Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Adebayor - Next Year is Our Year ... Or Maybe This Year??

Arsenal and Togo striker Emmanuel Adebayor is many things - fashion icon, man of many hairstyles, lanky goal scorer.

He's also a sage who can see into the future.

Adebayor insists Arsenal will not finish empty-handed next season.

Arsene Wenger's troops have given themselves a mathematical, if highly improbable, chance of overtaking Manchester United and Chelsea following their 6-2 mauling of bottom-club Derby on Monday night.
MY POV: Highly doubtful ...

However, with just two games left, Arsenal face a four-point deficit and also an inferior goal-difference to leaders United.

For most of the season, it was the Gunners who set the pace, before their challenge fell apart following four straight draws and then defeat at Stamford Bridge, while also crashing out of the Champions League to Liverpool.

Adebayor came off the bench at Pride Park to net a second-half hat-trick - having also chalked up 3 goals against the outclassed Rams earlier in the campaign - which took his overall tally to 30.

While the 24-year-old accepts it would now take "something amazing" to see the Gunners come back to win the title at this late stage, the Arsenal striker maintains it will be a different story in 12 months' time.

"I am praying for a miracle now, but miracles do happen," Adebayor said.
MY POV: Not this season, my friend.

"We have put pressure on the top two and it is not too late for something amazing to happen.
Obviously we have to hope that Chelsea and United make mistakes at the weekend - but I can promise we will not make any."

Adebayor added: "We showed with our win we have character because it might have been easy just to look at the table and give up on trying to be champions - but that is not who we are. What was also important is that we sent out a message to our rivals that despite all the disappointments we have had in the past couple of months we are sticking together and showing that we are getting better and better.

"This season we may end up with nothing - but it will not look the same this time next year."

MY POV: Adebayor shows a maturity way above his years on the pitch. His grace and balance have helped Arsenal plenty of times during the season.
For his sake, I hope his promise comes true. I'd love to see the Gunners mount a late challenge and pip the two giants Manchester United and Chelsea (who could be meeting in Moscow May 21st in the Champions League final) to the Premier League title ...
If not, look out for Adebayor's Gunners next season ...

Monday, April 28, 2008

Coach Licensing in Africa?

I'm back after a long layoff ...

Lots has happened since I last wrote a few weeks back, but here's one tidbit from the BBC I found particularly interesting.

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) will institute a licensing system which will force coaches to fulfill certain criteria before coaching in Africa.

The rules, to be introduced by next year, mean all coaches must hold either a management diploma or a Pro License coaching certificate.

According to CAF's development director Hussien Abdel-Moniem, the new system is aimed at weeding out ill-equipped coaches in Africa.

"Many coaches in Africa are now working haphazardly with their own experiences and talent but this is not right," Abdel Moniem told BBC Sport.

"Without these licences nobody can approach the clubs or national teams to be a coach in any part of Africa in the future. Coaches in Africa must pass an exam to have a license before coaching at any level. We will work jointly with the federations across Africa to ensure that this is successful."

Several countries in Europe require coaches to hold either a management diploma or a UEFA Pro License coaching certificate before taking charge of a team.

MY POV: I think this is a GREAT idea.

Africans wanting to coach will now have a system in place to teach them tactics, coaching methodologies, training theories and so much more.

The implementation of these guidelines also means there will be a standardization of goals to reach in order to become a coach.

What this means in that there will be better-trained coaches, better systems put into place and more opportunities to learn the sport.

In other words, more opportunities for Africans to be at the helm at club and national levels.

This can only be a good thing.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Kevin Keegan Talks About African Players

The legendary Kevin Keegan, former Liverpool star and current manager of Premier League side Newcastle United, has hailed the impact of his side's African players, saying they are 'vital' for the future.

It's nice to see African players making an impact.

"I'm lucky, most of my African players have experience of big leagues; they're very important to us," Keegan told the BBC last week.

The Newcastle side have struggled since Keegan took over a few months back. But things are starting to change. Nigeria's Obafemi Martins and Geremi of Cameroon have played key roles in Newcastle's recent turnaround in form.

