DEFINING MOMENTS OF 2010
No one can say 2010’s lacked in entertainment. Africa’s first World Cup was everything we had hoped for. José Mourinho and Diego Maradona provided the touchline antics. Luis Suarez lost his cool on the field. So did Nigel de Jong. And Spain, Barcelona and Lionel Messi were a credit to the beautiful game.
WORLD CUP 2010
Tshabalala Gets Bafana Off To The Perfect Start, But…
It started according to script, maybe better. Soccer City looked spectacular, more than 90 000 people packed inside while the rest of South Africa, decked out in yellow, came to a standstill. Bafana survived a shaky opening against Mexico and gradually grew in confidence. The stage was set, and Kaizer Chiefs darling Siphiwe Tshabalala was the man to grab the initiative. Ten minutes into the second half, he immortalised himself as he unleashed an unstoppable shot from out on the left. The Guardian website described the super-strike vividly: “What's more, it's an absolute stonker! Tshabalala collected it on the left-hand side of the box and enflamed it into the top corner!” Happy days in Soweto and across the Rainbow Nation, but a piece of amateur defending allowed Rafael Marques to salvage a draw – who knows how far Bafana could of progressed if they had taken maximum points from that opening game.
The Hand Of Suarez Breaks Africa’s Hearts
Luis Suarez wasn’t going to get away with attributing his actions to God, Maradona-style – his handball was a moment of blatant cheating. Some people came to the defence of the Uruguayan striker, claiming that instinct had taken over and that many players would have done the same. They might however find it a bit more difficult to justify the Ajax players’ latest transgression – biting a PSV Eindhoven opponent. Suarez is not likely book a holiday in Accra – his handball on the goal line late on in the quarter-final clash against Ghana denied the west Africans an historic place in the last four. The young Black Stars had the whole of South Africa, and Africa behind them - at that stage of the tournament they were carrying the hopes of a continent on their shoulders after the other five African sides had disappointed.
Germany Educate Argentina
Germany as never seen before! The usually structured, robotic play gave way to ‘fantasy football’, Barcelona style, and ironically one of the players on the receiving end was Catalan star Lionel Messi as the European side humiliated Argentina (whose coach Diego Maradona had created a side-show of his own throughout the tournament) 4-0 in a quarter-final clash. Some of the German’s new-found flair and finesse can be attributed to the country’s liberal immigration policies - Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil, both of Turkish descent, made significant contributions. The presence of a Ghana-born Jerome Boateng underlined the cosmopolitan nature of Joachim Loew’s team. But the young Thomas Müller was equally impressive, with Bayern Munich team-mate Bastian Schweinsteiger not far behind. Their scintillating soccer won them many new fans.
Madiba Braves The Cold
It was uncertain if South Africa’s most-loved would even turn up for the final – his frail state of health and bitingly cold conditions made his appearance doubtful. What a shame that would have been, but Madiba showed his characteristic fighting abilities to make a brief appearance. Looking like he was dressed for a Russian winter, he waved to the crowd from the back the back of a golf cart as it trundled across the Soccer City turf – a real treat for the 90 000 plus fans and billions watching on TV. After all, if it were not for Madiba, South Africa would most likely never even have staged the World Cup – a fitting moment on one of the nation’s proudest days.
The Flying Dutchman
Too often finals fail to produce magical spectacles. Nerves take their toll and teams try harder not to lose the game rather than to try and win it. The 2010 World Cup final was no exception as Holland, despite being blessed with an abundance of extremely skilled individuals, decided to go the physical route. This was in evidence early on at Soccer City as Dutch hard man Nigel de Jong flew through the air kung-fu style before his studs slammed into Xabi Alonso’s chest. Miraculously Alonso continued, though he said later: “that challenge was really hard. It was one of the most painful tackles in my life and it was hard to play on.” De Jong escaped with only a yellow card – one of nine earned by Holland on the day, while Johnny Heitinga was red-carded towards the end of extra time. But in the end, the good guys won, the unassuming Andres Iniesta making sure that football purists were satisfied and proving that skill and guile can overcome intimidation and muscle.
