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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Why Selling Fernando Torres in January Could Prove Good Business for Liverpool

There was a time when words like; a pure amalgam of speed, phenomenal, terrific, the apex finisher, wizard of Oz and unplayable were used by almost every football pundit and commentator to describe one Fernando José Torres Sanz, alias ‘El Niño’. And rightfully so. For the 26-year-old had become one of the most important and consistent players in world football and especially at the mighty Merseyside club of Liverpool.

It wasn’t long ago. Even as the world of football recently assembled in South Africa for the FIFA World Cup in June to watch Spain triumph, England and Argentina falter and France and Italy, well, tumble, Fernando Torres was one of the players who were expected to lit up the tournament.

But as it turned out, not even an assist was registered under the name of the mighty Fernando. This was partly blamed on an injury he had sustained prior to the tournament. But even as he was still recovering, the world expected the former Atletico Madrid captain to bang in the goals with such aplomb that he’s become synonymous to. Such was the confidence everyone had in him.

Cue in game one, two three… final, Fernando’s goal was nowhere to be seen. But as the sweet, unique and inspirational Anfield You Will Never Walk Alone anthem sings: At the end of the storm, Is a golden sky, And the sweet silver song of a lark, every akin football aficionada knew the end of the storm would soon come for Nando.

I for one has been that hopeful. But it the form is just coming. The Torres of today cuts out a forlorn figure on the field and misses clear one-on-one chances that just last season, he would have dispatched with much ease. The Torres of today has no ball control (yes I remember those flicks to Maxi Rodriguez). The Torres of today looks like a person who wants to leave Liverpool any time of day. The Torres of today is not the one who football-savvy KOPS had within such a short time pasted the word ‘legend’ on his back, a tag that is associated with Anfield greats like Ian Rush, King Kenny Dalglish, captain fantastic Steven Gerard, the ‘god’ Robbie Fowler and that defender who has seen and overcome all possible tricks and flicks in modern football, Jamie Carragher.

Now we only remember that Fernando Torres. Yes that one. The one who together with Gerard were like China’s ying-yang to Liverpool. Who doesn’t miss that telepathic understanding between the two? One that could have been mistaken to have come from the lords of the beautiful game. The two were in the ranks of Lionel Messi and Spanish midfield matador, Xavi Hernandez.

Torres and Gerard were a carte du juor that defenders loathed just like the best fans in the world, the KOPS of course, loathe the Mancs from the city of Manchester.

Under the twosome, Liverpool had become a formidable team. One that made the most shots on target and allowed only a few to test Pepe Reina, one that scored most goals and conceded the fewest, one that made the most successful tackles and suffered the most fouls, one that enjoyed the most possession even against a team cut out of possession like Arsenal. Thumping Manchester United 4-1 was easy, repeating the same against El Merengues from Madrid, even easier.

It was not a case of whether Torres would score but how many goals he would score. Oh, how I miss those days!

Now as we approach the New Year which ushers in the January transfer window, speculations are rife that Nando might leave Liverpool perhaps to a Premier League rival like Money-chester City. The thought of this possibility quivers many Kops, I included. Is there Liverpool without Nando?

Many players normally experience some out of form moments. Fernando is included. Fernando lacks service from the midfielders. Fernando needs a strike partner. No. Fernando needs to leave Liverpool. David Ngog needs a strike partner.

Torres simply doesn’t look happy playing for Liverpool. A player who is is what is needed. What if he’s just finished? I know it’s naïve to suggest that. But just what if? There are many top finishers out in the market who would want to shade blood and sweat to take Liverpool to the zenith where it belongs. With new owners, New England Sports Ventures, I believe there will be enough money to fund the acquisition of a happy-to-play-for-Liverpool like player.

I hate the thought of it but if Liverpool can dispatch Nando in January and use the £50 million plus to bring in a Diego Forlan, Fernando Lllorent or even a Mario Gomez, it would be good business. Good in the sense that I can’t see any of these players wanting to move out of Liverpool in any foreseeable future.

Good as long as Nando doesn’t get back to form if he’s out of it. So, happiness is the key word here. And if El Nino is not happy, no matter how many times he’s reminded that he’s a dear to the Anfield crowd, no matter how many times he’s told he is a legend and no matter how many midfield maestros are brought to Anfield to give him the services which apparently are missing, he won’t deliver.

But if he’s happy, really happy, John W. Henry and his colleagues who control the coffers at Anfield should let the money loose as early as January. Bring the man a proven goalscorer, any of the above or anyone not mentioned but deserving mentioning and merrily merrily I say unto you that LFC’s glory days will be back on the radar.

And what is Roy Hodgson still doing at Liverpool!?!!

From Nairobi, Kenya, with Love. Liverpool, Liverpool, Liverpoool....
And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Why Russia2018 and Qatar2022 is a Disgrace to Football

Referee, Howard Webb, has just blown the final whistle and all the Russian fans throng Anfield stadium in England to celebrate their maiden world cup trophy. However, the fourth official calls the referee to the sidelines and informs him that there are still some five minutes to play.The game gets back underway and Steven Gerard scores a double, the first one a thunderous piledriver that rips the gloves of Russian keeper Igor Akinfeev and into the net. 

The second is a masterpiece of a goal. Theo Walcott shows why he's become the world's amalgam of speed. "He is simply in the wrong profession," remarks BBC football commentator Usain Bolt as Walcott collects a sublime pass from Glen Johnson and cuts in from the right wing, before laying the ball to a predating Steven Gerard. Captain fantastic lobs the ball over helpless Akinfeev and puts England 2-1 ahead. Immediately, Webb blows the final whistle even before Russia restart the game at center half. England, the 2018 world cup hosts win the trophy for the first time since they last won the Jules Rimet trophy in 1966.

