Friday, August 31, 2007

Update on African footballer's death

In the wake of Zambian striker Chaswe Nsofwa's death in Israel, the president of the Football Association of Zambia (Faz) has expressed shock and disbelief.

Nsofwa died in an Israeli hospital on Wednesday minutes after collapsing during a training session with his second division side Hapoel Beer Sheva.

The cause is still unknown.

"He may have had his own up-and-downs as a player but this is the guy who scored one of the goals in the Cosafa final last year when we beat Angola 2-0," Faz President Teddy Mulonga said.

"Chaswe was one of the great prospects at the 1999 Under-20 World Cup and was a great talent. I am sad, absolutely sad."

Zambia's care-taker trainer Patrick Phiri, who coached Nsofwa in the Under-20 team in 1999, said the death was a blow to the country's football.

He added that he had been considering Nsofwa for next month's must-win African Cup of Nations qualifier against South Africa.

"My plans for the South Africa match have been dealt a big blow," he said.

"It's very painful that the cruel hand of death has robbed us of such a talent.

"This is a great blow not only to his family but the whole nation."

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Another Day, Another Tragedy

It seems every day that we open the sports pages, we read of another player succumbing to death.

Today comes news of Zambian striker Chaswe Nsofwa of Israeli second division side Hapoel Beer Sheva.

Nsofwa, 27, collapsed and died during a practice match in the southern desert city on Wednesday, ambulance staff said. He was pronounced dead at Beer Sheva's Soroka Hospital after resuscitation efforts on the pitch failed to revive him.

"We found the player lying on the ground unconscious as his friends tried to help him. He was in a state of clinical death," ambulance worker Carmel Cohen told Israel Radio.

Cohen added that despite efforts which lasted 40 minutes, the player was rushed to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Nsofwa, who was part of Zambia's African Cup of Nations squad in 2002, scored two goals for Hapoel in their 3-0 win over Hakoah Amidar/Ramat Gan at the weekend. Last year he helped the 'Chipolopolo' Zambian national team win the Cosafa Cup, scoring one of the goals in the final 2-0 win over Angola.

He's the second young footballer to die this week and the third to collapse while playing or training.

Spanish international wingback Antonio Puerta of Sevilla collapsed during the opening league match of the Spanish season against Getafe on Saturday and died on Tuesday following complications as a result of a heart attack.

On the same day that Puerta died, Leicester City defender Clive Clarke collapsed during the halftime break of his side's Carling Cup match against Nottingham Forest and was rushed to hospital.

The match was abandoned at halftime but the latest diagnosis on the Irish international was that he should make a full recovery.

It's horrible to read about these deaths every day. Let's hope this is the last of it for a very, very long time.

We wish Chaswe Nsofwa's family our condolences and may the player rest in peace.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

African Rankings and a Note About Antonio Puerta

We here at 2010 haven't looked at the FIFA world rankings in some time now. They're released every month, so let's take a peek and see where our friends in Africa rank with the world powers.

The Top Five of the August 2007 ranking are a Who's Who of world footballing giants, with Brazil ranked #1, followed by Argentina, 2006 winners Italy, 2006 finalists France and 2006 hosts Germany. Their positions are the same as the previous month.

The first African nation appears at #16 and Cameroon, who fell one place from 15th. Their spot is now occupied by Euro 2004 winners Greece.

Namibia were the month's biggest climbers, moving 12 places from 44th to 32nd. Burkina Faso also jumped higher, moving seven places and into the top 20 at 18.

Benin, who were the highest jumpers in July, moving up 18 places to 85th, continued to climb and moved another 6 places up to 79.

Ghana slipped some, dropping from 37th to 43rd, adding to their 18-place fall in July. They are now the 8th-best team on the continent, behind Nigeria, Tunisia and Egypt.

For the complete list, please
click here!

Here's the complete list of African teams, with their world rankings in brackets:

1. Cameroon (16)
2. Nigeria (26)
3. Ivory Coast (28)
4. Morocco (34)
5. Tunisia (36)
6. Egypt (40)
7. Guinea(42)
8. Ghana (43)
9. Senegal (46)
10. Mali (48)
11. Angola (59)
12. Togo (60)
13. South Africa (61)
14. Zambia (62)
15. Cape Verde Islands (72)
16. Algeria (73)
17. DR Congo (75)
18. Burkina Faso (77)
19. Benin (79)
20. Mozambique (86)
21. Libya (87)
22. Ethiopia (92)
23. Botswana (96)
24. Uganda (98)
25. Congo (100)
26. Zimbabwe (101)
27. Tanzania (102)
28. Equatorial Guinea (105)
29. Gabon (107)
30. Malawi (111)
31. Burundi (113)
32. Namibia (114)
33. Sudan (117)
34. Liberia (120)
35. Rwanda (121)
36. Eritrea (121)
37. Gambia (128)
38. Kenya (132)
39. Mauritania (136)
40. Chad (139)
41. Lesotho (143)
42. Mauritius (144)
43. Niger (146)
44. Swaziland (147)
45. Seychelles (147)
46. Madagascar (163)
47. Sierra Leone (164)
48. Comoros (182)
49. Central African Republic (185)
50. Guinea-Bissau (188)
51. Somalia (192)
52. Djibouti (199)
53. Sao Tome e Principe (199)

** We at 2010 send our condolences to the family of Sevilla's Antonio Puerta.
Puerta, a midfielder for the two-time UEFA Cup winners, died of a heart attack at the tender age of 22 after collapsing on the field during Saturday's La Liga contest against Getafe.

Seeing Puerta struggling for air, his teammates trying to stop him from swallowing his tongue and then seeing him walk to the dressing room seemed surreal. But it looked like it was an isolated episode and he'd be ok.

Then word leaked that he wasn't ok, that he was fighting for his life in a Sevilla hospital, collapsing upon arrival to the dressing room and suffering another cardiac arrest.

This morning, Puerta lost his fight. 22 years old, a wonderful talent, a comfortable living and a pregnant girlfriend. And now, he's gone.

It's so sad to think about. Football brings us so much pleasure. But it can bring so much pain. The heart beating inside Puerta's body couldn't take the constant punishment of the game and ceased to work. He collapsed and the last shot we'll have of the young Spaniard will be him lying on the ground, trying to breathe.

