Sewera Mpira Afrika – Blog 7 04/10/13

Disorganised, deceitful, unfit for purpose; no, I’m not talking about Newcastle United – I’ll Malawi9get to them later – they are just some of the words used to describe the Malawian FA (FAM)in relation to youth football by a local man, whom I spent a day with during farm visits. James describes himself as a huge football fan, and a fan of Arsenal in particular. He hates football in his home country because of the way that it is organised and run by the authorities. There are many Arsenal fans in Malawi, when you ask them why they support Arsenal; the normal response is one of Henry, Bergkamp, Invincibles, and/or Wenger. James said that he “felt joy when we develop and play young players”. Just on this view alone, he has set himself apart from the short term mentality that is rife in all areas of Malawian life. He is one of a growing number of people in the country who question the youth set up in Malawi – some journalists even go as far as saying that FAM fabricate stories about training camps for the junior teams to make them look like they are developing talent. One journalist claims to have turned up to where an Under 17 training session was meant to be taking place only to find nobody there at all. Others claim that photos of youth training camps are slightly out of focus so you can’t distinguish the features of the senior team players training in the photograph.

The Under 20’s have been invited to take part in the youth COSAFA Championship that is happening in Lesotho this December, so far, FAM have not committed to this, citing a lack of money available – this despite saving $10,000 on Santifet due to defeat to Nigeria. Many are using this as proof. For my part, I know a person who was interviewed for the role of Under 17 coach, and is currently being linked with other jobs at national team level – all in youth teams. He believes there are youth teams, and that these journalists are just trying to destabilise the national game. One thing is certain, if he was appointed and was then to realise there aren’t youth teams he wouldn’t be quiet about it.

Combatting this alleged negligence are a number of small academies – like Play Football Malawi in Likuni- and one larger academy, which have sprung up in Malawi.  The large academy, SureStream was set up last October, and is working hard to develop talented footballer in the Southern region around Blantyre. Many African countries are now looking to push for academies as they are viewed as the only way to develop talented footballers that can then be used as an export to Europe. There are a number of academies in African countries specifically funded by Premier League clubs. Man U have one in the DRC which has recently taken on a 14 year old Malawian, Chelsea, City and Arsenal all have links with academies that aren’t publicised or recognised by any governing bodies – some of them Malawi10even have women’s academies, such is the growing interest in women’s football globally. These academies aren’t popular with everyone though; recent criticisms have come labelling the development of players for export to Europe as being the new “Slave trade” – a claim backed up by a Sky documentary last year. The other criticism is that academies train players in the European style. Critics say that when they come back to play for their national teams, or start off at a local league they struggle as they aren’t trained in how to play ‘African’ football. I can understand the local league level argument; it is very different to the European game, but internationally? Surely people can see that players who developed and came through European structures improve the national team – the current top African nations draw on a large number of ‘European’ style players (Egypt are slightly different, having a league that when it functions is closer to a European quality).

So, critics say that private academies aren’t the answer, and other critics say FAM is entirely negligible to youth development in Malawi. Without question both have their flaws, even if FAM do have youth teams, there is still much to be done in enabling talented Malawian youngsters to flourish.

That brings me nicely to another team that struggles to develop its youngsters, NUFC. Where to begin… A shambolic first half, an improved second half however Everton had taken their foot totally off the gas and were still probably the better side. Worrying times, Hull was a crucial result, 3 points there and a defeat at Everton doesn’t look so bad. Cardiff now becomes vital before an international break and tough run of fixtures. Once again players are telling us it wasn’t good enough, they will make it up to the fans with an Malawi11improved display. We have been hearing this since October last year; surely we are at the point where enough is enough. Something isn’t working. How can a manager and coaching staff not be able to organise a team where, only Goofy of the first 11 hasn’t featured for their national team in the past 18 months? Santon seems to be worse defensively then last year, and despite his forward running offers absolutely nothing once he gets there. Ben Arfa, when he is good he is very, very good, when he is bad he is awful. Sadly, because he runs at people fans think he is great, but most of the time he wastes any attacking opportunity. I missed Hull and Villa, but from the games I have seen he has played well for 15 minutes against Fulham, where he actually decided to lift his head and play as part of a team. Colo and MYM were torn apart by Lukaku, a player obviously deemed to be worse than what we have, as nobody was available at a level we could afford who would improve our squad. Debuchy, well, he wasn’t awful, but a far cry from an international defender. Remy, like Cisse has for most of the past 9 months looked isolated.

Whilst the players were not up to it, nor was Pardew; there is no organisation, no fight or passion – the man had virtually admitted defeat and was waving the white flag before we even kicked off, hardly a rallying call to inspire players. We sat far too deep, allowing Everton to come at us, I’d wager many realised we were going to sit back when the team lined up and Goofy was in front of Debuchy – a move to combat Baines attacking down our right, rather than pressing Baines back into his own half. What to do for Cardiff? I’d personally leave out Santon, HBA and Tiote. I doubt Pardew has the minerals to stamp his authority in such a way though. Sissoko, Anita and Cabaye back in midfield, and I guess I’d give Sammi a chance, despite personally thinking he isn’t up to the Prem. He can’t offer less than HBA has in the last 2 games. Dummett in for Santon, again I’m not wholly convinced by Dummett, but Santon has to be given a kick up the backside for one of the worst full back displays I can remember. MYM is a tough one, he and Colo were awful first half, we looked more solid with Willo, but Everton still managed 10 shots second half, more than they had first half. MYM may have looked better 2nd half had he played. Willo has proved he is no more than back up already, and was similarly schooled when he came up against Lukaku last season. On balance I’d keep MYM and Colo in, but mainly because we lack any real competition.

The Time4Change March comes up soon, now forgive me here as I would love Ashley’s stewardship to be over, but I don’t get this.  They claim this is to promote all that is good about the club and city to a new owner. I struggle to see how a protest march could be seen as a positive. Not to mention a March on a Saturday, when people have had a drink or 2, mixed with a reported 5,000 scousers right through a town where football has been used as an excuse for people to cause bother as recently as 6 months ago. Any numpty looking for trouble could quite easily tarnish the entire thing.  Why do we need 5,000 scousers? Particularly those sent to us by a supporters group that had people on stage singing and celebrating the Munich disaster at their end of season bash last year – surely this is just asking for trouble?

Let’s hope for a win tomorrow against Cardiff, anything less and we may join Sunderland in the bottom three over the coming month.