But the biggest challenge lies ahead. They have to retain the title in four years time, in 2022 in Australia. What a tale this could have been had England won the bid to host the 2018 world cup. But as it turned out, this never happened.

I have tried to look for any possible explanation available in modern football to explain why England lost the bid to host the 2018 world cup but to no avail.

Come on, let's face it. Franz Beckenbauer, a world cup winner and one of the legends of the game was quoted saying ""England could host it (the world cup) tomorrow because they have the stadiums, the infrastructure, the fans, everything. But there are a lot of other different countries bidding. Let's wait and see." 

So we all waited and what came out? Russia? Oh come on. The twenty-two delegates who cast their votes and allegedly knocked England out in the first round of voting could have done better.

I have nothing against Russia but I believe they would be better placed to host an Olympic game than a World Cup. Reason? Well, they produce some of the best athletes, not footballers in the world. Secondly, where was Russia during the 2010 World Cup? Although England failed to advance past the round of 16, Spain and Portugal who put a joint bid put on a good show, with the former winning the trophy. 

The argument here is that it's high time we started giving bids to those countries who have made a at least some commendable contribution to football. I look around and into Russia and see them failing miserably in this criteria.

I don't buy some of the explanations put across by the likes of Amar Singh at Goal.com. Why would a 'Frosty Fifa-FA relations' put a deserving country at risk of not winning a World Cup bid?

Are some of us missing something about football? And just what has Qatar done to football that made them even deserve to be shortlisted as contenders?

I know football's aim is to unify the world, but we surely must ensure that these host countries know something about football and not just gymnastics and some cricket.

I also know so many people will come up with Lord Triesman and false confidence theories but the bottomline is, there's absolutely no justification as to why Russia won the bid ahead of England, Portugal/Spain who all are capable to provide the security, the stadiums, the attendance, the profits and the exhilaration needed for a world cup event. 

Who would have minded watching the world cup final in front of a rapturous KOP faithful at Anfield? 

The twenty-two delegates who were entrusted by the Football universe to elect a country that will host the world cup did a lot of injustice to that trust, and indeed to football. Maybe the only explanation and reason available to this is corruption. Someone somewhere was denied British pounds but nevertheless got some Russian rouble. Or better yet, as The Sun puts it, it was a fix.

And maybe it's high time someone stepped down.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Kenyans Should Not Contribute to Uhuru or Ruto’s Trip to The Hague

After months of waiting for the naming of the Ocampo Six, ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo finally revealed the names of those who allegedly funded or organized the 2007-2008 post election violence that put Kenyan on the precipice of political, economic and social collapse. Luckily, we survived. But not before thousands of lives were lost, hundreds of thousands displaced and property destroyed in a manner never witnessed before in the annals of Kenyan illustrious history of much success and little to regret about. 

Perceived presidential aspirants come 2012 Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, seasonal political player and ODM confidant Henry Kosgey as well as head of public service Ambassador Francis Muthaura, former police boss Hussein Ali and ‘small fish’ Joshua Arap Sang  all graced the dreaded list. 

As one would have expected, they all claimed innocence and denied organizing, funding or aiding in any way whatsoever the post-election violence. As one would have expected, some political sycophants came out in their defence as if they had accompanied the six full time in the period of the political debacle. As one would have expected, their gullible constituents and supporters also came out of their ramshackle with their placards raised sky high claiming their leaders were being slaughtered for crimes they didn’t commit. Never mind the truth and nothing but the truth is yet to be known. 

However, none of these frantic moves to absolve the Ocampo Six from suspicion first, summon second, arrest third, prosecution fourth and release or detention last is more baffling than the suggestion that poor constituents should empty their coffers and contribute to a ‘trip to the Hague fund’ on behalf of the suspects (read Uhuru and Ruto so far) and also to hire the best lawyers for them.  

Are you kidding me? Haven’t these people raised enough money since they joined the filthy and corrupt world of Kenyan politics over a decade ago? And just what is about 125,000 shillings to a politician? A Kenyan politician! Isn’t it the same Kenyans who have desperately been crying that the MPs pay taxes to no avail? Isn’t it the same Kenyans who pay taxes but which always go on a Safari to hang out with public money seized in areas like free primary education, cemetery, water, maize and even from the embassy?  

And if these people are really innocent, what’s the need of hiring the best lawyers to defend them. One can almost bet that this ‘best lawyer’ will not be an African, let alone a Kenyan. Another spit on our education system and a doubt on our intellectual capacity I guess. 

Honorable Uhuru, Ruto and Kosgey have the wherewithal and are capable of funding their trips to the Hague and hiring the so-called best lawyers. The only thing is that they are not willing. And if they are, the suggestion that supporters should drop their meager earnings from burning charcoal, picking tea and roasting maize by the roadside are just euphemistic routes to sympathy. 

Unless we really don’t have what to do with money, unless we really are gullible and unless we have no memories of what transpired during the post-election violence, we should feel sufficiently philanthropic to help these ‘suspects’ out. But if we can still look at that IDP camp and see those people whose lives moved from something to nothing, if we can still see those graves of our siblings, parents, relatives, neighbours and friends lying behind our homes, at the Langata cemetery and the likes, if we really feel ashamed of what we did post the last elections thanks to the selfish interests of politicians, if we don’t want a repeat of the same events in the near future, and if we really want to see the culprits apprehended for their deeds, we should let justice take its course. 

