Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
“Can you feel it in the air?” I casually asked a friend recently. He looked cluelessly at me. “The World Cup!”. Today only 16 days away, and counting down. I can feel the excitement creeping up on me. It happens every four years. I have a hard time focusing on anything else. If football means a lot to me, it becomes truly my life obsession for a month.
Although some will not understand, football is truly in the air. The greatest event of the world is coming! I am not exaggerating: Last World Cup final was the most watched live event in the history of mankind with 218 million viewers! People all over this World, round as a ball, shares in the excitement of one months of football, national tensions, joy and tears, beautiful details, amazing goals, great saves… all that makes football the most beautiful game of all!
Last few months I have been traveling to Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, Denmark and Angola. Believe me, if any theme unites anyone in any of these places, it is the fact that everywhere you will meet people who will share in the excitement. People who usually never watch football, will even join in! No barriers - football becomes the one language that unites the world.
In the latest National Geographic the feature article was “Why the World Loves Soccer”, and writer Sean Wilsey wrote: “…what makes the World Cup most beautiful is the world, all of us together. The joy of being one of the billion or more people watching 32 countries abide by 17 rules fills me with the conviction, perhaps ignorant, but like many ignorant convictions, fiercely held, that soccer can unite us all”.
Something is indeed in the air. I can’t wait!
Monday, May 22, 2006
Michael Laudrup was the greatest Danish player ever, and a true gentleman on and off the pitch. Some rumours are tying him with big European clubs (rumours always abound about Real Madrid, but I doubt he should be part of that circus). No matter what, he will be missed in Brondby. I will miss him, and hope to see him return!
Cheers Mr. Laudrup!
Thursday, May 18, 2006
Although favourites, Barcelona did not play one of its best games against a well-fighting Arsenal side. Actually, I even thought the 10-man Arsenal fought with spirit and courage in the face of the awesome Catalonian firepower. Jens Lehmann's red card early on proved vital for the match, in spite of Sol Campbell's header to bring the Gunners ahead on the score in the first half.
In the second half, the incorporation of Iniesta and Henrik Larsson were excellent. In particular the Swedish veteran made a difference in the Barcelona attack, making the assist for both goals. Samuel Eto'o's equalizer was the result of an excellent combination. Belletti's winner also came from a good pass, although he had some luck with the goalie.
Monday, May 15, 2006
After last year's Champions League final, Liverpool offered us another great and entertaining match! And thank you West Ham!!!
Thursday, May 11, 2006
The end result was an astonishing 4-0 victory for the Andalucians, the goals being scored by Enzo Maresca (2), Luis Fabiano and Kanoute.
Seville deserves this. Congratulations to all Sevillanos!
Monday, May 08, 2006
As hordes of fans descended upon University of Legon, kick-off took place at 7 AM, with a clash between the European Union team and Italy. The Italians, in their classic azurri outfits, started defensively against the highly talented EU side. But this was to no avail. One attacking wave after another swept upon the Italian side from the EU youngsters, who were eagerly supported by a large crowd of charming followers. As the EU's 2-0 victory was confirmed, the Italian fans were silent as a grave in the midst of the EUphoria.
However, the expectations caused by the EU's victory were only to be shattered in the second round. Netherlands had dispatched the French with a resounding and entertaining 6-4 victory, and were now to face the noble EU youngsters in what could easily become a modern classic of football. The EU team fought hard to stay in the match, but in the end to no avail against the mighty orange attacking machine. The fans however, displayed fairness and thanked their team for their marvelous performance.
The preliminary round matches saw some more exciting football. In a preview of the upcoming World Cup 2006 clash, the Black Stars from Ghana faced the Czech Republic. In a highly awaited match, both teams displayed fair play and friendliness. In spite of this, the Ghanaians had no quarrels in pounding some Czech fufu for their breakfast. The Czechs were sent home with a resounding 3-0, and should not be expecting any gifts in Germany either.
In spite of their glorious start, the Ghanaians could not keep it going, as they ran into the well-oiled German football machine in the next round. The Germans had defeated Spain in a match where the result was the same as their encounter in the Euro 1988. The Germans defeated the charming home-team 3-0, and were more and more looking like the ones to defeat.
