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5 Life Lessons from the AFCON/CAN 2012

I can’t apologize enough for not blogging for so long. I just needed to get myself a new laptop since the old one was giving me some unbearable problems.  I could have blogged from my phone but I prefer blogging using my laptop. Nonetheless, I am happy to be back and I have so many things to share starting with the African Cup of Nations (AFCON/CAN 2012.)

Lesson 1: You can always prove people wrong

Have people written you off? Are they saying you can’t make it in life? Do you feel let down and can’t continue because all you hear are negative statements about your inability to be great? Do you remember the favorites for this year’s African Cup of Nations tournament? People expected Cote D’Ivoire or Ghana to lift the trophy. Nobody, I mean nobody, ever imagined Zambia lifting the trophy in Gabon but they proved everyone wrong. They didn’t get discouraged for not being regarded as one of the favorites. They stood their ground, fought and conquered. You can do the same. You might have been ruled out. You might have been discouraged but never lose faith in yourself. Never make your enemies happy…. Persevere.

 

Lesson 2: Never underestimate an opponent

We live in a world where people are overconfident and take things for granted. They find themselves wanting when the very foundations they boast of get shaken by the storms of life. Zambia defeated both favorites of the tournament on their way to lifting the trophy. They did so well…. They fought well but in their match against Ghana, it was so obvious that the Ghanaians underestimated them. The Ghanaians thought it was going to be a walkover and were really shocked at the end of the day. Never underestimate any opponent in your life no matter how strong you feel.

Lesson 3: Missed that spot kick? Rise and move on!

Missing a spot kick is like missing an opportunity in your life. For those who don’t know, a spot kick is a free kick at the goal from a point (penalty spot) within the penalty area and 12 yards (about 11 m) from the goal, with only the goalkeeper allowed to defend it: awarded to the attacking team after a foul within the penalty area by a member of the defending team. We sometimes miss opportunities in our lives but that shouldn’t put us down. That should rather lift us and make us aware that there will be other opportunities in the future. Renowned forwards like Asamoah Gyan and Didier Drogba missed penalty kicks in the tournament. Even in the final, the latter missed a penalty kick but that didn’t stop him from fighting for his country. He battled till the final whistle. We are bound to miss some opportunities in life but we must learn to keep a cool head, learn the lesson and move on. Making mistakes doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It just means you’re trying and learning in life.

 

Lesson 4: Unity is Key!

Some of the powerhouses of African football were absent at the tournament. Countries like Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa and Cameroon could not make it to Equatorial Guinea/Gabon. It was however expected that, either Ghana or Ivory Coast stood a greater chance of annexing the trophy but that didn’t happen. Before the tournament, people were so concerned with the confidence in the Ghana camp. I saw that to be overconfidence. Others protested it wasn’t. At the end of the tournament, we all heard what the ex-coach of Ghana said. “When spider webs unite, we can tie up the lion.” – Asante Proverb.

There was little or no unity in the Black Stars camp as that missed penalty kick by Gyan evidenced. Ayew was the one going to take the shot by Gyan went and took the ball from him. We heard of misunderstandings in the changing room etc. Together, we are better!

 

Lesson 5: After every good fight, there is a reward.

All the battles in your life will end with a trophy in your hands. When Christopher Katongo lifted the trophy for Zambia, it was a joy to behold. The 30 year old who was crowned Best Player at the AFCON2012 was a symbol of patriotism, perseverance and wisdom. There were matches that he couldn’t even play the whole 90 minutes but he did so well anytime he was on the field. He led his country with pride. He made the players know the essence of the tournament. In the final, the Zambians really struggled against the Ivorians but fought really hard. You may be going through a difficult time in your life.  Just fight on because at the end of the battle, there is always a greater reward. You will surely make it!

Stop waiting for something to happen, go out and make it happen.

 

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Desmond Tutu: Our Glorious Diversity: Why We Should Celebrate Difference!

When life throws certain situations in your path, you just have to learn from them. I keep learning and I will never stop learning. The past few weeks have opened my eyes on certain things. I feel Desmond Tutu’s speech years ago summarizes it all. We are born different and we must learn to appreciate one another. That’s the only way forward.


As the world’s memory of apartheid receded, Desmond Tutu responded to a stream of invitations to speak around the world on the practical implications of ubuntu. An excerpt from a speech to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva in 2001 follows.