We once sympathized with these politicians and expressed our empathy very inhuman like manner. When we look back, we feel sorry for what we did to those who are innocent. So why not let the guilty get their punishment. Surely, the Hague won’t raise machetes on them, destroy their property, burn their houses or rape their loved ones. They will just be denied of the freedoms of a free man. I hear the Hague is not such a bad place anyway. You can eat nutritiously without having to burn charcoal.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Top 15 Things You Didn't Know About Asamoah Gyan

Ghana's John Mensah, left, tries to console Asamoah Gyan after penalty miss
Asamoah Gyan. Remember him? Every football aficionada remembers him. And especially those who were lucky enough to watch him blast a last-gap penalty against the woodwork that denied Ghana and Africa as a whole the chance to feature in the FIFA World Cup semifinals for the first time.

Mention the name Asamoah Gyan to anyone who was lucky enough to watch the dying minutes of the Uruguay versus Ghana match at the 2010 FIFA World Cup and they are likely to respond with a flinch.

For what explanation can possibly be given when a player fails to convert a history-making penalty in virtually the last kick of the match? Well, Gyan failed. Whether he succumbed to pressure or his luck had run out, Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan will forever be remembered for squandering the best and perhaps easiest opportunity in football – converting a penalty.

So when his penalty hit the cross bar meaning the two teams had to go for a penalty shoot-out, which Ghana lost, Gyan did not only disappoint his growing fan base but the whole of Africa.

Gyan featuring on the video, African Girls
Which explains the reason why he all of a sudden turned from the hero who scored the three goals that made Ghana only the second African side to reach the quarterfinals in the FIFA World Cup, to a villain who fired a last-gap penalty against the woodwork. One that denied his country and Africa a place in the semifinals and a realistic chance to compete in the finals.

But what is it that you don’t know about the Sunderland and Ghana forward? Here are the top 15 things you didn’t know about him

1.)    He was born on November 22, 1985 and shares the same birthday with Nigerian footballer Yakubu Aiyegbeni, American actress and singer Scarlett Johansson and former French general and statesman Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle who led the Free French Forces during World War II.

2.)    He attended high school at Accra Academy, the same school where current Ghana left back Lee Addy and former Ghana midfielder Owusu Afriyie studied

3.)    He cites former French and Manchester United forward Eric Cantona as his football hero. He also draws his inspiration from African strikers like Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o, Ivory Coast’s Didier Drogba, Togo’s Emmanuel Adebayor and Mali’s Fredi Kanoute

4.)    He became English Premier League side Sunderland’s record signing after £13.2m move from Stade Rennais. The move from the French club was only finalised 20 minutes before August 2010 transfer deadline.

5.)    Gyan wears No.33 shirt for Sunderland, but only because Kieran Richardson already took his lucky No.3. He has number 3 cut into his hair on both sides of his head and also wears a No.3 medallion. He says, “Three is the shirt I wore as a teenager in Ghana. It is a powerful number. I’ll give you an example. If you are lifting something heavy, you count to three before you lift. If you want to warn someone, you warn them once, then twice and the third time you take action.”

6.)    He has been shortlisted for the FIFA Ballon d'Or award alongside other Africans Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto'o

7.)    Asamoah Gyan’s girlfriend is the bootylicious Irene Akosua Boatemaa Dwomoh the 2006 Miss Ghana.

8.)    He can dance and rap and recently co-released a single called African Girls with Ghanaian hiplife artist Castro the Destroyer where he features under the nickname 'Baby Jet'. The video shows his dance celebration, ‘Asamoah Dance’, which he demonstrated at the FIFA World Cup 2010.

9.)    If he were not a footballer, Gyan could be playing music. He writes his own music, likes hip-hop and dancehall and artists Eminem and Sean Paul. “Music is my life after football. Some players like to play golf, I like music.”

10.)    Gyan is the only player in World Cup history to have stepped up FIVE times in two world cups to take penalties. He has converted three and missed two.

11.)    In November 2004 Gyan scored his first international goal at the age of seventeen against Somalia, becoming the youngest ever player to score for Ghana. The hitman also scored the fastest goal of the 2006 FIFA World Cup after 68 seconds against the Czech Republic, Ghana's first ever goal in a World Cup final.

12.)    He hit the record books in the 2010 FIFA World Cup by having 33 shots, the most by any player at the tournament. He was also named Man of the Match in the games against Australia and Serbia

13.)    Scored in his debut against Wigan, after side-footing Jordan Henderson's cross past Wigan goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi

14.)    In an interview, Gyan said he could have also handled the ball on the goal line if it meant getting into the 2010 World Cup semi finals. “I have forgiven him. If it was me, I’d have done the same thing,” he says of Luis Suarez who cleared the ball with his hands. “He made himself a hero in his country. It was cheating, but he got Uruguay into the semi-finals. Maybe I’ll have to do that in an important game for Sunderland.”

15.)    His brother, Baffour Gyan, currently plays in Ghana for Asante Kotoko.

Just in case you forgot about the penalty miss at the world cup, here it is again:

And the collabo with Castro the Destroyer:

And finally, the why he's considered as Africa's answer to Michael Jackson - the 'Asamoah Dance'

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

'Hang these Homosexuals'

Gays and lesbians are being attacked in Uganda after the publication of a front-page newspaper story that listed the African nation's 100 "top" homosexuals.

Rolling Stone, a Ugandan newspaper in October 9 published an article that included photographs and addresses of 100 ‘top’ gays and lesbians in the country, alongside a yellow strip that read “hang them.” Although some Ugandan press have a history of sensationalism like Red Pepper, a daily tabloid, the Rolling Stone seems to have taken the issue of sensationalism to the next level.

But the alleged attacks are likely to resuscitate the homosexuality debate that has dominated headlines in Uganda since the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill was tabled in parliament.

Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill

The bill fronts for the criminalisation of homosexuality where any person found to have previous convictions, or who engages in same sex acts with people under 18 years of age are punishable by death.

The private member's bill, submitted by MP for the constituency of Ndorwa West, Kabale District, Mr. David Bahati on 13 October 2009, also included provisions for extradition for punishment for any Ugandan who engage in same-sex relations outside the country.