I shrug my shoulders and sigh a deep sigh. For all my troubles, for all the pain I may be enduring or may have caused, at least I'm still here.

I wish you well, Antonio Puerta. Vaya con Dios ...

Monday, August 27, 2007

2010 World Cup Is Underway

The 2010 World Cup officially got underway this weekend in Samoa, where 34 goals were scored on the opening day of the South Pacific Games.

Eight of the 10 teams competing in the Games' football tournament, which serve as the first stage of Oceania's qualifying competition for the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa, made their bow on the first day of a competition which runs through to September 7th. New Caledonia, playing in the World Cup qualifiers for the first time, had the distinction of winning the first match on the long, winding road to South Africa, edging Tahiti 1-0.

The match started just before the meeting between American Samoa and favorites the Solomon Islands. Later, Fiji clobbered Tuvalu 16-0 with a double hat-trick for Osea Vakatalesau while hosts Samoa were beaten 4-0 by Vanuatu.

The Solomon Islands ran in 12 goals against American Samoa, but the vanquished side were delighted with their first-ever World Cup goal. Commins Menapi scored four, claiming the first hat-trick on the road to South Africa 2010, as the Solomon Islanders enjoyed a routine start to their campaign.

Benjamin Totori and Stanley Waita each scored two more in the rout, which saw the Solomon Islanders lead 5-0 at half-time before going on to register a 12-1 win. "We have a team that can win the goal and that is what we are aiming for," said Airon Andrioli, the Brazilian coach of the Solomon Islands, afterwards.

American Samoa's first-ever World Cup qualifying goal came from a second half penalty from Ramin Ott. "I am thrilled with our first ever goal but as a coach to lose so heavily is hard," lamented David Brand, the Englishman in charge of the unfancied outsiders.

American Samoa lost 31-0 in a World Cup record defeat in the 2002 qualifiers to Australia but feel they have made a great deal of improvement, even if their 17-year-old goalkeeper Jordan Penitusi was playing his first-ever game in senior football.

The tournament's other participants, the Cook Islands and Tonga, play their first games late Monday.

And so it begins ...

Friday, August 24, 2007

African World Cup Qualifiers

More news on the 2010 World Cup qualifiers as FIFA announced the African schedule today.

In October, Africa will be staging their first knockout matches - the first step on the road to South Africa 2010. Since the host nation South Africa have qualified automatically, there will be 52 countries taking part in three qualifying rounds, all of them hoping to secure one of five spots up for grabs.

The first round will see the ten African teams who were lowest in the FIFA World Rankings in July 2007 take part in home-and-away matches. The first legs will be played on October 13, 2007, with the returns on November 17, 2007.

The fixtures:

Seychelles - Djibouti
Sierra Leone - Guinea-Bissau
Central African Republic - Sao Tome e Principe
Somalia - Swaziland
Madagascar - Comoros

The five winners will then qualify for the second round, along with the remaining 43 member associations, including South Africa who, although already qualified for the World Cup, will also take part in the group stages since these matches also serve as a qualifying tournament for the 2010 African Cup of Nations. Should they progress to the third stage, South Africa will play in the relevant group and any points won will count towards the Cup of Nations qualifiers but not those for the World Cup.

The 48 countries will be drawn in 12 groups of four, and they will play a mini-championship with home and away games against the other three teams. The group winners and the eight best second-placed teams will qualify for the third round. These 20 teams will then play in five groups of four, again in a mini-league format with home and away games. The five group winners will then qualify for South Africa 2010.

Let the madness begin!!

Overseas View of World Cup is Criminal

I found this article on the South African Times website.

It's written by Mninawa Ntloko and deals with the view the world community has of the South African World Cup. Many see South Africa as a violent country, full of murder and anarchy. Ntloko points out that this view of South Africa and the constant apologizing they do on the world stage is 'utter rubbish'.

Read the article and tell me what you think. Click here to read the article.

A little over two months ago, the man who led the international campaign that helped portray a positive image of Germany ahead of the 2006 Soccer World Cup blew into town and promptly complained about South Africa.

Mike de Vries, the MD of the 2006 World Cup branding campaign, urged South Africans to take the initiative and break down perceptions about the country’s ability to successfully host the 2010 tournament.

De Vries said the 2010 local organising committee had to assume control of its public relations and dispel doubts about South Africa that still persisted in Europe and Asia.

He said the European media, especially, was having a field day at our expense and regularly ran stories about how South Africa was on course to reduce the World Cup to an embarrassing circus.

So, organising committee CEO Danny Jordaan was in London this week again to defend South Africa.
Apparently, an overzealous hack voiced fears “South Africa’s crime problem” might affect the cup and Jordaan had to begin the defence offensive.
Jordaan explained that many rugby, cricket, soccer and other sporting codes from Europe had visited South Africa without any incident over the past few years.

Hell, two of the biggest soccer stars in the world, Brazilian superstar Ronaldinho and Cameroon super striker Samuel Eto’o, were here only a few weeks ago, but nobody feared for their safety because they came with a club.

So why should the supposedly escalating crime always be a concern where the Soccer World Cup is concerned and not when other sporting codes are involved?
And curiously, “South Africa’s crime” does not seem to have affected the tourism stats as, according to Jordaan, the tourist figures have grown by an average 11percent over the past three years.
So, while Europe would have the world believe they’ll be raped, robbed at gunpoint, hijacked, kidnapped and goodness knows what else should they dare come to South Africa during the World Cup, there’s no problem if they come here at any other time of the year.

What utter rubbish!

It’s really a sad day when Jordaan even needs to keep explaining this to the world.
From where I’m standing, there are times when it almost feels as if we have to keep apologising for having the nerve to win the rights to host this thing.
That is probably the reason why reports from London on Jordaan’s visit had a reluctant tone of acceptance and grudgingly admitted, to a certain extent that insinuations of a crisis in South Africa’s preparations for the 2010 event were grossly exaggerated.

Road to 2010 World Cup Begins Tomorrow

The Road to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa begins in earnest Saturday afternoon when nine countries in the Oceania confederation set out on the long road in Apia, Samoa, where a football tournament at the South Pacific Games serves as the first step in the qualifying campaign.

