Archive for August, 2006

He can speak English?

“Speaking with good if hesitant English, Martins understood enough to rebuff questions comparing him to Andriy Shevchenko, another Premiership import from the San Siro” was the word from Guardian reporter Michael Walker in this Saturday’s edition of the respected London paper. Fair enough, Nigerian striker Obafemi Martins is a footballer, and as such stereotype would dictate that he might not be able to string too many more coherent sentences together than a president of the United States. However Martins is from Nigeria, not Italy, home of the San Siro, and as such is it not accepted that his English ability would be sound at worst? Nigeria is an English speaking country, and I would wager that if Mr Walker were to take a venture that far south he might be amazed at the number of people speaking good, even unhesitant English in the country.

What’s Emartins.jpgnglish for Goal?

I don’t mean to belittle Mr Walker. I’m sure he means well. But in all honest, did he expect Obafemi Martins to speak no English? Perhaps he had confused Nigeria with Niger, an understandable error, but for the fact that to a football journalist, confusing Nigeria and Niger because their names are similar would be somewhat akin to mistaking Columbia and Ecuador because their flags are pretty much the same. Shame on the Guardian for such shoddy reporting.


The first McClaren friendly

Now, on to the business of England’s first match since the abdication of King Sven and the ravishing Queen David. In the first half Greece decided to re-enact 45 minutes of scenes from the long lost classic of the small screen “The Three Stooges visit the Maracana”. Certainly goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis may have thought he was in Brazil, though judging from his pirouette and stab at the ball in the build-up to the first goal, he must have been informed that he was at a beach volleyball tournament rather than a football match. In behaving so poorly he not only gifted John Terry the opening goal, he also ensured that third-rate newspapers across the country would have the chance to woo their attentive readership with such imaginative headlines as ‘Captain Fantastic’

It would be hard to begrudge England their victory; they were presented with four comedy pieces of defending by their opponents and managed to convert three; only Peter Crouch’s header from Gerrard’s well-placed pass missed the target. The fourth came courtesy of some good work by Jermain Defoe on the left and a run to match it by Frank Lampard. It would be satisfying, after having Lampooned Mr Lampard on these pages before, to note that his goal came by way of a deflection. However, it can’t be denied that Mr Lampard had a fairly productive, if quiet game. He did show that he can be useful defensively, provided his partner in the centre of the field is not Steven Gerrard. However, he seemed to go to sleep occasionally at set pieces, and his failure to keep tabs on his man almost saw England concede in the second half. 

Which brings us to the matter of the second half. Once it dawned on Nikipolidis and his team-mates just what sport they were there to play, they went about it quite effectively. England’s chances were limited in the second-half, and on more than one occasion, almost scored. Still, with Owen Hargreaves in the centre of the pitch, England had plenty of energy and bite. The much-maligned Bayern Munich player was rightfully awarded the man of the match award, though the vigour of his challenges suggests that he could be prone to giving up free kicks in dangerous situations. He would not go wrong by closely studying the foremost practitioner of his art, Chelsea’s former France international Claude Makelele, a man who seldom commits an unnecessary foul.

England’s overall ability to pass, Gerrard’s energy going forward, and Hargreaves energy all over the pitch bode well for the McClaren regime, however. Let’s see what the next group of matches produce.

Idiot Commentator Section, Vol. 1

Was watching Sky commentary on the Fox Soccer Channel in the USA. The match wasn’t 10 minutes old but the commentator has already mentioned the referees nationality at least three times. This would have been a non-issue perhaps, but for the fact that the referee had committed the cardinal sin of being a German national. Our man on Sky went as far to say (round about minute 10) “once again the German referee sides with Greece.” Perhaps Basil Fawlty has decided to abandon the hotel business and supplement his pension by bringing his particular brand of jingoistic sensitivity to the airwaves. Another choice tidbit was “They do have some names, these Greeks”. Indeed. And there never was an Englishman called Winterbottom. What a load of poo.

The New Gary Pallister

I would dearly love to know what Sir Alex Ferguson says and does during those precious few moments when he is out of range of the twitching ears of the press corps. Surely we are not to believe that he believes that Michael Carrick is worth the king’s ransom he has paid for him. 14 million pounds, set to rise to as much as 18.6 million based on appearances is no small sum for a man who, at 25, is yet to show signs of living up to the hype surrounding his performances as a teenager at West Ham. We shall see.
Ferguson has compared the signing to that of Gary Pallister, once, at 2.6 million pounds, the most expensive centre-half in
England. Perhaps this is to be taken to mean that Carrick will be turned from a skilled but unproven midfield distributor to a skilled but blustering central defender. All Ferguson needs to do is unearth another Steve Bruce and he’d once again be able to boast the distinction of fielding the two most flushed faces in football. Go Fergie.

Africans in the UK

With Ghanaians John Paintsil joining West Ham United and namesake John Mensah looking set to join newly promoted
Reading, at least two top flight English clubs will be able to profit from the talent of arguably the most exciting team at the World Cup. The African legion has been steadily growing in British football in recent years. It is a surprise that it has taken Africans so long to establish a foothold; arguably the most successful of the Premiership era has been
South Africa’s Lucas Radebe. The former
Leeds and Bafana Bafana captain was a mainstay at the
Yorkshire club from his arrival in 1994 until his retirement in 2005. Linguistic and cultural ties would be expected to help make the transition simpler for Anglophone Africans, the way they seem to do for
Africa’s Francophone presence in
France. So why is it only recently that Africans, from the English speaking world or otherwise have begun to prosper at the top level in British leagues?