The penalties in the bill included for individuals, companies, media organisations, or non-governmental organisations that support LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) rights.

The bill caused a major global uproar with both international governments, religious and human rights bodies and different international media condemning the bill.

US President Barack Obama termed it as ‘odious’ saying, "we may disagree about gay marriage, but surely we can agree that it is unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are -- whether it's here in the United States or ... more extremely in odious laws that are being proposed most recently in Uganda.”

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni distanced himself from the Anti-Homosexual Bill in January 2010.

The bill stalled in parliamentary committee and remains with the Ugandan Parliament's Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, after failing to make it to a vote.

According to human rights organisations, Uganda houses about 500,000 homosexuals, but existing laws criminalise homosexual behavior with prison sentences lasting up to 14 years.

Homosexuality has been a hot topic especially in Africa. In early May this year, a gay Malawian couple were sentenced to 14 years in prison. The two, Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, were arrested after celebrating their engagement in a traditional ceremony in late December. They were tried and found guilty this month of sodomy and indecency, and sent behind bars only to be released after a presidential pardon.

In Kenya, police raided a gay wedding in the coastal town of Mombasa and arrested five men in early February. The five were accused of being homosexuals and even faced public wrath before the police intervened. A gay wedding of a Kenyan couple in a ceremony in London caused a major public uproar back in the East African nation where homosexuality is illegal but arrests are extremely rare.

Homosexuality is illegal in most of Africa’s 53 states and only South Africa recognizes same-sex marriage after passing a legislation in 2006.

This latest twist to the gay saga is likely to inflate emotions and arouse heated arguments about the place of homosexuals especially in the contemporary African society where religion plays a very vital role. 

But just where did this homosexuality come from and who made this 'invention' in Africa? Surely, this act must have been imported from one of our 'big brothers', and it seems we want to firmly accept it- the way we always do when things come from the west.

Oh Africa!!

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

32 Years On, Jomo Kenyatta’s Legacy Still Lives On

Kenya will observe a public holiday this Wednesday 20 October, the last one of its kind to remember the great man whose face still adorns Kenyan currency notes and coins of all denomination.

On Wednesday October 20, Kenyans will reminisce past Kenyatta Days as the public holiday takes on a new tag ‘Mashujaa’ (Kiswahili for Heroes) Day as enshrined in the new constitution. Named after the late Jomo Kenyatta, the founding father of independent Kenya, this day was put aside as a national holiday to honour him and the martyrs who lost their lives for during the struggle for Kenyan independence from the British colonial rule.

However, over the years the day has morphed into an almost exclusive celebration of Kenyatta’s life and legacy. Critics have argued that the holiday should instead be celebrated as a tribute to the Kenyan freedom movement and not merely dedicate to the larger-than-life image of Kenyatta.

Kenyans voted unanimously for the new constitution in a referendum held on August 4 2010 and later promulgated in front of thousands gathered at the Uhuru Park grounds on August 27. The new constitution ushered in a superfluity of changes among them, the renaming of Kenyatta Day to Mashujaa Day, and the scrapping of Moi Day, a bold stab at the big man posturing of past political regimes.

From now on, the day will be marked in honour of leading Kenyan nationalists who were arrested and detained by the British colonial government. Among the notable heroes who will be in the spotlight are Dedan Kimathi and other Mau Mau freedom fighters and the Kapenguria Six: Achieng' Oneko, Bildad Kaggia, Kung'u Karumba, Fred Kubai, Paul Ngei, and Jomo Kenyatta.

The celebration of a Heroes Day signals the end of a long struggle to include the contribution of many other Kenyans in the liberation struggle.

For youthful Kenyans born after the death in August 22nd  1978, Kenyatta is revered as the triumphant hero who brought an end to the often barbaric British rule. Immediately after Kenya gained her independence on December 12 1963, Jomo Kenyatta ascended to the throne, becoming the first Prime Minister and a year later the first President of the republic Kenya. Under his leadership, Kenya witnessed rapid economic growth driven by booming agricultural production and increased industrial investment. Kenyatta shrewdly aligned Kenya’s economic policy towards the Western interest during Cold War and the country prospered. With that prosperity came excesses of grandeur and the beginning of an economic disparity that pushed many freedom fighters to the wrong side of prosperity divide.
Even so, special mention will always be reserved for Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. Despite the low points of his tenure the worst episodes being the murder of prominent political figures, economic crimes and nepotism in his inner circle, the old man still left a legacy revered by many.


Kamau Wa Ngengi was born at Ng'enda village, Gatundu Division, Kiambu in 1889 to Muigai and Wambui. His date of birth was unclear even to him, as his parents were illiterate, and no formal birth records of native Africans were kept in pre-independent Kenya. In 1914 he converted to Christianity assuming the name John Peter which he then changed to Johnstone Kamau and eventually Jomo Kenyatta in 1938. 

He studied anthropology in Britain in 1931 and wrote a detailed study of the Kikuyu, Facing Mount Kenya. In 1945, with other visionary African leaders Hastings Banda, Obafemi Awolowo, Kwame Nkrumah, he attended the Manchester Pan-African Congress.  The conference would herald the birth of a new Africa a decade later. From 1952 to 1961 he was held in detention charged as a member of the Mau Mau society.

After his release he was part of the KANU ( Kenya African National Union) delegation in the first and second Lancaster Conference in London where Kenya's independence constitution was negotiated.
Mzee Jomo Kenyatta died peacefully in his sleep on 22nd August 1978 in Mombasa after a lifetime of steadfast service to his people. Besides leading Kenya to independence, Kenyatta will be remembered for creating the economic foundations for the nation. His legacy is etched quite literally in stone in form of the Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Kenyatta National Hospital, national schools, numerous main streets, two Universities and several other institutions. A statue in downtown Nairobi and several monuments all over Kenya stands tall in his honour.

