My Experience as a First-Timer at an NPFL Game

It took a while before I found out that Ibadan would play host to the great Elephants of Aba, Enyimba FC. After the strange decision by whoever to stop airing live NPFL games, I kind of lost touch with the NPFL world.

An Instagram picture, another there plus a bunch of tweets is how I managed to keep up with the second half of the nation’s beloved -or so I think – football league.

Earlier in the season, the coverage and broadcast of games by “that” media company helped me to have a better knowledge of the league, be able to identify Al Hassan of Akwa United when I see him and, ah yes, that Sikiru Olatunbosun wonder goal.

With live games gone – the same thing that irked my interest in the league – I became partially blind to happenings in the league… until I heard Chisom of Naija Made say 3SC of Ibadan would play host to Enyimba.

Like thunderbolt, the idea of going to watch the game live struck me. I had never been to any stadium to watch live games. With former 3SC coach, Gbenga Ogunbote, bringing Enyimba to town, and Shooting Stars teetering on the edge of relegation, the game was too good to miss.

But I had not been to a stadium before – not since when I struggled to climb and sit on a couch. How does this whole thing work? I knew the venue but being my first time, I was a bit dramatic about what to expect.

Thought after thought bombarded my head from Thursday night till Sunday afternoon. I kept imagining what the place would look like.

So I decided to go along with my friend Victor – whose version of the experience can be found here. While waiting at a bus-stop called Gate – those living in Ibadan can relate to this – I caught a revelation, something like a rhema.

While I won’t divulge all, I’ll tell you this: Dear reader, do not be deceived. Nigerians still flock to stadiums country-wide to see their beloved teams play. When you have time, visit a stadium – try going alone first for reasons I’ll explain later – near you and see things for yourself.

On getting to the stadium, the number of fans I saw was staggering. While some were already seated inside the stadium screaming their hearts out, some others were outside, screaming their lungs out!

Not sure if it was out of love or frustration but these folks outside the stadium looked like they wanted in at all cost! They exchanged heated words with the hefty bodyguards at the gates and the showed displeasure.

But there was a ticket issue. At least that’s what it looked like. Tickets had ‘finished.’ After a while, match tickets became all of a sudden available again.

There was one scramble to get the tickets, it was another to get into the stadium. It was yet another struggled to find available seats among the tough-looking, alcohol-sipping and marijuana-smoking fans already either comfortably seated or comfortably standing.

As you must have guessed, one half of the game had already been played by the time I found my way into the stadium through those rusty revolving bars that barricaded the tiny entrance.

Although greeted by the stench of urine and marijuana combined, the joy of finally entering into the stadium is one I won’t forget in a hurry. Finally, I was able to catch a glimpse of the quite tall Enyimba defenders battle things out with the not-so-tall Shooting Stars players.

I also saw some policewomen whose khaki trousers were very well starched and ironed. It was hard to look past Enyimba’s beautiful white jersey and the scramble by the medical team to bring back to life a Sootin’ player who had passed out.

Unperturbed by the unfriendliness of the structure of the stadium, the long queues for match tickets and the not-so-family-friendly ambience, I look forward to visiting the stadium again – and so the other stadiums across the country (see you sooner than you think oh Enyimba fan).

For those wondering whether to visit a stadium or not, you now know well enough to judge for yourself. You may want to test the waters with one toe rather than diving in.

For those interested in how the game ended, a lone goal was all 3SC needed to grab a win over Enyimba FC. One good move towards avoiding relegation. Maybe they won’t get relegated after all.

Just maybe.

Let’s Revisit That Abysmal Performance by the Super Eagles of Nigeria

As the clock ticked towards the 90 minute mark, the looks on the faces of the fans in the stadium were filled with anxiety, bereft of the joy that the Eagles had brought in their opening World Cup qualifying games.

Gernot Rohr’s first competitive defeat, coming in our own backyard. The concealed anger on Godswill Akpabio’s face was reflective how the game had gone itself. Amaju Pinnick was there too, the disappointment clearly etched on his face. The lack of ideas apparent too.

NFF Logo: Are we there yet?

If the friendlies had masked our failings, this game certainly exposed them. From the lack of movement in the attacking third, to the lack of defensive organization as well as the absence of creativity in midfield, the Super Eagles goose was truly cooked.

Every long ball into the box was a dagger driven into the heart of Nigerians; because the ball even rarely got that far. The players lacked any sort of cohesion or understanding.

It begs the question as to whether they played to tactics or if there were any tactics at all. Kelechi Iheanacho looked isolated up front, Alex Iwobi cast a shadow of a Nigerian Professional Football League player lacking confidence, Wilfred Ndidi and Ogenyi Onazi didn’t bring any form of calm to the midfield as they were taken apart bit by bit by a very well organized South African midfield.

It is quite clear that Gernot Rohr seems not to know the task ahead of him. The pool of players being invited has become too large. Not every Tom, Dick and Harry can pull on the green jersey. This might only yet be an early setback, but the road to Cameroon just got more complicated and difficult. There are fifteen more points to win, but on the back of today’s performance, it begs to ask if we could win one of the five fixtures remaining let alone the entire five.