A highly awaited encounter in the preliminary round was England-Denmark. As so often happens in these matches, the Danes were far superior to the Spice Boys, who were dispatched with 3-0. Wayne Rooney's injury was not the only thing causing headaches in Britain this weekend!
The final round of the tournament was as exciting as football can get. First, Germany faced the Danish Dynamite in a repeat of the legendary 1992 European Championship final. In a nail-biting encounter, none of the teams managed to score, so they had to proceed to a nerve-wrecking penalty shootout. The goalie of the German team proved as cool as the legendary Harald Schumacher against Mexico in 1986 World Cup, and put the Germans in the final.
While the Danes had to conform to third place, the wind of history swept across the fields in Legon that hot Saturday afternoon. The final was to be one of the most classic encounters in football history: a repeat of the 1974 World Cup final, of the Euro 1988 semifinal, or the World Cup 1990 last-16 match. None other than the giants from the Netherlands and Germany!
As the fans from each team lined up their support for another clash of Titans, the teams got ready for another nerve-wrecking and close encounter. The orange attacking waves swept over the German side, the Germans kept their cool in the hot afternoon. In what was a repeat of football history, the German team took home the title after an amazing penalty shootout, where only the strongest managed not to faint.
In the end, the true winners of the tournament were all the Ghanaian u-12 teams who could participate in this fun tournament! They were all the true stars of the day, and I was only a lucky football fanatic who happened to be around!
I have not followed much Danish football recently. The distance to Denmark from Ghana makes it all seem very far away... I heard however, that FC Copenhagen just won the Championship, in spite of losing to Odense B. Brondby will only end second, after last season's double victory.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
This week is European Week. Here in Ghana, a series of cultural events have been taking place, organised by EU Member States and the European Commission.
Football, being such an important cultural object in both Ghana and Europe, is again central to the celebrations. Therefore, a European Cup is taking place this Saturday May 6th, at the University of Legon in Accra. Each Member State and the European Commission in Ghana is sponsoring a Ghanaian u-12 team, who will then represent the given country. The tournament is played as a cup-system, and features the following clashes in the preliminary round:
- 7AM: ITALY (Gaddafi FC - Mamprobi)-EUROPEAN UNION (Shaka FC- La)
- 8 AM: GERMANY (Obono - La)-SPAIN (Barcelona FC Trade fair)
- 9 AM: GHANA ( Sarafina - Dansoman)-CZECH REP (Everton)
- 10 AM: FRANCE (Schweppes - nungua)-HOLLAND (Dezacs - Kwashieman)
- 11 AM: DENMARK (Mandela)-ENGLAND (Young Goldfields) - Osu
- 12: PRELIM WINNERS
As you can see, some major classics are taking place: Germany-Spain is a repeat of their famous preliminary round encounter in the Euro of 1988. Denmark-England is always an exciting match, going from the Euro 1992, to the World Cup in 2002, to the latest 4-1 humilliation of England in 2005. Notice also the Ghana-Czech Republic, which will be a preview to their clash in Germany this summer. The Czechs should be warned!
Finally, notice that Italy will face the EU team in the first round. An unwritten encounter: the Italians will surely rely on their "catenaccio" style to try to defeat the talented EU side.
I guess all are welcome to Legon this Saturday to see these exciting matches. I just hope the fans will behave. It is already being reported that hordes of European fans have arrived in Accra to support their teams in this important cup!
This is the second Spanish title in a row for the Barcelona super-team. They truly play some of the most wonderful attacking football seen for a long time, so as much as this is a victory for the Catalans, it is also a victory for football itself. All football fans should appreciate that.
Barcelona now has another challenge ahead of them: the Champions League final on May 17th against Arsenal. If Barcelona takes the title, they will sit solidly on the top of European football. And it is well-deserved.
Congratulations to all Barcelona fans! Visca el Barca!
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Congratulations to Chelsea, for their second Premier League title in a row. It also came with style: beating Manchester United 3-0. Although I am not impressed by the tactical and sometimes too boring game of the Londoners, it is always impressive when a team performs as they have done. They will stay at the top of Europe for a long time.
On a more serious note, Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney fractured his foot. Now his appearance at the World Cup is in serious jeopardy. Bad for England (although I don't support them at all…), and bad for football fans. Wayne Rooney is a wonderful player, and I hope he will recover to make it.