Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Muntari should go hang!


"Ghana midfielder Sulley Muntari has threatened to quit the Black Stars if the authorities do not apologise his girlfriend."


"Menaye Donkor claims she was assaulted by a policeman at the Baba Yara Stadium on Sunday as she attempted to enter the dressing room area after the World Cup qualifier against Benin in Kumasi. The Inter Milan player is furious over the incident and has openly asked the Police Servie and chairman of the Ghana Football Association to apologise to Miss Donkor."

When I saw (and heard) of this story I nearly puked in disgust. First, to think that I had gone all the way to Kumasi to watch the Stars play and for Sulley to be pissed that his chick wasn't given entry into an area where even I - a journalist - was barred from going, accreditation and all.

I am angry. I am angry because I think that some of these boys want to take Ghana for a ride. I wondered why Muntari played like there was nothing at stake in the match. Now I know why! It is a shame IF he indeed said that. I think it's about time somebody called Muntari's bluff. He should be made to understand that the national team is bigger than any single individual and moreover he needs to be careful because fine players like Kwadwo Asamoah are in tow.

We can still make it to the world cup and cup of nations without him. Maybe he can tell Jose Mourinho to apologize to his girlfriend when she is spotted around the team in Italy? That would be his end. We are not running tabloid freebies here, so he can go hang!

Muntari should ask Fabio Capello why he should ban England players from inviting their WAGs to their camp prior to matches. If Muntari is in the Black Stars, that does not make Menaye an official of the national team so even if she has a permit, that permit does not guarantee her access to the team's hotel and dressing room just because her boyfriend is playing. What about the other players who have girl friends? For this one, Muntari should be allowed to quit the Black Stars forever and we see who loses in the end.

A harbinger?

But on a wider note, I am sure something is definitely wrong with the team attitude. The way they moved, the way they passed and their body language was lethargic at best. Appiah was a non-starter and when we are talking about the possibility of a niggling injury they say we should keep quiet. Well, not this man!

And worryingly, is this a harbinger of things breaking apart in the team or does it mean that Milovan Rajevac does not have control? Let's hope not because at the moment there are a lot of players ready and willing to play their hearts out for Ghana.

Being in Kumasi meant that I had the vibes of the people...and it wasn't good. While some called for the head of Il Kapitano, others said Muntari, Essien, Eric Addo and a few others should take a rest. Phew! What a change from the Ghana that deified these players. Time changes, indeed and we must change accordingly.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Vroom vrooooooooom!

There is a new wave of competition in F1. And it's called Brawn GP. The name 'Brawn' comes from the name of the former principal for Honda - Ross Brawn - who bought the team at the last moment after they hung up their racing gloves.

The new boys have had a blistering start with their stunning pre-testing form in Barcelona and Silverstone but we're hearing that other teams are lining up to complain. Apparently certain parts of the Brawn GP (as well as those of Toyota and Williams) car are questionable according to Renault and Red Bull. Even Frank Williams is afraid.

But for us F1 neutrals we can't stop rubbing our hands in glee and anticipation. Vroom vroom!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Wo kum apem a?

It looks like the news of the moment in Ghana's football hierarchy is that the reigning are set to be dethroned. Never say never, I hear the voice of the diehards say. However the reality is that after the shocking(?) defeat to Kessben at the Abrankese, things are looking decidedly pale for the Reds.

Bashiru Hayford may have been said to possess the upper hand what with his blistering array of trophies for the Reds, but it still remains the Wo kum apem a in Kotoko's motto is working. How long do we have to wait for the Apem beba to work out? And today the news is filtering in that coach Isaac Boateng is thinking of a load-shedding exercise of sorts with his players.

The second transfer window opens soon and with that, will the Reds go all out to challenge the 11 point gap that separates them from the Phobians?

He's mentioned six players - many of them unknowns - and he claims that his decision to acquire certain players to take their place would plug holes in the team. Meanhwhile the man also believes that the club is seeing too much fatigue from national competitions. By that he means that Samuel Inkoom, Daniel Nii Adjei and Jordan Opoku who have all been called for national duty in recent times.

The second transfer window opens soon and with that, will the Reds go all out to challenge the 11 point gap that separates them from the Phobians? We live to see...

Friday, March 20, 2009

The draw is here.

Simple as that. The draw is hear. Is this gonna be the Year of the Blaugrana although no one seems to give them a chance?