The José Mourinho Show
The ‘Special One’ did it again, leading Inter Milan, a quality team, but certainly not one of the favourites, to Champions League glory. And he threw in the Serie A title and Coppa Italia for good measure. It was his second Champions League triumph and the third country where he has won a league title. The 2-0 win in the final over Bayern Munich was a bit of a non event – it was the two-legged victory over Barcelona that really showcased the outspoken manager’s tactical genius. It wasn’t pretty, but Mourinho provided evidence that football is not just about the 22 players on the pitch as Inter, no doubt inferior man-for-man to Barcelona, ground down the Spanish giants 3-2 over two legs. (Mourinho described the 1-0 loss at the Nou Camp as "the most beautiful defeat of my life"). Fittingly, perhaps, the final was played at Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, the Portuguese’s next destination. The 47-year-old didn’t take too long to bask in the glory, announcing the next day that he was "sad, as almost for sure it's my last game with Inter", also adding "if you don't coach Real Madrid then you will always have a gap in your career".
Wayne’s World Crashes Down
A season that promised so much ended in bitter disappointment. There would not have been consolation at having claimed the League Cup, which most likely provided as much joy as winning the ‘Sportsmanship’ trophy for the third team of a local football club. For most of the season, Rooney couldn’t do anything wrong. He was scoring with both feet, scoring with his head, slotting away penalties, setting up goals and if tackles needed to be made at left-back, ‘Super-Wayne’ would be there. Records were broken, hat-tricks notched up; he scored four against Hull City. But when the season reached the business-end, it all came tumbling down. An ankle injury in a defeat to Bayern Munich set in motion a nightmare. Rooney missed key games and when he did play, he was a shadow of himself. United were as a result unable to prevent Chelsea from winning the English Premiership. And it got for worse for Rooney – his goals having dried up, he was also exposed in the media for scoring off the field. And the man that was supposed to fire England to World Cup glory was simply awful in South Africa.
Harry’s Welsh Wonder
It’s a long way from the Cardiff Civil Service Football Club to playing against Inter Milan at the San Siro, but this didn’t appear to phase Tottenham winger Gareth Bale too much. The 21-year-old showed scant regard for the Inter stars – he hardly appeared to notice Brazilian right back Maicon was on the field, as he notched three goals in 38 second half minutes for what must rate as the most scintillating individual display in one half of football in recent history. One can only assume Bale spent an hour after training perfecting the art of picking out the far corner with a low angled drive across the face of goal. Perfection due to repetition or just natural ability and excellent technique, either way, all three goals were superb and nearly identical finishes. His breath-taking run for the first not dissimilar to Ryan Giggs’ wonder goal against Arsenal in 1999 – Bale appears to have all the qualities, not least blistering pace, and humility, to follow in the Manchester United star’s footsteps.
Messi v Ronaldo
Messi and Ronaldo are going to fuel arguments on chat forums across the globe for years to come still as fans argue over who’s best. Messi combines with his Barca team-mates in breath-taking manner, justifying football’s status as the beautiful game. The more naturally gifted of the two, his touch and creativity are things of beauty. Ronaldo relies more on pace and power and premeditated tricks, but is equally potent as a goal-scorer and match-winner. At the time of going to press, the Argentine had netted 56 goals in 50 games for Barcelona in 2010, the Portuguese idol having scored 40 goals in 43. In the last five seasons (including this season), Messi has 142 goals, Ronaldo 144. Simply sensational. Especially so considering that they are both regularly assigned two if not three markers – in this respect both players’ levels of fitness and stamina are also phenomenal, very rarely are they sidelined with injury. It doesn’t really matter who’s better, we are blessed being able to watch two of the greats of modern football.
