Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Despite scoring almost a goal every other league game in his time at Portsmouth, the 26-year-old failed to settle on the south coast and returned back to Spurs in January for a second spell at White Hart Lane.
The latest link-up with Harry Redknapp, after working with the manager at West Ham and Pompey, has boosted Defoe’s confidence and the striker is looking to hit the ground running in the upcoming Premier League campaign.
Although he only started eight league games in the second-half of last season due to injury, Defoe is eyeing a regular place this time around and the arrival of ex-Pompey team-mate Peter Crouch will only help his international claims.
Defoe, who scored twice in June’s 6-0 win over Andorra, admitted: “There is plenty of competition but it does not bother me. I know what I have to do to get to the World Cup and I will do whatever it takes to get on that plane.
“It's a massive season with the World Cup at the end of it and especially after what happened to me last time when I didn't go. I want to make sure I am on the plane this time. The prospect of getting there fires me on even more.”
If the tournament was next month, Fabio Capello would almost certainly select Defoe to be part of the squad for South Africa – should the manager take five strikers.
Wayne Rooney is the only certainty with Crouch, Emile Heskey and Defoe looking like the next three in line. It seems a good football bet that Michael Owen’s move to Manchester United will push him up the list, while Gabriel Agbonlahor and Darren Bent need to show more improvement to stake their claims.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Quite rightly in many people's eyes, Capello has not selected Owen since being appointed as England boss and has always stated that he would only pick players who were playing regularly for their club.
The former Liverpool man endured a nightmare spell at Newcastle, with injuries restricting his time on the pitch, and his stint on Tyneside came to an end when the Magpies were relegated last season.
Despite Owen’s former glories, Capello stuck to his plan and picked in-form players who were impressing in the Premier League and that handed chances to Emile Heskey, Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe.
But despite each of those three doing enough to stake a claim for a place, many still see Owen as the man who can end England’s 44-year wait for a major trophy.
No-one though, including Owen himself, could have thought that he would be joining the champions this summer, but the shock free transfer move looks to have reignited his World Cup dream.
Not only will playing for United bring him more to the attentions of the Three Lions leader, but it will also see him team up with his potential strike partner at international level – Wayne Rooney.
Old Trafford colleague Gary Neville certainly feels it couldn’t have worked out any better for Owen, saying: “Anybody who plays for Manchester United over a season has a great chance of getting into an international team, no matter whether it be England or any other country.”
The 2010 tournament is realistically Owen’s last chance of World Cup success and someone with 40 goals in 89 appearances for his country can’t be ignored.
The striker’s last goal for England was, amazingly, way back in September 2007, but his goal-poaching instinct will certainly make Capello’s squad even more feared if, as expected, they qualify for South Africa.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
South Africa just can't catch a break.
"Clearly we cannot expect the foreign media to put South Africa in a positive light ahead of the 2010 World Cup - we simply have to do it ourselves," Van der Hoven said, reacting to an article that appeared in the UK Sunday Times this weekend. (To read the article in question, please click here.)
It portrayed South Africa as a xenophobic nation flooded with starving refugees, where regular power outages are experienced and traffic lights are not maintained. (Two days earlier, the Times had another article about South Africa and their problems ahead of the 2010 World Cup. Read that here.)
"As the bread basket of the continent where poverty is a real issue, no one will deny that immigration is an ongoing issue in South Africa, but this article is one-sided and not factual," said van der Hoven.
Sunday Times Africa correspondent, Dan McDougall, writes that strikes by underpaid immigrant workers are causing work on the World Cup stadiums to "grind to a halt" and that FIFA has voiced fears "over the preparations for what will be the largest sporting event in Africa's history."
"One particular concern is the state of the power grid. Power cuts are still common in most main cities. There are concerns about the wider infrastructure. In Johannesburg, street and traffic lights do not work in large parts of the city and routine maintenance has all but ceased," he writes.
Van der Hoven asked: "Has Mr McDougall even visited Johannesburg? Where does he get his facts?"
Van der Hoven's company, Southern Africa Direct, broadcasts positive and informative content on southern Africa on TV in the UK and worldwide on the internet.
"We have to show South Africa in a positive light, through articles, videos and TV productions. We have to tell our stories ourselves - because no one else is going to."
MY POV: Van der Hoven is right. But does he know how hard that job is going to be? Look at what some commentators on the online article wrote ...
"It is clear that some are just not capable of self-governance especially in Africa," commented Frank of Los Angeles.
"Why is anyone surprised by all this!" wrote PR of Manchester.
"I think this is one world cup I'll give a miss," wrote Peter K of Vancouver.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Here, more about the story including some interesting quotes from the Associated Press ...
