Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Africans Excited for World Cup


500 days ... 18 months until South Africa hosts the mother of all sporting events: the 2010 World Cup.

Today, FIFA.com has the opinion of high-ranking African sportsmen and officials on the impending football world championships ...

What do you think?
Former Liverpool goalkeeper, Bruce Grobbelaar
For me, it's not about the number of days left. I think we need to celebrate the work that has been done, the energy that has gone towards making the FIFA World Cup a success. We know that there were a lot of people who were saying that Africans cannot organise an event like this and I guess the results are there for everyone to see. I'm looking forward to the tournament. Finally, its Africa's time.

South African football legend and Kaizer Chiefs chairman, Kaizer Motaung
The memories of 15 May 2004 when President of FIFA announced that South Africa would host the World Cup in South Africa are still fresh in my mind. It is hard to believe that we are left with less than 500 days before the kick-off of the world's biggest sporting spectacle. As a former footballer myself, I am honoured that during my lifetime, I have taken part in preparations for the upcoming tournament. There is no doubt, nor has there ever been in my mind, that come 11 June 2010, South Africans will make Africa and the world proud.

Premier Soccer League CEO, Kjetil Siem
This is, arguably the most exciting period in the football history in this country. The countdown to the world's biggest sporting spectacle will no doubt bring about lots of joy as South African soccer lovers gear up to support this event. I'm encouraged to see the progress made and I'm confident that South Africa will pull off the best FIFA World Cup ever. I urge all South Africans to get behind the event as your unwavering support, dedication and commitment to the event will ensure a resounding success.

FIFA: Africa's A-OK for 2010 World Cup


500 days to go until the opening kick-off of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Today, FIFA.com has an exclusive interview with FIFA President Sepp Blatter, where he talks about his faith in Africa and his wishes for African football.

Please click the link above to read the entire interview or stay with us to see what Mr. Blatter said:
FIFA.com: We have 500 days before kick-off of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa. What will make this FIFA World Cup different?
Joseph S. Blatter: It is the first FIFA World Cup to take place on the African continent. Africa has given the world of football so many, many talented and outstanding players, coaches, clubs and national teams and therefore it was justice that one day that they would host the World Cup in Africa. Now it is Africa's time. I am very happy that in 500 days the World Cup will kick-off in South Africa. It will be an historic moment. For me, it will not only be a realisation of a dream, but of an initiative I had back in 1976 when I started my career as a Development Officer in FIFA. It was then I went to Addis Ababa [in Ethiopia] and saw what football means to Africa.

In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge for South Africa in organising the next FIFA World Cup?
The challenge for South Africa is to deliver the FIFA World Cup - and to deliver it at the highest possible level. They will do it, especially with all the arrangements they have made in terms of construction, technical and logistical infrastructure; transport, hospitality, accommodation etc. South Africa is an organised country. They haven't had all the civic and political rights other countries have had until 1994, so it is a young republic, but an organised one. Therefore, it is not a difficult task to make this FIFA World Cup a success. But this is not just a FIFA World Cup for South Africa; it is an African World Cup. As the former President of South Africa [Thabo] Mbeki said: "We must make sure that this is the African World Cup."

Do you think that the global economic crisis will have an impact on the preparations for the FIFA World Cup?

No, it will not have an impact because the FIFA World Cup will take place. The budgets have been composed, given and ratified. Naturally, we might not have the same return of investment as we had at the last World Cup in 2006, but the world was a different place then. For FIFA, it's not important to get money out of Africa, but it's important to us that the Africans enjoy organising their own World Cup - and they will do. A lot of big footballers such as Pele, [Michel] Platini, [Johan] Cruijff and [Franz] Beckenbauer say that primarily football is a game - and secondly a business. For FIFA it is not a business - it is the game of association football.

One of FIFA's core aims is to build a better future and it is starting to bear fruit now through different projects, especially in Africa. What is FIFA's mission?
Nowadays, football is so popular around the world. Through football, we touch about one billion people in every part of the world. It gives emotions, hope and it brings people together. It helps to build a better future for people, because it is more than just kicking a ball. It is an education. It is a school of life, based on discipline and respect. So, when you play football, you might not become a big star, but you become a better human being.

