Sewera Mpira Afrika 09.09.14
After what can only be described as a disappointing start to the season, we had to endure a 2 week hiatus for a round of
pointless international friendlies and some low quality qualification games. Euro 2016 qualification got underway, and if the reaction in England was similar to the expats over here, then there was little interest regarding the games. Two wins, the first very drab, the second I didn’t see but it seems to have gone someway to restoring a bit of faith. A more positive display from Hodgson’s England, in what should be the toughest fixture of the qualifying stages.
France managed to win both their fixtures as well, although both were friendlies. Sissoko and Cabella shined in the French side, leading some to question why they can’t perform like that for Newcastle. Personally, my take is that most international fixtures outside of major tournaments are fairly uneven contests. A French side should win most of their games in qualifiers or friendlies, and do so comfortably. I’d wager that most of the top club sides would comfortably out play and beat most international sides.
Over here in Africa the AFCON group stages got underway with Cheick Tiote miraculously recovering from ‘injury’ to appear for the full 90 minutes. A bit odd considering he has been nowhere near our team, I’m sure that has nothing to do with a potential sale, in the same way Cabaye was on ‘strike’ until after the window shut last summer. He had a decent game by all accounts as they came back from a goal down to win 2-1 against Sierra Leone. Malawi, grouped with Mali, Algeria and Ethiopia, got off to a poor start. The game in Mali was put back 24 hours thanks to heavy rains in the Malian capital, but when the game was played Mali cruised to a 2-0 victory, despite having a man sent off after 63 minutes. At that stage Mali led 1-0, but Malawi just couldn’t get themselves back into the game despite Gabadinho’s best efforts. Then in stoppage time, Mali sealed victory with a second. The other game in the group saw Ethiopia lose at home to group favourites Algeria, 2-1. Ethiopia now travel to the Malawian city of Blantyre for their second group game on Wednesday afternoon. A defeat in this game for Malawi would make it nigh on impossible for them to qualify, but with Ethiopia having suffered a big dip in form since losing to Nigeria last November, there are some relatively confident fans around.
Outside of the qualifiers, African football is going through some really tough times. Emad Meteb of Al Ahly, one of Egypt’s top sides, has just been sentenced to 6 months in jail after fighting with police, and then pulling a gun on them. Nigeria are having issues all over the place, a disgraceful performance against DR Congo in an AFCON qualifier, the manager is still embroiled in a contract dispute, there have been problems with elections that have caused the domestic league to grind to a halt, and a threat by FIFA to suspend the nation from FIFA tournaments. A simple electoral process to decide who runs the Nigerian Football Federation seems to end in FIFA sanctions and disputes every four years. Currently Chris Giwa is claiming the Presidency, but has been told to vacate the position to allow outgoing President Aminu Maigari to hold a new set of elections. Giwa is refusing to budge, and has even gone so far as to file a suit against FIFA with the Court of Arbitration for Sport. He is suing FIFA as he claims that they do not have the power to suspend nations over internal disputes. The whole situation gets even messier as clubs have refused to recognise Giwa’s presidency, and this has led to the league stopping. The Nigerian Premier League Chairman, and 2 other senior officials have also been suspended from duty by the league board and clubs for supporting Giwa. FIFA’s ban should have come into effect yesterday, Monday the 8th, but because of this appeal it has been delayed. Hopefully it will be resolved soon.
All the bickering pales into insignificance though with the sad news of Albert Ebosse, a Cameroonian striker playing in the Algerian league. On the 23rd of August his side JS Kabylie were playing a home match when a piece of slate was thrown from the stands and hit last seasons top scorer on the head. The 24 year old was rushed to hospital but was pronounced dead shortly after. A full investigation is currently underway into the incident with Kabylie banned from playing games at home until the investigation is finished. Thoughts with his family and loved ones.
Closer to home, the international break came just as the transfer window slammed shut. The window had been going reasonably well, and spirits were certainly lifted on Tyneside but as always, the club had something up its sleeve to ruin that. Fans, journalists and pundits alike could all see we were crying out for a goalscorer, most could also see that we needed a top centre half to supplement the current group. We were told by Pardew that if anyone left replacements would be brought in, targets were there it was a case of finance etc etc. So what happens? We offload a centre half and an attacking player with no replacements coming in.
I’ll start with Mbiwa; I have no real problem with him leaving as such, he clearly hasn’t settled, partly due to not being given a proper chance in his preferred role, partly due to not being right for the English game. However, to offload the only first team centre half that has potential to improve and not replace him is madness. We now have the same 3 central defenders as when we were promoted, only now they are a few years older, and definitely not wiser. Colo has been on a decline for 2 years now, and is still our best centre half. He is getting slower, and getting caught out of position more and more often. Willo is no nonsense and very limited. He will get in the way, but will also get pulled apart by quick and mobile centre forwards. Saylor I don’t think we need say too much on Stevie Fistpumps, a hindrance more often then a help. Whatever happened to the young England U21 captain that we all had such high hopes for. I haven’t even mentioned the fact that 2 of those 3 have spent plenty of time out injured in the last 2 years. It is a huge worry that 1 injury leaves us to the bare bones, 2 and we are in real trouble. No injuries, and we are no better off than the defence that conceded more goals than all but 6 sides last season.
Now, HBA, any regular readers will know that I advocated his sale last summer, given my expectation that his contract would not be renewed (and the fact he is a bit of a show pony). Well, The club and his agent couldn’t agree and then the 2 parties wouldn’t come back to discuss further. This coincided with him being dropped from the team. As much as Pardew used HBA badly, and HBA regularly didn’t perform, I think this departure is Ashley driven. Nothing has changed in Pardew or HBA’s style since their arrivals, so why would it take 3 years for this all to occur. In the past, players who couldn’t agree new deals were swiftly shipped on, Nolan, Enrique, to a lesser extent Barton. Why do people think Ashley didn’t want the same with HBA? We have got a loan fee, and saved a couple of million, I would make that £3million in the bank, compared with losing him for nowt next summer. The fact only Hull wanted him is pretty damning of HBA. Still, that is another body out, one we could have used given SDJ’s injury, without replacement. I’m sure Pardew will have been glad that the next match is away, and after an international break. He will be wishing for an atmosphere like Cardiff when HBA is in the stands for the next home game against Hull. Pardew wouldn’t come out of his dugout against Cardiff, I imagine he would like to stay in the dressing room against Hull.
Anyway, we have what we have until January now, but the knives seem to be sharpening for Pardew now, and the only thing that can save him now is Ashley’s apathy towards the football side of the club.
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