Monthly Archives: January 2011

THAT WAS PAINFUL!

So, it’s been that kind of weekend, a painful weekend. A kind of weekend that one is happy it’s over and done with. A kind of weekend where the hangover from it extends into the Monday afternoon immediately following it and leaves a sour taste in the mouth that even the most ferocious brushing couldn’t remove.

That’s the kind of weekend Andy Murray must have had following on from his evisceration by Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open Final on Sunday. But this really was no simple evisceration. It was more like the Serb pulled the Scot’s intestines through his nostrils with a coat hanger and then barbecued and sautéed it and then fed it back to him.

And it was painful to watch too. The greatest chance for a British Grand Slam winner in decades (and I mean a legitimate one; not Tim Henman!) being swept aside in straight sets with all the insouciance of a pesky housefly being sprayed with the latest brand of imported insecticide.

I was going to say that the win by the 23 year old Novak might represent a threshold in men’s tennis as neither Rafa Nadal nor Roger Federer was present in the final. That this might be symbolize a changing of the guard almost, a transition from a Top Two to a Top Three maybe but this most likely will prove to be a false dawn as the world number one and two should still be able win a few more Grand Slams

Another person who didn’t have a great weekend is the Special One, Jose Mourinho. After watching his expensively assembled and excessively talented team lose by a single goal to lowly Osasuna, he might be thinking that maybe, just maybe, the La Liga might be the wrong place for him.

Or maybe just a case or wrong timing. But with the FC Barcelona freight train showing no sign of hitting a stop anytime soon, Jose might need more than Emmanuel Adebayor to win his first La Liga title.

And as a last word, one must spare a thought for the beaten Australian Open women’s finalist China’s Li Na. She must have a hangover the size of the Shenzhen province. Can you imagine the pressure of having more than a billion people on your shoulders egging you on and bidding you to win one Grand Slam for them?
And Li Na didn’t do herself any favours by winning the first set. Now, she would always be the Chinese girl who choked in the final rather than one who proved that her country can be as good with tennis as with communism.

Now to go take care of that hangover of mine!

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TOP MAZEMBE!

You know you are doing something right as a chairman when your club makes it to ESPN’s Tommy Smyth’s Top 25 Clubs of 2010. Especially when your club is from an impoverished and war-torn African country that has become a byword for political and economic instability.

Yes, I know that Tommy Smyth’s list is not the definite gauge on a club’s progress or achievements and that the list is subject to the many whims of the Irishman but it surely takes a lot of doing for a club from the Congo to make it to any list in the Connecticut USA based sports broadcaster’s headquarters.

The history of the Lubumbashi based club makes for interesting reading. Founded in 1939 by a bunch of Benedictine monks, TP Mazembe was a force on the African continent, winning the African Cup of Champions, as it was as then known consecutively in 1967 and 1968. A feat that would only be repeated by Enyimba F.C. of Aba, Nigeria in 2003 and 2004.

Then after a raft of appearances in the finals of the continental competition, the club disappeared, as it were, from the surface of the continent for 18 years. Then there came the then 38 year old Moise Katumbi Chapwe.

The self-made millionaire, who also happens to be the governor of the Katanga province where the club is located, came into play as chairman and turned the fortunes around for the club, winning five Congolese league titles since the turn of the millennium.

But it is on a larger stage that the evolution of Tout Puissant Mazembe, to give the full name, became more apparent.

After defending their CAF Champions League title with a resounding 6-1 aggregate win over Esperance ST of Tunisia late last year, the club went on to put on amazing performances at the 2010 FIFA Club World Cup.

If beating C.F. Pachuca of Mexico, the CONCACAF representatives, 1–0 in the quarter final phase was unexpected, then defeating Internacional of Brazil, the COPA Libertadores champion shocked the world and made us sit up and take notice.

Not even the 3-0 loss to a Samuel Eto’o inspired Inter could distract from the exciting style of play, Mazembe always put on offer. I’m sure Esperance defenders will still be having nightmares from the brilliant counterattacking they were punished with during the second leg of the Champions League Final.

Whenever you see Katumbi speak, like I did during a CNN interview, you are immediately struck by the passion he shows for his club. A passion we all witnessed in Orji Uzor Kalu when he was Governor of Abia State and lead Enyimba supporter.

But that is where the similarities end. While Kalu’s passion for Enyimba didn’t last beyond his residency in Abia State Government House, despite winning two Champions League tiles back to back.

The half Jewish half Congolese philanthropist was chairman even before he became governor and judging by his plans for the clubs, including building a stadium, one can be sure his love affair with Mazembe will outlive his political career.