Two matches will kick off simultaneously on Saturday on adjoining fields in the Samoan capital, marking the start of a worldwide qualifying campaign that is only
set to be completed by November 2009.

The top three finishers at the South Pacific Games advance to the next stage of the Oceania qualifiers in October, where they are joined in a group competition by New Zealand.

The Solomon Islands, who are favorites for the gold medal, begin against American Samoa, who hold the record for the heaviest loss in World Cup qualifying
history, hammered 31-0 by Australia in 2001.

At the same time French territories New Caledonia and Tahiti meet in a derby match.
Also participating in the tournament are the Cook Islands, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu along with Tuvalu, who are the first non-FIFA members to take part in World Cup qualifiers.

The 10 participants are divided into two groups and play in a league competition through to the semi-finals on Sept. 5 and the final, and third place
playoff match, on Sept. 7.

The Solomon Islands, who at 161 are the highest world ranked side in the competition, have played a series of warm-up games in Australia to prepare. America
Samoa, in 199th spot, are the lowest-ranked and lost 11-0 to Papua New Guinea in their last international more than three years ago.

Their English coach David Brand says they will seek to restrict the number of goals they concede. "Being as competitive as possible and searching for the first ever point in a World Cup qualifier as I am sure we have never gained one is our aim. A goal would be nice as well," he said.

New Caledonia have also prepared in Australia while Fiji have named three players who play for clubs in New Zealand in their squad.

Vanuatu, who beat New Zealand in the last World Cup qualifiers, and hosts Samoa will also be among the major contenders. Samoa's side is captained by Chris Cahill, brother of the Everton and Australian international Michael Cahill.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

South Africa to Play in Qualifiers for 2010 Cup

According to my eyes and ears in Africa, Mr. Mark Gleeson (respected Reuters journalist and African football scribe, a.k.a. Man I'd Like to Become One Day) South Africa will become the first World Cup hosts in more than 70 years to participate in its own qualifying competition, although they will play in the finals regardless of their performance, officials confirmed on Tuesday.

The African qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup are to be combined with the preliminaries for the 2010 African Cup of Nations earlier the same year, necessitating the participation of South Africa, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) said.

While all the other African nations involved in the qualifiers will be vying for spots in both tournaments, World Cup hosts South Africa will only be chasing a berth in the 2010 African Nations Cup being held in Angola.

Similarly, Angola will be only trying to qualify for a World Cup berth.

For the first time, Africa has a full quota of 53 entries for the 2010 preliminaries, which will be divided into three stages.
The bottom 10 African teams in the FIFA rankings have been drawn into five preliminary round ties, which are to be played over two legs in October and November.
FIFA says the draw has been conducted and is expected to be announced in the next days. (We'll have that news for you once it comes in, so check back!)

The five winners will join 43 other countries in the first group phase, where the teams will be divided into 12 groups of four teams each at the World Cup draw in Durban on Nov. 25.

They will play six rounds of matches through 2008 with the 12 group winners plus eight best runners-up progressing to the last league stage.

The 20 remaining teams are to be divided into a final stage of five groups of four, with the resultant group winners going onto the World Cup in South Africa and the top three in each group qualifying for the 2010 Nations Cup finals in Angola.

Should South Africa finish top of their group, the runner-up would qualify for the 2010 World Cup, officials told Reuters.
The CAF also used the 2006 World Cup qualifiers to determine its 16 Nations Cup finalists in Egypt the same year.

Africa are to have six teams at the World Cup finals for the first time.
The only previous World Cup host forced to play a preliminary tie was Italy in 1934. They played a single match against Greece just months before the finals, winning 4-0 in Milan before the Greeks withdrew from the return match.

State of the 2010 World Cup

Life has once again intervened in my blogging endeavors.
But I'm back with some updates on South Africa's progress on the Road to the 2010 World Cup.

World Cup organizer Danny Jordaan (above) briefed the South African High Commission in London a few days back and said the state of tournament organization is very good. Everything is on track for a successful World Cup come 2010.

Jordaan said stadium development was on schedule, sponsorship and TV rights income was already guaranteed to surpass that of 2006 and tourism in the country continued to grow despite one of the world's highest crime rates.

However, he conceded that African nations were failing to establish any consistency of playing performance and that action was needed to ensure a local presence in the latter stages of the first World Cup to be held on African soil.

"We have two completion dates. By December 2008 we will have the five stadia we need for the (2009) Confederations Cup -- four of those are ready today," Jordaan said.

"Then we have to build the new stadiums by October 2009. If we complete all the stadiums on the time we will be the first country to have done so. Remember the paint was still wet for the Athens Olympics while the new Wembley here was not without problems. Yes we have crime, there are challenges, but our ability to safeguard all of our visitors coming to our major events has been tested over the last 13 years and there has not been a single incident and tourist figures have grown every year."

Jordaan added that, inspired by the success of Germany's fan parks at the 2006 World Cup, 2010 organisers planned to expand the concept not only to non-hosting cities in South Africa but had asked FIFA to investigate the possibility of allowing cities all over the world, and particularly throughout Africa, to set up "unofficial" fan parks.

However, when it came to a discussion about African prospects of success on the pitch in three years' time, Jordaan was less enthusiastic.

Spotlighting teams who have done well in the Olympics and African Nations Cup but failed to make an impact at the World Cup, where only Cameroon (1990) and Senegal (2002) have reached the quarter-finals, Jordaan highlighted the difference in support structures.

"In an analysis of the kinds of technical, medical and scientific support available for the best teams in the world against African teams, there is a huge gap," he said.

"They have physios, dieticians, doctors and so on ... it's not just running on to the field and playing. Very often you find African players have recurring injuries because of inappropriate treatment. It is an area we have to look at and in November we have a medical conference focusing on medical support for African teams."

South Africa, struggling internationally since their peak in the mid-1990s, have followed many of the continental partners by employing a foreign coach -- Brazilian Carlos Alberto Parreira -- but Jordaan said he felt that trend was one of the reasons for the teams' failures.

Quoting a "professor of football" he met in Cuba, Jordaan said: "He told me 'You cannot beat anyone who you admire, who you have as an idol'.

