Tuesday, November 25, 2008

FIFA 'Happy' on Road to 2010

FIFA wants everyone to know that they're happy with South Africa's preparations ahead of the 2010 World Cup, no matter what anyone may think ...

FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke said that there are still issues to be resolved ahead of the first-ever African World Cup, but that the mood was still positive.

"I think we should forget this question now," Valcke said, asked about the possibility of another country stepping in. "It's been a lot of work since May 2004 and I think there is still a lot of work until June 14 2009 [when South Africa hosts the Confederations Cup] and the 2010 World Cup.

"I think it's a lot of issues and we have to make sure we are working on them all the time. The main issues are security, transportation, accommodation, overlay; it's all what you need to host a World Cup. It's normal, because there is not a single country ready 18 months prior to the World Cup. When we had the Confederations Cup in Germany, it's where we discovered that lots of things were not working. There is no question that it was the right decision to bring the World Cup to South Africa."

The CEO of the World Cup Local Organizing Committee (LOC) Danny Jordaan thinks that although South Africa has experienced problems, they're getting there.

"Firstly, we are focusing on the Confederations Cup," he said. "These are existing stadiums, however there is still a gap between the existing stadiums and the event requirements. So we are focusing on that to make sure that by the end of December, all of the four stadiums for the Confederations Cup are fully compliant with all requirements for the event; and then [making] sure all of the stadiums are complete by October next year and also then to focus on the final draw on December 4 next year."

Valcke hinted that the 2018 tournament could be given to a "rich" country, possibly from Europe. The 2014 World Cup will be held in Brazil, which probably means it isn't a 'rich' country.

"I have a feeling that Germany tomorrow morning could host the World Cup. Because they have a very strong professional league, stadiums are ready, so there are a few European countries [who] will not have to spend as much money as South Africa is doing or as Brazil will have to do because there is not a single, what we call, World Cup stadium in Brazil.

"And they will have to provide us with these stadiums and work on them. Again, I have the feeling that there will be competition, I would say between five to eight countries, bidding for 2018.

"These will come from four confederations as Africa and South America will not have access to 2018. It will be potentially the so-called 'rich' countries, where there is already the infrastructure we need to host a World Cup."

MY POV: The more I listen to these FIFA cronies talk, the more I wish they'd be quiet.

How condescending of them to talk about giving the 2018 World Cup to a 'rich' country?

How about just letting events play out and letting the citizens of South Africa enjoy the process of the 2010 World Cup?

More and more, it feels like FIFA has absolutely no confidence in South Africa. It seems like they're wringing their hands clean of the 2010 Cup, rueing their decision to give the 2014 Cup to a poor country like Brazil and focusing on the 'cash money' bonanza of the 2018 Cup.

USA 2018 anyone? The more you hear FIFA bellow, the more it sounds like they'd hold every World Cup in the USA and England if they had the chance ...

It's all about the money, isn't it? How stupid of me to believe it was about more than just the cash ...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

CS Sfaxien Win Confederations Cup

Al Ahly have an opponent in next February's African Super Cup.

They're Tunisian side CS Sfaxien, who became the first club to win the Confederation Cup twice after forcing a 2-2 draw at Etoile du Sahel in the second leg of an all-Tunisia final on Saturday.

The first leg two weeks ago ended goalless and Etoile were expected to use home advantage and add to eight continental trophies won in 13 years.

But Sfaxien got off to a dream start with Ghana-born striker Agyemang Opoku scoring after just two minutes at the Olympic Stadium to claim his fourth goal this year in the African equivalent of the European UEFA Cup.

It took Etoile until 12 minutes into the second half to level through another West African striker, Nigerian Emeka Opara, but had to score again under the away-goal rule.

However, Sfaxien regained the lead on 74 minutes via their midfielder and leading scorer Abdelkrim Nafti only for Aymen Abdennour to trigger a thrilling climax with an equaliser soon after.

A third goal eluded Etoile, though, and Sfaxien collected the 330,000-dollar first prize plus a showdown with mighty Al-Ahly of Egypt in Cairo next February for the African Super Cup.