Can Liverpool and Chelsea ever be pulled apart in the Champions League? Five years in a row of footballing tedium and we're back for more. Rafa Benitez will face his third different Chelsea boss when his team entertains the Blues at Anfield for their quarter-final tie.

Strangely, for all Jose Mourinho's tactical reputation, only Avram Grant has got the better of him in the competition, after his team were given the whip hand by John Arne Riise's inexplicable own-goal in the first leg.

The last meeting, the second leg of last season's semi-final, was a far better footballing display than any of the previous, with Chelsea powering home in extra-time just when it seemed Benitez might again get the better of them. It is to be hoped that there will be more of the same and not the rank boredom of the two group games the pair played against each other in the 2005-6 season. Those rota-ed in the office to work the shift are hardly licking their lips.

Liverpool are riding high. Which team would not be after their wins over Real Madrid and Manchester United? Will this draw and Steven Gerrard's ongoing court case take them out of their stride? Guus Hiddink, a European Cup winner in 1988 and who took PSV to the semis in 2005, will fancy his chances after planting the green shoots of recovery at Stamford Bridge. If he is to leave the club in the summer, a despatching of Liverpool could leave quite a legacy.

Manchester United and Arsenal can breathe easier. For now. Most would fancy them to beat their next opponents in Porto and Villarreal respectively. The big deal, notwithstanding the challenge of two opponents who are both experienced on the European stage, will be a potential semi-final. That could take place in the last week in April and first in May. The two are set to meet domestically on May 16 anyway, with a potential FA Cup Final to follow a fortnight later. United v Arsenal could yet turn out to be this season's drama mini-series ratings winners.

Of course, Manchester United have form in slipping up against supposedly lesser opponents, with Galatasaray, Monaco, Bayer Levekusen and Porto themselves, in their vintage Mourinho era, all taking advantage of complacency or adopting the gameplan to beat them. Arsenal meanwhile face the team they were within a Juan Roman Riquelme penalty of losing the semi-final to in 2006. And United could tell them about the Spanish club's defensive qualities, having played out four straight 0-0 draws against them.

The predictability of the second round and group stage is gone. The business end is upon us.

Two of the continents' very biggest names meet in the other, non-English leg. Bayern Munich have met Barcelona twice previously in European competition. Back in 1998, Bayern beat the Catalan club home and away in the group stage, the season in which they were losing finalists. Two years previously, Bayern beat a Johan Cruyff-coached Barca on their way to winning the UEFA Cup.

So, Barcelona, despite their status as co-favourites, face opponents with a great record against them. Jurgen Klinsmann gets the chance to dine at the top table of European football in his first season as a club coach. But then again, the same goes for Pep Guardiola. Two inexperienced bosses at two of Europe's most seasoned campaigners at this late stage? Whatever the qualities of each club's playing talent, Hiddink and Benitez may fancy their chances in the next round.

The Champions League format has matured to a level where every encounter has sub-plots and past history. The stark fact that no team has defended their European crown since AC Milan under the old format in 1990 reflects the difficulty of a winning campaign. And counts against United. The predictability of the second round and group stage is gone. The business end is upon us.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The draw is near.

We're mere hours away from the Champions League draw, and with four Premier League clubs remaining, the stage is set for some thrilling encounters to be selected.

It doesn't take a statistician to see that the draw is once again Premier League-dominated - but a closer look at the numbers suggests that there is a good chance of it producing some interesting ties.

All things being equal, and assuming a random draw, there is a a mere eight in 35 chance - or 22% - that no English team will meet another in the Champions League quarter-final draw on Friday lunchtime (LIVE on Goal.com, where i gleaned this piece from.) Needless to say, that gives a 78% probability that a Premier League side will meet any other Premier League side.

In other words, just like last year - when Arsenal met Liverpool - we face the prospect of an all-Premier League tie when the matches are drawn in Nyon at 12:00 CET on March 19th.

But for Arsenal or Liverpool individually - and we can take this for the other English sides, too - to meet another Premier League outfit is 43% likely at the start of the draw. As for the prospect of a foreign team coming up against any given Premier League outfit, well, that's 4/7, or 57%.

As for Arsenal coming up against Liverpool themselves, well, that's easy - it's a one in seven chance that any given team will meet any other, so it's 14.3% before the draw begins. So, when you see that first team come out of the hat, take your guess for the second one and you have that much chance of being right.