"'You have to find your own heroes. When a team stands there with hands on heart and sings the national anthem and the coach can't sing it, the players know.'

"These are the sort of issues we need to probe."

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Cup of Nations Row

This, another in our long line of commentaries about the African Cup of Nations and its scheduling issues.

I don't have a proper grouping of articles, but please click the link on the right to see more articles pertaining to the continental tournament.

Today, Ghana coach Claude Le Roy insisted that all his European-based players are expected to join his African Cup of Nations squad on time.

Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho, who could lose five key players during the tournament, has already said he wants to discuss a deal to hold onto his players until just before the tournament.

However Le Roy is adamant that all his players report for training two weeks prior to the event, as stipulated in FIFA regulations.

"You cannot prepare for the Premier League two days before it starts, they prepare six weeks before," the Frenchman pointed out.

"The players have to be here (in Accra) fourteen days before the competition; that means that all my players must be in camp by 6 January 2008 and there is no compromise at all on that.

"They can offer billions of dollars but the only thing that is important is the Black Stars."

The Black Stars coach also says European clubs and African players must get used to the fact that the dates of the African Cup of Nations finals will not change.

European clubs and some of Africa's big name players have criticised the fact that the Nations Cup finals are played in the middle of the European season.

OK. But what will the European clubs do? They pay these stars huge wages. What row will this cause with the national teams?

Black Stars' midfielder Michael Essien is the latest to ask for a rethink of the January to February scheduling of the event.

The more stars come out in favor of this, the more pressure it will heap on the African organizers to change the event's dates.

Le Roy added, "We shouldn't be worrying about what happens in London or Paris, what is important is what happens in Cairo or in Accra or in Lagos," he said.

"If it's possible to find a good date that everybody would be happy with then we must consider that, but at the moment the priority now is the Cup of Nations and the clubs must understand that."

And the debate goes on ...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Child Sex Tourism in South Africa

On our road to South Africa and the 2010 World Cup, we encounter stories that speak of the human element. The World Cup opens our eyes to some of the problems embedded in society. Football has that way of making us aware of the underlying problems of society.

Today, activists in South Africa said the country risks becoming a magnet for pedophiles when it hosts the 2010 World Cup as rising child sex tourism blights Africa's top travel spots.

Every year thousands of children in mostly poor countries fall prey to sex tourists. In Africa, a tourism boom coupled with high levels of poverty, unemployment and illiteracy provide fertile ground for child sex tourism to boom.

Activists say South Africa in particular must take steps to guard against child sex tourism ahead of the 2010 World Cup, when millions of people are expected to visit the continent's richest country.

"Africa could become the new Thailand. There is a big risk, a big threat," said Jennifer Seif, the executive director of Fair Trade in Tourism SA, during a media briefing in Cape Town.

Seif said western men away from home who sleep with 14-or 15-year old girls made up the bulk of sex tourists, although younger children were also at risk.

The South African police said they had not identified child sex tourism as a particular threat related to the World Cup.

"However, crimes against women and children are a national police priority and we will continue to give attention to this as a priority," said national police spokesman Vishnu Naidoo.

Seif urged South Africa and other countries to sign a code of conduct, under which countries agree to train staff working in the tourism industry on how to spot potential dangers and how to help halt the exploitation of children.

The code is being funded by United Nations children's agency UNICEF and supported by the World Tourism Organisation.

"Within Africa there are five or six countries seen as one- a-kind-of-hotspot list, and South Africa is definitely one of them," said Seif, listing Kenya, Tanzania, Senegal and Gambia as other countries struggling with the phenomenon.

Kenya is so far the only African country which has endorsed and signed the code, said Seif. South Africa is among the countries worst affected by the AIDS pandemic, with around 12 percent of its people infected by the HIV virus.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Essiens Calls for Cup of Nations Change

Ghana midfielder Michael Essien has called for a rethink on the timing of the African Cup of Nations.

Chelsea are poised to lose Essien, Didier Drogba, John Obi Mikel and Salomon Kalou for up to a month during next January's tournament in Ghana.

Essien thinks that switching the tourney to the end of the European season would have the support of players.

"If they can change it would be good for us players and it would be good the clubs too," said Essien.

"You have to leave in January, which is a difficult month for the club, but you have to go and help your country. If they can change it would be good for us."

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has planned for the loss of his African players as the Blues look to win the English title back from Manchester United.

Mourinho has signed Tal Ben Haim, Claudio Pizarro and Steve Sidwell over the summer transfer period.

"I think the new players here are really very good, they fit in really well," added Essien.

"I think we have good players to fit in whilst we are away, so I don't think it will be a problem. I hope not."

Africans in Europe

Let's take a look again at the footballing exploits of African superstars in Europe this week, courtesy of Timothy Collings of Reuters.

Nigerian striker Obafemi Martins scored a vital brace, including a spectacular overhead kick, as Newcastle United opened their English Premier League campaign with a 3-1 win at Bolton Wanderers.

Martins's athletic strike was the eye-catching highlight of a busy and successful weekend for African players as the leading European soccer leagues began their seasons.

The striker's first goal was sublime. He controlled James Milner's cross on his chest with his back towards goal, before spinning and executing a perfect overhead kick high into the net to make it 2-0 after 21 minutes.

The former Inter Milan frontman scored his second six minutes later with a deflected long-range strike and Bolton could manage only a solitary consolation from French striker Nicolas Anelka.

Elsewhere in the English league, it was an excellent day for Portsmouth's African duo Benjani Mwaruwari and John Utaka.

Both were on the score-sheet as Pompey began the season with a 2-2 draw at newly-promoted Derby County.

After 27 minutes Zimbabwean Benjani latched onto a pass from England's David Nugent to equalise Matt Oakley's early opener.
Then Utaka, an impressive new arrival, appeared to win the game for Portsmouth when the Nigerian drove home powerfully with just seven minutes remaining.
But Derby struck back immediately to snatch a point through an Andy Todd diving header.

Ghana's Michael Essien started the new season with Chelsea's winning goal in a 3-2 win over promoted Birmingham City in an entertaining game at Stamford Bridge.

