Archive for June, 2011

The Perilous Plain Arsenal Treads: Fàbregas, Season 4

The protracted tussle between nascent Premier League underachievers Arsenal and world conquering Barcelona to have midfielder Francesc Fàbregas in their respective teams is currently seeing its fourth season play out; complete with the usual rumoured agreements behind the scenes and blown out of proportion comments among other plots in a number of episodes in this saga.

This season’s tussle actually set off in the run up to the last UEFA Champions League final with Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique posing with a picture of Fàbregas taken down from a wall at the Arsenal training ground; an opportunity that came about with the Gunners granting the Catalan side access to its training facilities ahead of the win at Wembley over Manchester United.

This same duo, along with Liverpool keeper Jose Reina, also succeeded in forcing a Barça jersey on Fàbregas after the Spanish national team lifted the 2010 World Cup at South Africa; a campaign that saw Fàbregas contribute to the success even in his bit part role.

Back then (Fàbregas: Season Three if you may), Arsenal was going to have none of it as regards negotiating any fee for his transfer to the Nou Camp. Currently, the stance has changed with the Gunners willing to negotiate having set their asking price at a staggering £60m.

Importantly and fortunately for Barça and otherwise for Arsenal, what has not changed is the silverware cabinet at the Emirates Stadium, which bolsters Barça’s approach for Arsenal’s talismatic midfielder coupled with the fact that the Nou Camp (with all bitterness in admitting so) is Fàbregas’ home.

Arsenal’s move; however perilous it is, to appear as lending a listening ear to Barça’s approach for the player may well be what will keep Fàbregas at North London since it puts the Gunners in the light of not forcing Cesc to stay at the club (the perilous part of it), which then puts Barça in the light of being desperate for a player it in reality has no need of with the likes of Seydou Keita and Ibrahim Afellay behind the spotlight of Xavi and Andres Iniesta just as Thiago Alcantra is staking his claim to more appearances in the Barça first team especially on the back of his sterling performances at the recently concluded European U-21 Championships that Spain won.

Hence, by holding out for a fee that is obviously well out of Barça’s valuation of the player as well as what the club can afford, Arsenal has somewhat put itself in a win-win situation and put the courting Spaniards in a win-at-a-great-cost position.

Again, Arsenal’s position here is precarious due to Arsène Wenger’s transfer policy of not spending more than a footballer’s valuation in his economic view. So should Fàbregas join Barça because the Catalan giants actually meet Arsenal’s valuation or Arsenal accept Barça’s reported next offer of £35m, Wenger’s policy would mean the already disgruntled and disillusioned Arsenal fans would have to endure a seventh, eighth and perhaps ninth season without a trophy.

The second part of this piece will elucidate why I say this…

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London Olympics: Football’s Headache in Uniting a Kingdom

At club level, England boasts of some of the world’s best football teams such as Liverpool and Manchester United, alone with eight European Cup wins to their name along with the London duo of Arsenal and Chelsea while Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City should probably have their ambitions of breaking the Big-Four’s monopoly taken more seriously based on both’s improvement over the last few seasons, culminating in Spurs reaching the UEFA Champions League quarter final in only its first appearance last season and City lifting the last FA Cup, defeating city rivals United along the way.

The rest of the British Isle lies well behind the English Premier League both competitively and lucratively with the closest competition, the Scottish Premier League, being a standard golf course apart from matching the EPL’s prowess and global appeal with some yards to spare.

While the biggest clubs from the other nations of the British Isle have been unable to match their English counterparts, those nations have actually produced quality footballers that have reached the heights, some of whom are Liverpool’s Scottish manager Kenny Dalglish who is part of Celtic’s greatest team of all time along with fellow Scot Jimmy Johnstone. Other fine footballers these nations have produced are Ryan Giggs, Craig Bellamy and Gareth Bale from Wales, Darren Fletcher, Craig Gordon, Kris Boyd and Allan McGregor from Scotland as well as Irishmen John O’Shea, Ian Hart, Roy Keane and Robbie Keane among many others.

Unfortunately, most of these footballers along with their English counterparts have achieved naught in their international sojourns despite their potential being capable of earning such acclaim as evident with their individual successes at club level.

Hence, the British Olympic Association’s move to have a Great Britain football team participate at the London Olympics of 2012 rather than the individual nations with the logic being to afford footballers from each nation of the Isle such as those aforementioned; and the individual nations on the side, the chance to have a taste of success at the international level.

It should be noted that the closest international success came to any nation of the Isle was at the European Championship of 1996 with England only able to reach the semi-final stage. A decade and half of underachievement at four FIFA World Cups, three European Championships and three Olympic Games have since been endured.