"Our children may learn about the heroes of the past. Our task is to make ourselves the architects of the future."
Jomo Kenyatta, first president of Kenya, from an address given on Kenyatta Day, as quoted in Anita King's Quotations in Black, Greenwood Press 1981.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Irony With Africa

It's only in Africa where water is thicker than blood 
Image: Duncan Walker
In his books The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man (1962) and Understanding Media (1964), Marshall McLuhan, popularized the phrase of the world being a global village. This phrase, which explains how the world is getting smaller and becoming more of a global village, has become one of the biggest buzz axioms of the 21st Century.

McLuhan’s works emphasized on the role of the Internet and World Wide Web today arguing that “the globe has been contracted into a village by electric technology and the instantaneous movement of information from every quarter to every point at the same time.”

Technically, his words are sagacious enough. But for a layman, this can simply be likened to a village surrounded by other villages whose inhabitants interact at the market place (Internet) where they do all the trading, be it in exchanging material things for money or just having a glance at the OPPOSITE sex and hoping that things can materialize from there. 

This is because, as they say, no man is an island. Neither are countries. The world has been shifting. The world has shifted. Gone are the days of only local and cross-border trade. Today, those in the west are looking east while those in the south are aiming to establish strong social, economic and political links with those in the north. A live example is the sharp China-Europe rivalry for the once black continent, Africa. This battle which started in 1880 under the name “The Scramble for Africa” or Race for Africa or Africa Fever has apparently refused to waste away.

"Europe is close to losing the battle of competition in Africa." Some have concluded. I think they already lost it.

Lets glide back to my Global Village topic where the beauty of the Internet comes in. Countries can no longer suffer unaided for they can rely on their neighbours for help or even nations as far as in the arctic cycle, as long as diplomatic relations and communication exist. The beauty is that you always don’t have to ask for this help.

This is just what ensued in Chile. With 33 miners entombed in a San Jose mine for over 10 weeks, the South American nation needed not to log a formal help request to the international community.

The Internet, including social network sites like Facebook and Twitter did their bit. Help arrived from far and wide.

It has almost become a norm for countries like the US, Germany, Britain and Spain to be the first nations to arrive where international help is needed. In Chile, they were present, and so was South Africa, Argentina, Canada, to mention but a few. These countries, the Chilean officials and a number of individuals all put their hands together to rescue the 33 men who had been trapped longer than any other miners in history from a depth never tried before.

The results were successful.

The same was the case with Haiti when a catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake shook the Caribbean nation’s capital, Port-au-Prince, early this year. Although an estimated 230,000 people are reported to have died, the world cannot be accused of letting Haitian people down.

Again, help came from far and wide. Of course the United States and some European countries were handy enough. But one continent surprised many. Africa. Always regarded as a receiving continent, thanks to food aid that never helps in the long term, the African nation beat the stereotypes during the Haiti debacle and showed the world that it has enough to help others.

Liberian government was reported to have contributed US$50,000, while the Rwandan government doubled that figure. Kenya rallied its citizens to send monetary contributions through the revolutionary money transfer system, M-Pesa, Nigeria sent police contingent while South Africa deployed pathologists to help identify bodies and give other services. But Senegal went one better. The nation's President, Abdoulaye Wade, offered voluntary repatriation to any Haitian who wanted “to return to their origin.” Wow!!

And when in July 2010 heavy monsoon rains pounded different regions in Pakistan, Africa was at it again. Nigeria donated US$ 1 million, Sudan donated 10 tonnes of food, medicine and shelter equipments, Kenya sent 450 tonnes of relief supplies, while North African countries Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco also made their philanthropic contributions.

I think these instances give enough evidence that Africa can actually help other countries.

But not itself.

For what more can you say when Kenya can donate hundreds of tones of food to a foreign country while thousands of her own citizens feed on wild fruits, rotten animal carcasses and even dog meat! How about the refugees from neighbouring Somalia who are living from hand to mouth at Daadab Camp yet no one seems to give a damn?

And just what can you say of even a country like Democratic Republic of Congo which offered $2.5m in emergency aid to Haiti while forgetting her own hundreds of thousands of internally displaced citizens who face a daily struggle to make ends meet.

How about the Senegalese government which welcomed 163 Haitians, with more expected, to pursue university education on the same week that it was reported that thousands of Zimbabwean children drop out of school for lack of fees.

Aren’t African countries always too eager to help outside countries while they fail to help their own who continue to wallow in utter poverty and live in the midst of ceaseless conflict?

Why has South Africa refused to send troops to Somalia to help the anarchy-torn government fight against the malicious Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam extremists?

This is the irony of Africa. While the world has no doubt become a global village, African countries are using this beneficial effect to their own demerit. For when a disaster strikes an outside Africa nation, African leaders are always ready and willing to squeeze their resources and send help. Which is a good thing.

But the question is, what happens to your own people when you remove millions of dollars from your deprived national coffers and send abroad? And is it too costly for Africa to help Africa than for Africa to help a country in foreign continent?

It's only in Africa where the say that blood is thicker than water is mendacious.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Curtains Come Down on 2012 Commonwealth Games - India Did it!!

After 11 days of grueling battles, sweating, running, failed tactics, successful tackles, ecstasy, agony, defeats and triumphs, curtains have finally come down on the highly controversial but equally successful 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, India.

The 19th edition of the Commonwealth games opened its doors to thousands of athletes and officials from 71 Commonwealth countries on the 3rd October. The athletes competed on various disciplines including boxing, athletics, wrestling, swimming, hockey, rugby, badminton, table tennis, to name but a few.