Young Nigerian striker Victor Anichebe scored a vital goal for Everton as they started their season with a 2-1 win at home to Wigan Athletic.
The 19-year-old from Lagos calmly converted from an Andrew Johnson through-ball with 15 minutes remaining.


The German Bundesliga got underway on Friday night, but the first major African contribution came the following day when VfL Bochum hosted Werder Bremen.
Bremen were without eight first-team players but they will still be disappointed to have surrendered a two-goal lead in a 2-2 draw.

Brazilian playmaker Diego scored Bremen's first from the penalty spot before Ivorian striker Boubacar Sanogo doubled the advantage with a curling free-kick in first half stoppage time.

Manasseh Isiaku was on target twice for MSV Duisburg as they won 3-1 at Borussia Dortmund.
The Nigerian struck either side of Mihai Tararache's 62nd minute penalty to make sure promoted Duisburg kicked off their season in style with their first win at Dortmund for 35 years.

In France, a double from Algerian striker Rafih Saifi helped FC Lorient to a 2-1 win over Monaco in the second round of Ligue 1 fixtures on Saturday.

Also on Saturday, St Etienne's all-African strikeforce powered them to a victory over Valenciennes.
A goal from Batefimbi Gomis of Senegal and two from Guinea's Pascal Feindouno shot 'Les Verts' to their first win of the season.

On Sunday, a late goal from Senegal striker Momar N'Diaye was not enough to save Metz from a home defeat against Lille.
N'Diaye looked to have earned a share of the points when his deflected effort made it 1-1 in the 84th minute but there was still time for Croatian midfielder Marko Maric to steal the win for the visitors.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Africans in the English Premiership

The world's most popular league gets back into gear tomorrow when The English Premiership starts play with matches around the country. The likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal begin their quest for the championship of England and glory in Europe.

As you know, many of the best African footballers ply their trade in England. We all know about Didier Drogba, Michael Essien and Kolo Toure. How about some of the other rising stars of African football?

Graeme Jackson of the fine African football website MTN Football presents an in-depth look at the best African footballers in the Premiership this season. Let's see what he has to say about some of the African players not named Drogba or Toure. It's a lengthy list, so only a few players are listed here. To read Jackson's full article, please click here!


Emmanuel Adebayor

Nationality: Togo
Born: 26/02/1984
Position: Forward
Squad No: 25

With Thierry Henry having departed for Barcelona, Emmanuel Adebayor will be expected to establish himself as one of Arsenal’s leading forwards. He will have tough competition, though, with new signing Eduardo Da Silva and the prodigiously talented Robin van Persie standing in his way. But the Togo international has enough skill to be as big a hit in North London as his childhood hero Nwankwo Kanu was.


Medhi Nafti

Nationality: Tunisia
Born: 28/11/1978
Position: Midfielder
Squad No: 12

A MTN Africa Cup of Nations winner from 2004, Medhi Nafti played a prominent role in helping Birmingham gain promotion from the Championship. The combative midfielder’s game is well suited to the hurly-burly action of the Premiership and he will be an important player as the Blues look to consolidate their place in the top flight.


Aaron Mokoena

Nationality: South Africa
Born: 25/11/1980
Position: Defender/Midfielder
Squad No: 15

The aggressive and committed Aaron Mokoena (right) is equally comfortable in the heart of defence or as a defensive midfielder, where he has played most of his football for Rovers. The former Ajax Amsterdam hard-man’s versatility and strength make him a prefect fit for the English game and, as Arjen Robben (who had his ankle broken by Mokoena in a rough tackle two years ago) will tell you, he takes no prisoners.


Abdoulaye Meite

Nationality: Cote d’Ivoire
Born: 06/10/1980
Position: Defender
Squad No: 5

Voted the club’s best newcomer at the end of last season after making more than 40 appearances in his debut season at Bolton, Cote d’Ivoire international defender Abdoulaye Meite is now a leading player at the Reebok Stadium. His experience, both at international level and with Marseille in Europe, will be important for a Bolton team who will balance the Premiership and UEFA Cup commitments.


Joseph Yobo

Nationality: Nigeria
Born: 06/09/1980
Position: Defender
Squad No: 4

Nigerian defender Joseph Yobo has become the foundation upon which coach David Moyes has built an effective and efficient Toffees team. Everton’s Young Player of the Year for 2003/04 has grown into a defender of rare vision and skill, all while retaining his characteristic strength and speed. This season he will hope to further enhance his reputation as one of England’s best defenders.


Mohamed Sissoko

Nationality: Mali
Born: 22/01/1985
Position: Midfield
Squad No: 22

Mali international Momo Sissoko was a favourite of Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez from his spell with Valencia and the Spaniard’s faith in the midfielder has been rewarded since signing him for the Reds in mid-2005. The hard-working, no no-nonsense Sissoko has been a reliable option in the middle of the park, but he faces stiff competition from Argentinean Javier Mascherano for the anchor role.


Ibrahim Sonko

Nationality: Senegal
Born: 22/01/1981
Position: Defender
Squad No: 5

Ibrahima Sonko has yet to officially commit his international future to Senegal, having played in nothing more than an unofficial friendly for the country, but it seems he will become a fully fledged international for the West African country in the not too distant future. The defender enjoyed a solid 2006/07 season, as did most of Reading’s players, and he will hope to continue his good form this campaign.


Benoît Assou-Ekotto

Nationality: Cameroon
Born: 24/03/1984
Position: Defender
Squad No: 32

Young Cameroonian left back Benoît Assou-Ekotto (left) joined Spurs in June 2006 from Lens. He made 24 appearances last season and looked a promising prospect before injury cut his campaign short. He will hope to build on his strong showings and establish himself this year.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

South African Name Changes and a Charity Cup Update

South Africa has a rich history cloaked by the oppressive practices of Apartheid.

On Tuesday, the World Cup organizing committee announced that three World Cup host cities will be allowed to use proposed name changes on official tournament documents and tickets for the 2010 finals.

The tickets and documents will bear both the apartheid-era names of cities and the new ones, reflecting the nation's evolution while avoiding confusing visitors.

Pretoria will now be known as Tshwane, the name of the municipal district containing South Africa's capital, Bloemfontein becomes Manguang and Port Elizabeth will be called Nelson Mandela Bay. The organizers said they had agreed with the world governing body FIFA that the new names would be used within South Africa. Outside the country, a combination of both the old and new names will be used to avoid confusion.

