Posts Tagged South Africa

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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Distant Relatives Album Review


The idea of a hip hop icon and his reggae counterpart doing an album collaboration held quite an attraction to me and I had such anticipation for the album based on previous kind of collaborations as the Best of Both Worlds by Jay-Z and R. Kelly as well as the mash-up series by Mtv that was highlighted by the Collision Course album by Linkin Park and Jay-Z.

Distant Relatives by Nasir ‘Nas’ Jones and Damien ‘Junior Gong’ Marley; offspring reggae legend of Bob Marley, is a fusion of hip hop and reggae as never done before and the first single off it; As We Enter did a world of good for the album with its rhythmic beat that successfully complemented the seamless exchange of verses between the two artistes.

But if you thought the rest of the album would follow suit…the album would be a total flop; and that’s just being nice. That said, it’s safe to state that the duo do their best to lace their respective bars with not your average material and I’m especially impressed with Junior Gong’s contribution to the album – that’s apart from being the album’s co-producer – as highlighted in his flow on ‘Nah Mean’, Gong did to the track what Eminem did to Jay-Z’s ‘Renagade’ with all due respect to Nas.

Damien Marley maintains that tempo well enough in the following track ‘My Generation’ which featured Joss Stone and Lil’ Wayne who does his bit, as always “so when u finish reading Revelations/thank God for my generation”.

Flag Wavin’ K’Naan is also featured on the album in the track Africa Must Wake Up, a very slow tempo song I must warn that requires your attention for twenty seconds short of seven minutes and you’ll have to be patient before hearing K’Naan; he comes in just after the third minute and frankly I thought he’d do more but alas, he was just passing by I guess. The beat goes up a notch in tempo though from the fourth minute before going back to status quo in the final minute. Why I’ve gone through that trouble is to say, it’s a groovy song actually.

My qualms with the album is why it couldn’t live up to its title and get some distant relatives on the album as well with names like South African rapper HHP and maybe a 9ice from Nigeria coming to mind, it would’ve helped capture the whole idea of the album in my view.

Another down of the album for me is expecting a little bit more on the album – tasking two or more producers to lace their beats on, Wyclef Jean and Jerry Duplessis for starters – especially seeing as the album took two years to produce.

Rating: 6/10

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Top Ten Players of 2009/10


This would normally have come at the end of May but being a World Cup year, I held it till the Mundial was over before coming up with players I feel deserve to be so recognised. Obviously, performances at the World Cup in South Africa has a lot to do with the players that have made this list; a lot, not all to do with who makes this list.

10.
It’s a three-way tie here made of Luis Suarez of Ajax, Englishmen Jermaine Defoe and Bobby Zamora of Tottenham Hotspur and Fulham respectively.

Africa may not like him no thanks to his hand in Ghana’s quarter final exit, but Suarez is a fine player nonetheless as shown in the three goals he scored at the World Cup on the back of 47 goals in 46 starts last season for Ajax, putting him in good stead to replace Diego Forlán as Uruguay’s main man. Besides, if not for his handiwork, Forlán most probably wouldn’t have got the Golden Ball award because Uruguay would definitely have crashed out.

Defoe appears on this list thanks to his goals that helped Spurs reach the League Cup final, FA Cup semi final, finish 4th in the Premier League and qualify for a first ever UEFA Champions League. Redknapp’s continuous faith in him (from West Ham to present) has consistently being repaid in kind. Admittedly his World Cup was average but he did score a goal (more than Wayne Rooney).

And Zamora, whose crucial goals helped Fulham finish respectably in the league and imperatively in their amazing run to the final of the maiden Europa League, shushed his critics all in a season plagued by injury which ultimately cost him a place with England’s party to South Africa.

9. Sergio Ramos

Sergio Ramos

Sergio Ramos

It’s difficult to place a defender among the best of them all but Ramos in my view is an excellent defender and with an average of one goal in three games for underachieving Real Madrid last season coupled with a solid performance for newly crowned world champions Spain at the World Cup, fully deserves his place here.

8. Maiçon
It’s a pity Brazil met the Netherlands in that quarter final match either side could have won and had Brazil won, Maiçon would have come in higher on this list. He had a good World Cup, scoring quite a goal but it is his season with treble winning Inter Milan that catches the eye. Maiçon was consistent for the Nerazurri and was one of the stars that helped Inter to that treble.

7. Thomas Müller

Thomas Muller

Thomas Muller

The 20 year old has had a season to remember having broken into the German national team with top rate performances for Bayern Munich on the Bavarians way to winning the league and cup double as well as losing in the Champions League final. Müller capped his season with five goals and three assists at the World Cup to win the Golden Boot award ahead of David Villa and Forlán.

6. Lionel Messi
In my initial shortlist of players, Messi actually did not make the top ten…something definitely wrong there and this is the best I could do for the Argentine hope following a World Cup below expectations for country and a season parallel to our expectations. Messi remained true to his pace, menace and sheer will to disgrace opposition – until Mourinho came with his tactics and the Germans with their machines. Messi remains a fan favourite and his four goals against Arsenal (for me) in the quarter final of last season’s Champions League sums just why.

