Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Photo of the day

Bangladesh Unveil Plans For Argentina, Nigeria

It promises to be a marriage of exciting  football and rich  cultural values when Nigeria’s Super Eagles take on their Argentina counterparts in Bangladesh in a friendly match on September 6 as the football federation of that Asian country is packaging a gift of  Nakhsi Kantha and  jute-made carpets for the players and officials of the two sides.

Also, the match will be played with two different brands of Nike football-  all gear towards making a lasting impression on all the super stars expected to feature in the much publicized encounter.

Speaking on how the Bangladesh Football Federation are preparing ahead of the match, the chairman of the organizing committee Anwarul Huq Helal said:

“We will bring two different brands of Nike football and the match will be played with it. Both the yellow and the white will be there.”

While corroborating the organizing committee chairman statement, the vice president of the federation who is also a member of organizing committee Shawkat Ali Khan Jahangir also speaks on how the body is planning to  treat all the visitors to the country’s excellent culture and tradition:

“Bangladesh has an array of traditions and culture that is unique and  special. Our Nakhsi Katha and jute-made carpets are sure a delight to look at and every foreigner is curious about these products. We will try to make special editions of the proposed gifts for the high profile visitors.”

Meanwhile, BFF officials were still worried about the confirmation of  the Argentina’s practice schedule and Apan  Communication officials who bought the rights of the practice sessions expressed their  frustration.

“We can’t move further due to lack of confirmation from the Argentina side. We were scheduled to start the sale of tickets today but we refrained from it as we could not say where the practice will take place,” said Ruhul Amin Bhuiyan, CEO of Apan Communications.

In the same vein, Kazi Salahuddin, President of BFF, is already looking forward to having Barcelona’s football genius Lionel Messi to play in the high profile match saying  his arrival in the country  will be the biggest sporting event in the history of Bangladesh.

“I heard about the debate and came to the conclusion that nobody can match Lionel Messi’s stature.

Mohammad Ali came to Dhaka when he was not the world champion and Zinedine Zidane came to Dhaka when he has retired, but Messi is the current world footballer of the year and he is a hundred percent active player. So, I think nobody can match Messi’s height,” said the BFF boss.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Pre Prak hope for survival

Chamnan's late winner

Kan Chamnan, Prek Pra's injury-time goalscoring hero, who just might've saved his team from relegation 
There was a second game at the Olympic Stadium yesterday, albeit it paled into insignificance after Phnom Penh Crown beat Preah Khan to capture the Metfone C-League Championship for the second year running. Though for Prek Pra Keila it was just as good as winning the C-League title. Two points behind Chhlam Samuth, Prek Pra must've thought their hopes of avoiding relegation were slim when facing the National Police but an injury time winner from substitute Kan Chamnan brought them all 3 points in a shock 2-1 success and judging by the celebrations at the final whistle, they might just believe they can pull off a great escape. Mat Keilab scored one and missed an easier chance for Prek Pra just after the interval to give them hope, but that was cruelly dashed ten seconds from the end of normal time when Ly Arafine netted for the Police team. Prek Pra's Mat Hasan then wasted a glorious opening moments later but it didn't matter as Chamnan took his time to pick his spot two minutes into time added on. The pitchside celebrations said it all. In the deciding round of matches this week, Prek Pra face the Army on Wednesday and Chhlam Samuth meet Kirivong next Saturday. I don't expect either team to get anything out of those matches, so if that's the case then Prek Pra will stay up at Chhlam Samuth's expense, and Kan Chamnan might just get the freedom of the city

Sunday, August 28, 2011


Miffed by Nigeria’s shaky position in the 2012 AFCON qualifiers, former Super Eagle and Chelsea Sporting Director, Michael Emenalo urges the coach Samson Siasia-tutored side to rise to the occasion and offers useful tips on how to avoid pitfalls in Antananarivo in this exclusive interview with DAVID MESHIOYE
The mood must have brightened now at the Bridge, after the announcement of Mikel’s  father’s release filtered in. How cheering was the news?
It was a great feeling for us when the news came in that Mikel’s dad had been found, it was a sigh of relief for everyone at the club because we relate with each other as members of  one happy family in Chelsea. At Chelsea Football Club anybody’s  problem is shared by everyone, I strongly believe that is what kept Mikel from being depressed. Thank God all of that is in the past now, everybody can now get down to serious business. I must commend Mikel for his love and loyalty towards the club during his trying period, he showed that he is a real professional and his teammates must have learnt a lot from his experience. 