What legacy does FIFA want to leave in Africa?
There will be a double legacy. There will be the one in South Africa. Through the competition, there will be extremely tight security, just as there is at the Olympic Games and other huge sporting events. We hope that this security will be maintained after the World Cup in order to ensure that we have left a legacy. The other legacy is for the whole of Africa. We want them to be proud and be able to say: 'We Africans have organised the world's most important sporting event: the FIFA World Cup.'

In terms of this legacy, how important is the 'Win in Africa with Africa' initiative?
We can only offer possibilities to develop football in Africa, but it is up to the Africans themselves to develop their own game. Everyone has to do their own homework. FIFA can offer a lot of incentives. We can organise courses, etc, but 'homework' must be done by all the national associations. They will do it, because they have done it in the past and I am sure they will do it in the future. I hope that we have an African team reaching the semi-finals at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, but that is not an easy thing because of the standard of competition from Europe, South America and Asia. Combined, Europe and South America have more than half of the participants for the World Cup, so mathematically it will be easier for them to make the semi-finals.

But you are confident that one day an African team will reach the semi-finals?
One day, they will be there, I just hope that it will be in the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Is there anything you'd like to add?
Yes. We have to trust in the Africans' ability to organise the competition. Trust will give them confidence. If they have confidence, they will be better in the future, not only as footballers, but as organisers. This is my personal wish as the President of FIFA.

MY POV: Nice words from the FIFA President regarding trust. There are rumblings around the world that FIFA is still considering Plan B's to South Africa ... that would crush the spirit of the South African and African organizers of the Cup.

That has to be Plan Z, not Plan B ... I trust Blatter and FIFA's judgement regarding the world's biggest sporting event. But let's leave the World Cup in Africa.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Angola 2010: The Stadiums


2010 is a big year in African football. Not only will Africa host the 2010 World Cup, but see the re-appearance of their continental championship, the African Cup of Nations.

Today, the BBC takes a look at the progress of the stadiums being built for the tournament, being held in January 2010.

They're getting there, slowly but surely ...

Buy World Cup Tickets - Please!


If you're South African or from the immediate area, the organizers of the 2010 World Cup want you to know some important information: Buy your tickets soon or else ...

Organizers want South African fans to break their habit of buying tickets on game day.

"We have a challenge in filling the stadiums," Danny Jordaan, chief executive of the South African organizing committee, told a press conference in Johannesburg.

"We have to educate our people to start buying their tickets for the World Cup when they go on sale next month," he said.

Soccer games rarely sell out in Africa, making it relatively easy for fans to buy tickets at the gate.
But doing so during the World Cup, which begins on June 11, 2010, will see many locals shut out and deal a blow to hopes that the tournament would have a heavy African influence in the stands.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter said the global financial crisis would not have a significant impact on the World Cup, though he added that the tournament might not be as profitable as the 2006 final in Germany.

"The budgets have been composed, given and ratified. Naturally, we might not have the same return of investment as we had at the last World Cup in 2006, but the world was a different place then," Blatter told FIFA.com.

South Africa has vowed to finish building all 10 stadiums for the World Cup on time although the cost will be more than initially forecast, due partly to a weaker local currency (the rand) and higher construction costs.

Rising prices for imported cement, steel and other key building materials and higher labor costs have wreaked havoc on the stadium construction budgets, leading to a 3.2 billion rand ($316 million) shortfall.

Local organizers are concerned about keeping the budget from spiraling out of control and finding the funds to meet the shortfall.

South Africa expects 450,000 visitors for the World Cup and hopes the finals will spur tourism and investment in Africa's richest economy.

MY POV: Tickets go on sale next month ... anyone out there want to help a poor New Yorker get to SA?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

500 Days to the 2010 World Cup


Next Tuesday marks the 500-day countdown to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
The event will be commemorated with a series of high profile events around the country.

On Monday, FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke will address a media conference in Johannesburg. The focal point of the day will be in Bloemfontein, where host city representatives will unveil the nine host city posters.

In addition, officials from the Italian Embassy will visit schools in Mangaung as part of the 2010 ’Adopt a Nation’ campaign.