“We inhabit a universe that is characterized by diversity. There is not just one planet or one star; there are galaxies of all different sorts, a plethora of animal species, different kinds of plants, and different races and ethnic groups. God shows us, even with a human body, that it is made up of different organs performing different functions and that it is precisely that diversity that makes it an organism. If it were only one organ, it would not be a human body. We are constantly being made aware of the glorious diversity that is written into the structure of the universe we inhabit, and we are helped to see that if it were otherwise, things would go awry. How could you have a soccer team if all were goalkeepers? How would it be an orchestra if all were French horns?

For Christians, who believe they are created in the image of God, it is the Godhead, diversity in unity and the three-in-oneness of God, which we and all creation reflect. It is this imago Dei too that invests each single one of us — whatever our race, gender, education, and social or economic status — with infinite worth, making us precious in God’s sight. That worth is intrinsic to who we are, not dependent on anything external, extrinsic. Thus there can be no superior or inferior race. We are all of equal worth, born equal in dignity and born free, and for this reason deserving of respect whatever our external circumstances. We are created freely for freedom as those who are decision-making animals and so as of right entitled to respect, to be given personal space to be autonomous. We belong in a world whose very structure, whose essence, is diversity, almost bewildering in extent. It is to live in a fool’s paradise to ignore this basic fact.

We live in a universe marked by diversity as the law of its being and our being. We are made to exist in a life that should be marked by cooperation, interdependence, sharing, caring, compassion and complementarity. We should celebrate our diversity; we should exult in our differences as making not for separation and alienation and hostility but for their glorious opposites. The law of our being is to live in solidarity, friendship, helpfulness, unselfishness, interdependence and complementarity as sisters and brothers in one family — the human family, God’s family. Anything else, as we have experienced, is disaster.

Racism, xenophobia and unfair discrimination have spawned slavery, when human beings have bought and sold and owned and branded fellow human beings as if they were so many beasts of burden. They have spawned the Ku Klux Klan and the lynchings of the segregated South of the United States. They have given birth to the Holocaust of Germany and the other holocausts of Armenians and in Rwanda; the ethnic cleansing in the Balkans and the awfulness of apartheid; and what we have seen in Sri Lanka, in Northern Ireland, in the Middle East, in the Sudan, where there has been a spiral of reprisals leading to counter-reprisals, and these in turn to other reprisals. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Where the law of an eye for an eye obtains, in the end all will be blind. If we don’t learn to live as brothers, we will die together as fools.”

Religion, which should foster sisterhood and brotherhood, which should encourage tolerance, respect, compassion, peace, reconciliation, caring and sharing, has far too frequently — perversely — done the opposite. Religion has fueled alienation and conflict and has exacerbated intolerance and injustice and oppression. Some of the ghastliest atrocities have happened and are happening in the name of religion. It need not be so if we can learn the obvious: that no religion can hope to have a monopoly on God, on goodness and virtue and truth.

Our survival as a species will depend not on unbridled power lacking moral direction, or on eliminating those who are different and seeking only those who think and speak and behave and look like ourselves. That way is stagnation and ultimately death and disintegration. That is the way of people in times especially of transition, of instability and insecurity, when there is turmoil and social upheaval, poverty and unemployment. Then people seek refuge in fundamentalisms of all kinds. They look for scapegoats, who are provided by those who are different in appearance, in behavior, in race and in thought. People become impatient of ambivalence. Differences of opinion are not tolerated and simplistic answers are the vogue, whereas the reality is that the issues are complex.

We need so much to work for coexistence, for tolerance, and to say, “I disagree with you, but I will defend to the death your right to your opinion.” It is only when we respect even our adversaries and see them not as ogres, dehumanized, demonized, but as fellow human beings deserving respect for their personhood and dignity, that we will conduct a discourse that just might prevent conflict. There is room for everyone; there is room for every culture, race, language and point of view.”

El Clasico 3: From Valencia with Love

Ronaldo vs Messi

After showing a steel of nerves, shrewd and incredible counter-attacking football on Wednesday to defeat their arch rivals for the Copa Del Rey, Real Madrid went to Valencia and did another thing worthy of mention….if not praise. Jose Mourinho tried his luck at the Mestalla and it paid off immensely.  I even wrote on twitter that, Mestalla is now the home ground of Real Madrid. Many are the people who said that was an understatement. Not only did the score line make Madridismo happy but Mourinho found impressive reserves as well.