South African construction workers went on an indefinite strike Wednesday at stadiums being built for the 2010 World Cup -- a move that could derail Africa's historic first World Cup tournament.
Thousands of workers at stadiums across the country put down their tools after wage negotiations deadlocked earlier this week. Workers are demanding a 13 percent pay increase while employers are offering 10.4 percent.
The strike could delay completion of flagship projects such as the Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg and stadiums in Cape Town and Durban. Other stadiums in smaller towns have also been affected.
The venues need to be completed by December to meet deadlines set by the game's ruling body FIFA before the tournament kicks off in June 2010.
Lesiba Seshoka of the National Union of Mineworkers, which represents construction workers, said 70,000 workers were involved in the strike, which would continue until employers met their demands.
He said the union was not worried about the completion of the stadiums -- that was a concern of the tournament's local organizing committee.
"We are worried about our families getting food, not a rich man buying a ticket to watch a game," he said.
Joe Campanella, from the South African Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors, which represents construction companies, said only 11,000 workers took part in the strike.
He has said the deal offered by employers amounts to a 65 percent increase, including benefits.
However, the unions have complained that some workers are earning about $1.50 an hour and others $5 a week. Workers in South Africa are supposed to earn a minimum wage of about $200 a month.
The strike has been criticized for jeopardizing South Africa's chances of hosting a successful World Cup -- a monthlong event avidly watched by hundreds of millions around the world.
But the Congress of South African Trade Unions, which represents the country's largest trade union federations, has come out in support of the construction workers and says the dispute is not targeted at the World Cup.
"COSATU, and the construction workers, are as passionate about the 2010 World Cup as anyone, and will do everything possible to ensure its success. But we will not tolerate the stadiums being built by workers who are underpaid or working in dangerous or unhealthy conditions," the organization said in a statement.
Danny Jordaan, chief executive of the local organizing committee, said the strike would soon be resolved and was confident the stadiums will be completed on schedule.
"The construction workers have been the lifeblood of the 2010 FIFA World Cup project. Their hard work has ensured that we are on track to meet our deadlines and that our stadiums will be among the best in the world next year," he said in a statement.
Patrick Geqeza, a shop steward at the Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg, said he understood the importance of having the World Cup in South Africa and completing the stadiums in time.
"We feel bad about going on strike," he said, but added there was little alternative.
Oh oh. Looks like the the 2010 World Cup in South Africa could be in for a bit of trouble.
A large-scale strike in South Africa has led to renewed fears that stadiums will not be ready for the 2010 World Cup. Some 70,000 construction workers in South Africa have gone on strike, halting work on stadiums being built for the Cup.
The workers are reportedly seeking a 13 percent pay rise and there are worries that a prolonged strike could jeopardize key projects such as the 94,000-seater Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg.
Stadiums in Cape Town and Durban are also facing a race against time to be finished by the deadline of December set by FIFA, world football's governing body.
Six entirely new stadiums are being built for the World Cup, while four are being modernized, along with a host of other infrastructure projects to help cope with the influx of nearly half a million football fans to South Africa next June.
Danny Jordaan, head of the World Cup organizing committee, said he respected the right of the workers to strike but felt the dispute would be resolved without affecting the construction schedule.
"The construction workers have been the lifeblood of the 2010 Fifa World Cup project," he said in a statement.
"Their hard work has ensured that we are on track to meet our deadlines and that our stadiums will be among the best in the world next year."
Correspondents say if the strike continues projects such as the high-speed rail link between the airport and Johannesburg will be of greater concern than the stadiums. The rail-link is scheduled to be operational just two weeks before the tournament starts.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Are you scared to make your way to South Africa for next year's 2010 World Cup?
"Awe-inspiring landscapes, cosmopolitan cities, beautiful vineyards and amazing wildlife – the Rainbow nation offers something for everyone, where the people and culture are as diverse as the landscape. Africa's southernmost country has long been the inspiration of travellers the world over ... "
So says the blurb introducing South Africa in a typical holiday brochure. Few readers could fail to be enticed – well, at least until they spotted the prices – but most will also ask themselves the questions: What about the crime? Is it safe? Happily, South Africa seems to do tourism, particularly high-end tourism, pretty well, and the answers in the overwhelming majority of cases are a resounding: It won't affect you and Yes.
I've never been but would love to take a typical Cape Town/Garden Route-type holiday. What I would definitely balk at, though, is touring as a fan at next year's World Cup – an event, with the final 12 months away, we are counting down to. Indeed, having done a bit of research on the subject, I know I'd be absolutely terrified.
