Africa’s Premier League

By | May 17th, 2016 | No Comments



Africa is a Country‘s film division is working on an intriguing fútbol project that I just supported on Kickstarter.

What’s it about? Africa’s Premier League is a film that follows four fans—in Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and DR Congo—as they live through the highs and lows of a football season as a way to explore popular enthusiasm for “English football” in Africa. The project will also include a web series and a TV series.

“We want to show, in depth and detail, exactly how English football fits into the ordinary lives of African supporters,” say the producers. “Our film will tell the story of Africa’s passion for the English Premier League, through the eyes of the fans themselves.”

Act quickly to help with post-production! Click here to make your Kickstarter donation.

Share/Save

Filed under: Video

Premier League or Serie A? Talent or Intelligence?

By | March 8th, 2016 | No Comments

 

Patrice Evra knows football.

 

Born in Dakar, Senegal, in 1981, Evra moved to France before he could kick a ball properly. He went on to captain both France and Manchester United. In 2014, Juventus paid a meager transfer fee of £1.5 for the 33-year-old left back. In his first season, Evra contributed to a memorable campaign that saw the bianconeri win the League and Cup double and lose a close Champions League final to Barcelona.

 

Last Sunday, in an interview after Juve’s 2-0 win away to Atalanta, the Frenchman made some insightful comments about the difference between England’s Premier League and Italy’s Serie A. Evra’s thoughts seemed particularly timely since they came on the heels of widely quoted remarks made by Claudio Ranieri, the Italian manager of Premier League leaders Leicester City.

 

Ranieri reportedly told the Corriere della Sera that his Leicester players were “afraid of the Italian tactics” and so he quickly decided to “talk very little about tactics” and instead emphasized fitness, hard work, and building trust between members of the squad. Ranieri’s open-minded approach has worked spectacularly well for Leicester, as they are five points clear of Spurs with nine matches left to play.

 

In the video clip posted here, Evra (speaking in functional Italian) thinks back to his arrival in Turin and what another international star who played with both Manchester United and Juve shared with him.  “I remember that [Carlos] Tevez told me: ‘to score a goal here, you need at least 100 chances because they defend so well’.” That is why, Evra says, “even at 34 years of age, I’m learning great things.”

 

“In England, it’s more of a show. It’s more like two boxers who go at it and then the first guy who gets tired, falls down. But in Italy, it’s more of a game of cesto [unclear what Evra meant here, possibly “chess”]. If you are not tactically good, then you can’t play. Here [in Serie A] you need more intelligence, let’s say, than talent.”

 

In the end, it doesn’t matter whether we prefer England’s glamorous Premiership or Italy’s crafty Serie A. That’s a question of personal preference, loyalty, emotion, and memory (or is it nostalgia?). What is more interesting about Evra and Ranieri’s recent interventions is their nuanced understanding of how local forces shape the global game. Without such valuable cultural knowledge, professional frustration and sporting failure can never be too far away.

 

Filed under: Video

Ghana State Funeral for CK Gyamfi

By | December 18th, 2015 | No Comments



Ghanaian football legend Charles Kumi Gyamfi, who passed away in September at the age of 85, was honored on Friday, December 18th, with an official state burial in Accra.

Gyamfi began his top-level playing career at Cape Coast Ebusua Dwarfs in 1948-49. After one season, he joined Kumasi’s Asante Kotoko, staying until 1954 and then transferring to the Porcupines’ archenemies: Accra Hearts of Oak. In 1960, Gyamfi became the first Ghanaian to play in Germany, with Fortuna Dusseldorf.

After hanging up his boots, Gyamfi returned to Ghana and coached the national team, the Black Stars, winning three African Nations Cup titles (1963, 1965, 1982).

The video above honors the life of one of Africa’s greatest players. RIP CK.

Tags: ,

Filed under: Video

FIFA, Blatter and Me (Andrew Jennings)

By | December 11th, 2015 | No Comments



Nearly a decade ago, I devoured English reporter Andrew Jennings’s scathing investigation into “The Secret World of FIFA: Bribes, Vote Rigging and Ticket Scandals.”

Now, in a compelling BBC Panorama documentary, Jennings updates the story by digging deeper into FIFA’s most recent and spiraling crisis. The documentary takes viewers to FIFA headquarters in Zurich, and then to the U.S., Brazil, Trinidad, and South Korea.