Nine changes brought nine goals – six for Madrid, all from the trio of Kaka, Benzema and Higuain. The trivote has worked for Real Madrid against Barcelona in the two el clasicos gone by. This time around, it wasn’t a trivote but a magnificent trio of skillful players who could do anything and everything with the ball at their feet.

Valencia did not help matters as their defense crumbled against Real Madrid in the first half.  “I’ve never suffered such shame on a football field,” was coach Unai Emery’s angry assessment after the game. “We played like a team who is 15th in the league.”

Except Valencia are not 15th on the league table. They are one of the clubs who will accompany Real Madrid and Barcelona to Europe next season. They are the 3rd on the league table in Spain.

One, two, three – Benzema, Kaka, Higuain. It was simple, yet a counter-attacking masterclass; honed on the training ground, executed on the battleground; and in truth, few sides would have coped. The movement was exquisite, the understanding exemplary, the combinations sublime. Confidence oozed; class bubbled. Madrid’s attackers were sublime and lethal. Each one knew where the other was. It was like they were connected as with the case of twins. They exploited the space, got behind the full-backs, made good use of the flanks, passed intuitively, gelled impressively and finished ruthlessly – with pace, power and panache.

Benzema was lethal. He did a lot of runs. His work rate has improved tremendously and he isn’t the man we saw some months back. He has the zeal to excel now and he isn’t lazy. Adebayor I must say has helped in the development of Benzema. As soon as he came in, we saw a great change in the attitude of Benzema. He was as if a man possessed by evil spirits to do the impossible. Only this time, what Benzema did, does and will do isn’t an impossible mission. He has the talent and will surely make it at Real Madrid. He wouldn’t be an example of Gilardino at AC Milan.

Higuain was devastating. His pace and positional play is something worthy of emulation. He is  and will be useful in Mourinho’s counter-attacking play. He has been missed by all Madridismo but he proved again that even after injury, he can score hat-tricks. Something all Madridistas will be happy about. Renaldo, the El Fenomeno has a competitor now.

Kaka was everywhere. This could have been one of Kaka’s best games ever since he joined Real Madrid. He scored two and assisted two. This was the Kaka of old. This is the Kaka that I don’t want to see leave Real Madrid. He will surely do well as Benzema has exemplified.

And together, they were magnificent and unplayable. Mourinho watched in delight. “We played spectacular football,” he said afterwards. “We were absolutely fantastic.” It is going to be another 2 weeks of Champions League football between Real Madrid and Barcelona. The remaining clasicos will be a joy to watch. Barcelona are now giving Real Madrid the needed respect as was depicted from Busquets press conference yesterday. “They are a great team and perhaps the worst rival we could have faced right now in the Champions League because they know us, they have a great coach and there is great rivalry,” he said.

Barcelona is the team to beat. A silky attacking football, players with the greatest of techniques and a coach who makes things happen out of nowhere.

It is time to observe another 180 minutes of clasico action. Injuries are piling up. Coaches are mapping up strategies. Formations will keep on varying. Cards will flow. Only the strong will survive!

El Clasico 2: Real Madrid triumph!

Real Madrid won their first Copa del Rey trophy since 1993 after defeating Barcelona 1-0 in extra-time on Thursday.

Jose Mourinho’s squad also won their first trophy since 2008 at Valencia’s Mestalla, thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo’s terrific header in the 103rd minute.

The fixture between Spain’s two biggest clubs is dubbed ‘El Clasico’, but this match was far from a classic, with Mourinho’s side stifling Barcelona with their excellent defence and a crowded midfield.

Barcelona enjoyed most of the early possession but could not break down a stubborn Real side, who had the majority of the first-half chances.

The best of those came 10 minutes before half-time, with Barcelona’s back-up goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto, who was called up to replace Victor Valdes, required to make a low save to deny Ronaldo.

 

Real nearly opened the scoring on the stroke of half-time when Mesut Oezil’s ball was nodded onto the post by the impressive Pepe, who could only watch as the ball bounced wide after hitting the woodwork.

Barcelona improved early in the second half and Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta went close to scoring the opener, while Pedro did find the back of the net but had his goal correctly disallowed for offside after Messi had set him up, but played the pass marginally late.

Angel Di Maria, who was fantastic for the victors, had a chance to win the game in normal time, but his strike was well saved by Pinto as the match went to extra-time.

The goal eventually came thanks to fine work down the left hand side from Marcelo and Di Maria, with the Argentine producing an inch-perfect cross for Ronaldo, who met the ball with a powerful header to delight the Madrid half of the crowd.