But what if you sit down before the draw, write down the four combinations of teams in all four matches, and then see that they're all correct? You've just managed a one-in-105 shot, or a 0.95% chance of success come true - and that's before we take home and away advantage into account.

Feeling lucky? Why not leave your prediction below, or just discuss what matches you'd like to see, in my comments feature?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What the hell...? Oh, well...

I did not watch the Arsenal - Hull game, that's just to lay the foundations for today's piece. But I have scoured the credible and in-credible websites and I think I can make a fair assessment, no?

First, what the f**k does Phil Brown think he's gonna achieve by berating and insinuating (no, saying) Fabregas...spat on him! Cheek! And as if that were not enough, that Wenger is not a good manager...? Well well well, if it's not Phil Brown, the friend of Sam Allardyce!

Don't you love Arsene when he says:

"I know nothing about that at all. I'm not a specialist to create newspaper stories or to create things that are minor that might have happened in the tunnel. I'm sorry, I can't speak about something I haven't seen."

In any case the season trudges on, Arsenal are still winning and that...is that.

Back home, as the first round of the Glo Premier League nears the end, clubs fight for points and continue to challenge for positions. Eleven Wise coach Charles Akonnor has found himself in a rare position of claiming another big win in his second game in charge as his side comes up against leaders, Hearts of Oak. Second-placed Heart of Lions who also have a game in hand will seek to maintain the pressure on Hearts of Oak as they play Tema Youth.

Champions Asante Kotoko will be at home to Berekum Arsenals at the Baba Yara Stadium as they switch focus to domestic league after their participation in the Caf Champions League over the weekend. The reds are ten points adrift the leaders but don't forget that they have a game in hand.

After suffering a loss during the weekend RTU return home to play Kessben FC at the Tamale Sports Stadium. Struggling Gamba All Blacks play as visitors to All Stars at the Wa Park while Berekum Chelsea host King Faisal.

Here in Accra at the Ohene Djan Stadium, Liberty Professionals take on Sekondi Hasaacas who were crying bloody murder last Sunday. Poor them.

And as the first-round winds down, we should have a great bit of competition in the second.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The wrap and the peep...

Well, been a coupla days, huh? Anyway, the weekend was a hectic one for certain football fans but was blissful for others. With Man Utd spectacularly disgracing their name, Arsenal was on the roll.

Arshavin announced his presence in a big way and Eboue announced his re-turn in a bigger fashion. Riquelme's row with El Diego was quite topical and so was news on the Glo Premier league. Hearts won - somewhat controversially - against Hasaacas but got the points all the same.

Meanwhile Kotoko were doing their own thing with that inspired win against Khemesset. And as Walter Cronkite would say, that's the way it is....Tonight though there's FA Cup action in England as the Gunners seek a quarter-final place with Hull City.

See ya later!

Friday, March 13, 2009

FootyTube - a review

Let’s be completely honest here, one of the single most annoying things in the history of mankind is trying to find a proper football video on YouTube.

Sure, we can all claim that once in a blue moon we’ve seen a recap of a match we missed or a must-see goal that decided a match, but for the most part almost everyone out there would agree that every time you DO find a video the picture showing up on the screen is either A) not the video you were looking for or B) says “video now longer available.”

Like Indiana Jones looking for the temple, footy fans have yet to find their temple of gold that is on-demand football videos when we want them. Enter FootyTube.com. Whilst the site might not get the publicity of YouTube, it is slowly going a niche user group that is looking for one thing only — and that would be as much football as humanly possible.

The original version of the site had the occasional hiccup with sketchy video quality and a shorter video than you’d like to see on a recent match, but for the part the site got the job done. Well the new and improved FootyTube.com version 2.0 seems to take the issues we had with version 1.0 and make them a thing of the past.

Built with a sleek new look and an easy to use drop down on the top of the page, FootyTube 2.0 aims to make the search for a particular video as simple as possible. Whilst the old site made searching for videos a task, the v2 allows users the opportunity to see what the top 5 most viewed matches of the day were, as well as a top 5 list for the best goals and the most popular videos. The best way to put it is that FootyTube took the most important feature of the site, which was ability to search for a high-quality video in the least amount of time, and made it their top priority with the new version.