Such fears are often as much about perception as statistics, but unfortunately the stats – not to mention much anecdotal evidence – confirm that football fans like me are right to be more than a little scared. After all, this is a country in which approximately 50 people are murdered every day.
Let's start where the UK government would like us to, with the official Foreign Office travel advice. As a fairly regular visitor to the Middle East, I know this can sometimes seem unnecessarily alarmist but, even so, the South African advisory is still capable of making the most well-travelled England fan think twice.
Here are some selected excerpts. "South Africa has a very high level of crime including rape and murder." "In all areas of South Africa you should be cautious when out after dark." "There have been a number of incidents involving foreigners being followed from Johannesburg airport to their destinations by car and then robbed, often at gunpoint." "The standard of driving is variable and there are many fatal accidents." Meanwhile, "vigilance" is demanded "at all times" in Durban.
So far so cheery. Then there was the recent news that G4S, the world's biggest security firm, has declined to work at next summer's World Cup. Nick Buckles, the organisation's chief executive, took that decision after revealing that G4S rated South Africa more dangerous than Iraq and Afghanistan.
Of course, much violence occurs in the townships but, looking in from the outside, a major problem appears to be the lack of public transport. Where are the wonderful train services that helped Germany 2006 run so smoothly? After reporting on last month's Confederations Cup, the journalist Gabriele Marcotti wrote: "Public transport is generally poor and, besides, most foreign tourists are told not to take buses and trains."
Quite apart from recounting a late-night incident with a shadowy, gun-toting man – probably involved in security rather than crime – while driving in Johannesburg, Marcotti wrote of some long, unpleasant drives in the dark after covering matches. Commenting on the lack of dual carriageways and lit highways in certain areas, he described negotiating one road heading towards Jo'burg as "like snorkelling in a sewer filled with squid ink". Shortly afterwards came the sad news that a German journalist had been killed in a car crash while driving back to his hotel after attending a Confederations Cup match.
Talking of the Confederations Cup, remember that players from both the Egyptian and Brazilian teams returned to their hotel rooms after victories over, coincidentally, Italy to find they had been robbed. No matter, though; in March Danny Jordaan, the chief executive of the 2010 World Cup, issued a "100% guarantee" that there would not be "a single" security breach or attack on any team or official attending Africa's first such showpiece. "We'll have 41,000 extra police and 86,000 added [security] personnel," he said.
Those guests who attended a Fifa draw in Durban in November 2007 may take some convincing. They were shocked when Peter Burgstaller, an Austrian ex-professional footballer, was shot dead while on his hotel golf course. Meanwhile, another hotel guest was mugged en route to breakfast and journalists covering the event were advised to venture out only in groups.
Moving on, for the moment, from crime, there is also the HIV issue. Latest stats indicate that just over 18% of South Africa's adult population is infected. Considering that prostitutes always prosper during World Cups, you do not need to be a rocket scientist to detect the looming dangers.
There is a huge political investment in Africa's inaugural World Cup proving a resounding success, and you suspect those Fifa delegates who recently gave the country eight out of ten in terms of preparations could be in peril of believing their own spin.
Deep down, there must be some VIPs pacing Fifa's corridors of power who harbour nagging regrets that Egypt or Morocco did not pip South Africa and win the vote. Indeed, one or two might just regret that the event was not switched to Australia when, some time ago, football's international governing body arguably had the chance to do so.
Personally I'd have preferred the 2010 World Cup to have gone to Egypt. Yes, it would have been very hot (although it's a dry heat) and it would, in places, have been dirty and ultra-chaotic, but it would also have been friendly and welcoming. And, in terms of crime, Egypt is extremely safe. Eyebrows would doubtless have been raised at the potential for organisational mayhem, the nightmarish Cairo traffic and the downtown air pollution, but surely if the Egyptians could build the pyramids they could host a World Cup.
Moreover, staging football's biggest and best event in a key centre of the Arab world might just have helped ease tensions between the international Muslim community and the west while simultaneously weakening the Islamic fundamentalists growing hold over hearts and minds.
Instead, though, South Africa has a wonderful opportunity to change prejudices and perceptions. And, I sincerely hope, prove doom-mongers like me horribly wrong.
Inter Milan coach Jose Mourinho has long been a strong advocate of African football, buying the rights to such players as Ghana's Michael Essien and Nigeria's Salomon Kalou at Chelsea and Ghana's Sulley Muntari at Inter.
Fans turned up to greet the former Chelsea boss and the rest of the delegation despite the fact that he arrived two hours later than announced.
"It is a great landmark in the history of Nigerian football as well as the KFA," Nkechi Obi, CEO of Premium Sports Marketing Services told BBC Sport.