Words are rife in some quarters that Mikel could be relocating his family to the UK. If true, is Chelsea willing to help him actualize this?

Well, I think it’s up to him (Mikel) to decide that. We just hope something like this doesn’t repeat itself again because it is capable of pulling  any player down. That is why Mikel should be commended for his calmness during that difficult point in time

Once again accept my congratulations  on your appointment as Chelsea’s Sporting Director. It is a great challenge  for you,  isn’t it ?

Thank you very much. It feels great getting such a  lucrative job at a time the club is restructuring its football programme. I feel great and highly favoured to have become Chelsea sporting director. It is a lofty position though but highly challenging. However,  I am equal to the task and with the prayers and support of the club’s president Roman Abrahmovic, I will surely deliver.

 Your appointment from  assistant coach to sporting director must have come as a surprise . What was going through your mind days before the announcement was made?

To be honest with you, I was not expecting it at that time. The position of a sporting director is not meant for kids on the job, rather it is reserved for people with potential in the area of sports. Well, I was the least person to ever fathom getting such an exalted position in a foreign land. Getting a coaching job in a foreign land is not as easy as you think. Becoming an assistant coach in Chelsea was a miracle in the first place, that was why I suffered neglect from the former manager because he didn’t  believe I can deliver as a black coach. It was a tough moment for me but at the end of the day God vindicated me and kept me at Stamford Bridge. I really thank God that Roman did not consider color or race before appointing me Chelsea sporting director. Only God can get you such a job.

Were there initial doubts in your mind before your appointment was made official?

Not at all. I have strong faith in God even when some of my close friends were apprehensive over my future after Carlo Ancelotti left Chelsea. Even though every other available post was occupied but I had strong belief in my capability  though Carlo never gave me any chance as an assistant coach. I had no doubt in my mind that Roman wouldn’t  throw me out, come what may.  There was no plan B had Roman not appointed me into that post, it was obvious I will land the job. I just believe he saw the potential in me and appointed me into that lofty position regardless of my race. That is one good thing about Roman Abrahimovic; he respects your personality and will treat you according to your abilities. He delegates responsibilities to you believing that you can bring  about  change in whatever office he positions you. It is now left for you to win his confidence and earn his respect  or lose his confidence. As for me, I am determined to give my best to Chelsea in any capacity. It’s a lifetime privilege.

How challenging is this new portfolio? What are the things expected of you as the sporting director of one of Europe’s  best club sides?

As you may be aware, the role of a sporting director  comes with structures aimed at developing all facets of the club. I know I have a lot to do because to whom much is given, much is expected. There is a campaign tagged GUTTERS 2 GLITTERS in which talents across the continents are rescued from the gutters and are made to glitter. I have been telling Nigerians to support this cause and the responses have been great. Talents abound in Africa and other continents, picking out these talents is my immediate job now at Chelsea. I have been mandated to discover these talents and turn them into world beaters. We aim at rescuing these talents and helping them realize their dreams of becoming professional footballers.

The arrival of Andreas Villas Boas raises doubts over Mikel’s future at the Bridge after he was linked to Juventus since the transfer window opened. Do you think he has a future under AVB?

Mikel had become an integral part of Chelsea first team right before the new manager came in, he has been a great asset to the club and most importantly; he has successfully stepped in to replace Michael Essien who was ruled out due to injury. Villas Boas is a great fan of Mikel and has continued to tell everyone who cares to listen that Mikel is not going anywhere. He has said it over and over that Mikel is part of his future plans and would do everything to retain the Nigerian as long as he is in-charge of Chelsea.

Nigeria play Madagascar in a must win encounter. What  are your thoughts about  Nigeria’s chances?

Football is no longer what it used to be, teams have moved up in the game and no country is a pushover anymore. Nigeria must be armed to the teeth to pick the three maximum points against their host. That game is very important to Nigeria’s qualification for 2012 Nations Cup and should therefore be taken seriously by the players. The team needs our support and I just wish them all the best. Super Eagles must show character and deliver the Nations Cup ticket. Madagascar should not pose a threat to Nigeria’s Nations Cup hopes.