The performance has now cast fresh doubts ahead of the crunch double header against Cameroon on the road to Russia. If we cannot control South Africa, how much more the African champions, who seem to have the momentum?

Many can make an excuse on the absence of Mikel and Moses. Some have even mentioned that Rome wasn’t built in a day and we remain a work in progress. But there is no evidence that this work has made any reasonable progress. Football is evolving, so are the nations playing it.

The Bafana Bafana came with a clear game plan and executed it to perfection. They paid every bit of attention to detail of the way the Eagles played. How we played long balls, our height, our sluggishness and our incoherence out of possession. The manner in which they exchanged passes made me green with envy.

It was not a rare sight, it was what their fans had begun to get used to after wholesale changes were made in the football structure over there.

If that was painful, the fact that we couldn’t handle pressure well was what let me down the most. It was the first time (should we get used to this?) in a competitive match under Rohr that we had gone behind. There was no hint of response from the bench or from the players themselves.

They pressed the panic button and lost every form of organization that once was. A clear indication of where our football is. 2017 as a year may as well go down as the worst in our footballing calendar. And should we fail to book a ticket to Russia, it would add to the failures at youth level, where the under 17s and 20s have been watching their counterparts take the world by storm.

If we must progress and see the evidence of our progress, we must start from mental and psychological exercise on the playing staff. It’s what is in vogue now. An expert psychologist who would read the mood of the players and relay the most mentally strong of the players to the coach. Those who are calm under pressure, those who aren’t, those who can die for the shirt and those who would rather not.

Then we can start to discuss basic football lessons such as passing, ball control, et cetera. Then would we can proceed to the stage of teaching basic tactical lessons about player zones, player movements, the essence of which position amongst others.

I have since noticed that the only reason why Nigerian players get tossed to and fro is because they lack tactical knowledge of the game and can rarely read it. Maybe it’s time for us to go back to the basics.

You ask why?

Because every time we watch this horror show of games this current crop of eagles serve us, we may be tempted to think the glory days are indeed well and truly over.

Do you have a different opinion? Please let me know what you think by leaving a comment.

Football: Entertainment, Loyalty and the Politicking

The history of football can be traced to about 4500 years ago, the obscure origins of the sport makes for fascinating reading given its glowing popularity. The inability to pin football to one name is a mystery in itself with many other sports accountable for. However, historians believe Ancient Egyptians did play the sport with balls made of linen spotted in Egyptian tombs dating back to 2500 BC.

It was however in ancient China around 476 BC to 221 BC when a sport called ‘cuju’ was played in a rectangular playing field with a piece of cloth hung n between two poles serving as the goal posts. The game was so popular, it was seen as a means of keeping soldiers fit. It was however in the nineteenth century, football gained ascent with the English and in 1863, the Football Association was formed. With this came the rules and the sport we have come to love today.

I tell my friends this daily: football is an entity and like every entity or personality, it has phases. Take for instance, in the 1860s, it was more about getting to grips with the game, a kick-about of some sort with clubs been gradually formed and the birth of the FA Cup, it was all for passion.

The 1930 World Cup

The 1930 World Cup. Photo credits: FIFA

By 1930, the FIFA World Cup had begun and the pride of wearing one’s national team shirt had become an extra incentive. By the ‘50s, Football had begun to take wider significance with the birth of the European Champions Cup and the 1960 launch of the Henri Delauney European Championship.

Brands were built as far back as the ‘70s when Pele became the face of the North American Soccer League of then, with the World Cup having been televised in 1966, football’s appeal became a global thing and come the late ‘70s into early ‘80s, 1million pound players had become a norm with Trevor Francis leading the way. Diego Maradona became the most expensive in the late ‘80s following his move to Napoli and then there were the disasters; Heysel and Hillsborough both in the ‘80s; which would go on to explain the dangers of extremism in football till today.

By the early 90s, merchandising had become the in-thing with clubs possessing branded sponsors and even national teams! Albeit for training purposes. This far reach of football had made it the ultimate market for everybody; young and old even the rich and the poor. The tag of loyalty had become an essential feature as rivalries were built over the years, some caused by geography, others by pure constant clashes and tussles for the biggest prizes.

Players came and went, coaches became Managers as the scope of the game widened and even they came and went, presidents came and went but two things still remain constant; the allure of the fans and the game itself. No matter the number of balls used both past and present, from the linen balls, to the rubber balls, the hard plain tango balls, the gravity-defying Jabulani, the famous Brazuca, football still remains football. It is this allure that has seen the face of the game change with politicking at the highest level becoming a sort of regularity.

Take for instance, Florentino Perez, rich construction magnate who has everything the world has to offer but still longs to be President of Real Madrid and looks set to stay for a long time yet; or look at the trouble that Sandro Rosell went through to become President of Barcelona, only to be told he couldn’t last long because he was involved in a transfer deal that is shrouded in mystery conducted for the club, adding salt to injury?

The allegations were levied against him by his club socios. Maybe this would fascinate you; the fact that Borussia Dortmund chiefs, Hans Joachim Watzke and Michael Zorc chose to fire Thomas Tuchel (who handed them their most successful season since 2013-14) because he disagreed with them on the scheduling of a Champions League Fixture.