Tuesday will see the launch of the 2010 Mass Participation Program in Kimberley and on Wednesday, LOC chief exectuve Danny Jordaan departs for Davos to address the World Economic Forum on South Africa’s preparations.

Should be an interesting week in South Africa.

500 days? Oh my! I REALLY need to get in gear ...

Friday, January 23, 2009

Mido Moves to Wigan


Remember Mido?

The temperamental Egyptian striker is set to join England's Wigan Athletic from England's Middlesbrough until the end of the season.

The 25-year-old will replace striker Emile Heskey, who looks to be on the verge of signing for Aston Villa. Mido will join fellow Egyptian Amr Zaki, who has been a revelation for the Latics this season, scoring 11 goals in all competitions.

Wigan manager Steve Bruce said: "Mido has played for some huge European clubs, where he gained Champions League and UEFA Cup experience."

Mido has scored four goals in 13 appearances for struggling Middlesbrough this season.

But with all the positives come negatives. He's known for being an extraordinary diva.

In 2004, Egypt coach Marco Tardelli dropped Mido from the squad after the striker claimed to be unavailable due to an injury. But he played in a friendly match for Roma 24 hours later. A day later, Mido rejected accusations that he refused to play for his country.

Ultimately, the Egyptian Football Federation announced that he would not play for the team again. However, Tardelli was sacked as Egypt coach and in January 2005 the Egyptian Football Association said they would consider bringing Mido back into the team if he were to apologize for his past behavior. Mido flew to Egypt, apologized and the following month he was recalled by the national team.

Oh, but that's not all ...

Mido was thrown out of the Egypt team during the 2006 African Cup of Nations because of an argument with coach Hassan Shehata in the semi-final game against Senegal, which started after Mido reacted badly to being substituted.

His replacement and now Wigan team mate Amr Zaki came on to score a header with his first touch, putting Egypt into the final.

A day later, Mido reconciled with Shehata, but was given a six-month suspension from the team. He was eventually recalled in time for 2008 African Cup of Nations qualifying.

Mido was included in the Egypt squad to play South Africa in London in November 2006, despite suffering from a knee injury at the time. He was however left out of the Egypt squad to play Mauritania in an African Cup qualifier in March 2007.

He was not part of the squad that won the 2008 African Cup of Nations in Ghana.

Talented? Yes. Moody? Very much so. Should be interesting to see how he fits in with Zaki at Wigan. You never know with the diva known as Mido ...

Kenya, FIFA Agree to Agree


The world soccer governing body FIFA and the country of Kenya have had their share of issues over the years.

Finally, it looks like they're going to agree to agree and try to fix the situation.

FIFA recognizes one group of administrators, known as Football Kenya Limited or FKL.

The Kenyan government deals with a rival group - which claims to be the legitimate Kenya Football Federation (KFF).

Now a joint committee will be formed to run Kenyan football for most of 2009.

The committee - which is likely to be formed from a combination of FKL and KFF officials - will have a nine-month mandate.

Representatives of FIFA will arrive in Nairobi shortly to complete the agreement, which was announced by the country's sports minister, Helen Sambili.

The minister said the committee would be operating before Kenya face Tunisia in the opening game of the final round of World Cup qualifiers at the end of March.

They will play Nigeria and Mozambique as well as Tunisia in 2010 World Cup qualifiers.

Kenya Football Limited recently sacked the coach of the national team, Francis Kimanzi.

They said he had refused to take charge of planned friendly matches and had also refused to give interviews to the media.

The government has called for his reinstatement.

MY POV: Clearly, this is only the first step in resolving this tenuous issue. Someone needed to step in and fix this mess. No one's better than FIFA for that much ... The question is: Why did it take so long? Sad, really ...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Aboutrika Wins 2008 BBC African Footballer of the Year


Congratulations to Mohamed Aboutrika, who won the 2008 BBC African Footballer of the Year award yesterday.

This, from the BBC:

The midfield star won by an overwhelming majority - taking more than half of the total ballot.

More than 155,000 people cast their votes for the BBC award - the only one of its kind to be decided by football fans around the world.

Aboutrika beat the 2007 winner Emmanuel Adebayor, Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto'o and Amr Zaki to the title.

The award is recognition for a magnificent year for the player, in which he helped his country to win the Africa Cup of Nations and his club to take the African Champions League for a record sixth time.