Both scored in the Magpies recent 4-1 away win against Tottenham Hotspur.

"They are all very experienced. Obafemi Martins has played in Italy (Inter Milan), Habib Beye in France (Strasbourg and Marseille), and Abdoulaye Faye (Bolton Wanderers) and Geremi (Chelsea and Middlesbrough) have played in the Premier League for a long time," Keegan added.

"They're all great trainers and very professional - and that's something you don't always get with young players from elsewhere."

DR Congo's Kazenga LuaLua, brother of Lomana, has broken through the youth ranks this season and with the recent signing of Senegal's Lamine Diatta, Keegan now has six players from Africa at his disposal. (My POV: Keegan's side will rival Chelsea's soon. Jose Mourinho was synonymous with drafting Africans into his side, players like Didier Drogba and Jon Obi Mikel.)

Keegan continued fawning over Africa, saying the African profile in world football has heightened since his last time in charge.

"Africa is a place you can't ignore now because there are so many talented players there. You just have to look at the Premier League which is just littered with players from the continent. There's evidence of players who have come to England and performed very, very well."

Super Eagles' striker Obafemi Martins thinks Keegan has been like a 'breath of fresh air' to the side.

"Things weren't going right with Sam Allardyce so the owner decided to do something about it.
Our training now is sharper and we look to attack more when we have the ball, so that's been good for me. It's good to have Kevin Keegan here."

Former Real Madrid and Chelsea star Geremi was signed by former manager Allardyce and made club captain. But despite his recent demotion the Cameroonian has relished the opportunity to prove himself to Keegan.

"It is always difficult because every manager has their own mind. I respect that and the fact that it took some time for him to get to know the squad. But now he knows us all better and we hope we are going to do a lot of good things together," Geremi said.

After a stuttering start to his reign, Keegan is now targeting a top 10 finish for the Magpies.

If he achieves his aim, Newcastle's African contingent will surely have played a big part in that success.
(My POV: It's great to see another Premier League side relishing the contributions of their African contingent. In time, many more will feel the same. This is only the tip of the iceberg ... Africa is indeed the 'wave of the future.')

Friday, April 11, 2008

Can Amodu Steer Nigeria to the Top?

This is a pretty interesting story, so I'm going with it: More fallout from Nigeria's re-hiring of Shaibu Amodu as national team coach.

Today, former Nigeria captain Sunday Oliseh expressed his doubts about whether the appointment of Shaibu Amodu can bring success back to the Super Eagles.

"Amodu coached when I was captain, he has a good heart, but he'll need help because the organization is in a very bad way," Oliseh told BBC Sport.

Oliseh said the Nigerian Football Association (NFA) were 'amateur' in the way they organized the national side.

"Even Jose Mourinho would have a tough job on his hands," Oliseh added.

(MY POV: Didn't former coach Bertie Vogts say the same thing a while back?)

Oliseh, a former Juventus midfielder, had been one of the favorites to take over the job following the end of Berti Vogts' tenure.

But the 33-year-old said he could not have worked with the current situation.

"Both myself and Keshi were asking to have control over team selection, training location, friendly organization, but it was obvious this would not have been possible. I told the NFA what needed to change but sometimes it is better to stay away when things are so bad."

"To apply for the job we had to complete a written test - I just had to laugh. Our players are professional but the NFA have a long way to go even to be considered amateur," Oliseh added.

(MY POV: Harsh Statements indeed. You wonder why Amodu would have come back if the situation is truly like this.)

Oliseh also hit out at how long it took the NFA to decide who would be the new coach.

"The coach should have been appointed two months ago so he could prepare for the World Cup qualifiers. Amodu has good tactical knowledge but he has to qualify for the 2010 World Cup - if Nigeria are not there it will be a disaster, the beginning of the end," Oliseh added.

(MY POV: I think Amodu has enough time to steer this team into the 2010 finals. The base is already there ...)

"The other point to bear in mind is that Amodu has no connections in Europe - and all of our big players are based there, so it will be an uphill task." (MY POV: That's an unfair criticism in my opinion. He has a connection - the current Nigerian players!)