Friday, August 26, 2011


Larger than life

11 Players 1 Heartbeat on the front door of the Crown Sports Bar on St 200 
The Crown Sports Bar, adjoining Crown Massage on Street 200 has recently decorated its glass-frontage walls and doors with large photographs of the Phnom Penh Crown playing squad. The larger-than-life posters include the likes of Kouch Sokumpheak, Chan Chaya and Tieng Tiny. The sports bar has a large screen for watching live sports, especially football of course, and was the venue for the press conference to announce the arrival of head coach David Booth.
Larger-than-life player portraits adorn the outside walls of the Crown Sports Bar

Nice to have

The latest pearls of wisdom emanating from the Cambodian national team coach, Lee Tae-Hoon, who recently admitted he was at fault for Cambodia's miserable exit from the World Cup qualifying rounds, is to take the national team to the country of his birth, South Korea, for training and practice matches before they embark on the BIDC Mekong Cup batch of games in October, but more importantly the SEA Games in Indonesia in November. He hasn't got the thumbs-up from the Federation as yet, though it sounds as if he's either homesick after 13 months in the Cambodian hot-seat or he's resorting to what he knows best to improve the squad, following their failure in the three major competitions they entered in the past year. His dream is for the national team to spend two weeks training and playing against 1st and 2nd division Korean League teams, who will provide a much better standard of opponents that are available either at home or in Southeast Asia. He feels his team is well below the standard of neighbouring countries like Thailand and Vietnam and to improve their basic techniques, he wants them to face better opposition. He comes from South Korea so that's where he would like to take his team. I wonder if he's got a game against the Korean women's team up his sleeve, as he used to help to coach them. Obviously, the trip could cost a pretty penny, so sponsors would need to be found to cover the costs. Usually, the national team take off for a stay in Vietnam before a big tournament, so this would be a departure from the norm. If it can be achieved, it might well be the shot in the arm that the national team needs after a few dismal performances, especially outside of the country. Even though our record against visiting South Korean university teams like Ulsan is poor, and better standard K-League teams might whip our arses, the experience and lessons learned could be invaluable. I say go for it, if it's financially viable. 


Leading sports channel ESPN is all set to broadcast the high profile international friendly between Argentina and Nigeria to be held in Dhaka on September 6. Though the deal is yet to be finalised, Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) is every bit hopeful of completing the formalities within a few days.

BFF president Kazi Salahuddin said, “All I can say at the moment is that ESPN has expressed their interest to broadcast the match. There are a lot to be done before penning the deal. We are moving ahead in the right direction and we are hopeful that ESPN will telecast the match live.

It was great a relief for the organisers as they were anxious over the fact that they might be left without any international transmission. But the arrival of ESPN at least saved them from further blushes as they will also provide an uplink to Argentina as well as across Asia. The monetary deal between the two sides remained undisclosed as BFF had very little to gain.
BFF, however, was thrown into a new complicacy as the Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday said that they will not allow the Argentine team to stay at Hotel Sonargaon. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s contingent, who will be here at the time, will include six chief ministers of different states and their security measures remained top priority to the Bangladesh government.

The inspection team of the Argentina stayed at Hotel Sonargaon and gave a green signal. They also visited the Ruposhi Bangla, formerly Hotel Sheraton.
BFF now have to search for another hotel for the teams to stay as the deal said the visiting teams must stay in separate hotels.

BFF officials now have started negotiations with the Westin and the Radisson to this end. They, however, are still hopeful that the decision will be revoked

UEFA Champions League groupings


Bayern Munich
Manchester City

CSKA Moscow


Manchester United
Otelul Galati

Real Madrid
Olympique Lyonnais
Dinamo Zagreb


Bayer Leverkusen

Olympique Marseille
Borussia Dortmund


Shakhtar Donetsk
Zenit St Petersburg
APOEL Nicosia

AC Milan
Bate Borisov
Viktoria Plzen

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Comparing the teams

By Andy Browie

Phnom Penh Crown's meeting with Preah Khan Reach was originally scheduled to be the final game of the season until the fixtures were redrawn by the FFC at the midway point. PKR started off like a train, winning the pre-season Hun Sen Cup in style and looking likely to be Crown's main rivals for the Metfone C-League championship this term. However, once Naga signed Julius Oiboh all that changed and PKR have slipped into the third spot, vying with the Army to maintain that position come the end of the season. Like Crown, PKR have seen a change in their head coach with Rith Dikar stepping down a few weeks ago to concentrate on his U-19 national team duties, passing the baton to Sam Vandeth. For Crown, David Booth assumed control of the team following the departure of Bojan Hodak and has won all 7 games in which he's been in charge. In looking ahead to Sunday's match-up, I thought it would be interesting to look through the possible respective line-ups and compare player for player ahead of the big game.