"He is here with other coaches and trainers to conduct seminars and coaching clinics for indigenous coaches. We are positive that his presence will benefit the talented players in the academy and hopefully attract interest from international clubs throughout the world. Football fans, media and everyone involved with football will enjoy photograph and autograph sessions with the 'Special One' on this trip."
The trip facilitated by DanJan Sports is widely seen as an opportunity to expose the Kwara Football Academy to the rest of the world.
"The KFA epitomizes what a perfect football academy truly is and Gestafute are happy to be associated with them," David Omigie of DanJan Sports explained.
"We have seen what the visit of Manchester United and Portsmouth gave to Nigeria as a country in the past. The coming of Mourinho and KFA will bring a lot of positive attention to football in the country once again.
Former Nigeria coach Clemens Westerhof is the director of the Kwara Football Academy which is in Ilorin, the capital of Nigeria's Kwara State.
Friday, July 3, 2009
No, I didn't conduct this interview. I only wish I did.
(If anyone has connections and can hook me up with Mr. Danny Jordaan, the chief executive of the South African World Cup organizing committee, I'd be happy to do it.)
Alas, I'm but a poor blogger in New York. But one day, I promise.
This interview was conducted by Keir Radnedge for SportsFeatures.com.
I include it here as it's insightful, full of meat and provides a clear eye of where South Africa believes they are, one year before the world's biggest sporting event.
Take a look at it here or click the link above.
Q: What targets did you set yourselves at the outset?
DJ: We have two priorities. One is event success and one is onfield success. Onfield success is the responsibility of the national team and in countries which have hosted the World Cup and done well this has been a very positive experience – France winning in 1998, Germany and Korea reaching the last four in 2006 and 2002 and the English still talk about their win in 1966.
Q: After the Confederations Cup, where do you think you stand in terms of event success?
DJ: We are very happy from an organisational standpoint. We have achieved everything we set out to do so we will now have a full debrief and then we will start on preparing for the World Cup next year. As for the South African team we also saw a good performance, which is something we have not seen for a long time. There was structure, discipline and the ability to play with credibility against the best teams in the world. However the question of getting the ball in the net remains a challenge.
Scale of difficulty
Q: What will change at the World Cup compared with what has been on view at the Confederations Cup?
DJ: We are looking forward to the 2010 World Cup through the eyes of the Confederations Cup. We have to use the experience of the Confed Cup to understand the scale and complexity and difficulties ahead. In size the World Cup is a vastly different proposition.
Q: What are the positives for next year?
DJ: One factor concerns the stadia. For example, we have played the Confed Cup in existing stadia in Ellis Park (Johannesburg), Rustenburg, Bloemfontein and Pretoria. But people should know that these are our worst stadia – the six best, the new ones, are to come. They are spectacular. Also, the common use of of stadia will not be a complicating issue next year as it has been this year with the British Lions tour running parallel to the Confederations Cup.
Q: How will fans, next year, find the transport arrangements?
DJ: Transport, we know, is an issue. We introduced a park-and-ride system here to bring fans to the stadia and it had some teething problems with people arriving late at the games and then having to wait for a long time after matches. It was a new experience for South African fans but for the later games things were smoothed out.
This raises the issue of co-ordination with the host cities because local transport is their overall responsibility. We will have 1,000 extra buses and extra aircraft so we can move the fans who want to follow their team. We have signed contacts with bus suppliers and we know that is one area in which we have to focus.
Q: Are you still worried about African fans’ habit of turning up very late at a game, just before kickoff?
DJ: I’m happy to say that over the two weeks of the Confed Cup we saw a significant improvement in terms of the early arrival of fans. It’s all about behavioural change. But then, here at the Confederations Cup around 90 per cent of the fans have been South African. The World Cup is different. The vast majority of the fans will be foreign and the late flow of fans into a ground will not be an issue then.
Q: Is there a concern that some of the new stadia will turn out to be “white elephants”?
DJ: This stadia issue is a long debate. South Africa wants to bring back the Rugby World Cup and, in the case of Cape Town, matches would be staged in the new stadium and not Newlands because the infrastructure in these old stadia are no longer up to the standard needed to host major international matches any more.
A stadium normally has a lifecycle of between 30 and 70 years but, beyond a certain point, it is false investment to continue upgrading. Once the commercial partners who buy naming rights go to the new stadium it is very difficult for anyone to stay in the old stadium because it’s about revenue generation.