Oliseh is not the only former player to hit out at the appointment of Amodu as former Wimbeldon striker Efan Ekoku also criticized the move.

"Finances are always going to play a part and when there are not even the right things provided for the players it will make it difficult to hire the right person. Whether Amodu is the right person to take Nigeria forward, I doubt that very much," Ekoku said.

Let's give the guy some time, eh? How about some support for your fellow Nigerian??

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Nigeria Has a New Coach, Same as the Old

Just because the format's changed doesn't mean the content will overnight ... so let's get to some African footie news.

The Nigeria Football Association (NFA) announced today that Shaibu Amodu has returned for his third spell as coach of the Super Eagles.

Amodu will be assisted by former internationals Daniel Amokachi, Alloy Agu and Fatai Amoo.
The quartet were handed a two-year contract with the mandate of qualifying the country for the 2010 World Cup.

"We have strong faith in these coaches and they are aware of our expectations," NFA boss Sani Lulu said.

"Qualifying Nigeria for both the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and Nations Cup in Angola as well as doing well in the later is a top priority. The board members of the NFA have unanimously agreed to support them and give them everything they require to succeed."

Amodu, 48, takes over from German coach Berti Vogts who was fired after Nigeria's disappointing showing at the recent Cup of Nations in Ghana.

He returns for a third spell in charge of the squad having coached his country in 1996 and 2000.

His best moment came in 2002 when he helped the country qualify for the World Cup and African Cup of Nations.

Amodu's first game in charge will be in June when they take on South Africa in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers.

They will also play Sierra Leone and Equatorial Guinea in Group Four of the qualifiers.

My POV: Third time's a charm.

Or ... three times? He's been fired twice, no?

Not sure what to make of this. The NFA clearly wanted a Nigerian coach. But is hiring Amodu the smartest choice? He's a bit of a retread, no?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

5 Things I Think I Think

This, a new feature I'm implementing for days when I have a lot to say but nothing specific to say ... 

It's a 'rip-off' of the wildly successful Peter King column from titled 'Monday Morning Quarterback', where the veteran gridiron writer expounds on the latest happenings of the past Sunday's NFL games. 

In his column, he writes a section called '10 Things I Think I Think', a witty diatribe where he spouts his opinions on things as far-ranged as Starbucks coffee and the latest episode of Lost

While I doubt I'll go that far, let me premiere my very own version of King's masterwork ... As we make our way to the South Africa World Cup, here's ... 

5 Things I Think I Think!!! (Here goes nothing ...) 

5 - I think Africa is clearly the 'place to be' as far as future footballing talent is concerned. 
While many have called North America, specifically the United States the burgeoning soccer power, I think Africa's where the world should turn. 

They already boast an assortment of proven talent, such as Samuel Eto'o and Didier Drogba.

They already host probably the 2nd-most important continental tournament in football (The Cup of Nations), right behind the Euros. 

Their football is disciplined, exciting and much more tactical than given credit for. 

What else is needed? I'm not sure. I'm not the expert I'd like to be in African football. In time, I'll learn more, I promise. But for now, I see an untapped well of talent, ready to make its mark on world football. 

In many ways, the talents of Africa have already blossomed on the fields of European football. I think you'll see more and more African players showcasing their skills in the best leagues in the world in the years to come ... then, what will the Confederation of African Football do about their dodgy staging of the Cup of Nations tournament smack in the middle of the European season? 

4 - I think the English Premier League is clearly the best league in the world right now. 
But is it because of the style of their play? Or because they have the most money? 

Based on pure game-play, I'd have to say Spain's La Liga is still the best in the world. 

It's a competitive league where surprises lurk right around the corner. You just never know what's going to happen, week in, week out. 

In England, it's the Big Four monopoly. Every year, it seems. In Spain, a team like Valencia (my beloved Valencia ...), a team stacked with talent, is in 14-th place, 6 points from relegation. 

If that doesn't speak to strength of league (not to say Valencia aren't inept. They are), I don't know what does. 