This gives credence to the BOA’s idea of a Great Britain football team representing at the Olympics London will host. The manner the Association has gone about bringing the team to fluid fruition may however have put the dream in jeopardy with the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish football associations claiming that the BOA only approached the English FA with the idea, and therefore cannot be seen to be in agreement with creating a football team for Great Britain.

The trio also stated that being a part of the proposal will confuse the individual identities of the nations. This is despite that FIFA has assured the BOA of each nation’s identity remaining intact in the aftermath of them contributing to the cause.

I strongly believe both sides should drop the egos and reach a compromise on the matter because in reality, none of the nations in the Isle can put up a commendable showing, let alone win Olympic gold come 2012; England’s U-21s a typical reason as to why. Having the best of each nation however may see Great Britain put up a commendable performance in front of the cheering faithfuls on home turf.

As it is now, should BOA go ahead with its plan of having a Great Britain football team for the first time since the Rome Olympics of 1960 without reaching a compromise with the trio that are being initially stubborn, then such team will likely predominantly compose of English players. Any success achieved then would not be shared!

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Random Yarns – Men with Eiffel Ambitions

Being driven through the streets of downtown Mainland in Lagos on a Sunday afternoon, passively taking in the view of… well, of four year olds getting bathed by the roadside and of the driver; of a bus I presumed was travelling to Abuja, ordering another shot of what certainly isn’t the content of your everyday bottle of Sprite.

*sigh*… ‘journey mercies’ quipped my mind as the car made a turn while I hoped the unassuming passengers of the bus weren’t sent to face the most High on account of one human’s urge to be in touch with another high.

I got startled from my random thoughts, though by my brother’s change of radio stations, as my attention was grasped – and his as well having stopped changing stations – by the voice that we now heard off the speakers, a voice I’d not heard in about a year.

Larry Izamoje’s door to true prominence opened when on October 1, 2002, his Brila FM officially began broadcasting from the top of the Eleganza Plaza at Victoria Island as the first ever sports radio station in Africa; a very laudable feat from a man barely off the 5-foot mark as regards his height.

Before founding Brila (a merge of his and his wife’s names; Bridget and Larry), Mr. Izamoje made use of quarter of an hour time-slots on existing radio stations to propel his pretty unique style of delivering his sportcasts to the listening audience. And when he earned the freedom to make use of his unique way of presentation at Brila, it wasn’t long before some others that joined the sports radio took to the style and hence, Brila’s in-house style of presenting was born.

On this fateful Sunday, the second occupant in the car that conveyed three; with me assuming position of the third occupant, questioned mine and my brother’s certainty that it was him (Izamoje) talking on the radio. We let it known to her (women!) that while others may have ‘expertised’; copied very well, his style of presenting, there was no mistaking the voice of Larry at that moment.

Later that Sunday, my brother and I went to the barber shop and while he didn’t necessarily need a haircut, I was overdue for one having then only had two haircuts in the year. Getting there, ‘Austino’ had become ‘Tino’s Cuts’ and boy, things sure had changed since I last was there.

Dude now had a 32-inch flat screen television showing the Mtv Base music channel off a DStv decoder in a more spacious set-up for his trade. Last time I was there, dude had a 14-inch television showing the Mtv Base channel off the Stv channel in a partition adjacent the entrance to the building the shop inhabited.

Certainly, uncle Austino, who stood at 5-feet and 7-inches or thereabout, had come a long way in his barbershop business and his sidekick; with whom I prefer to leave my hair at his blades’ mercy, hasn’t disappointed over the years.

My brother’s much used to the place, being a loyal Sunday Sunday customer but I only just got to appreciate the growth of uncle Austino’s business in the decade years it has been running.

Goes to show, at length, that one can excel on a path that is unoften treaded and not advised to be treaded in this country in order to be successful. Izamoje on his part has seen himself go to various locations in parts of Africa and Europe being the sports enthusiast he is.

Uncle Austino, well I wouldn’t know about his travel arrangements but he looks a man content with how life has gone for him so far; from the humble beginnings of fifty naira haircuts to four hundred naira per head. And after getting home, haircut and all, I truly hoped those passengers would get to their destination safe.

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‘Eiffelly’ Ambitious Men (Snippet)

Being driven through the streets of downtown Mainland in Lagos on a fine Sunday afternoon, passively taking in the view of… well, of four year olds getting bathed by the roadside and of the driver of a bus; ‘loading’ passengers I presume are travelling to Abuja, ordering for another shot of what certainly isn’t your everyday Sprite.

*sigh*… ‘journey mercies’ quipped my mind as the car made a turn while I hoped the unassuming passengers aren’t sent to face the most High on account of one human’s urge to be high. I got startled from my random imaginations, though by my brother’s change of radio stations, as my attention was grasped by the voice that spoke to us from the car speakers, a voice I’d not heard in about a year.

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