Sewera Mpira Afrika Blog 10 16.11.13

Another very good result, although the pressure they managed to put us under and sustainMalawi1 throughout the 2nd half has to be a worry. Krul won’t always make 14 saves! Still, a good result and no matter how it was earned a 6 point haul from Chelsea and Spurs is outstanding. Norwich and West Brom visit SJP next, offering very different challenges for Pardew. Playing a defensive game here will not give us results as neither of our former assistant managers will play an expansive game. They will look to do to us what we have done to both Chelsea and Spurs. It is when Pardew has to come out and attack teams that he gets it wrong. If he can manage to get 2 positive performances and results in these games then maybe, just maybe he is starting to turn a corner and learn how to work with these technically able players. It would certainly improve his standing with me. We have been here before though where we let ourselves down after putting in great shifts against better sides.

The weekend saw the Nigeria U17’s cruise to U17 World Cup glory beating Mexico 3-0 in the final, Kelechi Icheanacho and Muhammed Musa both starring in the Semi and final, with Icheanacho picking up player of the tournament and reported interest from Arsenal, whilst Chelsea are supposedly speaking to representatives of Musa. As if that wasn’t enough excitement for African football fans, we are coming up to the final round of World Cup Qualifying games.

Nigeria and Shola Ameobi get us underway with a game against Ethiopia. Nigeria are big favourites to qualify, their squad features many talented European based players who not only have superior ability, but fitness levels are also much higher. A 2-1 first leg lead from Ethiopia should see the Super Eagles qualify and give Shola the opportunity to shine in Brazil; I will be over the moon for the lad if he makes it to Rio.

Senegal take on the Ivory Coast, and need a miracle, especially if they rely on Cisse to fire the goals required to turn the tie on its head. A 3-1 defeat to an Ivory Coast side that was built upon a dominant midfield performance by Cheick Tiote will surely be too much to overturn at the neutral venue of Casablanca. Tiote himself misses the game through suspension. I fully expect Ivory Coast to be part of the action when it all starts next June, even more so with each player set to earn $18,000 in bonuses for qualifying.

Sunday sees a much tighter affair take place between Cameroon and Tunisia. Following the 0-0 draw in Tunisia, Cameroon will start the game as slight favourites, although their defensive style hasn’t impressed many at all, and Tunisia have more than enough in their side to nick a result. An early goal for Tunisia could make this compelling viewing as it will force Cameroon to do more than just rely on E’too. Alternatively, this could be a drab affair with Cameroon, who started the first leg with 8 defensive minded outfield players, sitting back waiting for E’too to win the game for them. Personally, I think Cameroon will nick this back on home turf.

We have to wait till Tuesday for the final two matches to take place. Firstly Egypt vs Malawi2Ghana; Egypt, 6-1 down from the first leg, will have to put on a monumental showing and hope Ghana collapse to have any chance of qualification. I just can’t see it happening, and they have paid the price for a poor tactical display by their manager Bob Bradley in the first leg. It is the last chance for a number of Egypt’s big stars of the past 15 years, and I expect them to put in a far improved performance in the second leg. I highly doubt it will be anywhere near sufficient to salvage this tie, but I am expecting them to win for their fans in the second leg, and restore a small amount of pride.

The final tie sees Algeria play Burkina Faso. The Stallions of Burkina Faso have been the surprise package of the qualifying stages, and achieved the runner up spot in the AFCON 2013. A side that rely heavily upon the attacking talents of Alain Traore and their midfield maestro Jonathan Pitropia managed to earn a 3-2 victory in the first leg. Algeria have an exciting team though, and this is probably the pick of the games in terms of balance of the tie and the possibility of an open game. I think Algeria will probably just have too much for their opponents here, but it should be a very good game.

Closer to home, Malawi captain and influential midfielder, Joseph ‘Shakira’ Kamwendo is set to sign for TP Mazembe of the DRC. Mazembe are now one of the biggest clubs in African football following their revival under provincial governor Moise Katumbi Chapwe. Tout Puissant Mazembe (‘Almighty’ Mazembe) has annual revenue of around 18million Euro’s, setting it far apart from any African rivals and has made huge investment in players and club infrastructure. Money has been spent on developing the academy, with it being run by the man, Regis Lageusse, who was responsible for the coaching and development of the Toure brothers. In just 3 years the Academy is starting to reward it’s benefactor, with 8 current senior players in the top flight having being developed there – 2 at Mazembe, 6 at Dombosco, their local rivals but owned by the son of Katumbi. In the coming years, they expect that the majority of their first team squad will come from their academy, which looks 8,000 youths a year on trial, but only takes in between 12 and 20. Now, just to bring it back to Newcastle for a second, it is clubs such as this, and Desportivo Brazil that our board should be making formal links with to allow us the opportunity to bring in talented players at an early stage. Work Permit requirements are a potential issue, but they are also easy to get around, particularly with talented players. Links like this, and with other European and British clubs plus an improvement to the academy and even with a thrifty owner we can make regular and real progress. Llambias had talked about this type of linkage 2 years ago, but either any progress has been kept secret from media and fans, or more likely, there has been no progress.

The weather is getting hot here, and it is tough playing football at the moment. Nevertheless, we are heading up to the lakeshore to face a side from Salima this weekend. It has all fallen into place pretty well as there is also a Full Moon Party at the Lakeshore nearby this weekend. We played the team last year, in front of a crowd of locals, and managed to escape with a 1-1 draw. Although similarly to Newcastle on Sunday, we were largely thankful to an inspired performance from our keeper Gilly. I am expecting another tough match at the weekend, but we have a bit more attacking guile (and athletic ability, no offence to Irish goal getter Shane) this year, so hopefully we can cause them a few more problems. The pitch is unconfirmed yet, but it will either be the sandy pitch, or the pitch with Chilli plants down the right wing. You get used to these sorts of things; we played on a pitch once which had 5 foot wide and 2 foot deep craters down one side. All adds to the experience, and makes a change from our well maintained home pitch! time is 10am, so we are done when the sun hits its peak, but we will still be looking at temperatures of mid to high 30’s, giving the local side a huge advantage over us. Not one to make excuses though as even with that we should still have enough in the tank to get at least a draw.

In the afternoon, myself and another lad called George have been asked to go along and act as, I suppose, football consultants, helping the coaches and speaking with the players for a team that play in the 2nd tier of Malawian football. Not really sure how I have managed to get this gig, but I am looking forward to it. Hopefully we will be able to help them to victory in their game, and it will be a very interesting experience regardless of the outcome.

Afterwards it will be time for a well-earned dip into the lake and a few cold greens before partying the night away with team mates and friends at the Full Moon party on the lake shore. A tough life…..