Name changing is highly sensitive in South Africa. The black-led government has championed efforts to rename towns or street names to get rid of apartheid-era names and better reflect the country's African character, but that has angered some whites, who fear their history is being eroded.

Apartheid's tentacles reach from the past to affect us in the present. Oppression can not be easily diluted, not even through the folds of time.

An update on the Charity Cup from South Africa, which we talked about a few days ago.

Bloemfontein Celtic won the Charity Cup, an exhausting four-team event that traditionally attracts crowds above 70,000 spectators.

Celtic beat Orlando Pirates 4-3 in the final after the game had gone to penalties. The two teams were locked in a 1-1 draw after 90 minutes.

Orlando Pirates progressed to the final after beating arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs in a penalty shoot out in the semi final after the teams were level 1-1 after normal time.

Bloemfontein Celtic had no trouble securing their final berth, beating last year's league runners-up Silver Stars 3-1 in their semi.

The four clubs who took part were voted for in a month-long telephone poll.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Quick Tidbits

On this day of personal reflection (please see my previois entry), here are some news items I've scrounged up from the Internet.

(***A small note about about my news scrounging: Trust me, I'm no fan of copying & pasting someone else's writing on this blog. But, I think it serves a valuable purpose.

One, you get a one-stop outlet for quick bites of African football news.
Two, we learn together about the complexities and beauty of the Beautiful Game in Africa. The game in the world's second-largest and second most-populous continent is too often overlooked.

There will come a time when the reporting on this blog will be first-hand. Until then, I'll set a base for information & news to enlighten both the reader and the writer. That's a good start, no?)

So let me stop blabbering & let's get on to it ...

- FIFA, football's world governing body, said today that only 18 African countries visited have soccer stadiums safe enough to allow them to host World Cup qualifiers.

FIFA officials completed an inspection of 50 of the continent's 53 football playing nations in June. They did not visit Kenya, Somalia or World Cup hosts South Africa.

The inspections follow FIFA's decision last year to insist on better safety standards at international matches, particularly World Cup qualifiers. No dates have been set for next year's Africa qualifiers.

This is bad news. The state of the stadia in Africa is cause for alarm. Now the question is, what will the nations without adequate stadiums do to get them up to par? What are the conditions on getting the stadium to safe levels?

- Frequently, news services like the BBC print articles highlighting the contribution of African players in domestic leagues around Europe. Here's such an article from today.

'There were just two African goalscorers on a quiet opening weekend in the French Ligue 1.

Morocco striker Youssef Hadji scored for Nancy as they beat Rennes 2-0, when he flicked the ball over the approaching Rennes goalkeeper in the 41st minute to seal the win.

Guinea's Pascal Feindouno salvaged a point for St Etienne, scoring from the penalty spot in the 47th minute as his side drew 1-1 with Monaco.

But it was a bad start to the season for Mali midfielder Sidi Keita of Lens as he was sent-off for a brutal challenge in the last minute of his side's 1-0 loss at Bordeaux.

Reigning Champions Lyon, who are looking for a seventh straight title, started their campaign with a 2-0 win over Auxerre 2-0 on Sunday.

There were also just two African scorers on the opening weekend in Belgium.

Ivorian striker Francois Zoko was on target for Mons Bergen, but it wasn't enough as his side lost 2-1 to Club Bruges.

The only other goal was by Paito Tambwe from Congo-Brazzaville the striker scored the opening goal for his side Lokeren in their 2-1 victory over St Truiden.

Many other clubs from around Europe are still playing pre-season friendlies and several Africans were on target in those too.

English premiership side Portsmouth beat Leicester City from a division below 3-1 with the DR Congo striker Lomana LuaLua on the score sheet.

Nigeria's Yakubu Ayegbeni scored the second for another Premiership side Middlesbrough who beat Ducth side AZ Alkmaar 2-0.

Fellow Nigerian Ikechukwu Uche gave his Spanish side Getafe an 11th minute lead as they trounced Dutch side Sparta Rotterdam 6-1.

FC Porto won the Rotterdam Cup after beating Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua 3-0 with Moroccan striker Tarik Sektioui scoring the opener for the Portuguese champions. The win was sufficient for them to finish ahead of Liverpool and hosts Feyenoord, who drew 1-1 in Sunday's other game.

Nigeria's Peter Odemwingie scored for Lokomotiv Moscow, who were beaten 4-3 in a penalty shoot-out by Italy's European Champions AC Milan, in the Russian Railways tournament.

Odemwingie had scored the third for Lokomotiv as his side led 3-1 before Milan fought back with two goals in the last three minutes to make the final score 3-3.

Personal Musings

It's been some time since I updated you on my travels to South Africa 2010 and the World Cup Final on July 11, 2010.

It's been a good and bad journey so far.
The good has been the wealth of knowledge I've gained about Africa, its people and the wonderful game of football.

The bad has been the unbelieveable task I face of getting to SA 2010.

It's not impossible. Nothing is. But I find the going tough these days and I'm racking my brain for new and better ways of acheiving my goals.

I truly believe I have some solid plans in place. What I'm not so sure about is how to implement them.

Anyways, there's been talk of going back to school, volunteering in Kenya, fund-raising, grant-writing and writing a book.

All solid plans. Now I have to pull the trigger. On something.

I think the most solid plan is my journey to Ghana and the 2008 African Cup of Nations. I see no reason why I can't go. I'm saving the money, I'm determined to do some real first-hand reporting and I'm excited by the possibilities.

Beyond that, the best I can do is learn about the continent and its rich, sometimes pained history.