I wouldn’t know what Luciano Spalleti’s sacking at Roma would count as either with the board choosing to hand him his P45 after leading the side to their best Serie A points tally in more than a decade. That may not hurt, but this should, PSG’s ultimate firing of Laurent Blanc for failing to bring them European success despite dominating the scene on home front.

If these don’t count then maybe we could talk about some 50shades of crazy on behalf of club owners all a sign of politicking; case in point; the Pozzo family; who have fired the last three Watford coaches despite granting a club of their stature Premier League survival; what about the man who sold Palermo this year, Maurizio Zamparini, who made at least twenty coaching appointments since he bought the club; Massimo Cellino (former owners of Leeds United) who hired seven managers in three years; the list goes on and on. It’s amazing what football has become.

The years of ‘Hustle, Loyalty and respect’ are long gone with many footballers interested in only enriching their pockets and getting the best pay checks possible. Imagine the reality that Kelechi Iheanacho has rejected a move to PSG and Dortmund because he wants to get a British passport? What happened to more playing time? A better career trajectory?

It’s no surprise players who think like that end up in mediocrity. Take the instance of a 25-year old Oscar who has moved to China but will get double the amount he earned at Chelsea. His is not even as painful as that of a certain Hulk, who oozed class but has let his prodigious talent go to waste by making moves that only lace his pockets. One may not blame these players, the determination to never become poor again has played a role. Emmanuel Adebayor once said; he would only move to where he’s got a paycheck. Why? Because that’s why he plays football.

If the hustle is real, the loyalty and respect art is dwindling terribly. Francesco Totti, Andres Iniesta and Phillip Lahm are a dying breed. In fact, the former and the latter are now retired while Iniesta is a threatened species at Barcelona. Reason? He is considered old.

The board believe he is a liability, a stress on the wage bill. Just ask Dani Alves, Raúl Gonzalez and Andrea Pirlo how it feels. Their service has been forgotten. The mantra has changed to ‘thank you for your service, we think it’s best for you to go now.’ A subtle yet polite way of giving a player his matching orders.

The players aren’t alone in this quagmire, the managers share in it too; P45s are now cheap to acquire, mainly because the ‘business’ that is football needs to be kept up with.

A manager who fails to deliver earns that sack faster than he earned his job. Take this for an example: Zinedine Zidane might have just won the Champions League and La Liga double, but just over a month ago, he could have been fired. Why? Real lost to Barcelona. Jose Mourinho and Claudio Ranieri won league titles for their clubs only to be handed P45s six months later for poor performance.

In reality, how we see what we see is what we see, what do we see? The manner of politicking even in the boardrooms among the board members are off the hook. Take the Jordi Cases v Sandro Rosell issue at Barcelona, The Ramon Calderon v Florentino Perez situation at Real Madrid, the factionalization that took place at Ajax in 2011 when Johann Cruyff returned, Silvio Berlusconi’s wily old tricks at Milan, even on the national front; the sport is seen as some sort of trump card, a bargain tool to some and an inheritance to others.

Issa Hayatou spent twenty eight years in power in CAF swatting aside every wind of progress that came with several men either feeling the wrath of his mighty hand or been rewarded with other positions of office. He wasn’t alone, Sepp Blatter & Michel Platini are paying the price for a game gone wrong after the former monopolized FIFA and intended to hand over to the latter in what was an obvious arrangement. Even government of nations now interfere. With poor performances raising questions of capability and systems.

Football is not a perfect sport. In fact, it is the most imperfect there is but while technology, marketability and merchandising are all good. It would be best if we rid ourselves of this vice of politicking from our sport. We stand to lose more than we would gain.


Yours thoughts? Let me know what you think by leaving a comment.

10 Unforgettable Moments From the 2016/2017 Premier League Season

The 2016/2017 Premier League season kicked off with several dreams renewed and aspirations revealed. We the fans had silently hoped for another fairy-tale (well, some, not all of us) after Leicester did the impossible.

Kung-fu Celebration Time: Zlatan brings his royalty to England

However, the events that occured during the next nine months that followed August 2016, would leave us with even more cherished memories than the previous one did.

A certain Italian and manager of the eventual league champions, Antonio Conte, was just as animated as you could get, with jumping on the dugout (we saw this coming from a mile away), running around in circles and hugging the fans some of the acrobatics dispayed by the former Juventus and Italy gaffer.

Add that to the spectacle of Jurgen Klopp losing his glasses or Alan Pardew’s fist pump when his side led 4-3 against Swansea with 6minutes to go, and you get some of the highlights of the just-concluded 2015/2016 PL season.

At least it was a season that was exciting enough to make us forget the manager who tried to illustrate a tackle by falling to ground (hello Louis) and Liverpool’s wild celebrations against Norwich in that 5-4 thriller where Klopp’s glasses got broken (that man eh?).

This PL season served up spectacles and moments etched in the football purists mind as well as the fans.And, going further, we take a look at some of those unforgettable moments.

1. Pep, Look-Man! Welcome to England

The legend’s arrival on British shores was greeted with fanfare. This was a man who had won every title possible in his career and had help build two FIFA World Cup winning teams (wait, you think Del Bosque and Jaochim Loew did all the hardwork?).

