Blog 11 Sewera Mpira Afrika 29.11.13

The BBC African Footballer of the year is announced next week. The shortlist of 5 seemedMalawia to be mainly based around Africans in the Premier league. Yes, Nigeria won the African Cup of Nations in 2013 and both excelled, but I’m not sure that the rest of the year’s performances for club and country justified the inclusion of Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel – Moses doesn’t even make the 25 man shortlist for CAF’s African Player of the Year. The other 3 are much more deserved, although it wasn’t Yaya’s best year, he deserved to be there, and then we have the 2 non English based; our former target Pierre Emerick Aubamyang, and Johnathan Pitropia of Rennes and Burkino Faso.

Pitropia has been inspirational for Burkino Faso, helping them to second in the AFCON, and nearly taking them to the World Cup. The supremely talented midfielder has shone for country and rightly deserves his place in the shortlist. We all have read up on the merits of PEA, many have probably watched you tube highlight reels, or watched him play for Dortmund and St Etienne. He is selected mainly down to club form, which has been excellent. He has hit the ground running at Dortmund after a fantastic season in France last year. We all know what Yaya is capable of, he has been our undoing on more than 1 occasion since he arrived at City, and is the driving force in their midfield.

The results are out on next Friday, for what it’s worth, I expect one of the Prem based players to win it, as they receive more coverage and I’m guessing it will be Yaya. My personal vote however went the way of the Burkinabe magician, Pitropia.

Following my coaching consultant debut in a Chipiku League 1 victory, 1-0, my teams Malawib(Senga Bay Roaders) first victory of the current campaign, I’m wondering whether news of my success will reach the FA or Ashley’s ears. Hodgson could certainly do with a helping hand, and Pardew still hasn’t mastered the ability to close a game out. Another good win, 3 in a row is nothing to be sniffed at, but there are still cracks showing. Once again towards the end we sat too deep, allowing them to press onto us. Pardew looks to me like he is trying to rectify this, as we still attempted to play our game, but his natural instincts seem to get the better of him. I’d expect something similar against West Brom, we will have to take the game to them, and they will try and catch us on the break using their pace through Long and Anelka. Because of this, Mbiwa is a must in the centre of defence. Therefore Colo should drop back down to the bench. If we get an early lead, then we really need to press on and capitalise on the first half – something we failed to do repeatedly last season, causing us to drop vital points. I said a couple of weeks ago that I felt these 2 games (Norwich and WBA) were the real test to see if Pardew had developed his own tactical abilities, based on the Norwich game we are still a long way off, but there are signs he is trying.

January is just around the corner, and the rumour mill already seems to be gearing up for a month of rumour, gossip, and creative journalist links. Keepers being linked again today, Krul is hardly likely to leave in January unless he goes to a club where he will instantly be first choice. The main clubs linked, Juventus and Arsenal, cannot give him that guarantee. Cabaye, another linked with a move away, has the same issues. He is guaranteed first team football here and with the World Cup coming up, why would he give that up? Not to mention the fact that if he has a very good next 6 months for us, and a good World Cup, his value will increase. It is in the interests of Cabaye, and Ashley therefore that he stays. On the other hand, HBA only has 18months left on his contract, and if he still hasn’t forced his way back into the team by January, he could well be the player that leaves to cover costs of any new arrivals. I’d also be more than happy to let Colo go now, his heart isn’t in it anymore and we should get a replacement and allow him to head home to his family. I’m sure we can arrange a deal, even if it is paid over time for our captain.

As for players we might want, a striker who can play the role Shola is currently doing and aMalawic young commanding centre back are the priorities for me. The links with Gomis, Toivonen and Long are very uninspiring. All 3 have distinctly average goal scoring records and are below what we need. Long would surely just be a back-up striker, who provided we got in a top hold up player as well I would take. At least 1 striker is a must in January though, come the summer when Remy will most likely be off to pastures new, and Shola’s contract is up we will need a minimum 2, more likely 3 strikers in. In terms of bargaining power, we would have zero, and we all know what happens when we can’t get value. That is without even considering when Cisse is finally going to snap out of this woeful form of his, and the fact we are probably one striker light in the squad anyway.

Enough of that, onto a fresh bit of outrage amongst Malawians; the job specification for the next head coach of Malawi was announced and that the job will be advertised with a view to it being filled in January. The outrage is that the specifications require an ‘A’ license to be held by all applicants. This rules out a Malawian being eligible as the highest qualified coaches in Malawi are all B license holders. ‘Azungu’ managers in Africa are generally those who have very little experience or quality at a top level – Santifet being a good example. They may hold an ‘A’ license as a bit of paper, but they certainly don’t know the players, the style or the intricacies of football in Malawi. Surely that is just as, if not more important than the difference between ‘A’ and ‘B’ licenses. The cost of employing a foreigner will be higher, and given FAM is already strapped for cash, then this decision would seem a little bit short sighted as it only really brings the perceived prestige of having a foreign manager.

On a more positive note, 9 of the Under 17 academy team have been invited to join a 40 man Malawi Under 17 squad in Blantyre. From this group of 40, 25 players will then be selected to travel to Zambia to represent the Under 17’s in a local 4 team tournament. Only Surestream academy, the head of which has recently spent time at the new FA Football Centre in Burton, has a higher number of representatives in the 40 man squad. Davie, the Malawian head coach at the academy reckons that 5 or 6 could make it to the 25. George and I think that 3 of them are good enough, although Davie probably has a better grasp on the rest of the countries talent having a son who has recently come through youth football and is now playing in the top flight and not far from the national team set up.

Another weekend, another game on a league pitch; this time I have a game at CIVO stadium, which unfortunately for us, has one of the largest pitches in Malawi. This is on the Sunday, so I will have to keep any potential celebrations of 4 wins in a row (touch wood) to a minimum. We are up against NBS bank, who I have never played against before. Not really sure what to expect from them, they play in a regular ‘Bank’ league, and we have played one Bank team before, beating them comfortably 3-2 (we conceded an own goal, and our keeper that day normally plays full back). They only had 1 shot and got 2 goals, which must be a record of some sort?? In true Malawian league fashion, that is one of 2 games for me this weekend as I play against Puma Strikers on the Saturday. Again, I have never played against them, but am looking forward to it as I hear they have one player who played as a striker in the top flight up until last year. Hopefully I will get to play centre half as I’d quite like to test myself against that standard, and thoroughly fancy my chances of coming out on top.

For those who may be interested, we drew 0-0 up in Salima thanks in the main to a very determined performance from our back line and a couple of good saves from our keeper. In all honesty, they were the better team, and deserved to win, but a draw is very respectable on a pretty poor pitch in the baking hot sun!