October 11, 2018 By Kevin Omondi
“International Football is important but club football is importanter“! Don’t agree? Go argue with the wise men behind @ASRomaEN
The International break almost always feels like a break from football. There is every indication that the BuLi champion will NOT be Bayern Munich, at least if things persist, with Niko Kovac facing open apathy and defiance from his charges, whose singular focus is beating every other team in the league, while Kovac‘s is to defend! Perhaps, it is time that President Uli Hoeness considers Yaya Toure‘s grandma! League leaders Borussia Dortmund, on the other hand, are enjoying a rich vein in form and are continually finding that extra gear that gets them over any walls put up by the opposition. Stuttgart, on the cusp of capping a season of over-achievement with Europa League qualification, last season, has already sacked Tayfun Korkut. Taking the L against lowly Hannover, being intolerable. Elsewhere, Nuernburg, by no means slouches at 12th on the log, consider success as a 6-0 loss after a 0-7 shellacking. Such Wisdom!
In Spain, Real Madrid and Barcelona are dropping points on the regular, without the oddity of Sevilla, who always dropped points whenever either Madrid or Barcelona did, doing the same. Julen Lopetegui, manager at Real Madrid, must be ruing his decision making over the last so many months. Sacked from the Spanish national team for being tapped up by Madrid, thereby committing his National side to a disastrous Russia 2018; only to, as of going to press, set all the wrong records at Madrid: 2 George Lucas‘ Star Wars runtime length worth of NO goals. Not moving on from the sale of CR7 and injuries to key players, will be inexcusable, considering he is under the employ of a president who’s sacked Vicente del Bosque and Carlo Ancelotti, immediately after achieving league and European success and Zinadine Zidane quit before he suffered the same. Luckily, the Catalans are fairing only slightly better. Manager Ernesto Valverde, is uncharacteristically, shaky in defence whilst simultaneously lacking urgency in attack. Perhaps, this could be the year, the Wanda earns its first league title; Atletico, much improved over the summer are on course to take advantage of the Madrid-Barcelona slip-ups and get the inside track towards the title.
PSG doesn’t make headlines for being top of Ligue 1. Of note, though has to be the potency of that front 3! Additionally, by trying to get Neymar more involved in the game, gaffer Thomas Tuchel has the Brazilian playing in the hole behind Cavani. As a result, Neymar moved to Paris to get out of the tried and tested shadow of Iniesta-Messi, only to increasingly get snug in the younger, darker eclipse of starlet Kylian Mbappe. LOL! Elsewhere in France, Lille seems to have finally recovered from the Marcelo Bielsa inspired bout of near relegation as Bordeaux and Nice and the other flower-girl teams in PSG‘s procession to the League title faces constant strife and turmoil with AS Monaco finally letting go of Leonardo Jardim and his disastrous results week in week out. Our Lord and Saviour, on the back of legal trouble following allegations of rape against him in the USA, has settled in his new home, Turin, with Juventus obviously leading the charge to the title. Napoli may eventually win something shiny, under the tutelage of serial winner Carlo Ancelotti. The change is slow and painful, yet already the transformation seems fitting and promising. Inter is sleepwalking to 3 points with yawny abandon and Parma are sparkling courtesy of the illuminating brilliance of our favourite Brazilian from the Ivory Coast, Gervinho. Genoa, never to be outdone, sacked Davide Bellardini, for the third time, only to hire Ivan Juric, whom they’ve fired twice before, the latest one having Bellardini replace him as his successor. Some weird Love-Triangle there.
In the English PL, everyday Jose Mourinho breathes, the media has an agenda against most lovable Portuguese; he remains in charge at Old Trafford by the grace of God and ineptitude of Executive VC Ed Woodward. League leaders Manchester City and Liverpool are not letting up, perhaps the two clubs with the greatest apathy to International Football; Arsenal is unbeaten in 9 games, a far cry from the Wenger days, their fans perturbed! Is this what having an actual football coach feels like. Chelsea’s Eden Hazard is standing on the mountain (of Maurizio Sarri‘s shoulders) breathing leaner air and fantasizing about finally donning the all-white of Real Madrid and the No. 7 jersey. Player of the Season, is already wrapped up for the EPL. Finally, there’s a more Portuguese side in the EPL than that of either SL Benfica or FC Porto!!!
However, club football being what it is isn’t contentious, at least for the purposes of this article. International football has largely been unexcitable, especially whenever the fixtures are ‘friendly’. UEFA introduced a thinly veiled money minting guise to solve this, the UEFA Nations League (modelled after the editions in CONCACAF and CONMEBOL) which will be on course during this break, promising more ‘savoury’ fixtures. All that’s well and good, until, in the course of perusing my social networks I came across a poster, I believe posted in innocence, sharing the poster’s enthusiasm for International fixtures. Fixtures that highlighted 6 Internationals including a UEFA Nations League match that no one will be physically present at- Croatia v England! A country that hasn’t played at home since 2015!. A friendly pitting the USA against Colombia! And I was angered! (In all fairness there were a couple of delectable pairings, France v Germany…)
The ire and wholesome loathing for the poster aren’t and will never be directed against the person who posted it, nor the error of his ways! We had just had two, Africa Cup of Nations 2019 qualifiers! The bore-fest that was Kenya hanging on for dear life, making us wonder what exactly goes on during these day training camps- away to Ethiopia; then some litt offering that had Guinea-Bissau give Zambia a run for their money! For crying out loud, what need we do to Africans to make them appreciate, look forward to, critique and enjoy, Star’s Captain Victor Wanyama’s dismal performances on African soil? What would drive a sane human to take a break from taking a break from football, to wake up in the small hours of the morning to watch the USMNT play ‘soccer’ in the name of an International friendly, whilst, Wanyama is back home trying to help (or not help, it isn’t clear) YOUR National team make the finals of the premier International African football tournament, the AFRICA CUP OF NATIONS?
Following the Harambee Stars is trying, supporting the national side is torturous. Yet, I refuse to either comprehend or tolerate the level of mental servitude and ass-licking of the colonial masters and similar imperialists of the calibre of the Argentines that would make one preclude watching good football of our own, in our backyards, with our footballing exports to even follow Brazil! The Brazil of Tite is still Euro-centric and ‘wrong’. The AFCON 2019 qualifiers are on and already potent with drama! In Kenya, for example, every day our National team turns up for training presents a real, modern-day miracle; Libya‘s coach, Adel Amrouche, has rightfully deserted them, a day to their match against Nigeria, against NIGERIA! Sierra Leone doesn’t have a FIFA recognised body to run their affairs. But slightly off the pitch, enjoy the spectacle that was a filled to capacity stadium in Ethiopia, despite all these problems.
The international break is here, and on offer, is a lot more than the footballing team of the Queen, in whose name your land was taken, playing against some very good, but honestly crooked Eastern European nation. DSTV will be showing every AFCON 2019 Qualifier they can on SS3 and SS9; in fact, do one better, get into that used Japanese import, public or private, or walk along your Chinese-paved roads to your Chinese built stadium, watch and support your fellow black men. They deserve it, perhaps it will make the people responsible for our sport notice your passion and make them act responsibly.
KENYA v ETHIOPIA will be on at 1600h Sunday Ocotber 13 2018 at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani. Entry is free. Go! Even if it is to support the Ethiopians!