"2008 was a tremendous year," Aboutrika told the BBC's African sports programme Fast Track.

"It was an opportunity for me and my team-mates to be a showcase for Egyptian football, across the world."

Aboutrika scored the winning goal for Egypt in the Pharaohs' triumph at the Nations Cup in Ghana.

He also set up several goals in the final of the Champions League, as Al Ahly claimed the continental title yet again.

"This prize is a wonderful present for me," Aboutrika said.

"It's an honour both for Egyptian football and for my club Al Ahly - I am very happy to be this year's winner of the BBC African Footballer of the Year award."

His coach at Al Ahly, Manuel Jose, said Mohamed Aboutrika richly deserved his award.

"Aboutrika is the key player," he said.

"What the other players can't do, he can do. He is fantastic player and a fantastic person.

"I agree with this award because for me he is the best player playing in Africa for the last five years, every year he is the best."

Aboutrika is the second Egyptian to win the award - after his club and international colleague Mohamed Barakat, who won in 2005.
Didn't I say he'd win? Congratulations!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Kenya's Mathare United Inspires


The Kenyan election crisis was one of the most talked-about news stories of 2008.
The political, economic, and humanitarian crisis that erupted in the East African nation cost over 1,000 people their lives and displaced close to 250,000.

A year later, things haven't gotten easier. Many are still displaced and ethnic violence is still only a dispute away.

Still, there was something to revel in this past November when the Mathare Youth Sports Association's (MYSA) adult team Mathare United won the Kenyan national championship.

Mathare is one of the largest slums in Nairobi, Kenya's capital city. It houses close to 500,000 in an area without sanitation, running water, electricity or trash collection.

David Goldblatt, the wonderful author the best-selling book on football history, The Ball is Round: The Global History of Football, traveled with the team to Muhroni in the Western Kenyan highlands, where they faced Agro Chemicals, the works team of the local sugar plantation. Mathare United needed just a draw or better from the game to win the Kenyan football league for the first time in their history.

His account makes for a wonderful tale of redemption and the human spirit. Please check out the BBC story of his travels and make sure to listen to the podcast for a more in-depth view of life in Kenya and Kenyan football.

As Goldblatt, puts it after Mathare clinched the championship, 'The Mathare players celebrated, danced and sang and the home crowd decided to join in too and flooded the pitch. On the team bus back to the hotel, thousands of texts seemed to arrive on every player's phone, as Mathare and the other slums of Nairobi celebrated. Despite the poverty and the spectre of ethnic violence, Mathare United's triumph is testament to the amazing talents and energies of Kenya's poor.'

Please make sure to check out this wonderful story.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Kanoute in Hot Water over T-Shirt


Sevilla striker and Mali international Frederic Kanoute is facing a fine from the Spanish football federation for revealing a T-shirt expressing support for Palestine during a match.

The Mali striker lifted his Sevilla kit over his head after scoring in the team's 2-1 Copa del Rey win over Deportivo La Coruna on Wednesday.

He displayed a black T-shirt on which the word "Palestine" was printed in several languages.

The federation's competition committee is to study the incident on Friday.

Kanoute, who was born in France but plays internationally for Mali, is a practicing Muslim.

Kanoute's action, which has been interpreted as a response to Israel's recent attacks on Gaza that have killed nearly 700 people, was met with a yellow card from referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz.

Lahoz said in his post-match report that he'd cautioned Kanoute for raising his shirt over his head in accordance with federation rules, while also noting the message of the striker's T-shirt.

Raphael Schultz, Israel's ambassador in Madrid, told Radio MARCA on Thursday that Kanoute's gesture "had gone beyond his profession and FIFA rules to this respect."

"I saw the match and the T-shirt bore nothing more than the name of Palestine. It was not an incitement against Israel. I don't think it extolled violence," Schultz said.

Meanwhile, Palestine embassy official Mahmoud Aluanen told the same station that Kanoute "has shown himself to be a very brave person to support our people at a public event."

"Sportsmen are human beings and cannot contain their feelings. They have all the right in the world to express their opinion about matters which contravene human rights. I'm sure that all Palestinian children, those who love football, will be happy about this gesture," Aluanen added.