3 - I think Cristiano Ronaldo is clearly the best player in the world right now. 
This kid is lighting it up, week after week. 

He's on one of these trajectories, like Ronaldhino was on in 2005 with Barcelona. 

As we've seen with the Buck-Toothed Wonder, the mighty do fall. Let's hope for our sake and for his, Ronaldo stays steady and keeps working. The lure of the party life is strong for many. Imagine how luring it must be when you're young and have the world at your finger tips. 

P.s. You heard it here first. (Or for the 237th time.) Ronaldo will be with Real Madrid by 2010. 

2 - I think Ronaldo's Manchester United will roll over Barcelona and set up the first all-English Champions League final in Moscow May 21st. Who will they play? 


1 - I wish I had a second team. 

I love Valencia. I always will. They are my club now and forever more. 

But when they have seasons like this one, I almost wish I had a second team. 

Way back when I was a football rookie (1997), I fancied Newcastle some. But that passed. 

After I fell for Valencia, I sometimes flirted with Real Madrid (sacrilegious, I know). But I'm not really a fan. It was fat Ronaldo, his devilish grin winning me over, pure and simple. 
I was tempted by Liverpool when Rafa Benitez moved there. How enticing was the 2005 Champions League final, one of the greatest games of all time? But that's passed. 
Although I'll be rooting for them this season against Chelsea. 
I tried to support Levante, Valencia's sister squad from the same city. But they're not very good. 
Anyone have any suggestions of other clubs worth supporting out there? 

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

822 Days to Go and a Change in Direction

For some time now, we here at '2010' have talked about change.

I've often said I'm tired of the current format. Cutting and pasting someone else's work doesn't do the reader or the poster any justice.

Just a few months ago, I talked about this very thing.

Well, I'm here to say that after much internal debate, I'm making a move.

The first thing you'll notice is the new design of the site.

Nothing extraordinary. I simply got tired of the dark look of the pages. I needed something more vibrant. Hopefully in the next couple of months, I'll have a more professional layout up.

Next, I want to rededicate myself to the original purpose of this blog.

As the caption above says, this blog is about 'My journey from Brooklyn, New York January 4, 2007 to the World Cup Final match July 11, 2010 in South Africa. How will I get there? I have no idea. Join me as I travel around Africa, write a book, make some friends and watch the beautiful game!'

I'm not in Brooklyn anymore. I've yet to go to Africa. I'm not even sure I have a book in me. But I'm passionate about the game. I love football now more than ever.
And I still want to get to the Final.

And more importantly, I want to help some people along the way ...

I'm not entirely sure how to do this.

But I'll figure something out very soon.

So some may ask: Why do it this way? Why not just buy a ticket to the game?

I stated some reasons for this in a previous post.

Unfortunately I may have to pay, especially if my original intent doesn't pan out.
But where's the fun in that? Where's the sense of adventure?

I want the experience of it. I want to face this challenge and know I can do it.

I've thought about this long and hard.

Cutting and pasting other people's work here doesn't work. You can find that news anywhere. Why come here for it?

So I'm looking for more original content, more feature pieces about football personalities, more fresh commentary about the sport I love.

I've said this before. But I think you'll find I'm staying truer to my pursuit this time around.

Simply put, this is my journey from a passive fan to an active participant in a sport I cherish.

I love this game. But watching isn't enough. I want to affect it, too.

How can I leave a mark and satisfy my passions as well?

How can I get to the Final game in July 2010 and also help people along the way, while having a blast and enjoying the Beautiful Game?

Another way of saying it: This is not just a blog about African football. It was never intended to be. Of course, the focus is on the continent's action as the 2010 Cup is stationed there.

But really, this is a personal journey. About how I love the game and how I want the game to move me in some way.

I hope this doesn't sound too selfish. I suppose in some ways it is.
Maybe that'll change in time.

I think you'll find the purpose isn't that selfish in time to come.

I've struggled long and hard on this. I think this is the right way to go ...

822 days to go. I have a LOT of work to do!

Wish me luck.