When you do view a video the site gives you the option to rate the match and nominate a goal in the video for goal of the week. It’s a football fans version of YouTube’s rating system — only geared towards the fan enthusiast.

It’s easy to admit that FootyTube.com’s v2 is the real deal. The site is currently looking for new users to demo the new site, so I’d suggest you get over there and try it for yourself. My only caveat is that you demo the site when you’re not at work since FootyTube.com has a knack for stealing hours in your day. - Arseblog

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Gunning vs Roming: the preview

I couldn't think of a better way to preview the Arsenal-Roma game, so i got this from OleOle. Don't forget that Man United play Inter while Lyon also play Barca. And then Porto meet Atletico too. But here's the preview I'm speaking of.

Roma tonight. I'm looking forward to this, I have to say.

Not that I'm taking anything for granted. As good as the performance, result and goals against Burnley were this is a much more difficult task altogether. Still, there's a sense that the team is beginning to find its feet again, that they're boosted by the return of injured players and to me, at least, I think there's a focus and determination in the Champions League that isn't quite present in the other competitions this season.

Arsene Wenger is bullish going into the tie. He wants his players to show everyone that they've been written off too early, that they do have the quality he always said they did. In rather bombastic terms, he says:
You judge a season at the end of the season and it is down to us in the coming months to show that we have the necessary quality and that people were too quick to write us off.

What we are playing for at the moment is the destiny of this team. How much do we want to win? How much do we want to be the best? That’s what is at stake at the moment.
So, not much then? He's certainly putting it up to his squad. There must have been times this season when he was biting his tongue. We know he's never critical of his players in public but it must have been hard at times this season to defend what he saw on the pitch - not least because it made a mockery of what we all saw.

Having nursed them, protected them, taken the flak for them over and over again, he wants them to repay that. We're 90 minutes away from a Champions League 1/4 final and he expects a performance. He wants more of what we saw against Roma in the first leg and less of what we saw against Fulham or Sunderland.

There's not much in terms of team news, only that Kolo Toure is fit, and I expect the same XI in the same formation as in the first leg.

Arsene says we're going to attack Roma. I think that's a good idea. A goal would mean the Italians have to score three and while that's not impossible it's certainly difficult. An early goal for us would really settle the nerves and put Roma on the back foot.

We have the added bonus of real quality on the bench should we need it as well. Theo Walcott and Eduardo provide fantastic options, not only if we're chasing the game, but also to hammer the final nails into the coffin should it come to that. I do wonder if he might think about using Theo from the start in place of Eboue but I suspect he'll be on the bench.

There's no doubt Roma will be better than in the first leg. They were as poor as we were good and we shouldn't expect a repeat of that. It means that we're going to have to work as hard as we've worked this season but our record in what you might call 'big games' has been good.

There's no doubt in my mind that we have the ability to go through tonight, that we have the ability to win the game as well. It's a measure of how well we played in Europe this season that it would be a massive disappointment if we didn't get a result.

Here's to it. I've got some lucky beers to go with the match later on. Till tomorrow.

Yeah, tomorrow

Monday, March 09, 2009

Around the sports world weekend - in pictures

While Ghana was in the independency mood during the weekend, the rest of the sports world was moving on. And what better way to say it than to do it in the proverbial thousand words?

First the English FA cup was on and among all the goals scored surely the goal of the weekend was Eduardo’s that helped Arsenal’s 3-0 cruise over Burnley.

And then the women’s cricket world witnessed a 'bomb' as Sri Lanka was shocked by Pakistan. Misbah and her cronies were at it against Sri Lanka – as if the terrorist attacks were not hurting enough. Do I hear you say poetic justice…not likely?

…and meanwhile their male counterparts – but this time West Indies and England - were battling it out in Trinidad. Err, pardon me, these are not exactly men but I felt I had to balance the reportage. You know, Journalism and equality and all that...

Fast forward a couple of thousand miles to Milan and you would be at the press conference where Goldenballs announced he’s staying with the Rossonerri AC Milan - ostensibly because he is passionate about his dream team, Milan. Yeah, right. Muntari is waiting.

Speaking of Muntari, the local Black Stars were at their dismal best as they were whipped 2-0 by DR Congo. Anyway, how we for do? The Leopards took the trophy down east.

Simple and short, we messed up and they did their Freedom Dance in our sub-region. Neat. And very silly on our part.

