Blog 8 – Sewera Mpira Afrika 18/10/13
Normally, I dislike the international breaks; I much prefer the excitement and interest of club football. However I was quite looking forward to this one, not because England had 2 must win games, but because the African Play Off draw had thrown out some intriguing fixtures.
One thing that sets African fans apart from their English and European counterparts is their loyalty to not only their country, but their continent. The Malawian fans I watched several of the Play Offs with all wanted to see their best sides go through to the World Cup to make Africa proud. In this sense, the draw was extremely unkind to the African people, drawing Ghana and Egypt together, and Ivory Coast and Senegal. The top 3 nations are pretty clear in most Malawians eyes, Nigeria, Ghana and Ivory Coast. After that you have Senegal and Egypt out of the teams in the play offs, although Egypt were appalling in the first leg against Ghana. They are the 5 that Melvin, Edison, Rocky and Wellington would have chosen to go through. Sadly 3 – looking very much like the big 3 at the minute are the most that can go through. Nigeria won a tricky tie in Addis where they were outplayed for most of the game, but the fitness levels told at the end. Ivory Coast, with an impressive performance from Tiote, beat Senegal 3-1 with Papiss showing he does still know how to score. Ghana were most impressive as they ran out 6-1 winners against an out of sorts Egyptian side that were set up not to lose, and sat back too deep for the early period of the game, never managing to get back in to it. So, Nigeria, Ghana and Ivory Coast look probable, who are the likely 2 to join them?
Cameroon are a giant of African football, and will stand a good chance of qualification following a drab 0-0 draw away at Tunisia. My fellow Malawian sports viewers are concerned that if Cameroon go they will cause embarrassment to African football due to the constant circus that seems to be continuous in football in Cameroon. They are also incredibly dull to watch – they set up in the first leg with 8 outfield defensive players starting. I really don’t see either side having much success at the World Cup, whichever makes it.
Burkino Faso beat Algeria 3-2 in a bit of a shock result; I suppose a draw was the more expected outcome. Still, both teams go into the second leg with a chance in what is still a wide open contest, although Algeria will expect to progress with 2 away goals. Burkino Faso continues to punch above their weight though, and it would be a great story for them to make the World Cup in Brazil.
Back in Malawi, recent fixtures have been marred by crowd trouble. In scenes reminiscent of the English 70’s there has been organised violence at Kamuzu Stadium in several recent fixtures. All these fixtures have involved an army team and a civilian team, and that is thought to be the basis for the trouble. At the end of last weekend’s match, involving Kamuzu Barracks and Evirom rocks were thrown at players on the pitch, with further violence breaking out in the stands. Police then began to fire tear gas into the crowds, causing panic among some fans and further violence by others. Despite FAM and SULOM‘s (Super League of Malawi) recent attempts to sensitise against this sort of violence it has been on the increase in the past 2 months. The events have led to FAM and SULOM to close the stadium for the foreseeable future – in the Malawian league teams have local stadiums, rather than their own stadium with home games normally being located at their closest stadium. This has caused further problems for teams based in and around Blantyre who used Kamuzu Stadium frequently.
Bullets Chairman, Higger Mkandawire, has condemned the closing of the stadium, saying that it has been rushed and done without any consultation or thought to the teams that use the stadium. There was no meeting to discuss other options and is therefore putting many clubs at risk of being unable to fulfil fixtures. Probably the biggest issue for clubs who use Kamuzu regularly is the cost of transport. There is not much cash available in Malawian football, and many clubs budgets just cover their costs. The Blantyre teams that are affected by this now face their transport costs more than doubling – an impossible situation for them. These clubs plan a meeting to discuss how they move forward, with minor threats of boycotts being discussed if FAM and SULOM refuse to pay for the extra transport costs, or re-open the stadium.
The Peoples Team have also questioned the decision, given that the letter was signed by the SULOM General Secretary Williams Banda. Banda is reportedly out of the country and has not been in Malawi to sign the letter personally, which is how the letter appears with an handwritten signature. In a country that is facing a huge corruption scandal in Government at the moment, this is something that was immediately picked up on, despite it being a very minor issue. If there is already an air of distrust and animosity surrounding governance and bodies involved then this sort of issue will always be magnified, as it has been in this case.
A badly run organisation, well that is nothing new to Newcastle fans at all. The Time4Change march is upon us, almost, and I hope that it passes without incident and is a success. Now, I am still sceptical of the march, despite agreeing it is time for change, but I give it my best wishes and the same to all those who attend. Having read the Q&A on here, I thought the organisers came across well, and that has swayed me marginally, although I will continue to hold certain reservations – I’m personally not sure a march is the best way, but I can’t think of a different way that I wouldn’t have similar reservations about so good luck to them. One thing is certain, Ashley needs to change strategy and show a purpose and/or ambition for the club moving forward, or he needs to find someone who can give the fans and club both of those. Even if he changed, I think that for many fans he would not be wanted.
Liverpool, well Pardew says that he expects some of the players to have a bit of fire in the belly after last season’s humiliation. I’d say every single player and staff member should have that, that is the minimum requirement, and anyone who isn’t bothered about making amends for last season should probably not be anywhere near a pitch in a NUFC top anytime in the future. Colo missing is a huge blow, although Suarez has left him rattled a couple of times, I just feel that any 2 from the remaining 3 is going to have its own distinct problems. One thing Pardew has to do is make a fist of this and not sit back allowing Liverpool to press us back constantly. Any sort of defensive strategy will be pulled a part, as it has been anytime we have sat back this season. I’d be tempted to play Willo and Taylor as centre backs, and play Mbiwa just in front to cover Coutinho (if fit), and to shut out the space for Suarez to drop into. Tiote could do the role, but Mbiwa gives us a bit more pace there and is comfortable on the ball. If Tiote plays, I would go with Mbiwa and Taylor. Taylor offers a bit more on the ground than Willo, who won’t be needed to win as many headers against a mobile and passing Liverpool.
The midfield to partner either Tiote or Mbiwa would be Sissoko and Cabaye. I think Anita has been great, but Sissoko has the dynamism required to go up against Stevie G, and to force Gerrard to work back more. Cabaye is a no brainer for me.
The front 3 for me would see Goofy on the right, Remy on the left again but with a change through the middle. Cisse scored on international duty, but in reality is only being picked for us due to lack of options. I’d give HBA a run through the middle. Sakho has looked shaky when people have run at him, and that is what HBA does best. I admit, that is one that has the potential to be great, or be awful, but if it is awful, then it is only a shade worse than what we have had with Cisse most of the season.
I don’t hold out much hope for a win, but as always, we can hope. I will be watching it in a bar surrounded by Liverpool fans, but can count on Arsenal, Chelsea and Man U fans to be cheering for Newcastle! So, Howay the lads, and let’s have a march and match that can make the fans proud.