Barcelona tried in vain to equalise and although Di Maria was sent off for a second yellow card in the dying stages of the second period of extra time, they were too late to grab a winner.

The result was the first defeat in a final for Pep Guardiola since he took over as coach of the Catalan giants in 2008 and could give Real a psychological edge heading into their two-legged Champions League semi-final with Barca, beginning on April 27.

Solar Power Brings Night-Time Football to Kenya Slum

  • A football stadium in Kenya becomes the first of its kind to be lit by solar power.
  • The light entices local youths to practice out of the heat of the equatorial sun.
Mathare street football

It is eight in the evening and amateur teams of youngsters drawn from one of Nairobi’s toughest slums are locked in a five-a-side football match.

Normally they would have gone home long before dark to avoid the unsafe night-time streets of Mathare. But that was before the stadium became the first in Kenya to get solar-powered floodlighting, an incentive to stay on.

“We have already begun to see the changes. There is a big turn-out of teams who want to use the pitch for training in the evenings,” said Stephen Muchoki, manager of the Mathare Football for Hope Center.

The development is a direct legacy of the first football World Cup in Africa held in South Africa last year: governing body FIFA afterward chose 20 African groups to house a Football for Hope Center to promote the sport, as well as health and education.

One was the Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA) to which the new solar lighting system was donated by China’s Yingli Green Energy Holding Company, quoted on the New York Stock Exchange.

On top of the extra four hours of light a night provided by the new system, football players welcome the chance to practice away from the glare of the powerful equatorial sun.

“During the day, the sun is too direct but at night it is (now) easy to see the ball without straining,” said 16-year-old Edwin Ivusa, a Kenya under-17 international who aims to enter the national team in five years.

“Training at night is good for our fitness,” added striker Kevin Irungu, a former ball boy. “We run a lot — always on the ball — and we don’t get tired.”

“I didn’t think I would ever have a chance to play in a field like this. But the center has made us believe in ourselves and think we can do even better and that good things will come,” he said.

Muchoki expects the newly flood-lit pitch to attract more players, and also to be rented out for events to raise funds for the association.

“We are targeting kids between the ages of eight to 18 and also the retired former players who are too busy in the offices during the day and want to train at night,” he said.

MYSA was founded in 1987 and prides itself on having transformed the lives of more than 20,000 Kenyan youths living in the slums through training drills and courses ranging from football coaching to life-saving.

“These drills are very educative because they touch on every aspect of the daily life in the slum areas. They require a lot of concentration and skills from the participants,” said games coordinator Robert Chege.

Programs are based on those of Streetfootballworld, a non-profit Berlin-based organization which uses the sport to promote development and gender and social equality in disadvantaged areas.

The Mathare association has a strong showing in ranks of street football — a low-budget version of the game that can be played barefoot in the street without referees — and dominated the previous two street football World Cup competitions in Germany in 2006 and South Africa in 2010.

Alongside its sport training, it runs programs on HIV/AIDS education and organizes clean-up groups to help prevent the spread of disease in Mathare, which is a collection of mud and corrugated iron shacks without sanitation or infrastructure.

Its pick as one of FIFA’s “20 Centers for 2010” was a boost for its years of work. This center as well as ones in South Africa, Mali and Namibia have progressed well and are already hosting young sportspeople.

The Mathare stadium is the only sports facility in Kenya with a floodlighting system outside the two stadia in Nairobi — Nyayo National Stadium and the Moi International Sports Center, Kasarani — which are powered by the national grid.

Football-gasm: Real Madrid CF vs. FC Barcelona to cause mini-heart attacks!


The pressure keeps mounting, the rivalry keeps accelerating. Fans of both clubs are anxiously waiting with mixed feelings while the neutrals are ecstatic about a possible four Clasicos. I don’t really think Real Madrid or Barcelona will fail to qualify for the semi-final of the UEFA Champions League. That is out of the question. With a four-goal lead, both clubs have one foot in the next stage.

The two clubs have one more game to play in the Spanish league. Even though that match is very important considering the rivalry I feel the league is over. That match could put Barcelona in front of Real Madrid with 11 point difference. The gap could be narrowed to 5 if Real Madrid wins. Come to think of it, the 8 point gap could still be in play at the end of the day. This Barcelona side will never budge and let the lead go so I say, Barcelona has the league title in their pocket.