So there you have it. The template to establishing a successful club in Africa.

All you need is a dedicated and passionate club chairman who is willing to sacrifice for his club to succeed. Just like Katumbi said when he was being interviewed by CNN’s Isha Sesay, that if he was asked to choose between being Governor of Katanga province and being the chairman of TP Mazembe, he would pick the club.

That says it all.

WHERE’S MY MONEY?!

There are always those phrases or words that stick in one’s mind once they are heard or read and seem to live forever and never leave us. They can even transcend the medium in which they were first propagated and go on to represent much more than they were first intended to.

These words do not have to be deep or poignant or even poetic. They could be as mundane as a small child’s mispronunciation of an older sibling’s name giving rise to a nickname that the older sibling wears on the back of his jersey when he becomes a professional football player. And that’s Kaka by the way, if you didn’t already know.

It could also be something as trivial as a line from a classic movie which becomes a catchphrase which informs the title of this post. In the film ‘Jerry Maguire’, the moment you heard the Cuba Gooding character ask Jerry Maguire played by Tom Cruise “Where’s my money?”, you had an inkling that you would be hearing that line many more times and surely couldn’t wait for an opportunity to use it.

Now will not be a good enough time for Emmanuel Adebayor to say it to his new manager Jose I’m-Special-Because-I-Say-So Mourinho. Now or any time in the next few months!

Simply because this represents the last opportunity for him to disprove the widely held view that he is a money-grabbing, self-serving mercenary. I mean Adebayor here.

Yesterday, when Real Madrid announced the loan singing of Adebayor, the news came as a mild surprise to most people. Who would have thought the biggest club in the world (yes, Man Utd fans, Madrid is still the biggest, just ask Cristiano Ronaldo!) would come knocking at Emmanuel’s door?

Adebayor was introduced to the world football stage when he moved from Monaco in France to Arsenal and was almost immediately taken to by the fans of the North London club almost immediately because of his work ethic and commitment to the club’s cause. And then there was the badge kissing every time he scored. And lots of badge kissing too! And the goals eventually increased to the region of lots.

Which is when the wheels began to fall off for him at Arsenal. Suddenly, his work ethic went missing and he began to coast through games, probably thinking he had nothing left to prove to his team and the fans.

But that could be forgiven by the fans. What could not be forgiven was the famous ‘Beyonce’ TV interview. The interview he compared other football clubs that he alleged to be interested in signing him to being as desirable as Beyonce and by so doing obviously comparing his then present club to well, Nkiru Sylvanus.

No one likes to be compared to Nkiru Sylvanus.

So he was sold to Manchester City FC. But only after he spent one more season at Arsenal making all the effort of slug with a mobility impediment. And everyone thought that maybe, just maybe Adebayor had become a slug. We always knew he was slimy, so maybe.

Then the whole world was witness to the fastest 90m dash at the City of Manchester stadium since the 2003 Commonwealth Games held at the same venue. The infamous dash that irked scores of Arsenal fans at Adebayor’s first match against his old team and showed that even Craig Bellamy could be a peacemaker in a fight.

But Adebayor didn’t just pick fights with the Arsenal fans; he also picked fights with every teammate and his mother at the Eastlands club. And he managed to antagonize his manager which goes a long way to explain why he has only made a fistful of appearances this season.

And with the new boy, 27 million pounds Edin Dzeko seemingly blending with the team and Carlos Tevez, the fact of the Togolese striker being surplus to requirements has been brought closer to home.

But Adebayor really has Gonzalo Higuian’s dodgy back; Karim Benzema’s misfiring in front of goal and Real Madrid President Florentino Perez’s intransigence with the purse strings to thank for the Les Merengues’ knock on the door.

So he has gotten his wish. He has moved to the biggest club on earth. He has also moved to a club with a manager well renowned for not suffering fools gladly. A manager that expects total commitment from his players and is ruthless at dealing with players when he doesn’t get it.

So Emmanuel Adebayor, you have your Beyonce. Treat her well or all your stuff will go in a box to the left.

OPEN ALL HOURS!

Like you might have guessed already from the title or not, this post is going to be about the ongoing Australian Open which is just entering its second week. And it’s not because I have discovered a new love for grand slam tennis, it’s rather because I’m still hung-over from staying up late to watch the AFC championship game between the Pittsburg Steelers and the New York Jets.

The Steelers won 24-19 by the way, staving off a determined Jets comeback to advance to the Super Bowl where they meet the Green Bay Packers who had hours earlier beat the .Chicago Bears in the NFC championship game

And I really can’t bring my sleep-deprived brain to trawl through hyperspace to bring up any exciting news or stories happening or have already happened over the past week.

Except if you consider the interminably boring January transfer window or Arsenal’s Denilson’s ‘leadership’ comments about his team or even the choice of Davis Love and Jose Maria Olazabal as respective choices as captains for the US and Europe Ryder Cup teams as worthy of a few inches of this blog.

Mind-gripping stuff.

So rather I’ll be providing you with a rundown of recent happenings at the Rod Laver Arena and maybe some predictions.
Let’s start from the top then.

On the side of men’s draw, the world number 1 and 2 are still alive and kicking like newly hatched offsprings of a mountain dwelling bird. Rafael Nadal batting away all opposition that comes his way with the insouciance of a baby eagle while Roger Federer continues to make hard work of his like the struggling infant eagle that usually gets kicked out of the nest by the mother eagle.

British hope Andy Murray continues to impress with a string of impressive victories and is on a collision course with surprise package Ukraine’s Alexsandr Dolgopolov who has already accounted for the major scalps of Robin Soderling and Jo Wilfred Tsonga in his quest to win his first Grand Slam.

On the women’s side, mother of one and possibly pregnant Belgian Kim Clijsters looks like a sure bet for the title while Czech Petra Kvitova is proving to be the surprise package of the women’s draw with a come from behind win over Flavia Pennetta to make it to her first quarterfinal at the Australian Open.

Meanwhile Francesca Schiavone and Svetlana Kuznetsova were involved in a marathon three setter in the fourth round at the Australian Open. The match, which lasted 4 hours and 44 minutes and is the longest ever females match at a Grand Slam, comes just about 7 months after the epic 7 hours match between John Isner and Nicholas Mahut at the Wimbledon Open last year.

It would likely prove to be a pyrrhic victory for Schiavone as she would most definitely lose in the quarters to her opponent and number one seed Caroline Wozniacki that is if she recovers fast enough to be even able to be beaten in straight sets.

Now as to predictions, I’m sure if you read between the lines, you will see that I’ve already made them.
So that would be it. Off to catch some zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

BENT OUTTA SHAPE!

When I was young, okay much younger, there was this cartoon show that I used to love watching. I don’t remember anything about it, I don’t remember its name, its basic plot, and I don’t even remember any of its characters. But what I do remember is that the cartoon was produced by a production company called Bent Outta Shape Productions.

And I remember this because after the credits roll at the end of the programme, the logo of the production company comes up which if I remember correctly features an image of man contorted in a ridiculous position.

Now, the reason behind the trip down my cartoon memory lane is that somehow, somewhere in my warped mind, I see a correlation or a connection if you will between Darren Bent’s recent 18 million pounds transfer to Aston Villa and my treasured childhood cartoon.

Apart from the obvious terrible pun (my mind thinks in puns by the way), something just seems not right with this deal. Whether it’s the fast break alacrity with which the deal happened; it took less than Usain Bolt’s 100m winning run at the Beijing Olympics.

Or maybe it’s the price, by which Bent was bought, which could rise to 24 million pounds depending on appearances and goals for his new team. I know Bent is a proven goal scorer in the Premier League, in fact I know that only Wayne Rooney and Didier Drogba have scored more goals among current strikers in the league.

But I disagree that Bent is worth at least 5.33333 times than Tottenham Hotspurs new boy Steven Pienaar. He might be a lot taller and more melanin endowed than him but surely he is not that much better.

He might even do the impossible and lift his new club to the lofty heights of a European place on the place but at what cost? Oh yes! We already know! 24 big ones!

So where does Sunderland go from here? Apart from smiling right to the bank, I think this might actually be good for the club. Not only can they buy a raft full of players, the club might actually start playing better without Bent.

And the club has already shown this season that they are capable of incredible performances without Darren leading the line. The 3-0 demolition of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge happened without him being in the London Greater Area.

Also because of what I like to call the ‘Owen’ phenomenon, I think the club fortunes might actually improve. Let me explain.
Michael Owen left Liverpool for Real Madrid in the summer of 2004 and less than 12 months later, the club won the Champions League with a come from behind extra time win over AC Milan.

Of course I know that there are more extenuating circumstances like the arrival of Rafa Benitez that same summer and the amazing capitulation of the Milan defence that night in Istanbul bit it can’t be denied the departure of their star player allowed a few other players to shine forth.

Hopefully for Steve Bruce, the exit of Bent will give the rest of his team the impetus they need to push on and achieve more.

Now if only I could find such an impetus to update this blog more regularly.