But, things change quickly in football. And like the proverbial wheels, if the game against Chelsea was when the Man. City screws were loosed, they came off in horrible fashion at the Goodison Park.

Nobody was meant to survive the crash, but then, its Pep. City were abject. A shadow of themselves, yet Everton contrived to make them look less than that. Koeman had shown on the day that he was a better utilizer of Cruyff’s principles. His team were everything City weren’t.

Youthful? Check. Fluid? Check. Disciplined? Check. Cruyff-like? Double Check. Pep realized the size of the work on his hands when his goalkeeper failed to make a save in the game and, add salt to injury, two academy graduates scored their debut goals in the game: Tom Davies’ glorious lob and Ademola Lookman’s goal after being introduced in the last few minutes of the game.

The title? Pep never mentioned it again.

2.  Bob Bradley’s 84 days in charge.

Swansea were promoted in 2012 and immediately became the model for which bottom half clubs were to be like: Low budget, financially secure, stable and well run.

However, this is football. Five years later, and they had hired three managers in one season. The highlight? Their hiring of an American with zero Premier League experience. Bob Bradley had no idea of Premier League football upon arrival and it was clear from the get go he was a wrong choice.

He called football ‘soccer’ in front of British journalists and then went on raving about how he was trying to adapt when his team were clearly not getting his message. They had leaked too many goals and lacked any sort of tactical discipline.

By the time he left the club, they were in the lurch, cut adrift in the relegation battle and condemned to Championship football. His P45 arrived at the right time and spared the club what was left.

Bob’s short reign in charge was the highlight of how much things can backfire when you deviate from your ideals. Take that Swans chiefs…

3. Dmitri Payet, Slaven Bilic and the Law of karma

The 2015/16 season was probably West Ham’s best. They swept all comers and finished even above Liverpool, clinching a Europa League place. Key to that was Slaven Bilic and his reborn playmaker Dmitri Payet; a player who had big clubs casting an eye after he lit up the Euros.

Payet stayed albeit shockingly, and continued to turn in top notch performances for the Hammers. That only helped things until December came along when they were in a bad place, and looked a shadow of what they were the previous season. Worse still, they were mired in a relegation battle.

What kind of shark would survive in that kind of pond? Payet spotted a sinking ship and became homesick. The desire to play for West Ham disappeared. If he was forced to play, it would come at the detriment of the team.

Slaven Bilic was broken, like a man whose treasured lady had been taken from him. He lamented at how football had become a disloyal sport and how Payet was an ingrate. The metronome was sold to Marseille for 30million (good business, yeah?) It just did happen Bilic had done same just before the turn of the century.

Karma is real, isn’t it?

4. I made them 4-0 This is the dream job

Jose Mourinho is a drama queen. It’s the Portuguese’s forte. There is nothing he does better — except maybe to park the bus? It is good sometimes to just humble thyself and accept what has been. Que sera sera, innit? Not Jose.

After his expensively assembled dream team (Manchester United) were humiliated and obliterated at Stamford Bridge, the Blues fans took to the chants of Judas towards a man they once revered. The reason for the vitriol? He had laid a scathing attack on Chelsea’s defensive game. A huge surprise yeah?

Come full time, Jose was full of words for the fans; ‘’Chelsea? I made them. Until another manager wins three Premier League titles for them, Judas is their greatest manager.’’ He sure had a point, but the manner in which he said it? All wrong.

Add to the fact that he instigated the attack himself. Something his team needed to do more often, rather than retreat into their shells like snails at the slightest touch.

5. Liverpool 4-3 Arsenal

The masterclass opening day performance. Both sides served up a thriller. Penalty? Tick. Penalty saved? Tick. Low shot into bottom corner at near post? Tick. Masterclass Free kick? Tick. Mazing run? Tick. Individual brilliance? Tick. Naïve defending? Tick!! Sheer force of will? Tick tock Tick.

The game had given insight to the kind of season both sides would have; a season that would serve us special and classic encounters, but will not consistently do so. In fact, Liverpool slipped up as early as the second week at Burnley. But, this game had created memories.

Coutinho’s goal, Mane’s torment of the Gunner’s defence, Arsenal’s late charge, — reminiscent of how they traditionally end the season. Arsene Wenger only need look back and realize they failed to make the Top 4 that day.

6. Chelsea and the mirage that is Dele

Dele Alli admitted that Steven Gerrard was his idol and, just like the Liverpool legend, he has taken to scoring against Chelsea like duck to water.

The Blues were on a 13-game winning streak. It was a new year and the 3-4-3 was gradually becoming a legend that seemed unbeatable… until all turned to myth in 90-minutes, no thanks to one man, Bamidele Alli. The 21-year old managed to not once, but twice, evade Chelsea’s all-seeing defence and snap their invincibility.

He reminded all that they were humans after all and could be defeated. The second goal still plays in my head like a recorded tape with the commentator screaming, “Dele Alliiiiiii…..”

7. Storekeeper Herrera

It is no surprise Ander Herrera was Manchester United’s player of the season. It takes a lot to best N’golo Kante in a midfield battle. Not so many can claim that honour. But, Ander Herrera stands tall in that category.