Four days after the clasico at the Santiago Bernabeu, the two clubs will meet at Valencia’s Mestalla for the final of the Copa Del Rey. It is a one-off match and Mourinho will surely have the upper hand. After being humiliated by Barcelona in November last year, the special one will by now know what to do against the Catalans. He wouldn’t repeat the same mistake twice. I bet he had sleepless nights like me when Barcelona outclassed us on the field at the Camp Nou.

The Real Madrid players would have also learnt a thing or two. It was the first time that players like Di Maria, Carvalho, Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil were playing against Barcelona for Real Madrid and not any other place than the dreaded Camp Nou where fans easily influence referees and make opposing teams succumb to immense pressure. On a neutral turf with the experience gained by Jose Mourinho and his men after losing 5-0 to Barcelona, I pick Real Madrid to win it. Believe it or not, Mou is a better tactician!

Let’s come to the Champions league. This will also be influenced by what happens in la liga. If Barcelona are 11 or 8 points up, la liga Will be zilch. As a result both coaches will send in second string sides to play the matches before the Champions League encounter. Barcelona will play at home to Osasuna and would not suffer that much. If Real Madrid are 5 points down coming into the weekend preceding the UCL match, they will continue to fight for the title but will as well rest players when they travel to Valencia.

The return leg will be more merriment. I expect a lot of mini-heart attacks. Real Madrid will take on Real Zaragoza at home while Barcelona travel to Anoeta to face Real Sociedad. By this point the league will be more than finalized so all eyes, energies and hearts will be focused on the Champions League.

This will be one of the most devastatingly physical tests that either set of players will have to go through and by May 3 who will still be standing? I still don’t know. Hmmm…. four clasicos in 18 days will be a lot to take in. NB: the English premiership clubs and journalists will all be envious of SPANISH FOOTBALL. All the talk will be centered on these two clubs. Heart aches, heart attacks and even deaths will be involved. I pray no one dies though but I don’t see that not happening. Fans will watch and die on their couches. Mourinho is a great coach but I believe that this will be his toughest time ever as a coach… likewise Pep Guardiola. After these encounters, both coaches will need to be admitted at the hospital to check their mental statuses.

With Higuain and Kaka returning from injuries, the Real Madrid bench is strong. Mourinho can spur his fringe players on to play to their potential. The likes of Granero, Albiol, Garay, Canales and Lass can really help push Real Madrid to win the Copa Del Rey and get to the final of the Champions League. Pep Guardiola will also really on his old guards to pull the squad through a tough period. Thiago, Puyol, Keita will all come in handy. Barcelona have played for a long time. They know themselves very well on the pitch. If this Barcelona squad will be considered as the best ever in the history of the club, this is the time.

The four matches will be like a mini tournament. It is going to be a historic 18 days. I seriously need a cardiologist as we enter into the tournament. Even though it is going to be a football-gasm, there will be a lot of mini heart attacks. Brace yourself for it! Long live Real Madrid… Long live Spanish football. Hala Madrid!!!!

If it continued… (Real Madrid v Spurs, first leg)

Real Madrid trounced a 10-man Spurs side by a score of 4-0 in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal tie, rendering the second leg pretty much useless. Still, that first leg was so entertaining that we come back to the old question that keeps popping up around these parts: What if it continued?

97′ — Harry Redknapp shakes his fist at the sky and curses his non-existent tactics for failing him.

101′ — Cristiano Ronaldo’s baby scores to make it 5-0. The baby is shown a yellow card for taking off his shirt while celebrating.

108′ — After getting booked twice in the first 15 minutes and having details of prostitute dealings from a previous Madrid trip leaked to the press, Peter Crouch decides that he never wants to return to Madrid again. Unless his fiance is back home.

115′ — Jose Mourinho wonders if he could rent a double decker bus to park in front of goal for the second leg.

119′ — Kaka rubs the beginnings of his growing beard and wonders how he will round up two of every animal for his ark.

122′ — Gomes spazzes out on a goal kick, somehow scores on himself twice.

126′ — Emmanuel Adebayor, still buzzing from the ovation he got when he came off in the 75th minute, calls Man City to tell them that he won’t be returning from his loan because he got bird flu and died so they should just forget all about him and ignore any headlines about his success with Real Madrid in the future.

131′ — Cristiano Ronaldo’s mystery baby mamma scores, then reveals herself to be Jose Mourinho.

135′ — Jermaine Jenas realizes that he should have been a telemarketer.

140′– With the score at 18-0, Gareth Bale feels Real have a decent enough head start so he can now play his best and not embarrass them too much.

Credit: Dirty Tackle

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