Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Disclaimer: this post was penned in the backdrop of serious emotional conflict on the writer’s part; readers are advised to take every word herein with a pinch of salt.

This week am strongly compelled to begin with an apology and a concession. An apology for my prolonged absence from this space and a concession that my absence was necessitated by the cares and burden of this place of wrath and tears that is our world. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, yet I can no longer withstand the overwhelming urge to break my deafening silence.

While my pal Redondo was busy juggling matrimonial responsibilities that came along with his newly acquired polygamous status (in the form of that pay-TV thing that he has been ranting about for so long) mine was a more heartrending experience. From a frustrating wild goose chase in pursuit of a dodgy newspaper editor (perched high somewhere in a glass office) who simply didn’t have the balls to face a smalltime writer like myself over the cancellation of loose-end deal to an accidental rendezvous, in downtown Nairobi, with an old flame lost in my radars for so long, I was left completely drained out; more like a fish out of the waters, you could say. So much of my minor mishaps for now. Perhaps that’s a tale I’ll live to tell one day when all men and women here at shabik will have grown old and grey with age. Am not digressing further!

For some reason I was only able to catch the weekend action of the English Premiership in bits and pieces. In total, the second half of the Liverpool-Man U match, the last ten minutes of Arsenal’s walk about at Ewood Park and the first quarter hour of the Man City-Chelsea game was all I caught. At the risk of sounding very politically incorrect, the results didn’t disappoint me in the least. When you hold the enviable titles of English and European champions you should contend with the simple fact that you are an easy pick for all and sundry. I also think Man U’s dominance over Liverpool was becoming a bit annoying. Many Man U fans will hate to admit that the 2-1 deficit wasn’t a true reflection of the game. The fact is that Man U were clueless for the better part of the match and they are pretty lucky that Rafael Benitez’s team spurned chance after chance that came their way on that rare opportunity to run over the Old Devil like a steamroller. Period. And why on earth was Wayne Rooney playing in defense?

Allow me to make yet another concession at this point; for any other reason, Arsenal’s 4-0 thumping of Blackburn, courtesy of an Adebayor hat-trick, might have been flattering enough, only that am neither a hater nor a lover of Man U. Conversely, I feel nothing for Arsenal either. Ati now Arsenal can breathe easy coz Adebayor has finally found his scoring boots, right? Wrong! Putting my money on a team that is perpetually a ‘work-in-progress’ with a lousy striker who has a reputation of often blowing hot and cold is the last thing am doing. After all, its still not lost in the minds of many Arsenal fans the superb pacesetting job they did for their rivals last time round, or is it? For lack of better words, I think at this stage there is a dire need for restraint and magnanimity – not the chest thumping and name-calling that am already hearing.

Then there was the so called Battle of the Billionaires or the Clash of Cash – a game that came and went by without much of a spectacle apart from a glorious Robinho goal on his debut and the dramatic expulsion of John Terry for a dangerous tackle. Too much ado about nothing, huh? And this actually reminded me about my little chitchat with Redondo the other day on the same issue. Does a team which hasn’t laid its hands on any major trophy in almost forty years now suddenly become successful overnight as a result of a takeover (whatever that means!) by some rich Arabs in the Middle East? Apparently, and sadly so, that’s the crusade that the Abromovichs of this world are suddenly trying to preach.

Much as I’ve heard some absurd arguments to the effect that the money invested in football clubs by these wealthy businesspeople is good for the game, I still read a lot of mischief in this whole takeover fad. I stand to be corrected on this, but there exists something genuine about all successful teams the world over, an authenticity that not even money can buy. Its called a tradition, a winning culture indoctrinated right from birth. It is this culture that has brought endless success and an infinite financial windfall to great teams like Real Madrid and Barcelona (Spain), Liverpool and Manchester United (England), Rangers and Celtic (Scotland). Closer home, teams like Al Ahly and Zamalek (Egypt), Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs (South Africa) and of course Tanzanian perennial rivals Yanga and Simba have upheld the same winning mentality from way back when money was not a major factor in the game.

The point here is that in each of these cases, success on the pitch preceded the boardroom financial boon – not the other way round. It has to be said, though, that Kenya is the only nation in the world known to have killed the closest semblance of that winning culture that was embodied in AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia. But then, we Kenyans are a strange lot.

It would therefore be foolhardy to believe that Manchester City for all their mediocrity over the years will suddenly become an English football powerhouse two or three years from now simply because their new billionaire owner has a few more loose-change in his deep pockets to spend. It didn’t happen with Shinwatra, their former Thai owner, and am not so sure it will happen now with… that rich guy from the Abu Dhabi United Group (what’s his name again?) Even Chelsea was a relatively successful team with a couple of domestic and continental honours (albeit minour ones) long before the moneyed Abromovich arrived. My point? Success in football is something that comes gradually - painstakingly built over time - not something to be instantly bought over the counter with free flowing petro-money. Furthermore, am still skeptical about the business interest of these billionaire businessmen in football. To me it looks more of an ego trip, a temporary distraction to the more demanding business matters; some sort of rich man’s play thing. What happens when these rich men get bored with football and its boring routine (did I just say boring?) is a question that I dread to consider at the moment. Your views and reactions?


Redondo said...

de stefano,i feel u. In my last post i paid glowing tribute to Arsenal's financial model. i believe that even though Arsenal does not have much to boast about in terms of trophies, their model is sustainable. i further believe that the money that is now being poured into the EPL is going to eventually kill the game there. As you say, financial success has to be preceded by success on the playing field. when things have gone round full circle, la liga is going to re-emerge as the more sucesful league

Edwin said...

Wewe De Stefano ongea vizuri juu ya Arsenal. Despite his frugality, it cannot be ignored that Mr Wenger is the most successful Arsenal manager bar none. He is the one that made Arsenal the big club that it is right now. Hopefully, with more history, it can be mentioned in the same breath with los blancos and the blaugrana.

However, your argument on money is on point. Clubs are built over time. It's like buying a bright kid - you cant do it. You need to take him to class 1, class 2, and it comes over time. As I usually say (I'm going directly to the point, not prentending to be a good sportsman), I wish Man City the WORST of luck in their endeavours.

Anastácio Soberbo said...

Hello, I like this blog.
Sorry not write more, but my English is not good.
A hug from Portugal

Redondo said...

Thanks for your comment about this blog. Your contribution is very welcome. write more and update us on the Portuguese league.