The incident came a day before Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas paid a visit to Madrid for talks with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and King Juan Carlos.

UPDATE: Kanoute's been fined 3000 Euros, the most allowed by the Spanish Federation.

MY POV: While I'm of the opinion that sportsmen are human beings and obviously complex people, the sports arena isn't a place for these political displays, especially the club game.

It's just too tricky. Many people that support Sevilla might not agree with Kanoute's message.
Also, think about Israeli people who have nothing to do with the attacks.

How do you think they feel?

Football is a passionate sport and the people's game, but these political messages can only heighten hostility, not abate it.

The excellent Spanish football blog La Liga Talk talks clearly about the Kanoute incident, kind of siding on the other side ... what do you think?

There are certian things that never go together. If they are placed together, they could cause an explosion.

Aluminum and microwaves. Water and grease on fire.

Politics and football. These last two are redundant as they generate the same amount of passion and violence when the right ingredients are mixed.

Frederic Kanouté was excited after scored the first goal of the game in Wednedsday´s Copa del Rey matchup against Deportivo. There was a great deal of excitement in the air as Sevilla put themselves on the scoreboard. What came was the biggest sociopolitical that news that emerged so far this season in Spain.

When he lifted his jersey, a shirt expressing his support for Palestine emerged from under it. For many it riled up several political leanings, biases, and other predispositions regardless of which side of the conflict your allegiances stand on.

According to Spanish media he is supposed to receive a heavy fine from both the league and UEFA for making such a political statement, on top the booking he received. ¨This is a very important step. (Kanouté) showed a great deal of courage for supporting our cause in a public function,¨ said Palestinian Embassy counselor Mahmud Aluanen. Forums from all of the biggest dailies in Spain and in Andalucia express their support for the Mali international.

As far as Kanouté everyone knows where his allegiances stand. The Mali international is a French-born muslim that has been active with his religion in a positive fashion. Kanouté built a home for orphans in Mali and was able to help keep open a mosque in Sevilla by offering half a million dollars. His actions brought praise and criticism from both sides but for their own reasons and benefits.

Look this is not a political blog or a religious one, but Kanouté is one that understands his position as a person in the limelight. Based on his track record he is not a man that is trying to incite violence or to start an uprising. That is not what he is about. We can all be sure that the Sevilla star was not giving his thumbs-up to Hamas. He did show support for the people that have nothing to do with this tragic series of events that have seen thousands of innocent people caught in the middle of the crossfire. Kanouté is just showing those people support, God only knows those people (the innocent ones) need it.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Kenya, Burundi Advance in CECAFA Cup


Kenya snatched a 1-0 win over Burundi on Thursday as both teams moved into the semi-finals of the CECAFA Challenge Cup in Uganda.

What's the Challenge Cup, you ask?

Let your friendly, neighborhood blogger answer that for you ...

According to Wikipedia, the Cup:

is the oldest football (soccer) tournament in Africa. It is a tournament of FIFA and the Council of East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA), and includes national teams from Central and East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Zanzibar, Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi and Djibouti).

In 2005 and 2006 the tournament was sponsored by Ethiopian/Saudi billionaire Sheikh Mohammed Al Amoudi, and was dubbed the Al Amoudi Senior Challenge Cup.

It is the successor tournament of the Gossage Cup, held 37 times from 1926 until 1966, and the East and Central African Senior Challenge Cup, held 7 times between 1965 and 1971.


Pretty cool, eh?

Kenya's Harambee Stars topped Group B after seeing off the Burundians at the Nakivubo War Memorial Stadium in Kampala.

According to the BBC:

The decisive goal came in the 60th minute when Osborne Monday slotted in a penalty after goalkeeper Abu Ndayisenga had fouled Kenyan striker Francis Ouma.

Kenya's stand-in coach Yusuf Chipo said afterwards that his team is good enough to go all the way and win this annual regional event.

He attributed the performance of his team to the good playing surface at Nakivubo stadium.

Gilbert Kanyenkorem, the Burundi coach, said he was pleasantly surprised to finish second behind a "strong" Kenyan team.

In an earlier Group B encounter, Sudan beat Zambia 2-0 but the win could not prevent the Sudanese from picking up the wooden spoon.