Congrats and good luck against Ahly ... you'll need it!!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Concern over 2010 World Cup

A few weeks ago, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said the world's economic meltdown would not affect the 2010 World Cup at all.

Now, South African organizers of the 2010 World Cup expressed concern Friday about the effect the global financial crisis will have on the tournament, which is already running well over budget.

Back to reality, guys ...

The South African government has had to allocate an extra $136 million for stadium construction because of rising prices, pushing total costs to more than 30 billion rand. That is 10 times the amount originally budgeted.

The South African rand has fallen about 30 percent against the dollar in recent weeks and as the U.S. and Europe slide into recession, there are concerns fans will not have money to travel or buy tickets.

Danny Jordaan, head of the local World Cup organizing committee, said organizers were taking a "wait and see approach" but that there were indications that the world financial outlook will be more positive by 2010.

"Even if you accept people have fewer dollars in their pockets, those dollars will buy more rands. So people may still travel because the destination becomes cheaper," he said.

South Africa has been hoping that the World Cup will act as a catalyst for economic growth and a boom in tourism with an anticipated 350,000 visitors expected to flood into the country for the monthlong event.

Jerome Valcke, FIFA's secretary general, said that while football fans may be facing tighter times, tickets for the most-watched tournament in the world will still be sought after.

Valcke also gave reassurances that FIFA's finances were in good shape and would not be affected by the turmoil in world markets.

"We are not afraid even as we recognize there is a very strong crisis," he said. "Sport is one safe business that gives something when all else is going wrong.

South Africa Wins Again

South Africa's ending 2008 on a very positive note.

Bafana Bafana won their 4th game in a row under coach Joel Santana as they edged out Africa's top-rated side Cameroon 3-2 to win the annual Mandela Challenge match, which honors the country's former president.

A late winner from Bernard Parker secured the victory.

Earlier Teko Modise had scored twice to put the home side 2-0 up before the Indomitable Lions struck back to level the score through Daniel Ngom Kome and Somen Tchoyi.

The win allowed Santana to indulge an optimistic tone as he looked towards 2010.

"I believe the road to 2010 is on track," he told the South African Football Association (SAFA) website.

"We played as a team and we are starting to show comfort on the ball. Yes we still have to work on certain areas but football is a continuous challenge."

The build up to the match was marred by a row over the absence of Cameroon's star striker Samuel Eto'o.

Cameroon coach Otto Pfister blamed SAFA for failing to arrange his travel properly.

SAFA hit back, claiming everything had been arranged and the player had simply failed to make his flight.

Geremi and Rigobert Song were also missing from the Indomitable Lions line up.

MY POV: Big win against a top opponent, although the cynic in me says, 'But hold on, Cameroon were missing their biggest weapon in Eto'o.'

Nevertheless, the victory gives Bafana Bafana a reason to smile heading into 2009.

African Friendlies

The football world settled down this week for international friendlies on the Road to 2010.

While much of the world focused on Diego Maradona's coaching debut with Argentina, African squads went about their business.

Here, a recap from the BBC of the six friendlies that took place on Wednesday. South Africa played Cameroon, as well ...

Colombia 1 Nigeria 0 A Nigerian side hit badly by withdrawals went down to a goal from striker Radamel Falcao Garcia nine minutes from time in Palmira. Sani Kaita was sent off for protesting as the Super Eagles thought the goal came from an offside position.

Egypt 5 Benin 1 African champions Egypt overwhelmed Benin in a dominant display. Two of Egypts goals came from striker Emad Motaeb and two from star midfielder Mohamed Aboutrika. Benin's consolation came just five minutes from the end as the hosts eased off.

Ghana 0 Tunisia 0 A lacklustre Black Stars performance from a less than full-strength side. The Carthage Eagles had the better of the early exchanges but their finishing was also wayward. On the plus side for Ghana captain Stephen Appiah played as did Dede Ayew.

Israel 2 Ivory Coast 2 Israel were denied victory over the Elephjants by an 85th minute equaliser from Boubacar Sanogo in this draw. Didier Drogba made his return to the international side after injury.

Morocco 3 Zambia 0 The Atlas Lions pounced to take an early lead in just the third minute of the game, through Houssine Kharja. A penalty awarded some 20 minutes later allowed the home team to double their lead in Casablanca before Nabil Baha completed the win just after the hour mark.