And then there was the (erstwhile) disgraced Dwain Chambers who powered himself to a Torino victory only for him to be de-selected into Team GB. Ouch.

Well that’s the sport report of the holiday weekend in pictures. Hope you enjoyed it and if you didn’t, comments?

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Smile, ALL-Smith’s going a-pimpin’!

Okay good people. Most of you regulars would have noticed that the blog has been pimpin' on a step by step basis. And if you just logged on to the illest sports blog around, I got some news for you.

This picture illustrates what my recent add-on would look like: it’s all to make the blog iller than it is: A nice little tool called Snap Shots that enhances links with visual previews of the destination site, interactive excerpts of Wikipedia articles, MySpace profiles, IMDb profiles and Amazon products, display inline videos, RSS, MP3s, photos, stock charts and more.

Sometimes Snap Shots bring you the information you need, without your having to leave the site, while other times it lets you "look ahead," before deciding if you want to follow a link or not. Should you decide this is not for you, just click the Options icon in the upper right corner of the Snap Shot and opt-out. Thanks for coming. The blog post would be back in a bit! You know the name, right?

Friday, March 06, 2009

On that most scalding of debates

As we countdown to the end of one of the dullest Independence days the country has – ever – seen, I’m convinced that I can take some positives from the day.

After the whining galore I have received from loved ones over various trivial issues, I ended up being upped by the thoughts that our locals can bring the trophy home and maybe we can be rocking the African continent big time. Maybe just as we were the talk of town recently, we can do an encore, no?

But as I am still in the 'freedom 'n justice' mood and this weekend, destined to be a loooong holiday one has seen me wanting a football fight. Why don’t you indulge me while I extol the brilliance of the best player on the planet and my current favourite player..Leo Messi. He can do no wrong, surely!

Now this is my take on the Messi-vs-Ronaldo­-who-­is-the-greatest debate. Never mind the much-bandied about 42 goals by CR7. Messi will mesmerize you this year, hands down. And Messi does not dive, yeah you know that!

And already in 2009 Messi has shown why he would have won the Fifa World Player of the Year had it not been for some over-hyped atypical English press antics. With 22 games gone, the gifted Argentine has 17 goals and 10 assists. Ronaldo? 24-12-5. Fine, the year has not reached even halfway but he who calls the pace, calls the end, capisce?

Anyway, why should I talk too much? Let the video speak for itself…and it’s not biased! Enjoy...

CR7 vs Leo Messi

Thursday, March 05, 2009

D’sport gospel according to Luv, verses TJ & Ruth

I’ve got two friends, Ruth 'n TJ. They have recently got a weird thing going on they call love. And by the end of this sermon I would like all my sportsmen to take a thing or two from them. So here goes.

Once upon a time, Ruth, TJ and I occupied one classroom in a prep school in Accra, Ghana. Fast forward seven, eight years and they are trying, albeit with tender, baby-like steps to make things tingle.

So what do we learn? First, let me tell you that these two are transatlantic miles apart, literally. And that, for me shows that most typical of clichés – the awesome power of love.

TJ, who seems to have more experience in the Ministry of Love Affairs, is very adult-minded and is also seemingly, the grounded part of the relationship. For any sportsman, that is key. Between you and your sport, you must have control, finesse, élan and grit. Being a rapidly rising musician, TJ’s sense of poise and beauty in all he says, his philosophical outlook to his love with Ruth is simply…rhythmic.

To the sportsman, you must respect the sports you claim to love. Call the roll of the greatest sportspersons of all time: Babe Ruth to A-Rod, Mark Spitz to Michael Phelps and Di Stefano to George Weah and Annika Sörenstam, they possess all this.

Now to the enigmatic Ruth who sent me bursting with laughter with her claim that God created man before woman, but then again you always make a rough draft before creating the final masterpiece! Also a woman of words herself, Ruth is a bit of an emotional virgin, in my view (yikes!).

She’s taking her first serious tentative steps in Luvdom and she seems to revel in it. The thrill she gets, the way she daydreams even when she’s online with you makes you see how much she’s taken from her sojourn into TJ’s heart. And so the lesson is?

