Friday, August 8, 2008


Taking into account the furore that Redondo’s post almost caused in this space earlier in the week, I wish to begin by making a major concession as a conciliatory gesture to our slighted sisters out there. While my intention is not to reintroduce the debate through the backdoor, this one simply just can’t pass unnoticed. Thank God the season of football is once again here with us!

After enduring endless episodes of those exceedingly dour Mexican soaps – a la Lamuher de Alonzo – which run for months on end, with the overused predominant themes of deceit and conflict, at least now football ‘addicts’ like myself will have something worthwhile to look forward to every Saturday afternoon.

A lot has happened in the transfer market during the close season with Cristiano Ronaldo’s saga dominating the headlines. The choice of team for which a player turns up for has become such a complex business. In this age of globalization, these long drawn negotiations, whenever a player is moving clubs, have become the norm rather than the exception. The last time I checked, Manchester United were still insisting that Ronaldo is going nowhere, but am still very skeptical; Real Madrid has built a reputation of pulling a rabbit out of the hat every season, a last minute deal wouldn’t surprise me. In fact their President Ramon Calderon who seems to be enjoying every moment was back at it again only a few days ago with a tongue-in-cheek quip that “Madrid are just a spectators in this soap opera”.

Thankfully, as the dust begins to settle, its time to get back to work; and who knows this better than the coaches? Judging from the statements that some of them having been issuing lately, a good start off the blocks seems to be the short term priority. Manchester City ’s Mark Hughes, has been very categorical in his comparison of football clubs to ‘Football Factories’ intent on producing high quality performances. And for that reason he has issued a decree to limit access to the players by the agents, friends and family at their Carrington training ground.

Others like Premiership debutant, Luiz Felipe Scolari, have had very little time for orientation and settling down. Despite finishing runners-up in the Premiership and Champions League last season, the blues are still perceived as a ‘boring’ team by many fans. Ostensibly, that seems to be a major concern for Big Phil who has been reported to say that he will oversee a culture change at Stamford Bridge . Ironically, the Brazilian who also pledged to “break with the past by promoting talented youngsters ahead of expensive import” was quick to add that he would adopt a “more modest approach than that of former Manager Jose Mourinho”. Apparently Mourinho’s ghost is not going to go away from Stamford Bridge any soon.

On the converse, Scolari will perhaps take heart from the support that he received from his captain John Terry who overtly stated that Chelsea now boasts “a manager who can lead the team as well” - (Poor Avram Grant, just where did he get it all so wrong?). But while Terry is busy offering support to his manager, his counterpart, William Gallas, at the Emirates Stadium is one man who desperately needs every support to remain the team leader but is so far receiving none. Arsene Wenger, fondly referred to as the ‘Professor’ by the club’s ardent supporters, is one man with a very long memory. Towards the end of last season, as the Gunners began to succumb to the considerable pressure from Manchester United, Gallas completely lost his head in that drawn match at Birmingham and Wenger has forgotten. Now the shrewd French manager questions the leadership of his fellow countryman and is considering stripping him of the armband. Cesc Fabregas has expressed his desire to take over the captaincy, but the grapevine has it that Wenger’s preferred choice would most probably be the hard tackling Ivorian defender Kolo Toure.

So there you have it folks! The official 2008-09 European football season gets underway this Sunday when Portsmouth face-off with Manchester United at Wembley in the Community Shield – the official curtain raiser of the season. Whether you owe your allegiance to Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea or Real Madrid just follow your instinct; be there for the big kick-off and enjoy the rest of the season.

As for my pal Redondo who still seems to be caught in that little domestic quagmire, I guess for the time being we could just do with our usual male-bonding sessions at our favourite hangout while indulging in sumptuous servings of the biggest serial drama on TV (read the English Premiership). But in the event you succeed in the worthy course of installing that Satellite Pay-TV thing, then rest assured I’ll become a more frequent visitor into your household!

1 comment:

Redondo said...

The return of the European leagues has been long overdue... a man can now rest easy. Am not any closer to installing GTV/DSTV but aluta continua.
I must admit I didn’t watch the community shield match yesterday. I spent the day bonding with my six-month-old daughter (to my wife’s delight). The score line vindicates my decision to pass on that opportunity.
I found time though to watch an Olympics soccer match between Cote de Voire and Serbia- very entertaining staff. I particularly enjoy the Olympics soccer because many times they herald the emergence of new talent. Take Lionel Messi or john Obi Michel for example. These young stars exhibited their immense talent at Athens 2004. Needless to say, they were quickly snapped up by Barcelona and Chelsea (respectively) immediately after the Olympics. My fondest Olympics soccer memories though are those of the then youthful super eagles conquering Brazil in the semifinals and eventually Argentina in the finals of Atlanta 96. As the Olympics soccer progresses we are bound to see the emergence of yet another star.
As for the English Premier League, the party has just begun. Its going to be a long and hopefully competitive one.
Enjoy the party!