Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Fifa Confed Cup South Africa: my verdict.

The football

The Confederations Cup has its detractors, but some of the football it’s produced over the past couple of weeks has been exhilarating.

After Spain triumphed over South Africa in an enthralling third-place playoff, Brazil came back from two goals down at half-time to triumph 3-2 over the USA in the final.

Whilst it’s clear both that European nations don’t hold the competition in great esteem and that Brazilians are a particularly emotional sort of folk, the tears of the Selecao players are the end seemed indicative of how highly they value this prize.

I was impressed with Brazil. In Julio Cesar they have their best goalkeeper for generations, and the spine they have ahead of that – Lucio, Gilberto Silva, Kaka, and Fabiano is both physically imposing and, as you’d expect, technically adept.

America showed a resilience I didn’t know they had, though I still feel that coach Bob Bradley is a ‘first half coach’ and should be sacked now.

The atmosphere

South Africans are a passionate football country. Let us not take that away from them. The attendance may have sought to say otherwise but let’s be honest: would you really buy a ticket that cost 3 times the normal league ticket to watch New Zealand play Iraq? I guess not.

The high profile games attracted huge crowds and that, really, is the football maxim. Big, attractive teams pull big, money-spending crowds. Ask the English Premier League. And before I forget, if in 2010 New Zealand play Iraq again, the stadium would be fuller because there would be a glut of international fans in addition to the South Africans who’ll go and see it.

I tried not to speak of the vuvuzela but seriously, I’ve spoken enough about that. Bottom line, it should be maintained.

The down side

On the down side I would urge South African journalists – and by extension, others – to ask better questions than the 3 horrible ones. I mean, how could you ask someone how he feels about Michael Jackson’s death a day before he plays Brazil in the final. Fine, we have to think outside the box as journalists, but please not that far!


After the tournament the FIFA Technical Study group shortlisted these players for the Golden Shoe award:

Clint Dempsey (USA)

Landon Donovan (USA)

Kaka (Brazil)

Luis Fabiano (Brazil)

Bernard Parker (South Africa)

Steven Pienaar (South Africa)

Robinho (Brazil)

Fernando Torres (Spain)

David Villa (Spain)

Xavi Hernandez (Spain)

In the end these three had it:

Golden Ball: Kaka

Silver Ball: Luis Fabiano

Bronze Ball: Clint Dempsey

For the most goals:

Golden Shoe: Luis Fabiano - 5 goals

Silver Shoe: Fernando Torres - 3 goals

Bronze Shoe: David Villa - 3 goals

And then for being outstanding in post:

Golden Glove: Tim Howard

The Prez Cup is on: Hearts - Wise preview

Tomorrow is Republic Day in Ghana, meaning that we have yet another public holiday. The day is basically to celebrate the anniversary of Ghana's attainment of a republic status in 1960.

But all the football talk has been about the 2009 MTN President’s Cup which will be played tomorrow. Hearts and Eleven Wise have been chosen to play this year.

This year’s cup comes with some interesting fixtures which will see ex-footballers meeting Members of Parliament (MPs); the Actors’ Guild meeting GHALCA; and the Media clashing with MUSIGA.

The Premier League Board of the Ghana Football Association says it has secured the biggest sponsorship so far to make the game worthwhile.

The 2009 MTN President’s Cup is the biggest in the long history of the annual event, organisers say.


The National Sports Council (NSC) has assured all of us of firm security for the game which will be organized by the Ghana League Clubs Association (GHALCA). I would want to believe them because they did a good job with tightening things up when Hearts played Kotoko in the El Classico. Don't forget that there'll be expectations of a huge crowd.

I’m told that the Metro Mass Transit has agreed to provide 20 buses to convey supporters of the two main football clubs playing on day to the Ohene Djan Stadium.

Eight buses are billed to convey supporters of Eleven Wise from Sekondi, Elmina and Cape Coast.

Supporters of Accra Hearts of Oak will be transported from Nsawam, Kasoa, Madina, Adenta, Ashaiman, Tema, Achimota and other suburbs of Accra at discounted fares.


Hearts and Eleven Wise are entitled to an appearance fee of 12,000 Ghana cedis each with the eventual winner picking an extra 7,000 (about $5000) Ghana cedis and a trophy.

The event has been christened MTN President's Cup 2009 following 65,000 Ghana cedis pumped towards its successful organization by the telecom giant. GHALCA, Hearts and Eleven Wise will each be entitled to 20 percent of the gate proceeds, 10 percent to the NSC and 30 percent to the presidency towards a suggested grassroots development project.

The game

In last year’s event, Asante Kotoko beat Heart of Lions 5-2 on penalties. That particular clash was characterized by a pre-game hype and trash talk that hasn’t been seen in Ghanaian football in a long long time. They handed the trophy over this year's potential winners (pictured)

A highly competitive clash is expected since two meetings between Hearts and XI Wise this season have both ended in draws.