Among the 71 participating nations were nineteen African countries who squared off with the rest of the world in the clamour for 271 gold medals, 271 silver medals and 282 bronze medals that were on offing.

By the time the last event, the men’s and women’s marathon, were staged in a chilly morning across the city of Delhi, Africa was already celebrating a medal haul that surpassed the numbers in Melbourne, Australia in 2006.

Kenya in particular was in a high jubilation mood as they won both the men's and women's marathons on the final day of the Games.

33-year-old John Eriku Kelai ran away with the men’s 42km race in 2:14.35 beating Australian Michael Shelley to silver while another Kenyan, Amos Matui was content with the bronze.

Kenyan women went one better, winning gold and silver with Irene Kosgei crossing the line first in 2:34:32 to win Kenya her 12th gold at the games. Irene Mogaka stopped the clock 11 seconds later, while Australia's Lisa Weightman took the Bronze in 2:35:25.

Kenya became the most successful participating nation in athletics with all but Jason Dunford’s gold in the men’s 50m butterfly coming from the discipline. This is the first time that Kenya has been the most successful country in Athletics in Commonwealth Games history.

Australia, the highest achieving team since the Commonwealth Games was first held in 1930 under the title of the British Empire Games in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada was once again a class above the rest, taking the top spot with 74 gold medals. Hosts India edged out a stiff competition from England to finish second with 38 gold medals, one better than the third placed English. Canada bagged 26 gold to finish fourth ahead of a pack of three African nations.

At fifth position, South Africa finished as the best-placed African team, although only a bronze medal separated them from the impressive team of Kenyan athletes.

The South Africans finished with 12 gold, 11 silver and 10 bronze medals, while Kenya only had a bronze less to finish sixth in their best ever outing since they joined the Commonwealth games in 1954. In spite of being stripped of the women's 100m gold won by Damola Osayemi after she failed a drugs test, Nigeria finished a commendable 9th with 11 gold, 10 silver and 14 bronze medals.

Osayemi and another Nigerian, Samuel Okon, who finished 6th in the men’s 110m hurdles, tested positive for the stimulant methylhexaneamine which was added in 2009 to the World Anti-Doping Agency's list of banned drugs.

Of these top three African teams, only South Africa performed relatively poorer than in the 2006, while both Kenya and Nigeria doubled their 2006 gold medal collection.

The Rainbow nation had 12 gold, 13 silver and 13 bronze in 2006 but still finished fifth. Kenya finished 10th overall in Melbourne with 6 gold, 5 silver and 7 bronze, while Nigeria was placed a distant 12th with 4 gold, 6 silver and 7 bronze medals.

Uganda and Botswana are the only other Africa teams that will travel back to Africa with gold. Uganda’s two gold medals won by the sensational Moses Kipsiro in the men’s 5000m and 10000m ensured they nailed the fourth spot in Africa and 18th overall, while Botswana finished 22nd overall with a single gold and three bronze medals. Cameroon, Ghana, Namibia, Seychelles and Mauritius all failed to win the coveted gold but registered their names in the medals table occupying positions 26, 27, 28,30 and 33.

Rwanda, which made its first Commonwealth Games appearance after being admitted to the Commonwealth of Nations in November 2009 left empty handed, so did Lesotho, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Zambia, Gambia Tanzania, Mozambique and Swaziland.

Moses Kipsiro of Uganda was no doubt one of the standout athletes in the event. After upsetting Kenyans on his way to claiming gold in the men’s 5000m, he repeated what can only be termed as unprecedented in the10000m when he hanged on just long enough to finish ahead of Kenyan trio, Daniel Lemashon, Joseph Kiptoo and Titus Mbishei. Special praises can also be preserved for Jason Dunford who gave Kenya her first gold medal in the swimming competition. Dunford beat South Africa's Mark Schoeman and Andrew Huegill from Australia in a hotly contested race at the Dr. S.P. Mukherjee Swimming Stadium.

Meanwhile, Jamaican triple jumper Trecia Smith got the 2012 Commonwealth Games David Dixon Award.  The award, introduced in the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester and named after former Commonwealth Games Federation Secretary, is given to the most outstanding athlete of the Commonwealth Games who also exudes fairplay and contribution to the team.

South African swimmer, Natalie Du Toit was the inaugural winner of the award in 2002 while Indian shooter Samaresh Jung won the 2006 award in Melbourne, Australia.

This was the 19th edition of the Commonwealth Games. The 20th edition will be held in Glasgow, the largest city in Scotland from 24 July to 3 August 2014.

See the full Commonwealth Games Medal Table here... 

Africa at Commonwealth

Country                                       G       S       B        Total        2006 Total

1 (5)     South Africa                  12      11      10           33                38
2 (6)     Kenya                            12       11       9          32               18        
3 (9)     Nigeria                           11      10     14          35               17    
4 (18)   Uganda                            2        0       0            2                 3
5 (22)   Botswana                         1        0       3            4                2
6 (26)   Cameroon                         0         2       4           6                3
7 (27)   Ghana                                0         1       3           4                3
8 (28)   Namibia                             0         1       2          3               2
9 (30)   Seychelles                         0         1        0          1                2    
10 (33)  Mauritius                          0          0        2         2                3   

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Behold, A New Ugandan Hero is Born

Not once, but twice, one Ugandan athlete has spoilt the party for Kenya in the ongoing Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, India.

His country’s medal hopes in the games were firmly rested on his young shoulders. And he has delivered, albeit to the chagrin of East African neighbours, Kenya. Among the sixty seven athletes that traveled to Delhi donning Uganda colours, only 24-year-old Moses Ndiema Kipsiro has stepped up to the challenge and achieved a feat that has sent the Pearl of Africa nation into high jubilation.

