ‘missiles.’ Ochieng, a Gor Mahia supporter, says police often wondered where the stones whizzing past them at the end of the match came from.

Traders would close their shops before the end of the game and motorists would avoid the road from either City or Nyayo stadiums.

Although the rivalry used to leave some people injured, it made the game more popular. Gor versus AFC always created a carnival atmosphere. The throbbing sound of the isikuti galvanized ingwe (Leopard, AFC’s nickname) supporters as Gor fans chanted "Gor biro yawne yo" (Gor is coming, give way), among other chants. ‘Travelling fans’ were also a reality.

"We used to hire vehicles to transport us to Nairobi from Kisumu. For AFC fans, they travelled all the way from Kakamega and other parts of Western Kenya to the capital city," he says.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Sport as a Tool for Unity

This isn't so much news as a reminder of the power of sport, especially one as popular as football.

Last week, the United Nations said sport is much more than competition and winning trophies. This came out at the UN Headquarters in New York during a meeting that was considering the role of sport in achieving development and consolidating peace in post-conflict societies.

Developing countries and sport organizations have been urged to devote resources to sport activities as part of the global drive to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals.

The UN says in many societies, sport could prevent children from being used as soldiers in armed conflicts. It insists sport delivers hope in countries ravaged by war and enhances national reconciliation. Governments are urged to put more resources on sport activities to consolidate peace and expedite socio-economic development.

Sports associations have also been asked to emphasize the nation-building aspects of sport as their contribution to the UN's Millennium Development Goals. The forthcoming 2010 World Cup in South Africa has also been highlighted as another good opportunity to enhance development in the African continent.

China has undertaken to highlight issues of development when it hosts the Olympics next year.

Football in particular, due to its popularity and ease of play (all you need is a ball or a piece of cloth) can do so much more than make a crowd roar or bring joy to the masses. It can also provide hope, peace and a chance to share commonality with your fellow brothers and sisters. It's so much more than just a game.

The Enemy Within: An Update on South Africa's Preparations

South Africa's working hard to get itself ready for the 2010 World Cup.
The last thing the organizers need is a lack of focus from their partners.

This week, a scorching document proclaiming South Africa’s inability to stage the 2010 World Cup, which supposedly emanated from Europe's football governing body UEFA, was denounced as a forgery by Local Organizing Committee CEO Danny Jordaan.

“We have written confirmation of this from UEFA itself,” said Jordaan at a media briefing following a meeting of the LOC’s Board of Directors at Safa House in Johannesburg.

“What is more,” he added, “we have established the scurrilous document originates from within South Africa and is designed as a desperate attempt to derail our preparations for the World Cup by parties who are known to us.”

Jordaan, however, refused to name the alleged forgers.

Strange indeed. Why would someone try to derail the preparations for the World Cup? Whose interest does this serve?

On a happier note, The Board of Directors expressed satisfaction that the overall preparation for the 2010 World Cup and FIFA’s Confederation Cup in 2009 remained on track.

At the meeting, which was attended by FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke, an update on preparations for next month’s World Cup qualifying draw were also released — with the general secretary declaring it would be “of the highest level”, while attracting 3,000 assorted officials and media representatives.

LOC chairman Irvin Khoza said reports received after last week’s FIFA inspection tour of venues in four of the 2010 host cities were “very positive.”

“The last month has been very active for us at the LOC,” said Jordaan, “but also very rewarding. We have had an assortment of visitors extending from the Inspection team to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Franz Beckenbauer — and everyone came to the same conclusion that we are doing very well.”