Let's start in goal where Peng Bunchhay, still only 19 years old, has kept 10 clean sheets in the 14 league matches he's played for Crown this season, looking pretty accomplished and confident, especially with his aerial handling this term. It came as a surprise to most observers when he lost his place in the national squad. Opposing him will be Ouk Mic, now the grandfather of Cambodian football, despite his official birthdate showing that he's only 27, and the current incumbent for Cambodia and PKR. If I had to choose, which I do, I'd go for the younger man. At full-back, Crown will be missing their rock-solid duo of skipper Thul Sothearith and goal-threat Sun Sovannrithy for the game due to suspension, so their places will go to the experienced Chan Dara and the rookie teenager Sok Sovan. PKR will field Lay Raksmey, the current national team right-back who has a penchant for overlapping, as well as the bright prospect Moul Daravorn. For this game only, PKR have an advantage in those positions. In the middle of defence, Crown shade it with the dependable Tieng Tiny and possibly Crown's player of the year, Odion Obadin, who has hardly put a foot wrong all season. For PKR, Sok Rithy partners Tiny in the national team, and is just as consistent as his Crown counterpart, whilst Suon Thuon is his partner for Preah Khan.

Looking at the midfield options, Crown have the know-how and experience whilst PKR have opted for the vitality of youth this season and reaped the rewards with that Hun Sen Cup success, though over the longer season, it hasn't quite worked out. In San Narith (pictured), Crown have a player who has seen it all and still relishes the battle, whilst Sun Sopanha is a matchwinner, frequently providing that killer pass to teammates. Japanese import Takahito Ota hasn't quite found his consistency but chips in with goals whilst Chan Chaya, with 8 goals to his name, can win games single-handledly or frustrate in equal measure. For some fans, it's a crime he's not in the national team. I'm not one of them. With those four patrolling the middle of the park, Crown will have just a bit too much for the PKR quartet of the intelligent Tum Saray and teenagers Chea Samnang, Suon Veasna and Prak Mony Udom. The latter trio are all in the national U-19 squad and are great prospects, judging by their performances this campaign. Veasna is the pick of the three though Udom can be a slippery customer when he's on song.

Scoring goals is where PKR have fallen down this season. They lag well behind Crown in the goalscoring department, though Khuon Laboravy has 13 to his name after netting a massive 22 goals in the Hun Sen Cup competition. When he's on top form he can be electrifying but PKR rely heavily on him, and the weight of expectation has proved too heavy at times this season. But he remains a real danger. Alongside him in recent weeks is another teenage recruit, Phany Y Ratha, who has come into the team in place of the injured experienced campaigner Sam El Nasa. Opposing them are Mr Consistent, Kouch Sokumpheak, who never seems to have a bad game and can turn any match in Crown's favour in an instant, and Kingsley Njoku. This is Sokumpheak's first season in Crown colours and he's been as good as he was for Khemara for the last few years. In many eyes, including mine, he's the country's most outstanding player. He's netted 17 times for Crown this term, 11 of them in the Hun Sen Cup, and is a nailed-on certainty every time the national team plays. Alongside him in recent games is Nigerian import Njoku, who arrived from Singapore before the start of the season, netted a hat-trick in his second match but hasn't quite established himself since, scoring 8 times in total. He has the strength and skill to bamboozle defences when he's on form, though Sok Pheng also gets the nod at times, having chipped in with 7 goals this term. So there you have it, the two teams laid bare in comparison, with Crown looking likely to get the win they need to claim the championship title if the game goes according to my predictions. But championships were never won on paper, so we'll have to wait and see. 