Galacticos return to the Mother Planet
This was the game that the whole world had been waiting for: Jose Mourinho and Christiano versus Pep Guardiola and Lionel Messi, night and day in terms of personality, but not much to separate in terms of achievements on the pitch. The brash Portuguese pair from Real Madrid against the more modest Barca duo. Real had been setting the league alight under Mourinho. But there were a few bruised egos as the Galacticos came crashing back to planet earth. This el Clasico proved to be a case of men against boys as Madrid were humiliated 5-0 at the Nou Camp. Goals from Xavi, Pedro, a David Villa brace and Jeffrén sealed victory – Messi may not have been on the score-sheet, but the little man was at his imperious best on the night.
Egypt Blow It
Egypt had all the makings of a team capable of doing Africa proud at the 2010 World stage. Game-breakers, tactical awareness; a combination of African flair and European structure. And pedigree – the first ever African side to compete in the World Cup finals (1934), the Pharaohs have also won the last three editions of the African Cup of Nations and they have previously been ranked in the FIFA top 10. Problem: they never made it to South Africa. And with quality performers such as Ahmed Hassan, Mohamed Zidan, Mohamed Aboutrika and Gedo in their ranks, it was a shame. But Egypt stuttered through their qualifying campaign and ended dead even with bitter rivals Algeria, setting the scene for a play-off game in Sudan. There is a remarkably violent history between the two sides. This time was no different. Prior to the game, clashes between the two communities spread as far as France. Egyptians living in Algeria had their homes and businesses attacked. Three Algerian players were injured by rocks launched through bus windows, Khaled Lemmouchia left with glass embedded in his head. "I can tell you that in our side, some players were like paralysed before the game," said Lemmouchia. The score? With a huge army presence at the game, the Desert Foxes won 1-0.
South shocks North:
2010 wasn’t kind on our north African footballing brothers. Algeria was eliminated at the first round stage of the World Cup. And subsequently there have been several shock results from teams south of the Equator over countries from across the divide. Botswana, usually associated with wildlife, diamond mining and a stable government are fast earning respect as a footballing nation. To prove their 1-0 away win over Tunisia was no fluke, the Zebras again beat the north Africans, 1-0 at home. A win over Chad and a draw with Malawi left the one-time minnows unbeaten and in poll position. And in the Champions League, DRC side TP Mazembe kept the flag flying high for the south when they became the first side to successfully defend their title twice as they annihilated Tunisia’s Esperance 5-0 at home, an eased to 1-1 second leg result.
The Party’s Over, SuperSport
SuperSport United made it a hat-trick of Absa Premiership titles when they pipped Sundowns by a single point. Let’s hope Gavin Hunt and his men celebrated that success adequately – it appears a golden era in Matsatsantsa’s history is coming to an end as they find themselves struggling this season in mid-table with nearly a third of the fixtures completed. Hunt said recently: “we’ve had a good start and we are happy – we are building for the future.” This can only be PR talk. The constant selling of their best players has caught up. When Daine Klate, United’s best player last season, was lured to Orlando Pirates, the writing was on the wall. Building for the future? Sure, United have a few exciting youngsters like Kermit Erasmus, Thandani Ntshumayelo and Lyle Lackay, but some of the new signings – such as Bradley Carnell and Wayne Brown are approaching retirement age. Other key players, such as Glen Salmon, Brent Carelse, David Kannemeyer and Emille Baron all fall in the veteran category and spend far too much time on the treatment table. SuperSport have lost their cutting edge – when Anthony Laffor is off form they lack a ‘go-to’ man, and they no longer command fear at set-pieces. Bongani Khumalo’s January departure to Spurs will not help in this respect.