Venezuela 0 Angola 0 Venezuela and Angola played to a sloppy scoreless draw in a friendly of bungled passes and shots on goal under pounding rain on Wednesday. Angola's Marco Airosa was sent off in injury time at La Carolina Stadium in the city of Barinas after receiving a second yellow card.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Videos From the African Final

Here, some cool videos about the African Champions League final between Al Ahly and Coton Sport.

The first is a video from Cameroon showing the atmosphere around the stadium before the 2nd leg, played yesterday.

The second is of the penalty that clinched the championship for Ahly. Enjoy!

Al Ahly Coach Jubilant in Victory

Al Ahly coach Manuel Jose is beyond happy that his side won their record sixth African Champions League this weekend with a 2-2 draw against Cameroon side Coton Sport.

Their 2-0 win from the first leg in Cairo clinched the tie for them in the end, earning Ahly a 4-2 victory on aggregate and a third African title in four years.

"It's fantastic," Jose told BBC Sport.

"Now Ahly is the only club ever to win six Champions Leagues, and now we hope we're going to win the African Super Cup."

Ahly play the winners of the Confederation Cup in the African Super Cup in February.

In the meantime they face an even bigger challenge as they attempt to improve on their last showing at the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan.

The Egyptians travel to the tournament in December for the third time and will seek to better their bronze medal finish in 2006.

Still basking in Sunday's win, Jose also paid tribute to Coton Sport, after the Garoua team put up a strong fight over the two legs.

"Coton Sport made a very good match [of it]. In Cairo we had a fantastic match, and could have scored four or five goals, but didn't. So we came here, scored a lucky goal through Ahmed Hassan, then conceded a stupid goal. When they scored the second goal [my team] was scared about [conceding] a third goal, but I have very experienced players.

"So congratulations to Coton Sport but I think we deserved to win."

Coton Sport Alan Oumbleon paid tribute to his own team's efforts and said the experience of reaching their first final will make his players hungry for more success.

"It was wonderful to reach this final for my team, for my players, for the club and for the fans," he said.

"So now we know how wonderful it is, we want to reach this level every year."

He also conceded, however, that he will find it difficult to hold onto some of his best players after they attracted attention during their impressive march to the final.

"They deserve to go outside [Cameroon] because they have succeeded in playing very good football during this competition," he said.

Oumbleon also said his biggest challenge in the short term will be to try to motivate his players to return to playing in the Cameroonian national league.

From next weekend they will turn out in front of considerably smaller crowds than the estimated 20,000 at the Omnisport Stadium in Garoua on Sunday and the 70,000 at the Cairo International Stadium.

"It will be very difficult because they are used now to playing against great clubs in big stadiums with a lot of people and now we will play in a bad stadium, with a bad field.

"But our players will want to reach this level again."

MY POV: Hopefully the experience of playing in the Final will motivate fans to come out to watch Coton.

Besides that, can Ahly improve on their performance from a few year's back at the Club World Cup? They'll represent Africa just fine ...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Al Ahly Win 6th African Championship

Congratulations to Al Ahly, who won the 2008 African Champions League this morning, defeating Cameroon's Coton Sport 4-2 on aggregate, drawing 2-2 in today's match.

The victory gives Egypt's Ahly their record 6th title, the most of any club in African continental football.

Leading 2-0 from the first leg in Cairo a fortnight ago – where goals from Wael Gomaa and Flavio separated the teams – Manuel Jose’s side were always favorites to win their third Champions League crown in four years. But Ahly weathered a persistent 2nd-half storm from Coton to hold on to the game.

The Egyptians dealt Coton’s slim hopes of a comeback a grievous blow in the 38th minute when, on the counter, Ahmed Hassan flicked home a goal with the outside of his right foot following a short-corner routine between Gilberto and Mohamed Aboutrika.

The Egyptian’s goal stunned Coton and hushed the previously boisterous and optimistic home crowd.

However, Coton drew level on the stroke of half time when Karim Abdoul fired in a low shot from just inside the penalty area after great work from striker Kamilou Daouda.