Kipsiro did not only win gold in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters events, but ended years of sweat, trial and failure to upstage bitter rivals and favourites Kenya in the two long distance track events.

Kipsiro edged out experienced Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge and third-placed Mark Kiptoo for his first gold in the 5,000m at Jawharlal Nehru Stadium on Wednesday 6th, the first day of athletics competition in the game’s calendar.

As the dejected Kenyans did a lap of honour with disappointment clearly screaming across their faces, Kipsiro was all smiles as he did his own lap with the Ugandan flag wrapped around his waist. Little did many know that the Singare village born athlete who started his journey to stardom as a P3 pupil was planning his next big move.

And when his time came again in the 10,000m, Kipsiro timed his sprint to perfection, coming from behind to beat Kenyans Daniel Lemashon, Joseph Kiptoo and Titus Mbishei to the finish line and snatch his country’s only tenth gold since it first took part in the Commonwealth games in 1954.

If New Delhi were, in the least, neighbours with Uganda, the Indian Capital could have been painted yellow as Kenyans realized when Ugandans forced a 0-0 draw with the Harambee Stars in the Africa Nations Cup qualifier played at Nyayo National Stadium, Nairobi on Saturday October 9.

But this needed not happen as the Ugandan press has been in jubilation and awash with praises on the man simply called Kips in his native country. ‘History as Kips wins more gold’, headlined the Daily Monitor after Kipsiro’s triumph in the 10,000m.

The Daily Monitor could not find strong words enough but summarized Kipsiro’s conquering display saying, “Kenyans can no longer stop Moses Kipsiro. They simply can’t.” The paper continued by branding Kipsiro, “the star of Delhi 2010 in the Ugandan team of 67 (12 runners).”

With a headline, “Kipsiro outwits Kenyans in Delhi”, The New Vision reported that Kipsiro’s next slaying target will be to beat world record holder Kenenisa Bekele to a gold in next year’s world championships and the 2012 London Olympics.

Some might consider this farfetched considering that Kipsiro’s 27:57.39 time is way below Kenenisa’s 26:17.53 world record time.

Nevertheless, oomph and circumstance awaits him back in Kampala where the government has pledged to reward him big. "He is a real star and deserves a big reward that the government will give him,” remarked Uganda's State Minister for Education and Sports Charles Bakkabulindi, who was at the games. 

Uganda President, Yoweri Museveni, is also reported to have given a rear telephone call to Kipsiro, thanking him for the work well done.

Uganda has competed in thirteen of the eighteen previous Commonwealth Games, from 1954, winning 10 gold medals, 12 silver and 17 bronze.

Kipsiro became only the second Ugandan to win two gold medals in the Commonwealth Games, and the first to win a double in a single Commonwealth event. Muhammed Muruli was the only other Ugandan to win two gold medals in Edinburgh, 1970 and New Zealand, 1972.

The three-time Ugandan cross-country champion becomes the first runner to do the track long distance double since the Commonwealth Games’ name was changed from the British Empire Games. Cecil Matthews of New Zealand achieved the fete in the British Empire Games in 1938 (3miles & 6 miles).

At the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Uganda won two gold medals through Dorcus Inzikuru in the Women's 3000m Steeplechase, while Boniface Kiprop Toroitich triumphed in the men's 10000m, while Kipsiro could only finish a disappointing 7th in the men’s 5000m won by Kenya’s Augusitine Choge.

The Uganda Sports Press Association (Uspa) voted him Sports Personality of the Year 2007 and 2008 following his outstanding performances in international competitions.

Born in Singare village, Bukwo, one of Uganda's remotest districts, Moses Kipsiro is coached by Ricky Simms who is also the manager of world 100m and 200m record holder Usain Bolt.

Moses Kipsiro's Career Highlights 
2003    18th     World Cross Country Championships (junior race)
2005     21st     World Cross Country Championships (junior race)
2006     29th    World Cross Country Championships (short course)
2006     23rd    World Cross Country Championships (long course)
2006       7th     Commonwealth Games (5000m)
2006       3rd     African Championships (5000m)
2006       1st     African Championships (10,000m)
2007       1st     All Africa Games (5000m)
2007       3rd     World Championships (5000m)
2007       7th     World Athletics Final (3000m)
2008      13th    World Cross Country Championships
2008      4th     Olympic Games (5000m)
2008      2nd`    World Athletics Final (5000m)
2009      2nd     World Cross Country Championships
2009       4th    World Championships in Athletics (5000m)
2010      3rd    World Cross Country Championships
2010      2nd    Africa Championships (10,000m)
2010      4th    African Championships (5000m)
2010      1st     Commonwealth Games (5000m)
2010      1st     Commonwealth Games (10000m)

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Africa Shinning at Commonwealth, Nigerians Caught up in Doping Controversies

Two Nigerians test positive for performance-enhancing drug as Commonwealth Games nears conclusion.

With barely 48 hours remaining before the curtains come down on the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India, African countries are still involved in the rush for medals at the games.

A total of three African countries, South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya are currently placed among the top 10 in the overall medals tally. South Africa is the best-placed African team, lying fifth after winning 12 gold, 11 silver and 10 bronze medals. Nigeria is placed 6th overall and second in Africa with 10 gold, 10 silver and 13 bronze, while Kenya sits 7th overall and third in Africa with 10 gold, 9 silver and 8 bronze.

Uganda and Botswana are the only other Africa teams to have won gold at the games. Uganda has two gold medals and sits 16th overall, while Botswana lies 20th overall with a single gold and three bronze medals. Cameroon, Seychelles, Ghana, Mauritius and Namibia have also registered their names in the medals table.