The lesson is that no sportsman should get all the thrills his sport serves in one go. Remember Eric Cantona’s retirement age from football? If fact, if you deal in a real sport, you can’t get all the spills and thrills in a few games. If you can then it’s not a real sport!
"I think no one would begrudge me when I say that the real lesson in sport can be found in the lives of Ruth and TJ…as of today"
So at the end of this comparative sermon, the last word: sport is meant to be that, sport. In the words of Juventus’ Lapo Elkann to Jose Mourinho: Football [and by extension, sport] should generate enthusiasm and enjoyment. The life and death nature of sports in the current money-crazy climate is, to say the least, unnerving. I think no one would begrudge me when I say that the real lesson in sport can be found in the lives of Ruth and TJ…as of today.

Happy independence holidays to all those in GH, and to Ruth, TJ and sport...here's a toast to your longevity.

Go Gunner! Go Ghana! And all that…

Talk about lewd! According to that most mmwah of soccerphiles – goal - a survey of nearly 2,000 men has confirmed that guys find gals in football shirts aesthetically pleasing… and prefer them to wear the jersey associated with their football club, instead of wearing some provocative, skimpy, and sexy lingerie.

Well that must be giving numerous gals some ideas, ha!

This lady says Go Gunner! Eh? And according to the poll - which interviewed both football and rugby lovers - 34 per cent of participants were adamant that football shirts were sexier than women's underwear, while 23 per cent went for the sexy lingerie and 16 per cent opted for costumes such as a nurse's outfit.

Some of England's finest 'Page 3' models, such as Keeley, have often posed in variations of the iconic white strip in order to escalate national fever when the Three Lions have been trying to roar at home or abroad, and these findings confirm that attraction.

If you are reading this, I know you are scrambling for ideas to get one for your perfect gal? Or do you STILL traditionally prefer your gal in this?

Anyway happy Independence to all the very good people of Ghana. Providence has brought us thus far in 52 years. We give thanks especially with the local Black Stars in the grand finale. All the best, boys. Go Ghana!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

So far, so ‘ChanChan’

For those of you Ghanaians in the Diaspora or those of you nonresidents of Ghana in Ghana - or better still those who ARE in Ghana but haven’t set an eye behind their tellies in ages, you may or may not be familiar with the brand of hair cream called ChanChan. It's supposed to be great and good for the hair. And the expression 'ChanChan' has come to mean anything good and proper – just like Nana Ama McBrown who fronts it.

To the credit of African football, that’s the way the Championship of African Nations is going...just ChanChan. From the initial fears that Cote d’Ivoire’s recently ended civil war would cause low attendances to infrastructural headaches, the West African nation has come through pretty well in terms of organisation. To the credit of Africa, the hitherto ‘short-sighted’ Confed of African Football (Caf) has done something great.

I am not there in Abidjan and the textile city of Bouake but the vibe I’ve been getting suggests that Cote d’Ivoire is not anti- ChanChan at all in the organization department - and we give them thumbs up for that!

Now to the football proper. The goals have not been coming exactly thick ‘n fast but it’s been appreciable. Caf’s insistence that it may be a good talent hunt for the national teams of the continent is a fairly good idea. The skeptics should be seeing the light at the end of that particular tunnel. But there's also the small matter that many many of the lads taking part in the CHAN would be flying off to the ends of the earth in search of greener pastures soon after the last whistle blasts on Sunday.

And as we near the end of the mini-league, I’m really looking forward to the continent living up to all the hype that Blatter’s been giving us. Don’t forget that we’ve landed the job of hosting the World Under 20 championships in Egypt and before that the Under-17 tournament in Nigeria. And so back to CHAN, which is gunning to its end. What legacy would Cote d’Ivoire Africa leave? We hope it’s a good one.

But so far the tournament, exclusive for locally-based players, has been very ChanChan!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Ah, blinding quality...at last!

There come times when mediocrity starts being portrayed as quality. That, my friends, is when you should know that there is no benchmark for good quality. In this case, I speak of the steadily nose-diving standards in quality sports presentation, packaging and production in Ghana. Yes, maybe Joy fm is going well with its crew of Ernest Koranteng, Karl Tuffuoh, Ridwan Asante…or perhaps Citi fm with Nana Boakye, Erasmus Kwaw, and Samuel Bartels. Some may argue that on the local scene, Multimedia's Christopher Opoku leads the pack… But more on that in a bit.

Now how many Ghanaians realistically thought that the quintessential radio station in the heart of Accra would ever stream sports? Well it has, and it is. Atlantis Radio 87.9 fm started churning out sports news via the nationally-acclaimed Yaw Ampofo-Ankrah one morning in August 2008.