Simple maths

The maths are simple, even for me. Phnom Penh Crown could feasibly be crowned champions of the Metfone C-League this coming weekend, or if results don't go their way, it could all go to the last weekend of the season. On Saturday, 2nd-placed Naga face a tough opponent in the Army, and if they lose then Crown will win their second successive championship. If the result goes in Naga's favour, then Crown will have their fate in their own hands when they play Preah Khan Reach at 2pm on Sunday. A win would see Crown claim the title for the 4th time, having previously won it in 2002, 2008 and 2010. If it doesn't pan out then it will go to the wire when Crown take on Naga on Sunday 4 September. For the neutrals they'd love to see that match as the decider. For me, bugger that, I want to win the championship as quickly as possible, so I'll be cheering on the Army come Saturday afternoon. Crown will be missing two key defenders for the game against PKR on Sunday. The ridiculous disciplinary system in Cambodian football which sees a player suspended for 1 game if he gets two yellow cards, has come into play for skipper Thul Sothearith and Sun Sovannrithy, who were both booked in the last game against the Army. That means coach David Booth, on the back of seven straight wins since he took over the helm, will need to change both full-backs, whilst trying to keep stability in the rest of his line-up. The team will have had eleven days to prepare since that 1-0 win over the Army, so there won't be any complaints about game fatigue. Though they had a complaint looming yesterday, when the federation informed them that top scorer Kouch Sokumpheak would also miss the game, after receiving a booking against the Army. The fact that he wasn't booked in that game was quickly pointed out to federation officials who just as quickly rescinded their original notice to everyone's relief. The game against PKR in the first round was the opening match of the league season and ended in a 2-2 draw. The teams know each other very well and the match promises to be one of the most eagerly-awaited clashes of the campaign.