Sudan scored after 33 minutes when captain Abdulhamid Amari finished off an excellent move involving Balla Jabir and Safeldin Ali.

Eltahib Elmani then added a second just after the break as it became apparent that the Zambians were struggling to find their 'A' game.

Zambia could have got a consolation goal had Roger Kola's shot not been brilliantly saved by goalkeeper Akram Echadi.
Football. You learn something new every day ...

South Africa: 2009 is Very Important


2010 is the main event, but 2009 is shaping up to be a very important year in South Africa's sporting history according to South African website Project 2010.

It’s safe to say that 2009 will be the most important year in this country’s sporting history. In just six months, some of the giants of international football (including Brazil and Italy) will compete in the Confederations Cup. It will be the biggest sporting event ever staged on the African continent. In terms of international television coverage, it will eclipse both the rugby and cricket World Cups and while it may pale in comparison to the 2010 FIFA World Cup, it will be South Africa’s first real test of its abilities to host a mega sporting event. Sure, there have been other important sports events, but nothing awakes the extraordinary sentiment and emotion of the quadrennial showpiece of international football or this key curtain- raiser.

And the good news is that after a roller-coaster ride in most sporting codes, team SA is showing signs of peaking at the right time. Time magazine notes that after winning the Rugby World Cup last year, South Africa’s cricketers now stand atop the world ranking ’and for once, that old adage the "rainbow nation" genuinely applies’. ’

In 2010, SA hosts the soccer World Cup. It won’t win, but the success of its cricketers as they put the once-invincible? Australians to the sword will have done nothing but lift South Africa’s spirits as it prepares for the world’s biggest sporting event.’ Closer to home, The Times predicts that although this country will endure hard times in 2009, our gaze will be lifted to the World Cup: ’We should not underestimate the effect this spectacle will have on our nation’s fortunes, lifting our mood and focusing world attention on our country’s infrastructure.’

Of course, so much will depend on Bafana and how they handle their preparations for both tournaments but, again, the signs are promising. Under new coach Joel Santana, the team has recorded four morale-boosting victories in a row. The time has now come for each and every South African to throw their weight behind the team which will play such an important role in determining the success of the 2010 World Cup.

MY POV: The time has come for each and every FOOTBALL fan to throw their weight behind South Africa and their important role in hosting the 2010 Cup ... no more talk of moving the Cup, no more talk of Plan B's and C's ... let's have an honest and thorough appreciation of South Africa and the work they're doing to make the World Cup a terrific success. They deserve that from us.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Diouf Chased by Blackburn, Wigan


Sunderland forward and Senegal internationl El Hadji Diouf has revealed that English premier league clubs Blackburn Rovers and Wigan Athletic are chasing him.

Remember when this guy was one of the most sought-after talents in football? Especially after the 2002 World Cup and Senegal's shock upset of '98 champions France?

My, how times have changed ...

Take a look at this excerpt from Diouf's Wikipedia page:

Liverpool bought Diouf from Lens for £10 million, prior to Senegal's impressive 2002 World Cup run. Then coach Gérard Houllier put his faith in Diouf and made the choice to sign him and not take up the option of permanently signing loan star Nicolas Anelka. Diouf was originally signed as a striker but ended up being utilised mainly on the right wing. Diouf scored just six goals in his first season including three in the Worthington Cup. Liverpool went on to defeat Manchester United 2-0 in the final at the Millennium Stadium that year, ensuring he got a medal.

In the 2003/04 season, he became the first Liverpool player to wear the number nine shirt to fail to score a goal in an entire season. He made 33 appearances and went over 14 months without a goal. Despite his impressive start to his Liverpool career where he scored a brace on his Anfield debut against Southampton F.C, he only managed 6 goals in 80 appearances, failing to live up to expectations. His spell at Liverpool was marred with controversy, most notably when he spat at a Celtic fan in a UEFA Cup tie. After a series of disciplinary problems Diouf was then off-loaded by new manager Rafael Benítez on a season's loan to Bolton Wanderers.


Yikes ... not the most impressive of records.

Nevertheless, he's gotten chances. He's been at Bolton, where did did quite well. And now he's at Sunderland, where first team chances have dried up after the departure of coach Roy Keane.