Nigeria's gold medal tally dropped to 10 after Damola Osayemi was stripped of the women's 100m gold  after she failed a drugs test. The sprinter tested positive for stimulant methylhexaneamine and had been provisionally suspended until the result of her B sample, which tested positive for a banned stimulant were confirmed on Wednesday.

Another Nigerian, Samuel Okon, who finished 6th in the 110m hurdles, also tested positive for the drug and has also been provisionally suspended pending a hearing. Both athletes tested positive for the stimulant that was added in 2009 to the World Anti-Doping Agency's list of banned drugs.

Nigerian team officials had expressed confidence that Osayemi, who finished second but was declared winner after Australia’s Sally Pearson (the race winner) was disqualified, would retain her gold.

With 12 gold medals so far, South Africa is likely to retain the title of being the first placed African team at the Commonwealth but this will depend on how Kenya in particular fairs in the remaining track and field events. In Melbourne, Australia four years ago, South Africa had 12 gold medals, 13 silver and 13 bronze finishing fifth behind Australia, England, Canada and India. Kenya had 6 gold, 5 silver and 7 bronze medals.

And in spite of missing big name athletes like World 800m Champion David Rudisha, World 5,000m champion Eliud Kipchoge and defending women’s 800m champion from Melbourne Janeth Jepkosgei, Kenya has so far faired better than in 2006. The East African long and middle distance thrust is likely to surpass the 2006 medal haul by double given that it still has eyes set on the marathon and boxing. 

The event which ends tomorrow has been Kenya's most medal-laden in the history of  her participation in the event that was first held in 1930 under the title of the British Empire Games in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Africa's Big Guns Tumble at the Hands of Minnows in Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers

Africa Cup of Nations Champions Egypt, Nigeria’s Super Eagles and Desert Foxes of Algeria fall to minnows on a weekend of upsets in 2012 Nations Cup qualifiers.

Okay. First things first. My prediction that Kenya would beat Uganda was wrong. But at least some things worked. Mariga hit the post, Oliech was more effective than he was against Guinea Bissau, and Ghost Mulee had a ghost-like team selection, something that Carol Radul says is what cost us the game in her Supersport blog. But this guy attributed the stalemate between the Cranes and Harambee Stars to the presence of one man; Raila Odinga, the Kenyan Prime Minister whose presence, the guy claims, brings no luck to the Kenyan side. Could the PM be the reason why Kenya has of late not been perfoming well? And if so, should he be banned from attending football matches pitting Kenya and some other team?

I leave it to you to decide. Here are the highlights between Harambee Stars and the Cranes:

Back on the pitch, a lot of things happened across the continent that even made the Kenya-Uganda result seem insignificant to moderate football pundits.

It was a weekend full of upsets as many African football heavyweights were humbled by minnows in the ongoing 2012 Nations Cup qualifying matches.

The biggest shocker however came from the 35,000-seater Stade Général Seyni Kountché in Niamey, where Niger, placed 154th on the FIFA rankings list, stunned Egypt, ranked 9th, through a Moussa Ouwoh Maazou solitary strike after 34 minutes. In what could only be tagged as a 21st Century Goliath-David face-off, David (read Niger) triumphed once again over his bigger and more respected opponent. 
David once again carried the day in Niger v Egypt clash

The defeat condemned the seven-time AFCON champions, who also drew their first match against Sierra Leone to last position in the group, while Niger moved up to second place behind South Africa who could only manage a 0-0 stalemate away in Sierra Leone.

Guinea continued to pile more misery on Nigeria, beating them 1-0 on the backdrop of a lifted suspension by FIFA on the Super Eagles.

The lone goal scored early in the first-half in front of a fully-packed September 28 Stadium in Conakry ensured that the Silly Nationale take lead of Group B with a maximum six points, while the Nigerians remain second with three points. In another match, Ethiopia snatched a solo goal victory away in Madagascar to earn their first points in the group and take the third spot.

World Cup quarterfinalists Ghana were restrained to a lackluster goalless draw at home by Sudan but still remain top of Group I with four points, same as Sudan but with a superior goal difference. In the group’s other game, Congo beat Swaziland 3-1 at the Stade de la Révolution in Brazzaville to dent the Southern African nation's hopes of featuring in the 2012 event to be co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

Algeria’s woes continued after they were pulled down 2-0 at the Central African Republic. Audin Boutou fired the hosts ahead in the 81st minute and Momi Hilaire secured the points in the 86th minute to send the Group 4 minnows into top position. The Desert Foxes remain rooted to the foot of the table behind Tanzania and Morocco who squared off in a match that the North Africans won 1-0.

In Group E, Cameroon could only manage a 1-1 draw with Democratic Republic of Congo, while Senegal showed no mercy to Mauritius routing them 7-0 to go top of the table. Cameroon remain second with DR Congo third while Mauritius’ chance look slim at last position with no points.

Another goals galore was in store in Malawi who mauled Chad 6-2, while Tunisia saved the face of North African teams by beating hosts Togo 2-1.

In other matches, Mali beat Liberia 2-1 in Group A, while Zimbabwe and Cape Verde shared the spoils. In Group C, Mozambique and Libya both had a solitary goal win over the Comoros and Zambian Chipolopolo respectively, while Burkina Faso dismissed Gambia 3-1 in Group F.

In Group J, nothing could separate Kenya and Uganda at the Nyayo National Stadium where the bitter rivals drew 0-0. Angola picked themselves up after their previous 3-0 loss to Uganda to beat Guinea Bissau 1-0 in another match in the group.
Kenya's Mariga hit the post twice against Uganda

The next round of qualifiers are set to kick off on 25th March 2011.

The 11 group winners, runner-up of Group K (which contains 5 teams) plus the top three runners-up qualify for the 28th edition of the African Cup of Nations finals to be held in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

Check out the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations Group Standings here.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!