I recently picked up a book titled, 'King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa' by Adam Hochschild. It deals with Belgium's rule of the Congo at the turn of the 20th century. Here's a description from the book itself:

'In the 1880s, as the European powers were carving up Africa, King Leopold II of Belgium seized for himself the vast and mostly unexplored territory surrounding the Congo River. Carrying out a genocidal plundering of the Congo, he looted its rubber, brutalized its people, and ultimately slashed its population by ten million--all the while shrewdly cultivating his reputation as a great humanitarian. Heroic efforts to expose these crimes eventually led to the first great human rights movement of the twentieth century, in which everyone from Mark Twain to the Archbishop of Canterbury participated. King Leopold's Ghost is the haunting account of a megalomaniac of monstrous proportions, a man as cunning, charming, and cruel as any of the great Shakespearean villains. It is also the deeply moving portrait of those who fought Leopold: a brave handful of missionaries, travelers, and young idealists who went to Africa for work or adventure and unexpectedly found themselves witnesses to a holocaust. Adam Hochschild brings this largely untold story alive with the wit and skill of a Barbara Tuchman. Like her, he knows that history often provides a far richer cast of characters than any novelist could invent. Chief among them is Edmund Morel, a young British shipping agent who went on to lead the international crusade against Leopold. Another hero of this tale, the Irish patriot Roger Casement, ended his life on a London gallows. Two courageous black Americans, George Washington Williams and William Sheppard, risked much to bring evidence of the Congo atrocities to the outside world. Sailing into the middle of the story was a young Congo River steamboat officer named Joseph Conrad. And looming above them all, the duplicitous billionaire King Leopold II. With great power and compassion, King Leopold's Ghost will brand the tragedy of the Congo--too long forgotten--onto the conscience of the West.'

Sounds amazing and terrifying.

So that's a quick update. Still writing, still reading, still planning a trip in January. Still trying to figure this all out.

If anyone has suggestions, PLEASE LET ME KNOW!!
I need all the help I can get.

Confederations Cup Round-up

The African Champions League took place this week but we're going to focus instead on the 'little brother' of African continental competitions, the Confederations Cup.

Here's a quick re-cap of this weekend's African Confederations Cup action, thanks to our friends at the BBC.

A Nigerian club coach had to be rescued by police and another quit on a disastrous weekend for the country in the Confederation Cup.

Police smuggled Kwara United coach Kafaru Alabi away from the Township Stadium in the central town of Ilorin as supporters vented their anger at a 1-1 Group B draw with Ismailia of Egypt.

Dolphin were humiliated 6-1 in the same pool away to Al-Merreikh of Sudan, prompting coach Ifeanyi Onyedika to resign while travelling to the team hotel in Khartoum.

CS Sfaxien of Tunisia appear the team to beat in Group A after whipping Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa 4-0 with Ivorian striker Blaise Kouassi scoring twice.

And the deadliest finisher in African club football, Mbuti Mapi from TP Mazembe of the DR Congo, raised his goal tally to 15 by scoring twice in a 2-1 home win over Astres Douala of Cameroon.

Merreikh lead Group B with four points followed by Dolphin (three), Ismailia (two) and Kwara (one) while it is even closer in Group A with Sfaxien (four) just ahead of Mazembe and Sundowns (three each) and Astres have one.

Group winners after the six-round mini-leagues advance to the final and early form suggests Merreikh and Sfaxien could contest the US$300,000 first prize over two legs in November.

Edward Weng gave Kwara a first-half lead only for Mohamed Fadl to level 15 minutes from full-time and although the visitors lacked sacked French coach Patrice Neveu they came close to securing maximum points in a frenetic finish.

When the final whistle sounded police raced to protect Alabi and took him away in a heavily guarded truck as Ilorin once again witnessed the ugly side of African football.

Kwara defeated Mouloudia Alger of Algeria and Union Douala of Cameroon in ill-tempered qualifiers at the Township Stadium with match officials attacked by visiting players.

Former Dolphin stars Endurance Idahor and Efosa Eguakun sparkled as a multi-national Merreikh team guided by Togo 2006 World Cup coach Otto Pfister ran riot in the second half to score three times within five minutes.

After cutting the deficit to 2-1 via a Victor Ezeji header two minutes after half-time, Dolphin had leading scorer Bola Bello sent off for elbowing an opponent.

Merreikh captain and Sudan international Faisal Ajab led the goal charge with two and Mujahid Mohamed, Musa al-Tayeb, Idahor and Mohamed Ali were also on target.

Sundowns did not know what hit them in the Mediterranean city of Sfax with Kouassi scoring after 90 seconds and Blaise Mbele from the DR of Congo adding a second in the eighth minute.

Kouassi took advantage of slack marking to head a third Sfaxien goal with 29 minutes gone and second-half pressure Sundowns was thwarted by goalkeeper Lotfi Saidi before Naby Soumah added the fourth in stoppage time.

Mabi gave Mazembe a first-minute lead in Kinshasa, Amia Ekanga levelled midway thorugh the first half and the prolific Congolese scorer hit the 61st-minute winner.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Baghdad Welcomes Weeping Soccer Stars

Weeping tears of joy and pride, Iraq's soccer champions arrived home on Friday to celebrate the Asian Cup victory that inspired their nation, but heavy security meant few Baghdadis were able to join the party.

"There is no happier moment," goalkeeper Noor Sabri told Iraq state television, choking back tears as other players behind him sobbed.

"I don't know what to say. All I can say is congratulations to the mothers of the martyrs," he said, paying tribute to victims of his country's conflict.

Player Ali Rahima said: "We hope that this unity will not be only for football. We hope everybody will unite to bring happiness to the Iraqi people."

After nightfall the team was driven to the heavily fortified "green zone" government and diplomatic compound, where Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki kissed each player on both cheeks and placed rings of flowers around their necks.

They were greeted inside the walled compound by a marching band and a throng of government officials, before being ushered in to the ceremony with Maliki and President Jalal Talabani.

"You have brought the smile back to the lips of Iraq," Maliki said. "You are an example of our unity."

Officials chanted and clapped, and a poet in robes took a microphone to shout verses in the team's honor.

The players passed the trophy they had won to a woman whose son was killed by a suicide bomber while celebrating the team's semi-final victory last week. She passed the trophy on to the prime minister and the president.

Earlier, hundreds of Iraqis had managed to negotiate a series of security checkpoints in blistering summer heat to reach the airport, hoping for a glimpse of their heroes.

"People have been dancing and chanting and singing all day. We haven't gotten tired," a government employee who was at the airport said shortly before the team arrived.

But most of the city remained locked down in a weekly curfew for the Muslim day of prayer. The majority of Iraqis would see the players only on television.
Some of the players -- including captain Younis Mahmoud who scored the goal that clinched the championship -- stayed away, citing other commitments or the danger of coming home.