South Africa’s Dream Team
Vasco da Gama are living the dream by playing in the Absa Premiership. And just to cap it all off, they went and beat the giants of local soccer, Kaizer Chiefs, 3-2, away from home! It’s nothing less than a fairytale. A decade ago the Parow-based team were just another amateur team in the Cape Town Tygerberg Football Association. Since then its been quite a ride – Vasco worked their way up to the national first division before losing out in the play-offs to Benoni Premier United. The bubble seemed to burst – they sold their franchise and dropped down to the Second Division (third tier). But with coach Carlos das Neves a constant at the helm for the last 11 years, Vasco fought their way back to gain back-to-back promotions to the First Division and then the Premiership, providing club stalwarts like Keenan Lesch and Robbie Santo the chance to test their skills at the highest level. It also gave the likes of Jonathan Armogam a second shot at the PSL, and provided Sibusiso Zuma the opportunity to make his swan-song in South African football. Zuma’s netted regulary, and Armogam got the opener against Chiefs, a contender for goal of the season as he jinked through a bunch of defenders before unleashing a clinical shot from a difficult angle.
PSL Suffers World Cup Hangover
Roy Keane’s ‘prawn sandwich’ comment springs to mind. The World Cup was brilliant, stadiums were packed for nearly all of the 64 games, with the full spectrum of South Africans at their colourful and vibrant best. But in general these weren’t the usual supporters, not the kind of fans who turn up to watch Free State Stars play Mpumalanga Black Aces on a Wednesday afternoon in Qwa-Qwa. The World Cup fans were largely middle and upper class (expensive tickets priced the working class out of the equation); there were more white faces at any one single World Cup game than were seen in the entire 2009 / 2010 PSL season. Makarapas and Vuvuzela’s weren’t bought at taxi ranks or hand-made, but rather bought at suburban malls. It was great that we were able to put on a fantastic show and dazzle the world and it would be unfair to take that away. It’s just such a pity that the numbers have not transcended into local football. Bafana Bafana continue to attract excellent support, but PSL turn-outs have been dismal – an attendance of less than 1000 on an opening day fixture between champions SuperSport United and Bidvest Wits (at Ellis Park, a World Cup venue) was an early indicator of what was to become the trend this season .
Something For The Ghost To Cheer About
The Buccaneers broke the longest trophy-less spell in their proud history by beating Moroka Swallows in the MTN8 final, thanks in no small part to goal keeper Moeneeb Josephs’ antics in the penalty shoot-out, which bordered on illegal, and were certainly unsporting. The ‘Ghost’ were ecstatic to at last have a new trophy in the bag (and R8 million in the bank). But the MTN8 can be misleading – it only takes two games to reach the final…after all Moroka Swallows were there. To Pirates’ credit, they went on to reach a second successive final – the Telkom Cup, where they met arch rivals Kaizer Chief. Having lost 3-1 to the AmaKhosi in a league match just a few weeks back, the Buccaneers’ deficiencies were again exposed as a much more polished Chiefs side ran away 3-0 victors. Karma came back to haunt Josephs – a careless touch from an early back-pass resulted in Stembiso Ngcobo scoring the first of two goals, and from that point Chiefs never looked back. The other goal came from Siphiwe Tshabalala, just crowned SAFA’s footballer of the year.
No Stopping Bongani
If there’s one player who appears to have been groomed perfectly for the top, its Bafana centre back Bongani Khumalo. A nicer chap you couldn’t meet, he is extremely well spoken, down to earth and well educated, vital ingredients that are going to ensure his career is successful. We all know what happened to Mbulelo Mabizela when he got the chance of a life-time to play for Tottenham Hotspur. There’s no worry of that happening to the former Tuks University protégé – Khumalo’s professionalism and dedication are sure to impress Harry Redknapp. He may however find it a bit harder to break into the first team – in Mabizela’s time Spurs were a mid-table side going through the motions – these days Redknapp would have us believe his team can challenge for the league. Competition for places could be tough, but Khumalo’s calm demeanour, aerial presence, reading of the game and timing in the tackle will stand in him good stead in the demanding English Premiership.