5. David Villa

David Villa

David Villa

Fernando Torres is regarded as the golden boy of la Roja but a month at South Africa surely must have changed perspectives with Villa running the show up front and from the flanks too, scoring five clinical goals and simply justifying the £30m or so Barcelona paid Valencia for his services. Asides scoring, Villa was a team player (sometimes) and had more shots on target at the Cup than anyone else – the move from modest, cash-strapped Valencia was only a matter of time and his form for Spain with his new club mates leaves the world to wonder, who will stop Blaugrana 2010/11?

4. Arjen Robben
He’s one of those Dutchmen that fall prey to injury season after season and he’s had his little fair share this season which gives his accomplishment this season even more credence in my books, helping Bayern Munich to a German double and the Champions League final as well as playing his part in the Netherlands run to the World Cup final despite missing the group stages (safe for the substitute appearance in the third match). He however will rue for a long time his missed chance one-on-one with Iker Cassilas (who by the way, finished at no. 11 on my shortlist or having more players at the number 10 spot would just have made this lose some cred) that most probably would have won the World Cup for Oranje…bygones I guess.

3. Xavi Hernandez
Xavi’s only flaw is the lack of goals in his games, safe for the occasional free kick and poachers effort otherwise it would be his name; and not Messi or CR9 (with all due respect), that would be on every football lovers’ lips. That said, he again was at the heart of affairs for Barcelona as Blaugrana won a Spanish double and fell short of retaining the Champions League against eventual champions Inter Milan with his ever pinpoint assists and overall vision and intelligence.

2. Diego Forlan

Diego Forlan

I’ve only heard Sir Alex Ferguson state his respect for players he sold twice – Jaap Stam and Forlan. Forlan without question was the spine behind Uruguay’s run to a fourth place finish at the World Cup, finishing with five goals and capping his campaign at South Africa with a goal that had class glossed all over it against the Germans. That, plus a season with Atletico Madrid that saw him lead the Spanish side to the Europa League trophy caps a terrific season for the late bloomer.

1. Wesley Sneijder
Not saying he’s going to be named World Footballer of the year but then again, he won the Italian league and cup and the Champions League being the playmaker of the Nerazzuri before coming so close to lifting a first World Cup for the Netherlands…enough ingredients in my opinion to be named the best footballer for the year #nodisrespect. And to think he is a Real Madrid reject, along with Robben! Sneijder has come a good long way from his torrid time at the Bernabeu where ironically he won the Champions League.

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The Irony of the Crossbar


With the 2010 FIFA World Cup ending today in South Africa, you’ve got to give it to the exponents of vuvuzela blowing because they pulled it off in spite of the heavy uncertainty that clouded preparations and at several points threatened to take a first ever World Cup from football-passionate Africans.

Focus though is on two matches – Ghana 1 (2) – (4) 1 Uruguay and Germany 3 – 2 Uruguay – in the latter stages of the competition. Now Luis Suarez (a terrific player; my opinion) did well for his country to twice block goal-bound efforts in the final minute of extra-time against Ghana; the second block earning him a well-cheered red card as he deliberately handled the ball, only to watch his agony become ecstasy as Asamoah Gyan’s penalty crashed off the crossbar with the last kick of that match…Ghana lost and were left to ponder; “had Luis not interfered, we’d be the first African team in the World Cup semi-final” or something in that line.

Without bias, I feel Suarez acted upon the moment and took his chances for his country…chances that paid off eventually and though Africa may hate him unequivocally for life, he’ll be a dressing room hero (at least) and most probably be a national hero back home; not many teams get to the World Cup semis (four for starters; once in four years).

That said, Uruguay had the opportunity to take the third place play-off against Germany to extra-time with a Diego Forlan free-kick following a foul on…your guess is right, Luis Suarez. The free-kick came deep in injury time and no one needed to tell the players it would be the last kick of the match, imagine that pressure on Forlan; who by the way had scored a real contender for goal of the tournament to put his team 2-1 up early in the second half.

The Atletico Madrid forward stepped up for the free kick; with optimum concentration and when he played it, you just knew he’d applied the right execution – enough power to scare the wall, enough speed to ruffle the keeper, just about the right height to carry the ball into the net…just about, not the exact right height for the ball cannoned off the crossbar, much to Forlan’s and Uruguay’s agony, no more so Luis Suarez.

But applause to both sides for an enthralling match, excellent advertisement for the World Cup. Besides, another lesson that I take from this match as well as Suarez’s act against Ghana is, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, “…not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country” (sic).

Perhaps if four players of the Super Eagles of Nigeria had half the passion, the story would be different but que sera sera.

Onto the showpiece event, Netherlands vs. Spain…who do you reckon will win? Paul, the now famous Octopus that has got all predictions of World Cup matches thrown at it (including Germany’s losses against Serbia and Spain) has now predicted that it will be la Roja lifting the Cup at the expense of their Oranje hombre. I hope the 8-tentacle spectacle is wrong this time though, I’m rooting for the Dutch!

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