When he's played, he hasn't done much. He's goal-less in his last 13 outings and doesn't appear to feature in the long-term plans of current Sunderland manager Ricky Sbragia.

Diouf believes he may be forced to leave during the January transfer window, and admits there would be no shortage of takers for his services.(Diouf's got quite the belief in himself, eh?)

Blackburn have already shown an interest, with Rovers manager Sam Allardyce having worked with Diouf during their days at Bolton, while ambitious Wigan are also keeping tabs on his availability.

"Sam Allardyce wants me to join him and Wigan's manager (Steve Bruce) has called me as well," said the 27-year-old forward.

"I am not allowed to make two transfers during the same season (oh ya?) but can leave if the clubs agree.

"I signed a four-year contract with Sunderland and don't want to leave on bad terms. I hope they will find a solution."

MY POV: Diouf's got talent but he can be a head case. That's why he's mired at the bottom rung of the Premier League and not with the upper echelon. Why would anyone want this guy on their team? He seems your typical self-obsessed superstar athlete ... unfortunately, he doesn't deliver like a superstar athlete.

He had a good run. But I'd stay far away from this spitting diva.

South Africa Not Only Country Ready for 2010


I've been here and there on Road to 2010 for too long.
Time to step it up ...

The 2010 World Cup in South Africa is fast approaching. And while South Africa is keen to reap financial benefits from staging the world's biggest sporting event, it's not the only country in Africa that feels this way.

Countries like Namibia, Botswana and Zambia have embarked on campaigns to persuade teams and their fans to visit them before the World Cup begins.

Even Kenya, which is a four hour flight away from Johannesburg, is hoping for some of the action.

As South Africa continues its preparations to host football's showpiece event, a similar - if less frantic - process is taking place across its borders.

An example involves tourism officials from Namibia, who were highly visible at a recent football convention held in Johannesburg.

Namibian officials are hoping that football supporters heading to South Africa in 2010 will also spend time, and money, in their country.

Shareen Thude from the Namibian Tourist Board wants the whole region to benefit.

"I personally do not see Namibia as competing with Zambia or Botswana or any country in the region. Southern Africa as a brand is very strong it's a very very powerful brand," she said.

"I think there's a lot of potential for all of us. Each country will sell on our own particular strength and our own particular niche and present our own unique positioning," she added.

Namibia and other southern African countries are concentrating their efforts on boosting tourism.

In contrast Kenya wants to attract one of the qualified teams to base itself in Nairobi prior to the tournament.

Sam Mwai has the task of convincing a leading football nation to get its players to stop off in Kenya on their way to the World Cup.

"We do have two world class facilities in Nairobi. Nairobi altitude is similar to Johannesburg and a few other cities in South Africa," he said.

"We're offering those teams a chance to fly out of Europe, South America, Asia, acclimatise in Nairobi for a few days, do a bit of training, sight seeing, and then fly down for the World Cup, it's only a four hour flight from Nairobi to Joburg," he added.

He said such an eventuality would be wonderful for a football mad nation such as Kenya.

It is an ambitious target, but countries like Kenya and those closer to South Africa are hopeful the 2010 legacy will extend beyond the world cup hosts.

MY POV: This is exactly how the World Cup can reap benefits for the entire continent. As has been stated before, this isn't just South Africa's World Cup. This is Africa's World Cup ... it's great to see the ingenuity of Namibia and Kenya's tourism boards as they try to garner visitors to their great countries.

I really believe they're doing a great job getting people to at least recognize what they have to offer ahead of the 2010 Cup ...

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Ten African Players To Watch In 2009


Happy 2009!!

In our last post, we talked about the 10 best African players of 2008.

Now, we shift focus and with the help of goal.com's Samm Audu, Road to 2010 takes a look at 10 African players to keep an eye on in 2009.

Many of these players could end up on your favorite clubs before you know it. Let's have a look at the list ...

10. Mustapha Jarju 'Toubabo' (RAEC Mons & Gambia)

A versatile player, who is comfortable either in midfield or as a striker. He has previously captained his country's Under-17 side and has now been strutting his stuff in Belgium for the past three seasons, first with Lierse before he joined up with Mons. He has thus far scored five goals this term after playing mostly as a striker and was very much part of the Gambian Scorpions, who came within a whisker of advancing to the final round of the 2010 World Cup qualifiers.