Look at what happened with Wembley in England. The debate lasted years with clashes between realists and the traditionalists who had wanted to keep the old, twin towers. The same thing will happen in South Africa but, ultimately, people will realise, as with Wembley, that the old stadium does not suffice any more. Then it will be clear to everyone that the old stadia may be rich with history and tradition but they don’t meet international requirements.
Q: Security is a major concern for foreign officials and fans because of South Africa’s domestic crime rate. What is being to allay people’s fears?
DJ: We have invested huge sums of money in security through both the South African Police Service and stewarding at the stadia. In the outer perimeter around a stadium security is the responsibility of police but inside the inner perimeter you have private security security and inside the stadia the stewards. You cannot turn a policeman into a steward and these thing are well defined.
We also have a VIP protection force for people such as FIFA president Sepp Blatter. This country has hosted 146 international events so it’s not for first time we’ve faced this challenge and I can say we have never had a major incident.
Q: Will all the tickets be sold?
DJ: Yes, of course. This is the World Cup, the most popular sports events on the planet. Already all the tickets which have gone on sale have been oversubscribed many, many times over.
Q: What reaction have you had from the teams who came here for the Confed Cup?
DJ: Overwhelmingly we have had positive feedback from the teams, the media, the broadcasters, commercial partners and from our own fans? I think this event been a revelation in terms of the interest but we are not going to waste time celebrating the pluses: we are going to study the debrief and then knuckle down to ensure we deliver the sort of World Cup we want - the first World Cup in Africa, the one which Sepp Blatter and Nelson Mandela had in their heads and have brought to reality.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
FIFA's July 2009 world rankings are out and in Africa, Ivory Coast's Elephants reign supreme.
The Elephants are 18th in the world, up 20 places from last month. They've now over taken last month's African #1, Cameroon, who slipped to second, 29th in the world.
This matches Ivory Coast's highest ever position in the FIFA table. Go on, Elephants!
Ivory Coast's two wins in 2010 World Cup qualifying in the last month helped them move into the number one position in Africa.
They were also aided by Cameroon's poor performance in the same campaign so far.
The Indomitable Lions suffered a disappointing draw with Morocco.Elsewhere, African champions Egypt and World Cup hosts South Africa both moved up two spots. Egypt is now #6, 38th in the world. South Africa is #13, 70th in the world.
Good performances at the Confederations Cup have seen both Egypt and South Africa improve their rankings.
The Pharaohs dropped out of the tournament at the group stage but their win over the reigning world champions Italy gave them plenty of points.
South Africa moved after strong losing performances against Spain and Brazil.
Gabon are also big climbers this month - going up to third in the African rankings and 30th overall, thanks to their big win over Togo in 2010 qualifying.
Sierra Leone are the biggest fallers - dropping 40 places to 125th in the world.The bottom three? Djibouti, Comoros, and the Central African Republic.
Do these countries even play matches??
For the full table, please click here ...
Just when we thought South Africa was in for smooth sailing until next year's World Cup, here comes some disheartening news.
According to Reuters, South Africa's biggest union said 50,000 construction workers would launch a strike over pay starting next Wednesday, halting work across the economy including on stadiums for the 2010 World Cup.
"A strike action is set to begin on July 8," said Lesiba Seshoka, spokesman for the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) which also represents construction workers.
"Its not just the World Cup stadia that will be affected, we are talking about power stations, hospitals, roads and the like. It will last until they (the employers) come to their senses and offer a 13% wage increase for one year."
MY POV: In this economy? 13&?!? Wow.
The NUM wants a 13 percent rise over one year while employers have offered a 10 percent hike.
Employers have balked at the demands, citing the global economic downturn.
As well as World Cup infrastructure, the construction strike could halt work on the mass transit Gautrain high-speed rail project, power stations, an airport, a refinery, a coal terminal, hospitals, highways and mining projects.
The employers' organization said it would ask the courts to bar a strike, saying an agreement between the parties blocks the union from striking before the end of August this year.
"The strike is premature. We are looking into the possibility of getting a court order to stop this this week," Joe Campanella, spokesman for the South African Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors, told Reuters.
Soccer's world governing body said it was confident South Africa would deliver on its World Cup commitments.
"FIFA has full trust in the host cities and the government in the delivery of their commitments regarding the stadiums," FIFA's media department said.There was no immediate comment from the government on the news of the strike, but earlier on Tuesday it said the remaining stadiums to be used for the World Cup were nearing completion.
MY POV: Uggh, what a disaster. Right after the Confederations Cup, no less.
The good thing is that they're not far apart. 13% vs. 10% ... they should get this ironed out.
Talk about negotiating power, though ... 'Give us what we want, or the 2010 World Cup shuts down.'
You have to hand it to them. They know what they're doing.