Eto'o to Anzhi: The motivation

The headline from Monday morning's Cameroon Tribune newspaper screamed. "Eto'o deal done!" it proclaimed, with a photo of a beaming Samuel Eto'o, with details of the deal promised in its inside pages.
Samuel Eto'o was evasive when asked about his expected move to Anzhi when back in Cameroon
GettyImagesSamuel Eto'o was evasive when asked about his expected move to Anzhi when back in Cameroon
Readers who flocked to buy the paper soon realised they had been conned. The classic ruse had worked again, for the Tribune was not talking of Samuel, but his younger brother Etienne, who had signed for Austrian second division side FC Lustenau at the weekend.
As for the real Eto'o, readers had to wait for official confirmation of the Anzhi deal. Like fans everywhere else, Samuel had similarly left the local media in uncertainty after a press conference in Douala two weeks ago.
On his off-season holiday, Eto'o had arrived at that presser that Saturday morning in denim and a simple red T-shirt. The cameras captured his smile as he waved and greeted. Someone had organised drums to usher him into the packed hall where the media waited.
Austin Ebanga, a good friend of Eto'o from the Cameroon Tribune, gave the opening statements and Eto'o was handed the microphone. "I'm here for one simple reason," he began - "recent events" had pushed him to address his fans on what his plans for the immediate future were.
Samuel Eto'o looked relaxed. However, his audience of mostly media people was not - and he knew why. "I know the last time we met like this, things did not end well. Rest assured, there would be no such occurrences today." There was nervous laughter. Indeed, Eto'o's last press conference in Cameroon had ended with him attacking a journalist. Following instability in the national team, Eto'o had accused that particular journalist, now seated among the audience, of inciting people against him.
The Inter forward went to the main issues. Yes, he was still contracted to the Italian club. Yes, the rumours about "a certain Russian club" were true. Yes, he was still examining the offer, but no, nothing had been signed. Gustav from Cameroon Radio and Television asked if he was aware that he would become the highest-paid athlete if the figures being mentioned as his transfer fee from Anzhi Makhachkala were correct. "I don't recall mentioning any club", he countered, adding "but let me say I have not thought about that, you must understand. I could go and I could stay."
Samuel Eto'o
GettyImagesSamuel Eto'o: Unsettled at Inter, is the suggestion back home
More questions came. One person asked if Eto'o was having any problems at Inter - like the personality clashes with Pep Guardiola revealed after he left Barcelona - which would make him leave. "At Barca there were clear issues with racism and things, but everyone knows I dealt with them." He had evaded the question.
He dealt with the rest of the questions briskly. By the end of the presser, the journalists were left with more questions than answers.
CRTV caught him outside and asked: "Why have you not learned Italian in your time at Inter if you really love the place?" Eto'o had been caught completely off-guard. In the coming days, the confusion on his face would be replayed many times in the TV news reports. Eto'o stood there for several seconds. Then he stammered "I'm not sure...I don't know&.Just one of those things."
He marched into his Lexus and left. Besides the money, why would Eto'o want to play in a remote, 20,000-seater stadium in the predominantly Muslim province of Dagestan? There have been murmurings in Cameroon that despite successes chalked with Inter, he has not been entirely comfortable with life in Italy. Eto'o has remained less socially active and more conservative than he was in Spain. His Spanish wife (he also has a child with an Ivorian lady) is fastidiously kept out of the media.
Unlike many African footballers, he usually does not make references to his ghetto upbringing in the tough Nuy Belle neighborhoods of Douala. He'd rather tell you where he is going than where he has been. His famous quote from when he joined Barcelona in 2004 that he would "run like a black man to live like a white man" encapsulates his thinking. Anzhi should be a further step for him to "live like a white man". The deal is widely reported to include a private jet to be put at his disposal and an option for his family to live in Milan or move back to Barcelona.
Cameroonian journalist Aurelien Ebanga said all the journalists at the presser "knew he would go [to Anzhi] but all we needed was the when."
In fact, days before this hugely anticipated event, Eto'o had visited the newly-built campus of his foundation in neighboring Gabon. There he had also inspected the facilities for next year's African Nations Cup and faced questions from Gabonese journalists on his possible move to Russia. One hack asked if his move from Inter, should it happen, would purely be because of the money. In a very rare moment of haughtiness, he had answered that "big money comes to big players."
GettyImagesEto'o: Barcelona tenure ended amid recriminations with Pep Guardiola
Of course the Anzhi move is about money. For Inter, Eto'o's fantastic deal translates into €7 million as a signing-on fee, €15 million per season, €20,000 per goal and €10 000 per assist. Even Inter boss Massimo Moratti admitted that "when you get a proposal like this it is difficult to refuse". Russia may not qualify as a footballer's new challenge, but the fact remains that the four-time African Footballer of the Year has won everything at club level. But is there another motivation?
Like all of us, Eto'o still has dreams that only money can buy. The Cameroonian is targeting a post-football career as a power broker back home and in African football politics. In nations ruled by the likes of Cameroon's quasi-dictator Paul Biya and Issa Hayatou (CAF President), wealthy people hold sway. Money buys power and Eto'o wants in. He said in 2010: "You can't give power - you must earn it."
Being paid by billionaire Suleiman Kerimov should keep him out of the daily spotlight since Anzhi is not in a major European league. But that will not worry a player who has become the-highest paid athlete in the history of sport. Eto'o has always been king. His crown just got bigger.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Obi Mikel's father released after kidnap

The kidnapped father of Chelsea's John Obi Mikel has been freed after his captors were located by police in Nigeria.
John Obi Mikel: Was advised to stay in England as elder brother Emeka tries his best to handle the affair
GettyImagesJohn Obi Mikel: Was advised to stay in England while police dealt with matter of his father's capture
Michael Obi had been kidnapped on August 12 while on his way home from work in the central Nigerian city of Jos, but was found on on Monday in the northern city of Kano. Police arrested those suspected in the kidnapping.
His son's agents, SEM, released a statement on Twitter. "SEM are delighted to confirm, that earlier today Michael Obi called his family to advise them that he had been released by his abductors," it read.
"SEM have waited until now to release this information, to ensure that Michael was safe. John Obi Mikel would like to thank everyone in Nigeria, his family & friends, Chelsea FC & their fans & his agents for their total support during this terrible time. A full statement of the situation will be released by SEM tomorrow morning."
Obi Senior told the BBC that he had been kidnapped in Jos before being transferred to Kano. "I am very stressed," he told them.
BBC reporter Yusuf Ibrahim Yakasai has said that Michael Obi's face shows signs of the beatings endured during his ordeal.
Mikel continued to play for Chelsea during his father's disappearance, appearing in the Blues' Barclays Premier League opener at Stoke before their home 2-1 win over West Brom on Saturday.