Jah Bless Africa

Let those the first the the first words of this post and let this be its tune; as the world says thank you to South Africa for a wonderful world cup, entertaining, thought – provoking and completly trouble free. Oh and the HD TV pictures were fabulous. If that’s an example of how a football tournament can be run in South Africa, they might be asked to do a few more !

Ghana’s run will live long in the memory and is the great “should have been” of the tournament; anyone could see Ghana had done enough to get to the semi final. However, as we here in UK know and love African football, Asamoah Gyan need not fret too much. He ‘s currently with French division two side Stade Rennais, but Roy Hodgson is trying to sign him for Liverpool so things could yet work out for him.

A final of firsts….the first time that … Spain have won, a European team have won outside Europe, a team has won after losing its first game (they lost to Switzerland). What was definitely not a first though was a boring bad tempered game with some dreadful fouls. Howard Webb might have sent off several Dutch players early on, but was right not do so as it would have killed the game at that point. Spain were worthy winners and have been the best team all round throughout the tournament and in the years leading up to it. I also believe that their club game has been the best in European over the season. Barcelona with Messi are a hugely impressive team.

For Holland, they fully deserved their shot at the title for beating Brazil, but just like that other team who had prospered with a weak squad but effective tactics, Germany – they got “found out” by Spain and who were just too sharp and too strong to have any real weaknesses.

Most entertaining teams for me were Germany and Ghana who both showed that you could lose your best known player (Ballack and Essien, both of Chelsea) and yet still get by with tactics, fitness and teamwork.

Plenty of big names went early. France just didn’t look up for it and shouldn’t have progressed from the group stage. Italy, notoriously slow starters, just left themselves too much to do at the end. Although not the team that won last time, they were still capable of going further. The same is true of England who made their biggest error at the beginning, if Green hadn’t spilled that ball in the first game, we would have won the group and met Ghana and Uruguay instead of Germany and Argentina. As always, England are their own worst enemies, but can at least satisfy them with the thought they didn’t do significantly worse than previous teams, we usually go out in the last 16 or the quarters. We might also muse at how thin is the line between success and failure.

As for what is next for Italy and England, my advice is find a way for Italy to play like Inter Milan and for England to play like Manchester United. Sound bonkers ? well maybe it is, but it can’t be worse than what we have now.

And therein lies the rub. I love the world cup just as much as anyone, but how important is it really in the wider world of football ? Some might say that it’s a mini fantasy football league that comes round every four years. Twenty years ago you might have seen the best football there was there, but is that still true ? Wayne Rooney caused outrage recently when asked whether he preferred World Cup football to Champions League, to which he answered “Champion’s League”. But is that so outrageous ? I’d say that Champion’s League football is at least as good, if not better than anything on show in a world cup. Football is not alone in this, The Indian Cricket Premier League has also reached a standard that is better than international competition, I believe the Champion’s League has also. Some may say that you are representing your country and that trumps everything, well not everyone thinks so. The bit I like least about the world cup (and the Olympics too) is all the national anthems and flag waving. Those arnt countries out there, they are football teams and nothing more.

Rooney, Ronaldo, Messi and Torres may have only managed one goal between them in this world cup, but they are not so stingy for their clubs. This is because clubs are the essence of football, not countries. Some would say that club football, is the true football – a team of players who play together every week. In the 1888/9 the season, the first for the first division (now the Premier League), the original members were : Preston North End, Aston Villa, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, West Bromwich Albion, Accrington United, Everton , Burnley, Derby County, Notts County, Stoke City. All but Accrington Utd still exist. The first club to be formed was Sheffield FC in 1857 at Brammall Lane, now the home of Sheffield Utd. The first FA cup was held in 1871 (won by Wanderers), and the first “international” England v Scotland the following year (a 0-0 draw). The world cup didn’t start until 1930 by comparison, and not in its current form until 1950.

The world cup may have the kudos, but it no longer has the best football. Champions league (and Premier and La Liga) have more great players and great teams and they perform every week. We may beat ourselves up over doing badly in the world cup, but our team game is as good as ever and it’s not only good entertainment but it’s a great ambassador for UK and Europe across the world. Germany may beat us in the world cup, but if Chelsea draw Bayern Munich in the champions league, I know who I would back !

And I’ll end with something for an enterprising African entrepreneur to mull over. We have all sorts of football tournaments, but one possibility has never been explored – National teams v Club Teams. The continent that gave us “the rumble in the jungle” between Ali and Frazier can give us Bloemfontein Part Two – Germany v Chelsea. Why the hell not ? one thing I can promise you – it will be as big a draw as the world cup final. Africa has proved that it can take a big event and do it right, well it can do it again, and again … all it needs is a bit of African magic.

Copyright ©201o Savereo John

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