One of the most interesting revelations in the BBC piece is that the FBI has in its possession potentially damning written evidence alleging that outgoing FIFA President Sepp Blatter has long been aware of the nature and scope of corruption in world soccer.

Another intriguing insight is that Qatar may have paid $117 million to buy votes and win hosting rights for the 2022 World Cup.

In typically relentless and confrontational fashion, the documentary focuses on Jennings’ probe of the ongoing FBI investigation of corrupt FIFA officials and associates from North America, the Caribbean, and Latin America.

He discusses mounting evidence of kickbacks and bribes paid to acquire TV and sponsorship rights—the charges at the heart of the U.S. Department of Justice’s indictment of high-ranking FIFA men, two of whom have already pleaded guilty to racketeering. Several other FIFA Executive Committee members are in the process of being extradited to the United States.

With the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s decision this week to uphold the 90-day FIFA suspension of both Blatter and Michel Platini (head of European soccer body UEFA), it is no wonder that Jennings believes the scheduled February 2016 FIFA presidential election is “descending into farce.”

Tags: , ,

Filed under: Video

Liberi Nantes: West Africans in Italian refugee football club

By | October 5th, 2015 | No Comments



Liberi Nantes is the first competitive football club in Italy made up almost entirely of refugees and migrants. Playing in the Terza Categoria—the bottom rung of the Italian football pyramid—the team provides a peaceful space for West African men who survive treacherous journeys from West Africa to Libya and then by sea to the island of Lampedusa.

In this excellent short video, published on The Guardian website, we meet some of the players and Alberto Urbinati, a Lazio fan who founded the club several years ago in response to the plague of racism in Italian football and society. The project has taken on added significance today as Italy struggles to cope with the growing refugee crisis.

“Heysel: La notte del calcio” — Memories of a Football Disaster

By | May 27th, 2015 | No Comments



Thirty years ago, on May 29, 1985, I gathered with a dozen teammates in a living room in Rome to watch the European Cup final between my Juventus and Liverpool. Barely fifteen years old, black-and-white scarf around my neck, there was nothing more I wanted than to avenge our shocking loss to Hamburg in the final two years earlier.

There was reason to be moderately optimistic, partly because four months earlier we had beaten Liverpool 2-0 (Boniek 39′, 79′) to claim the 1984 European Super Cup.

Forty-five minutes or so before the scheduled kickoff in Brussels, I took my seat on the floor. A perfectly unobstructed view of the television screen. Within minutes, disturbing images of chaos at the run down Heysel Stadium started beaming in.

The voice of Bruno Pizzul, a kind of Martin Tyler of Italian football, conveyed bewildering news. Something terrible was unfolding. Death at the stadium? We switched on the radio. Confusion.

Then, slowly, an accumulation of anecdotal reports led to confirmation of an unspeakable tragedy: 36 people were dead (a figure later revised to 39). Almost all Juventus fans. Men, women, and children killed in a stampede and wall collapse in the corner Z sector as they fled a charge by Liverpool supporters.

My heart was in my throat.
(more…)

Blatteropoly: The ESPN Documentary

By | May 20th, 2015 | 1 Comment

SeppBlatter_FIFA

Exquisitely timed for release just ahead of the May 29th FIFA presidential election, ESPN aired an excellent E60 documentary on Sepp Blatter’s governance of world football.

Jeremy Schaap’s piercing investigation deftly uses on-camera interviews with whistleblower Phaedra Almajid, ex-FIFA men like Guido Tognoni, Swiss government officials, and others to probe the murky bid process that granted Qatar hosting rights to the 2022 World Cup. The story digs vigorously into a culture of corruption, fear, intimidation, patronage, and politricks within football’s world body.

Watch the entire show by clicking on each link below:

Part 1: Blatter’s power and Qatar’s World Cup

Part 2: Beginnings of the legend of Blatter

Part 3: Controversy surrounds Blatter’s reign at FIFA

Part 4: Criticism in the UK

Part 5: Challenging Blatter’s power

As an after-viewing treat, I would highly recommend listening to this interview by Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl with Jeremy Schaap about making the documentary, lessons learned, and a lot more.

And if you still haven’t had enough, then go ahead and enjoy Last Week Tonight‘s John Oliver lambast the most powerful man in sports! (click here to watch).

« Previous Posts