Just past the hour mark Baba Ousmaila capitalised on the utter dominance of Coton and made it 2-1, heading into an empty net after a great set piece from the hosts.

But Ousmaila and Daouda were guilty of spurning several great chances for Coton, who could have won the game by a landslide and pulled off an almost miraculous comeback had they been more composed in front of goal.

Al Ahly skipper Shady Mohamed sealed the title for his side in the final minute of injury time, scoring from the penalty spot to make it 2-2 after Andre Ndame had pushed over Mohamed Barakat.

The Egyptians will go on to represent Africa at the FIFA Club World Cup at the end of the year.

Congratulations, Al Ahly! Enjoy your championship!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Al Ahly-Coton Sport 1st Leg Goals

For your viewing pleasure, Al Ahly's two goals against Coton Sport in the first leg of the African Champions League final last week.

The second leg is tomorrow ... should be a good one!! Enjoy!

Friday, November 14, 2008

South Africa Coach: We're Almost There

South Africa national team coach Joel Santana says his side is almost to the point where they'll do reasonably well in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Santana's been the focal point of criticism the past few months as Bafana Bafana have struggled, failing to qualify for the 2010 African Cup of Nations.

But the team's been playing better of late and the Brazilian coach is encouraged by what he's seen.

“At this stage we are staying calm. We have the definition of what we want for 2010; we are actually halfway to what we want,” said Santana.

The Brazilian coach aired his sentiments after the announcement of the team to play against Cameroon in the Mandela Challenge next week in Rustenburg, South Africa.

“I now know the players that are playing for me and I know how to make them approach the game. This is why we have tried to preserve the team from the past three games and have gone for the in-form players.

“Other players have been left out of the team because they are injured, like Bryce Moon, while others have to stay on with their teams,” says Santana.

“This job is just like life; is all about learning. We heard and we have seen things during this period since I arrived here and what I say is that I feel very secure.

“This job always has its ups and downs, but you have to live by the results that you get. Though we understand that people have this anxiety of wanting to have a great national team that wins all the games, you have to be patient. But we just need to be united going into the New Year.

“You should know that this is not just a coach’s job, but involves all of us from the media which I now know how it operates and sees things at times, the fans and the players.

“I don’t have regrets about what has happened in the past since I arrived here and took over from Carlos Parreira. I am satisfied and happy to be here. The Confederations Cup is a big challenge for us, but the World Cup is the main goal that we are prioritising and working towards.

“We hope to close the year with one more win ahead of the Confederations Cup next year. Each game is important for us and this match in particular is crucial in that we are honoring a great man and it will be a nice birthday gift for me if we win as I want to celebrate my birthday on December 25 with a smile,” he says.

The Brazilian says he is aware of the players that the West Africans will bring for next week’s match.

“We know the players just like you do, and they are quality players who play in European leagues. But we need this kind of test and we have watched their recent games.”

Santana says his wish is to make it four wins in a row when he faces Cameroon

“This is an important tournament in the history of this country, honoring one of the biggest legends of our time,” says Santana.

“The best way to honor Nelson Mandela would be to win this game. We will be playing at home and we will be expecting a lift from our supporters. Our ambition is to make it four wins in a row.”

MY POV: Santana's challenges have only just begun. The team's playing better, though. Let's wish him luck in the Mandela Challenge and take it from there ...

African Champions League Winds Down

The eyes of the football world turn to Cameroon this weekend and Sunday's second leg of the African Champions League final between Egypt's Al Ahly and Cameroon's Coton Sport.

Ahly, five-time African champions, won the first leg in 2-0 in Egypt.

Now, Coton Sport will look to contain the Egyptian juggernaut at home.

Coton captain Ahmadou Ngomna wishes his side hadn't come into the first leg scared of their opposition.

The Cameroon side’s defense let in two early goals (3rd and 15th minute), but managed to hold off the Red Devils for the remainder of the match and still have a shot of claiming their first continental title.

"I think we gave Ahly too much respect, and it affected our start," Ngomna told Camfoot.com.

"After the first 30 minutes we started regaining our confidence and Ahly suffered enormously when we did."