Not only did he best the PFA Player of the Year, he kept Chelsea’s most dangerous player in check for 90+minutes like a storekeeper would keep his goods. Add a goal to boots and you would not have had another match live longer in memory. It was Jose Mourinh’s  “Defensive Game 101” executed to perfection.

After the game, many wondered where Hazard had been. He was given next to no space to operate. It was sure retribution for the FA Cup no-show.

8. Jamie Carragher on MNF after Leicester’s win over Liverpool

In a season where morals were the order of the day, many fans had a lot to discuss about the sacking of Claudio Ranieri. It was quite sad that the man who had delivered a fairy tale to all — and was FIFA Best Men’s Coach — had been a victim of his own success. Whatever had happened in the corridors of power at the King Power had seen him exit unceremoniously.

Maybe in tribute or a sigh of relief he was finally gone, the Foxes were unleashed against Liverpool and turned in a masterclass they had hidden under Ranieri. Jamie Vardy, Riyadh Mahrez and Danny Drinkwater looked like the players that won the league again as they tormented the Reds again and again.

It was dumbfounding and did raise questions about the players. One Jamie Carragher gave his own comments too; “…I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game of football where two teams should come off the pitch and hang their heads in shame – Liverpool for how bad they were and Leicester for how good they were on the back of how poor they’ve been, just through effort and commitment.”

It was a cold and gentle swipe at both teams: at Leicester players for inadvertently ‘sacking’ their coach and at Liverpool’s for not turning up despite have two full weeks more than the Foxes to prepare.

9. Moyes’s doom

Never in the history of the Premier League, has a coach been so unpopular among his own. Such is David Moyes’ fate, that he sealed it without his team having to kick a ball.

His claim that they were set for a relegation battle did little to give the players a kick up the backside. Instead, it plunged them deeper into oblivion. They spent 92.6% of their time this season in last place. They rendered all of Jermain Defoe’s goal-scoring efforts useless while seeming utterly surprised at besting Crystal Palace 4-0 at Selhurst Park.

It was a dream they never woke from. One that ended in Moyes resigning after another trademark 5-1 loss.

10. The fixtures schedule

If there is any topic that divided opinion in the Premier League this just-concluded season, it’s the fixtures. Every elite manager except Pep Guardiola complained about it.

Klopp accused the December-January schedule of killing the flames of their title charge. Conte said they had less time to prepare for their crunch clash with Spurs while Big Sam said the fixture schedule was skewed to favour the big sides.

The most intriguing complaints goes to Jose Mourinho who never stopped complaining about how unfavourable the fixtures were. The man literarily became a cry baby for that reason, moaning and whining at every opportunity available. He even called the Europa League the missing piece and claimed United needed to complete a cycle by winning it.

What should the FA have done? Help them complete the cycle? They should have thought of the hectic schedule when they  receiving the TV money for the season.

What were your unforgettable moments from this just-concluded Premier League season? Share with the world in the comments section. We’d love to hear from you!
Photo credits: TheSportBible


Sunderland: How Have the Not-So-Mighty Fallen

So here I am with a “borrow borrow make me shine” laptop and me trying to get a thought that crept into my head while driving home from work. You might be wondering what my title is all about; well it’s about the not so mighty Sunderland AFC.

I would not do the regular “growing up, I loved one team” speech, that would be a lie, but I know I had always loved the stadium of light. It had that catchy ring, just like theatre of dreams and Highbury. Well it hurts to see Sunderland go down, but can we say it has been coming.

83million in wage bill and yet they cannot pose a single threat to a single opposition. You would say that is quite sad, right? But I am not in awe, as I have seen squad depth more financially improved play a load of crap. So who do we blame? The Clubs management, the manager, players, backroom staff?

David Moyes:

Well I have never been a fan of this man’s tactics and frankly, I always felt he’d be the first manager to get the boot this season. But how he held on till this point beats me. 

I guess you really can afford to overlook certain losers who work for you. Indecisive, slow, lack of desire and clueless, personally I think I have a beef with him but then, if you look back on 10years of history, Sunderland have gone highest as 13th and that tells you something. 

I believe it’s the duty of a manage to look at the past, study the present as soon as possible and , make the necessary adjustments for the future and moyes has not done that for me. Well you can blame it on lack of funds to buy world class players, but I gave up on that excuse when Leicester decided to pull a “Leicester” on the whole world. 

Club Management

They come in second, simply because they have not arrested the situation of the club as they should have.  

Yes, employing a manger is the first step which they did. Secondly, help put with funding and in that area they have failed, rather it’s the tales of mismanagement of funds that hits the news. 

I wouldn’t bother you with all the details, but the club’s management has let the team down by shedding all the responsibility to the manager alone, and that has cost them. 

The Players

Save for Defoe and Pickford, if I had my way I’d send all the players to a corporal punishment camp. Cast your mind back on Cisse, Jones, Gyan, Bent, Johnson (cooling off in jail I guess) Bardsley, Richardson and even Bendtner; these set of players had the burning desire to score goals and also help the team, something lacking in the set of players they have now.

 I’d love to see what follows in the Skybet League and I’ll be making it a duty to follow up on their matches.