9. Faty Papy (Trabsonspor & Burundi)

Turkish club Trabzonspor got themselves a huge bargain when they signed 18-year-old Burundi international midfielder Faty Papy in December. Papy, who has won six caps for his native country since his debut against Seychelles in June, featured for Inter Star of Bujumbura before his move overseas.

8. McDonald Mariga ( FC Parma & Kenya)

At 21, this highly rated central midfielder has, within a short time, moved from modest Swedish side Helsingborgs to the Italian top flight with FC Parma, who snapped him up for a fee close to two million Euros after he impressed on an intial loan deal. He was capped at full international level in 2006 and has now been linked with a transfer to Serie A giants AC Milan as well as Napoli.

7. Clifford Mulenga ( Wits & Zambia)

Arguably the player with the most exciting left foot in the South African Premier Soccer League, he caught the eye of many with some superb displays for his country at the 2007 Fifa World Youth Championship in Canada. It was a performance that fetched him the Caf Young Player Award in 2007. However, he can sometimes be something of a character, like when he publicly slammed Zambia coach, Herve Renard, for leaving him out of a recent World Cup tie. He has since made up with the French coach.

6. Bernard Parker (Thanda Royal Zulu & South Africa)


Such is the huge promise this young Thanda Royal Zulu skipper holds that his South African club have admitted he will be lost to Europe sooner rather than later.Last season, he played in all of his club's matches while this term, he has cracked home nine goals in the league.But the highlight of his career are his goals for Bafana - four in nine matches since he was first capped in 2007.

5. Moussa Maazou (Lokeren & Niger)

The year 2008 will certainly pass as a landmark year for this 20-year-old former Sahel Sc striker. He was capped at senior level by his country against Uganda in May and since his move to Belgium same year, he has painted the Jupilar league with goals. He has thus far netted 10 goals in 16 appearances for Lokeren.

4. Macauley Chrisantus (Hamburg & Nigeria)


He is your typical centre-forward - strong on the ball, full of running and a player who knows where the goal is. He proved that at both the 2007 African Junior Championship in Togo and months later at the Fifa Under-17 World Cup, where his seven goals helped Nigeria to a third championship win. German Bundesliga outfit Hamburg gave him a professional contract in August when he turned 18 and has made the bench for several league games this season already.

3. Daniel Opare (Real Madrid & Ghana)

A super talent at right fullback, he could not have dreamt of a bigger platform to showcase his ball skills than Spanish champions Real Madrid after he emerged as the best defender at the Fifa Under-17 World Cup in Korea in September 2007. Blessed with great pace and precise crosses, the former Ashanti Gold midfielder is on the fringes of the Ghana Black Stars and was only dropped from his country's squad to the 2008 Nations Cup on account of an ankle injury. Injury has again ruled him out of the African Youth Championship this month, but pundits say this player in the mould of Brazil World Cup star Cafu is on his way to becoming a Galacticos.

2. Rabiu Ibrahim (Sporting Clube & Nigeria)


He has already been compared to the great Austin 'Jay Jay' Okocha because of his ball skills and vision in central midfield. He was the first from an exciting generation of young players to move overseas after helping Nigeria win the Fifa U-17 World Cup in Korea two years ago. Nigeria coach Shuaibu Amodu is known for relying on the old guard, but now looks set to draft this youngster, 18 only in March, to add some creative juice in the Super Eagles midfield.

1.Yao Kouassi 'Gervinho' ( Le Mans & Ivory Coast)

A product of the famed Asec Academy that produced the likes of the Toure brothers, Kolo and Yaya, Didier Zokora, Aruna Didane, Kouassi is an exciting striker who shone like a million stars as Ivory Coast reached the last eight at the football tournament of the Beijing Olympics in the summer with him as skipper. He scores his fair share of goals but above all, his dribbling runs and ball skills have helped create openings from which his teammates have profited. Little wonder a man like Arsene Wenger with eye for young talent is reportedly keeping a close watch on a player good enough to carry a Brazilian nickname.