Ngomna will not play in the second leg in Garoua on November 16 after picking up a yellow card and an automatic one-game suspension.

"I'm really gutted that I won't be available for the home game as it was a very harsh yellow card to receive.

"However, I'm sure we can still overcome the two-goal deficit in Garoua where the team will be playing at home and without too much pressure."

Meanwhile, Coton Sport coach Alain Ouombleon expects his side to perform a whole lot better in the home leg.

"The result is not acceptable, but we will avenge our loss in the return leg," he said.

"Ahly are dangerous at set-pieces, but we didn't show caution and conceded two goals as a result."

Meanwhile, Ahly know they're stepping into a cauldron come Sunday.

Coton have not been beaten in African competition at home since 2002 and have not conceded a goal at their own stadium during this campaign.

"We all know that a tough mission is awaiting us," assistant manager Hossam Al-Badri told Ahly's official site.

"We will have a difficult 72-hour journey, the atmosphere will be tense and our stay will hardly be comfortable. Nonetheless, we are determined to win the title.

"There is a state of optimism among the players and the technical staff, we know our fans are eager for the trophy, and so we want to make them happy.

"Coton are a very ambitious side playing at home, but our players have experience and they are capable of facing the difficult circumstances.

"They just have to be focused on their mission without paying attention to the surrounding atmosphere."

Ahly will claim a record sixth African championship should they hold out for the aggregate win, while Coton Sport want their first.

Coton's story has certainly garnered it's fair share of attention.

Today's BBC has a wonderful interview with Pierre Kaptene, former club president.

Kaptene saw the club rise from a social club to African finalists, so his view of the situation is enlightening.

"It's a dream [getting to the final] but we don't want people to think that if we lose we are not happy - for us being in the final is a fiesta," Kaptene said.

"If we can win it will be the cherry on the cake. I didn't think we could get this far so quickly because when you see the best teams in African football they have been around for 40 or 50 years or more.

"We are very young, so it's like a fairy story that we are in the final. But we won't stop here - better things are to come."

Take a look at the story here. It's a sweet read.

Also, journalist Richard Ferris of football365 from South Africa wonders why people have written off Coton's chances in the 2nd leg.

Although Coton have as much continental pedigree as Mohamed Aboutraika's big toe, the champions of Cameroon have proved that they can compete with Africa's best. That is not to mention that Manuel Jose's team are far from infallible.

A quick perusal of Coton's scalps through the current Champions League campaign is telling. Alain Ouombleon Guedou's side ended two-time African champions JS Kabylie's hopes of progressing into the group phase of the competition before beating Nigerian giants Enyimba and last year's semi-finalists Al Hilal.

The Garoua-based outfit then brought to an end Dyanamos' fantastic run in the tournament - and lest we forget the Zimbabweans beat defending champions Etoile Sahel. ...

African football journalists also appear to have very short memories. Surprisingly few hacks remember Ahly's absymal performance in last season's Champions League final which saw the Cairo giants surrender meekly to Etoile.

A good read and well worth the time ...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

ESPN's Outside the Lines: Hungry For a Better Life

This article from today's ESPN.com Outside the Lines series really touched me.

It's about the Right to Dream football academy, which helps 'talented underprivileged African children play sport, obtain a first class education and develop key lifeskills to help them to achieve a better quality of life.'

The story takes place in Ghana and follows the scouts as they try to fill positions at the academy.

It's a gripping tale of poverty, helplessness and ultimately hope that will thoroughly move you.

Many families in Ghana see football as their only escape from the gripping poverty that overwhelms their daily lives. The kids in this story fight for their hope. Ultimately, only a few get to see their dreams fulfilled.

Please take the time to read this story.

For those of you in the States, the story appears on their Outside the Lines program today at 3pm.

Here is the beginning of the article. For the rest, please click here.

On the most important day of his life, Shadrak Kwabena wakes up hungry. He is 9 years old, his pencil legs covered in knee-high, hand-me-down yellow socks. This is the moment his mother imagined when she took him to the coach three years ago with a request: Please give my son a future.