Eleven Wise coach CK Akunnor would have won his first trophy in his fledgling coaching career if his team take the trophy. He told the Graphic Sports paper:

“Hearts is a big club and victory over them is always special. It will be a great thing to win the President’s Cup from them”

Hearts, too, after 5 consecutive games without a win in the league would be looking for a redemption of sorts as their coach Nii Noi Thompson told Ghanasoccernet.

“These are difficult times for me and the team but we are hoping to get the results to march on.

“We wasted too many chances yesterday and that caused us a lot. We can only appeal to the fans to have patient for us since we are still on top of the table.

“We know they are suffering but we are still on top and we will do more than our best in the remaining matches to consolidate our two point lead."

As they say, we got a game on our hands. Luck, everyone!

Someone’s mind is finally coming home.

Sulley Muntari says he would continue to remain loyal to Ghana despite concerns about his commitment to the Black Stars.

When that story made the news at the start of the week, my first thought was “no one is bigger than the national team after all.”

Remember when Muntari’s mum said without her son, there was no Black Stars? Well, Ghana called his bluff.

Muntari missed two of Ghana’s (crucial) 2010 World Cup qualifying matches this month. He said it was due to injury. Fair play to him.

Against Mali, Kwadwo Asamoah made some of us forget momentarily that Sulley was absent. Remember that 25-odd yarder? Well, in the end the Black Stars won 2-0.

Sections of the local media who doubted the Inter Milan player’s reasons for absenting himself had many conspiracy theories. Before then I had also taken a dig at the guy for an earlier incident in Kumasi.

No problem. Ghana then faced Sudan, again away, and once again, won without the man.

Obviously, the point has been well made by Milo that his team does not rely on a hard-and-fast set of core players, no matter how integral they may be.

And so Muntari broke his silence to respond to rife jabs at his loyalty to the national cause.

“I played for about two months of the season with an injury and sometimes I will train once a week and play on the weekend or not train at all.

“When the season ended I did a test and was told to rest.

“I could not have decided all of a sudden not to play for the country again.”

We like you, Muntari. Your contribution to this team has been great but please you are not bigger than the Stars. Never have, never will be.

Muntari’s - and those of other players - has seen the emergence of some young internationals which is expected to raise the level of competition for places in the team but Muntari says he welcomes it.

I say: you better.


Etospheric offer from City: the lad is rising to dizzy heights.

After what seemed like a marathon session, Kaka traipsed to Real - as only he can - for what the world thought was an absurd 56 million pounds.

Before the dust settled, the same Real Madrid shocked the world when, days later, Cristiano Ronaldo finally went to Real Madrid for what the world now believed was a mad amount of 80 million pounds.

And that was the beginning of this summer’s transfer madness.

Between then and now, many players have moved to and from many clubs. Yet, another of the silly season’s bombshells is about to drop. This time, it’s got a distinctly African flavor to it.

British tabloids (the pix at the top is from The Sun) report that Cameroun’s Samuel Eto’o is this close to moving to Manchester City for a monstrous fee. Or in the words of Barcelona’s president, Joan Laporta, a ‘stratospheric offer’.

“Eto’o has a stratospheric offer from City, which would convert him into the best-paid player in the world.

“It’s starting to become clear that he has this monster offer. He wants to stay but an offer like this is very difficult to refuse. If Eto’o accepts this stratospheric offer, we will have to bring in someone.

“If Eto’o accepts Manchester City’s mammoth offer, we will need another striker.”

As if that is a problem for a club like Barca. Eto’o is a terrific goalscorer but we must admit that his instinct is dimming just a wee little bit.

He is not the same Samuel Eto’o who blasted his way past that Brazilian defence in the 2002 Confederations’ Cup. And so with players like David Villa, David Silva and even Carlos Tevez hovering in transfer limbo, that should not be (too much of) a problem.

From the continental perspective, Samuel Eto’o is well on his way to established African football greatness.

At the moment there is the argument that the Indomitable Lions man is the most decorated African footballer ever – with five African Nations’ Cup appearances and two titles, all-time African Cup top scorer with sixteen and one Olympic gold medal, two World Cup appearances, two Uefa Champions’ League titles (scored in both) and several other awards, it’s difficult to challenge that fact.

Eto’o is a terrific goalscorer but we must admit that his instinct is dimming just a wee little bit.

Yes, he hasn’t won the World Player of the Year like George Weah did and for me it is testament to the quality of opposition that Eto’o has in this day and age.

And oh, as we speak, Michael Essien is the most expensive African player after his move from Lyon to Chelsea for 24.5 million pounds.

Should the Cameroonian go to City he would be the highest paid English Premier League 'baller – eclipsing the record set for Robinho by the same Manchester City.

The sheikhs, really, are shaking the City of Manchester.