This time last year we were saying goodbye to Norwich and Newcastle, with the Black Cats in the mix. But I guess this time the Black Cats are gone for good – probably best for them – and it’s a good time to think and re-evaluate, then probably come back stronger.

Bamgboye Ayodele

Tottenham: The ‘Nearly’ Men

Wonder how Arsenal fans feel everytime their good season is ruined by the normal December collapse or how Gerrard felt after that slip? That’s exactly what defines Tottenham everyday, millennial bottlers.

I would say – with all kinds of pun intended – that they won’t even spur themselves to do better to save anyone’s life or better still, their own lives if it depended on it. I would call them the nearly men but they don’t even go close to do whatever is required.

Simply put, they aren’t ruthless enough and for a team with a chicken (or rooster?) on its badge, that speaks volumes.

Against Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final, it was evident that Pochettino’s men didn’t have that little extra something to banish the terrible history and make a new start. And this was despite dominating possession and looking very promising in the game.

Why not be a shark? Why play chicken when you’re on the verge of flying consistently?

Pochettino has crafted a well coached team from a fantastic set of enthusiastic players,  but isn’t that the same thing Harry Redknapp did back in the days?

If you want to be champions, to make history, there are no excuses. A certain type of ruthlessness is necessary! Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona, Ancelotti’s Real Madrid. You leave no margins for failure.

But, it’s been a different case with Tottenham, who despite having a promising team lack the much needed ruthlessness.

So far this season,  Chelsea has time and time again shown their ruthlessness this season; during Mourinho’s time; during Ancelotti’s time; everytime they won the league; and when they won the Champions League!

Manchester United too during Sir Alex’s reign at the Theatre of Dreams! Same with the great Milan teams, Madrid, Barcelona, any great team that you can think of.

Top teams get results whether the odds are with or against them. They defy the odds, that’s why they are the ones that catch our fancy.

Most definitely, there is a stuff champions are made off. And Tottenham Hotspur, in their make up, lack that fabric.
About Author

Kolawole loves to talk about football amongst other things,  passionate about Liverpool, Coutinho and Jurgen Klopp. You can catch the silent observer on twitter @kopainzy

Champions League Quarter Finals Aftermath: Don’t Hate the Referee, Hate the Game!

The turning-point moment: Arturo Vidal sees second yellow in Bayern Munich’s Champions League loss to Real Madrid.

After listening to arguements for and against the competence of referees, especially after the most recent Real Madrid versus Bayern Munich Quater-Final Champions League match, I came up with that title.

Do not get me wrong. I totally love the beautiful game of football. It’s almost un-hateable but, during the quarter-finals, did the referees miss key decisions? I think they did.

Infact, sometimes I think they were so blind and needed a guide dog sometimes to help them make decisions.

That being stated, we should note that there has never been a time football refereeing has been deemed good enough. Every football supporter feels that the referee is always against them even though many a times the players of their beloved teams are guilty as charged.

Football has gotten as much coverage as it is getting nowadays and all the lucrative TV deals are there to milk every single talking point there is.

If you think the referees are incompetent, it’s not their fault that they are incompetent, blame the body that hires them. Its as simple as that.

Referees have always and always will be controversial, especially in big games. But let’s look at the conditions that set these controversies up: Players act, coax and encourage referees to get on their side for every decision. Then the smallest of every decision is contested then the referees are blamed for the outcomes.

A certain “Grumpy One” would often cite referee mistakes as excuses for his sides incompetence when a match doesn’t go his way.

The associations and authorities also need to assist the referee in his duties if they want less complaints. Case in point for the video referees: if all the teams involved want it, why not introduce it? If it, improves the credibility of the game, why not bring it in?

In my opinion, if there should be blames, blame Ribery that lost chances, blame Robben and Lewandowski for not being clinical enough. Those are then fine margins for me but it’s easier to blame the referees.

We can say the referees weren’t good enough on the day. We can also make the argument that Bayern weren’t either.

The best team over two legs won it. Again it’s more justifying to blame the referee. But the beautiful game created the circumstances everyone is now complaining about – maybe not everyone.


About Author

Kolawole loves to talk about football amongst other things, passionate about Liverpool, Coutinho and Jurgen Klopp. You can catch the silent observer on twitter @kopainzy

Football This Past Week: The Notes…

The fever that grips every football fan when he/she wakes up on a Friday morning is one of joy, like that of an animal freed from its cage, a man liberated, from the horrors of the conventional 8-5.

I, on my part, get Goosebumps, like a man going on his first date. My love for football isn’t mutual, it is an obsession. And just like that, the liberation I felt this past Friday was immense, smacking my lips at the action that awaited football purists over the next few weeks. This was the start point of that action.

However, if there is anything we purists do, we are more of critics just as we appreciate our football and this weekend’s action brought about a few points worthy of note round the world…


In England, all hands are on deck. As of three weeks ago, Chelsea were sleepwalking to the Premier League title. It was a foregone conclusion; the only battle was at the bottom.

That was before Sam Allardyce and Mamadou Sakho intervened.

The Blues have since lost two of their last three games while Spurs have kept up their winning streak. It was unimaginable that we would reach this stage in the league. But they brought it upon themselves.