He makes his way toward the mosque for morning prayer, the dirt streets pocked with rock and rubble. Around town, other boys slip into the predawn darkness. The ones who own soccer cleats wear them; parents save for months to afford the $12 shoes. Many come barefoot. Word has spread: A scout is in Tamale, with strange words and customs, who possesses the mystical power to change a person's destiny forever.

The coach, Sharhabib Mumuni, is at the mosque waiting on Shadrak and the rest of the Great Eagles. Mumuni has procured the best breakfast he can. Last year, the boys started game days with hearty porridge. Today, it's bread and tea.

Once they've prayed and eaten, the boys walk toward the field, which is ringed in barbed wire and, thanks to last night's monsoon, covered in large patches of standing water. Andy Farrant, a 23-year-old from England, surveys the damage. He hardly looks mystic. More like a first-year law student, with a lean build, a friendly, boyish face and a mother who worries about him in Africa, so far away from home. This is his show -- he's head scout, a volunteer, for the Right to Dream Academy. He will decide which boys come to the capital city of Accra and which stay behind. Playing God makes him uncomfortable. He's not blind. He sees the desperation. This is one of the poorest places in the world. He sees that the 20 coaches the academy invited have shown up with more than the allotted 10 players each -- one coach, who was not invited, has brought his team anyway. "Those boys who come from the North," Farrant says, "you're their chance in life."

Ivory Coast Coach: We're Not That Good!

Talk about instilling confidence in your team ...

Ivory Coast coach Vahid Halihodzic told reporters today that his Ivory Coast team is at best 'average'. The Bosnian trainer took charge of the Elephants in May and has won three and drawn three in his six games in charge.

Many people feel that after their showing at the 2006 World Cup and their semi-final run at the 2008 African Cup of Nations, the Ivory Coast is poised for big things.

Hold on a minute, says Halihodzic.

"This team is still fragile," he said at a news conference in Abidjan.

"Since I took up this job as manager and trainer, everywhere I go, I hear the same analysis, the same words: 'Ah, Vahid, you've got a super team'.

"And each time I say the same thing: 'I don't have a super team - perhaps there are some special players, but the team itself is still rather average.'

"You in the media, and above all the supporters, need to know that there are better teams than us - even in Africa."

Many still regard Ivory Coast as a side with the potential to make a real impact at the next World Cup in 2010.

To reach the finals, the Elephants must finish top of a qualifying group with Guinea, Burkina Faso and Malawi, which begins next March.

"Everyone is waiting with a lot of anticipation for this qualification," said Halihodzic.

"It'd be such a shame if this generation which has so much talent doesn't get to South Africa.

"Perhaps our greatest challenger could be ourselves. It's something exceptional for this generation, which has so much talent. For some players it'll be their last competition."

MY POV: This could be a cunning ploy, setting everyone's expectations low so the Elephants can surprise people on the Road to 2010.

Then again, telling your team they aren't better than the also-rans of the continent doesn't exactly inspire greatness, does it?

I don't know. This is a tricky balancing wire Halihodzic is trying to navigate ...

What do you think??

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

2018 World Cup in USA Thanks to Obama?

Looks like Barack Obama's election to the United States Presidency will do wonders for US soccer as well.

According to an article in the Guardian Unlimited, Obama's election could derail England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup, according to a "high-placed" FIFA official. The unnamed source told Yahoo Sports that Obama's popularity will be "a huge factor" in deciding whether the USA is selected to host either the 2018 or 2022 tournaments.

"How can it not make a difference," said the source. "Now when you think of America, you don't think George W Bush or war, you think of this man, Obama, who has made history and given hope to millions. The men who vote on World Cup hosts are not immune to those same feelings. If the US bid stacks up in terms of infrastructure and organization, then Obama could be a huge factor."

US Soccer President Sunil Gulati has said that the organization intends to bid "in an aggressive fashion" as soon as FIFA clarify whether nations will be forced to choose which World Cup to bid for or if they will be allowed to bid for both 2018 and 2022.

"We know we would stage a terrific World Cup and having people view us as a nation in a better way is a positive," Gulati commented. "Anything that enhances the perceived views of the United States can only be a positive for us. It was very clear from the reaction around the world just how popular this result has been. This election has given a lot of people a reason to cheer."