"It's a shame that this team brought us the happiness of our lives, and we still cannot celebrate them properly," said Baghdad resident Ammar Hussein, 33. He said he did not dare take to the streets for safety reasons.

The team, nicknamed the Lions of Mesopotamia, triggered nationwide euphoria with their against-the-odds victory last Sunday. After the final whistle in their 1-0 defeat of heavily favoured Saudi Arabia, at least seven people were killed by stray bullets as joyous Iraqis fired rifles into the air.

Iraqis have hailed the team -- a snapshot of the country's religious sects and ethnic groups -- as proof Iraq could overcome the divisions that have led to bloodshed.

Newspapers and TV commentators contrasted the players with the country's feuding and ineffective politicians.

(Thanks to Mussab Al-Khairalla of Reuters for this report.)

Africans in French Football

African players are in vogue in France, as over 90 Africans call the French domestic league home.

To be precise, 97 Africans play in France's Ligue 1, Many are hoping to emulate the likes of Cheslea's Ivorian striker Didier Drogba and his Ghanaian team-mate Michael Essien, who used the league as a stepping-stone to riches in the English Premiership.

Each of the 20 clubs in the country's top league have at least two Africans on their books as they vie for Le Championnat, the league title.

Champions Lyon, who have won 6 straight French titles, signed Ivorian striker Kadar Keita and Algeria defender Nadir Belhadj to strengthen the squad following the departure of four key players including Florent Malouda to Chelsea.

Lyon begin their title defence on Sunday when they take on Auxerre but if there is any team to prevent them from grabbing their seventh successive title then it is former European champions Olympique Marseille.

Marseille went on a pre-season shopping spree to bolster their squad after buying six players including skilful Algerian playmaker Karim Ziani from rivals Sochaux.

They also promoted 17-year-old Andre 'Dede' Ayew (left), son of Ghana legend Abedi Pele, from their youth team.

"We have had an excellent preparation and that is why I think that we can challenge Lyon for the title," Dede told BBC Sport.

"We have a good mix of experienced and young players who can carry us through this long season."

Marseille must be able to cope with the possible absence of all nine of their African players in mid season when the African Cup of Nations starts in January.

It will be interesting to find out how newly-promoted Metz finish on the table as they are the club with the highest number of Africans in their squad.

The possible absence of their ten players during the Nations Cup in Ghana is expected to weigh heavily on their survival chances.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

South Africa: Football and Culture

I found this post on the popular website.

We all recognize soccer for the beautiful game that it
is. And for its power to unite a country as in Cote
D'Ivoire and inflame passions between countries, in El
Salvador and Honduras (The Soccer Wars).

But it is also the one sport that has seen an intimate
connection and is intertwined in the struggle against
apartheid and South Africa's freedom.

The polarization in the races between the White
Afrikaaners and the Blacks, Indians, and the Coloreds
was reflected in the choice of sports. Cricket and
rugby for the colonials and soccer and boxing for the
indigenous. The formation of the Orlando Pirates in
the 1930's and in the next decade their rivals, the
Moloka Swallows saw the first organized attempts at a
soccer league for the blacks. It was a form of escape
from the grinding poverty and regular harrassment of
the police. The muddy grounds of the squatter camps
and a ball, was all you needed. And the migration of
thousands of people to the outskirts of Johannesburg,
Durban, Cape Town looking for jobs provided the
audience and the players. The British form of soccer
was soon transformed and Africanized by incorporating
traditional customs practised by the Zulus, Xhosas,
Ndebeles, and the Coloreds. Soccer became a dynamic,
protean form of entertainment and social release for

The 1950's and 60's saw soccer being thrust into the
forefront of apartheid politics. The White colonials
made it impossible for the indigent population to
secure playing fields. This led to the resistance of
many workers to the strict control of their lives
through the colonial and capitalist demands of the
white overlords with respect to their wages, working
hours, and social practices. In 1951 Africans,
Coloureds, and Indians came together to form the South
African Soccer Federation, which opposed apartheid in
sport. 1961 to 1966 saw the rapid expansion of teams
under the anti- racist South African Soccer League.
Their efforts to isolate the apartheid regime led to
the succesful international sports boycott of the
world with South Africa from 1961 to 1992 until the
fall of apartheid.

With this development, FIFA welcomed South Africa back
into world soccer on 3 July 1992. On 7 July 1992, at
Durban's King's Park stadium, South Africa played its
first official international contest in three decades.
An integrated national team, nicknamed Bafana Bafana
(Zulu for The Boys'), defeated Cameroon 1-0, thanks to
a Doctor Khumalo penalty kick.

The world will see the new South Africa in WC 2010.
Implicit in this, is the world's recognition that
soccer played a transformative role in ending decades
of apartheid rule and providing succour to thousands
of people during those dark days.

A wonderful comment on the impact the game can have.

For an in depth look at soccer and its role in ending
apartheid, read Dr. Peter Alegi's thought
provoking book 'Laduma! Soccer, Politics and Society in
South Africa' (Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu
- Natal Press, 2004).

Has anyone read it? Please post opinions.

South African Football

We all know the World Cup is coming to South Africa in 2010.
What we don't talk much about is the South African domestic game.

The South African season opens on August 4th with the Charity Cup, an exhausting four-team event that traditionally attracts crowds over 70,000.

Four clubs, voted for in a month-long telephone poll, will compete in two morning semi-finals with the winners given just a short break before returning for the final, later the same day. Talk about a double dip.

The country's two most popular teams, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, have been drawn against each other a week after they clashed in a pre-season tournament won by English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur.

Saturday's opening match pits Bloemfontein Celtic against Silver Stars, last year's league runners-up.

Usually 75,000 fans pack into Johannesburg's Soccer City for the tournament but that stadium is undergoing a major overhaul ahead of the 2010 World Cup finals. The tourney has been moved to Mmabatho, a town near the Botswana border whose stadium has a capacity of 59,000.

Pretoria-based Mamelodi Sundowns were one of the original four teams picked for the tournament.

The reigning South African champions were voted in second place but due to a clash with their commitments in the Confederation Cup were unable to compete in the tie.