Ampofo-Ankrah and his OXIGEN team which he acknowledges with panache on air, started with The Torch Beijing 2008 Updates which focused on the news from the XXIX Olympiad. And then after a month of crowd-pulling tidbits that saw a blend of locally flavoured international content, Torch made way for Sports World.

Airing at the same time as its predecessor, Sports World focuses on giving listeners a one-two punch of crisp local, continental and international news. Usually taking a maximum of ten minutes, listeners have questioned the rationale of putting sports on the band that has been known for its solid entertainment for the past 12 years.

Somewhere in November 2008 a new voice was introduced to Sports World. When Rasheedat Kadiri waltzed onto the frequency it was clear that OXIGEN has come with a very different style. A lady and a guy presenting sports over funky groovy music in Ghana, à la BBC? No way! But yes wait a minute, Yaw Ampofo-Ankrah himself is a very astute sports journalist with not-a-little-bit of the beeb experience under his belt, no?

Yours truly, Ampofo-Ankrah and that very dynamic soundman-editor-all-in-one man called Alex Mamphey make up the beginnings of OXIGEN on radio, with Rasheedat forming an impregnable quartet of quality broadcasting. And there’s more to come.

“OXIGEN is a dynamic media organization specializing in public relations services, and the provision of cutting edge sports programmes, events hosting and providing exceptional content for programmes of different genres. So we have so much more in store,” Ampofo-Ankrah says of his brainchild. Oxigen is primarily made up of journalists, business professionals, marketing and sales specialists, event agents and other media services practitioners with finance and legal backgrounds.

With his own solid background in Ghanaian sports from Choice fm, Joy fm, Tv3 and Metro TV, Ampofo-Ankrah has not too long to attain the dizzying heights (and possibly surpassing those) of Kwabena Yeboah, Joe Lartey (yeah, the original Joe Lartey, not the current one at TV Africa) among others. And with him, his 'breathing life into dreams' clique. We truly, truly hope that OXIGEN will indeed bring a blast of freshness into a profession that so badly needs a pro-renaissance.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Crunch and the Money League

With almost-global recession crunching loudly in our ears, the possible exception to the global financial crises are the world’s richest soccer teams. Deloitte’s Money League of this year showed this very clearly.

Fine, every business wants to make a profit but should it be at the expense of all - or most - of the others in the football industry? And come to think of it, what is all this money used for? “Because of the lack of transparency from a financial point of view, in this market we don’t really know,” A.C. Milan midfielder Clarence Seedorf said. ”We don’t know how the money is dealt with.”

That appears to be a solid backing of the fact that the world’s richest teams are getting away with too much too quickly. And in all this the main worry is whether the gap between the rich clubs and the poor would not increase if this trend continues. If it should, then we would be presented with a carbon copy of the global digital divide. Something must be done to curb this trend and for the solution let’s see what has caused such a huge financial rift.

Players’ salaries are forever reaching skywards especially those of players in the elite teams. “The top 20 clubs’ aggregate revenue grew by 6% (€220m or $278 million) to €3.9 billion (£3.1 billion or $3.9 billion) in 2007/08,” according to Deloitte’s report.

“The top 20 clubs now generate more than three times the combined revenue of the clubs in the first Money League publication in 1996/97” – Deloitte

But with all that money concentrated at the top, teams at the bottom are struggling as another factor show: better management. But despite all these, some in the game, like Seedorf and Michel Platini, president of Europe’s soccer federation, wonder how long the market can endure without monitors and safeguards.

A few weeks ago, Platini warned a gathering of the European Parliament that the world’s most popular sport was “in danger” and could “financially implode.” He said that rising labour costs -– players’ salaries and transfer fees -– were of primary concern.

“It’s a business; it’s not a sport,” Seedorf said the day before the news of the Abu Dhabi group’s interest in his team was reported. “It’s entertainment.”

For the record, Real Madrid remain the richest club in world football as ranked by annual revenues, closely followed by Manchester United. Having won the Premier League and Champions League in 2008, United would have overhauled the Spaniards at the top of the Deloitte Football Money League had it not been for the depreciation of the pound. Later I would look at what Africa can learn from football’s Money League….lest we be crunchier than our Western folks!