Even if he wins a second term, Obama will no longer be in office by 2018. The winning bid will be determined, however, by a vote in 2011 - before the end of Obama's first term.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter is expected to visit Obama at the White House next year. Earlier this year Obama revealed that he had been a West Ham fan since he visited England in 2003. He can often be seen pitch-side at his daughter's soccer games in Chicago.

His election is also believed to be likely to have a galvanizing effect on Chicago's bid to host the 2016 Olympics, meaning that, as in the 1990s, the USA could host the two biggest sports tournaments on the planet in the space of two years.

MY POV: THANK YOU OBAMA!!! I knew electing this guy was the right way to go!

Friday, November 7, 2008

South Africa, Danny Jordaan and Obama

Interesting article in today's New York Times about Danny Jordaan, South Africa's World Cup chief organizer.

Jordaan flew into New York for meetings this week and happened to land here right as the United States was electing their first African-American President, Barack Obama.

Considering South Africa's delicate history with race and apartheid, it was an interesting time for Jordaan to be in New York.

According to the article, Obama's election reminded him of the time South African Nelson Mandela was let out of prison in 1990.

It was a strange evening to be landing in New York. Jordaan, the chairman of the South African committee that will stage the World Cup of soccer in 2010, watched the celebration on CNN and compared the mood in America to the mood in South Africa on Feb. 11, 1990, the day Nelson Mandela walked out of prison after 27 years.

“The majority celebrated,” recalled Jordaan, who had worked against apartheid without going to prison or into exile. “But many people did not celebrate,” he recalled. “You have to be magnanimous.”

Obama has long expressed his respect for Mandela, saying he had been inspired by a visit to Mandela’s former prison cell on Robben Island. In turn, Mandela sent a message to Obama on Wednesday, saying, in part, “Your victory has demonstrated that no person anywhere in the world should not dare to dream of wanting to change the world for a better place.”
While much of the world sees Obama's victory as a new symbol of hope, a successful 2010 World Cup in South Africa would be equally satisfying to many.

Jordaan is assuring people that everything will be ready in approximately 600 days' time.

Joseph S. Blatter, the president of FIFA, once mentioned a Plan B for the World Cup, then amended his remarks to say they referred only to natural disaster. But Jordaan knows there is skepticism about the stadiums, the hotels, the transportation, the security.

Just about every major sports tournament around the world is dogged by tardiness, incompetence, graft, repression, you name it. The tear gas from civil unrest had barely been cleared before the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul, and they were a success. The trolley lines and expressways had barely been opened in Athens in time for the 2004 Summer Games.

“And we finished half an hour before the first game,” Sunil Gulati, the president of the United States Soccer Federation, said about the 1994 World Cup in the U.S.

But a tournament for 32 national teams, including the woeful national team of South Africa, automatically invited as host, is a huge task from a nation still only 14 years past gigantic change. A caretaker government is in charge at the moment, awaiting a new election in 2009, but Jordaan suavely noted that Germany had a change of parties as well as chancellors shortly before the highly successful 2006 World Cup.
South Africa will be fine. Obama will do great things. And in 2010, the world will have something else to celebrate: the wonderful experience of an African World Cup ...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Arsenal Pain: Adebayor Will Miss Time

Things aren't going so well for Arsenal these days.

While they've struggled in their last three matches, Arsenal are still in 4th place in the Premier League.

But now word that striker and Togolese star Emmanuel Adebayor will miss three weeks with an ankle injury suffered in Saturday's 2-1 defeat at Stoke.

The 24-year-old sustained the injury after a tackle from Ryan Shawcross.

The Stoke defender's challenge drew a furious response from Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger who accused the home side of overly aggressive tactics.

And Adebayor will now miss league games against Manchester United, Aston Villa, Manchester City and possibly Chelsea, who they play November 30.

Stoke City chairman Peter Coates strongly rejected Wenger's claims that his team played in a dirty manner.

"I'm sure that none of our players would deliberately go out to injure anyone," Coates said.

Fellow forward Theo Walcott was also injured in Saturday's defeat.

Adebayor has nine goals this season, five in the league, and is Arsenal's top scorer.

Get well soon, Emmanuel. The soccer world is poorer without you!