The Blues were nowhere near their usual dominant selves in those defeats and while Sakho and Herrera put in man-of-the-match performances, Ngolo Kante and David Luiz had their performances and roles brought into question.

Spurs, on the other hand, continue to march on, and the joy in the white half of North London is in deep contrast to the emotions in the red half of the city. Mauricio Pochettino’s men have looked imperious, certain and played with a swagger and brute unlike the cowardly, uncertain and aimless football Wenger’s boys have served up since the turn of the spring.

They look like ‘WENGER’s INVINCINBLES’ right now and not the ‘INVISIBLES’ receiving instructions from the Frenchman. The desire, passion, joy and willingness to die for the shirt is there.

As for the Gunners? Not so much. For the first time, in Wenger’s time at the Emirates, Arsenal may not make the Champions league. Not because of anything, but rather because their rivals aren’t dropping points. Liverpool showed fight to down West Brom at the Hawthorns, completing the double against a team they traditionally struggle against.

Vincent Kompany showed why he is still the best centre back in the league, commandeering City and giving them the assuredness and confidence the defence has lacked in his absence.

At the other end, Sam Allardyce continued his resurgence of Palace with a draw, while Swansea are in real danger of been cut adrift at the bottom.

Only a meagre nine points separate eleventh from eighteenth, and while there is still hope, teams must look to win the war and not the battle. The attitude needed for both isn’t the same.



If there is anygame I always mark on my calendar first once the fixture lists are released, it’s the clasico. However, while many are talking about the fact that Neymar will miss Spain’s ‘biggest game,’ it is infact at the bottom that the biggest games are taking place.

Granada and Osasuna are especially fighting for their lives. Granada’s attempt at a new approach backfired dramatically against Celta where the players did more of dancing than playing, just like their interim coach while Leganes, despite showing fight and spirit still lost to Espanyol.

The Catalans are locked in a desperate battle with the two Basque outfits as well as Villareal for a place in Europe and while the top two are well ahead of the others, a photo finish isn’t out of the picture either.



The Nerazurri and the Rossoneri are currently two underachieving teams. And while on Saturday they served up a fascinating game, it brought back memories of why both sides are being left behind by the two Roman sides, Juventus and Napoli.

The manner in which Inter threw away a two-goal lead was baffling and astonishing. They left a position where they could have easily seen out the game and put themselves in deep trouble. Worse still, they conceded the equalizer with the last kick of the game.

A side that lacks that mental fortitude should be nowhere near Europe’s elite. Many did praise Milan for the comeback, but it was only due to their rivals weakness that brought them back in the game. They were passive for long periods and relied heavily on the influence of Gerard Deulofeu and Suso to keep them in the game. They are miles behind Lazio, let alone the top three.

The problem at Inter is mental and psychological, in Milan? Cluelessness



It’s the first time 16 teams will participate in the CAF club competitions. However, it may be better they increase it to 32 from next year. Only diehard fans of African football have followed the qualifiers and while the group stage action doesn’t start till May, it can be restructured.

The coefficients system can be readjusted. It’s sad if we cannot see fascinating football from a larger pool of teams. The two club competitions have lost top teams in this qualification stage due to reasons varying amongst themselves.

Bidvest Wits are one of them, Enugu Rangers another. Smouha and Zesco will only be playing in the CAF Confederations Cup. It is time we have teams that would of a surety reach the group stage than have a three-tier tedious qualification system. This can be facilitated by using national team coefficients, which could even see an increase in the competition at international level.

Take South Africa for instance. They have one of the best leagues in Africa; the last three South African representatives in CAF club competitions have reached the semi finals at least.

Achievements like that can be rewarded with three or four slots the following season. That’s enough motivation, one that would spur other countries on.

African football has stayed in the shadows long enough. Issa Hayatou’s heralded exit would be meaningless if changes aren’t visible from 2018 onward

Video Technology in Football: What I Learnt

On Tuesday night, we were treated to another controversial topic in our “sacred sport,” Football. I deliberately use the word sacred because to some people, football is a religion to some people who rever it and guard it jealously.

As the saying goes for the English, “football is not just about life and death, it is more than it.” This is a strong indication that to the billions of people on the face of the planet, football is more than just a sport.

The game between France and Spain last night re-awakened an old controversy: the use of too much technology in the beautiful game of football. In that game, the compatibility of using a video referee to scrutinize critical decisions in a football game was put to the test.

This was a perfect platform to look at the strengths and weaknesses of that technology and its compatibility with the flow of the game. After the game and the many reactions that followed, here’s what I learnt.

The first goal scored by Antoine Griezmann for France was correctly ruled for offside. I must appreciate the fact that at least it was great to finally get justice when we watch football matches, something we have also seen with the use of the goal line technology thus far.

This was a laudable achievement going by the injustices that have been experienced overtime in the sport- there have been so many of them and these decisions have always kept tongues wagging at every incident. These decisions have divided fans amongst different lines.

However, on the other hand, did anyone take notice of how long it took for the referee to listen over his ear piece and pronounce the appropriate decisions? I think this should form the basis of this argument for or against the compatibility of the proposed technology.

As a fan and a proud one at that, I had to take a look at the video at least not from the Director’s box- as I am no bourgeoisie, and definitely not from the technical room, but from my television and device and I took notice of the time it took to get the decision on both occasions.

Griezmann’s disallowed goal was scored with 47:15 showing on the clock. Of course the linesman ruled it as a goal but the referee stood static and paid attention to his ear piece while the Spanish players surrounded him. On the near side of the pitch, the French players were already celebrating.

When the clock showed 47:59 and Griezmann was returning to his own side of the pitch, that was when we – Griezmann and I – discovered that there seemed to be a problem. Then the waiting continued until 48:09 when the referee gave the correct ruling with his hands raised to signify a free kick.

Simply put, it took 54 seconds to make that decision. Do not miss the part that the linesman actually gave the goal.

Then came the goal scored by Deulofeu, which was Spain’s second, assisted by Jordi Alba and scored with 76:23 on the clock. In this particular incident, the assistant referee (linesman) ruled offside while the referee waited – yet again – for signal from the video room.

Gerard Deulofeu had already accepted his fate and was returning to his position for the free kick to be taken having seen the flag for offside. It was until the 77:10 when the referee got the signal and gestured towards the halfway line that it was a goal.

That took 47 seconds.

The first thing that comes to mind is the time taken, in the course of discussions between the main referee and the video referee, to take these decisions even though some persons were trying to say that it took place while the players were celebrating the goal.

Okay then. What if the scorer does not celebrate and picks up the ball to run back to the half way line based on the fact that he is trailing the other team? Does that remove the window for discussions between both referees? We are talking about 54 seconds + 47 seconds= 1 minute, 41 seconds for just two incidents. That is enough time for a team to score two goals which we have seen many times in football.

Another fundamental issue is that the technology is actually a threat to the Assistant Referee’s position and if it is implemented, we might also not see that individual running down the lines with a yellow flag any more. This is because their decisions where actually clashing at both times the video technology came into play.

Furthermore, while video technology thrives with tennis, cricket and others, football is different because it has to do with a lot of psychological factors – like who is on the ascendancy in the game? Who is pressing? Who is likely to get a goal soonest? Who has got the momentum?

Someone might then ask, when does all these big big grammar happen in a game? Have you stopped to think of the reason why managers make substitutions at some critical parts of the game? Why players also feign injury because they want the scoreline to remain the way it is and to also kill the morale of their opponents?

These are critical questions that whoever is reviewing the technology should put into consideration.

Finally, football is about controversies, banter, trolling, etc. To take these parts of the game away is to demystify the game and make it ordinary and less appealing.

In the midst of all the controversies, football following has increased astronomically for the past two decades. A demystifying of the sport could bring about a decline. Wrong decisions or not, the biggest teams on the planet have always succeeded and this part of the game should not be reason enough to restructure the beautiful game.

The idea of this new technology does not remove the human factor because judgement calls will still be made at each incident, only slower and with adequate video evidence.

Therefore, it suffices to say that the video referee, after seeing the video, can still make a wrong call because of our different criteria for awarding a penalty, free kick or a red card. Why not? He’s human too!


About Author

Victor Ndulewe is a freelance football writer and a football analyst/pundit on radio (The Beat FM 97.9 Ibadan).You can engage him on Twitter @vicndulewe

#VideoRef: Video of the UN-CANCELLED Goal & Twitter Reactions

The wait is (almost) over? Photo credit: Lebuzz

Since I’m not the biggest fan of international friendlies, I did not bother to watch any of the friendlies that were played (or will be played).

“I’ll just watch the highlights and I’ll be fine,” I thought to myself. Just in case you don’t know, I still have a thing against all these international breaks disrupting the excitement of wonderful club football (yeah, you can shoot me now).

And so for obvious reasons, I missed the friendly between Spain and France. Okay, maybe I’m guilty for not watching a football game between two super powers. But then again, it’s not as if there was some sort of trophy at stake. Sorry Your Lordship, this one’s not guilty.

While scouring the internet for relevant football news, I stumbled upon the news of a video referee finally being useful in a football game, the game between Spain and France.

Since time began, video refereeing has always had two sides when it comes to football. One party feels it’ll kill the excitement of the game. Others think it helps to enforce the right decisions. What do I think? I’M SANDWICHED BETWEEN BOTH PARTIES. H.E.L.P M.E!!!

Before I continue, let me quickly as you: What do you think of a video ref being involved in the proceedings of a football game? Good move or bad call? Yay or Nay?

Moving on, the video ref in the game between Spain and France, made two vital calls, calling off France’s goal and making Spain’s goal to stand after it had been earlier ruled out.

As with all things football, so many folks took to social media to express themselves. This is the part, ladies and gentlemen, where I take the backseat and let the tweets take centre-stage.

Referees were given four main areas to focus on for video replays: deciding on whether or not a goal should count, penalty decisions, direct red cards, and correcting the identity of a penalised player.

With video refeerees being tagged as football’s possible future, it seems we’ll be seeing more of it as time goes on. What’s your take? Let me know what you think by leaving a comment (or two if you would). I’ll love to hear from you!

About Author

Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst on radio (The Beat 97.9 FM) and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav