Classic encounters await in the Champions League

A little over three months after Real Madrid became kings of Europe for an 11th time in Milan, the group phase of the 2016/17 UEFA Champions League is all set to begin. The 25th edition of the competition, the final of which will be held at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, sees the arrival of two newcomers in Leicester City and Rostov, the respective champions of England and Russia, while the holders are aiming to become the first ever side to successfully defend the title.

Some 31 teams will be attempting to prevent Los Blancos from doing just that and to earn the right to go for global glory at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017.

There is a long way to go before the trophy is presented, however. To set the scene for the start of the group phase, picks out a stand-out encounter from each of the eight sections, casting its eye over a couple of rematches from last season’s competition and some fixtures that have now become continental classics.

Group A: Paris Saint Germain-Arsenal, 13 September, Parc des Princes
The Gunners have an excellent record in France, having won on their last seven visits there, and arrive in Paris with designs on testing a new-look PSG side now under the stewardship of Spanish coach Unai Emery.

Shorn of the services of iconic striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is now with Manchester United, the Parisian giants have made a shaky start to the season, but are determined to break new ground in Europe. Will this be the season when they finally advance beyond the quarter-finals and perhaps even kick on to win the famous trophy for the first time?

Group B: Napoli-Benfica, 28 September, Stadio San Paolo
Appearing in Europe’s blue riband club competition for the fifth time, Napoli will be looking to contest top spot with fellow group favourites Benfica.

The Italians will host the first meeting between the sides, which pitches together two coaches anxious to build on successful debut seasons in their respective posts. While Maurizio Sarri led I Partenopei to second place in Serie A last term, Rui Vitoria steered the Lisbon club to a Portuguese league and cup. It remains to be seen if the two sides will miss their recently departed stars, with Napoli having bid farewell to a Juventus-bound Gonzalo Higuain and Benfica losing the services of Nico Gaitan to Atletico Madrid.

Group C: Barcelona-Manchester City, 19 October, Camp Nou
Barça versus City is a fixture that is becoming something of a European classic. This is the third season running that the two will cross swords in the competition, though their 2014 and 2015 encounters came in the last eight, with the Mancunians failing to win any of those four games.

The return of City’s new coach Pep Guardiola to the Camp Nou will add even extra spice to the occasion, as if it were needed. On his first visit back to his old stamping ground, which came with Bayern Munich last season, Guardiola looked on as a Lionel Messi-inspired Barcelona romped to a 3-0 win. Having on that occasion described the Argentinian as a player who is impossible to defend against, the City coach now has a fresh opportunity to find a way of neutralising his former charge.

Group D: Bayern Munich-Atletico Madrid, 6 December, Allianz Arena
Despite Bayern laying siege to their goal in the second leg of last season’s semi-final in Munich, Atletico weathered the storm to win through to their second Champions League final in three years.

The two will come face to face again just a few months on, with memories of that titanic encounter having remained fresh. Still led by Diego Simeone, Los Colchoneros have kept the nucleus of that side together, and will come up against an old foe in Carlo Ancelotti. The new Bayern coach was the man who masterminded Real Madrid’s 2014 final win over El Cholo’s Atletico.

Group E: Tottenham Hotspur-Monaco, 14 September, White Hart Lane
Spurs and Monaco both return to the competition following three-year absences. Third in the Premier League last season, the Londoners will be hoping to rekindle memories of their magical run six years ago, when Gareth Bale helped propel them to the last eight. With Argentinian coach Mauricio Pochettino at the helm and Harry Kane leading the line, Spurs play a high-octane brand of attacking football.

Monaco, who qualified for the group phase via the League Route, are a side that can hit hard on the counter and are led up front by Colombian striker Radamel Falcao, who will no doubt be anxious to reassert himself following a luckless, injury-ravaged stay in England.

Group F: Borussia Dortmund-Real Madrid, 27 September, Signal Iduna Park
Another modern classic of European football, the two having met four times in the 2012/13 season, when Dortmund recorded a famous 4-1 win in the first leg of their semi-final clash. The Spaniards have happier memories of their last meeting, however, scoring a quarter-final win over the German side en route to la décima. On that occasion current Real boss Zinedine Zidane was an assistant to Ancelotti and Jurgen Klopp was the man in charge of a Dortmund side now coached by Thomas Tuchel.

Played out before the stadium’s famous Yellow Wall, this is a match that promises plenty, with two sides well versed in the art of exploiting space and committed to playing pacy, attacking football.

Group G: Leicester City-Porto, 27 September, King Power Stadium
The Leicester fairy tale will continue with their second group match, which will see the Champions League anthem play for the very first time at their home ground. Former European champions Porto will provide suitably distinguished opposition for Claudio Ranieri’s Foxes, with tournament new boys Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez having the task of finding a way past Iker Casillas, who has made more appearances in the competition than any other player.

Group H: Sevilla-Juventus, 22 November, Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan
These two sides faced off on the final matchday in the group phase last season, a game the already-eliminated Spaniards won to book a place in the Europa League, which they then went on to lift for the third time running. That defeat left Juve in second place in the group, consigning them to a last-16 tie against Bayern Munich, one they would lose.

Though the Italian champions are the favourites to win the group, they can expect a stiff test against a Sevilla side now under the guidance of Jorge Sampaoli, who was on the three-man shortlist for the 2015 FIFA Men’s Football Coach of the Year award.


Deal Or No Deal – 2022 Qatar World Cup #FIFAChronicles

It is less than a week before the FIFA presidential election, two old time inseparable friends are going head to head in what promises to be a bruising battle to lead world football.

Mohammed Bin Hammam, a Qatari billionaire whom just six months ago was bunking in the sunshine after helping his tiny wealthy country get the nod to host and organize the controversially awarded  2022 World Cup tournament, is challenging the incumbent FIFA president Sepp Blatter an old time streetwise tactician.  Surely there’s going to blood on the floor during this battle.


Bin Hammam is fighting for his football career, together with Jack Austin Warner have been accused of allegations of fraud and corruption by trying to bribe CFU (Caribbean Football Union) officials during its special congress in Port Of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.  These actions were in direct contravention of the FIFA ethical code, and therefore Bin Hammam has a case to answer.

It is alleged this congress had been organized by Jack Warner in order to afford his Qatari friend an opportunity to state his case before the congress on his FIFA presidential ambitions after he was shutout at the CONCACAF congress in Miami due to visa issues.  Another Blatter tactic?

The man from Doha has a dark cloud hanging over him, and in two days’ time, he has to appear before FIFA ethics committee to try and clear his name that been tarnished by the scandal that sent shockwaves around the world.  However, he doesn’t trust this committee to give him a fair hearing, as those man serves at the behest of the president.

As they say in politics nothing is permanent the same goes in football.  Bin Hamman had been instrumental in campaigning for Blatter to become FIFA president way back in 1998, and even offering his own private jet for Blatter’s worldwide junket to garner votes.  Just a few days before the presidential vote in Paris, Bin Hammam received a frantic call from his wife back in Doha that his son has been involved in a terrible accident and in a critical state a matter of life and death, which he has to return home at once.   “My son doesn’t need me he needs god and the doctors around him, and I’m here president Blatter needs me, ” said Bin Hammam end o the story, he remained in Paris to ensure that his Swiss friend is crowned president. Fortunately, his son managed to survive and was well on road to recovery.

Fast forward to the year 2011, it was heartbreaking to see the two most powerful men and so called friends in world football becoming enemies which will be detrimental to the sport and might cause serious division if not handled properly. Something needed to be done urgently.   A deal a sweetener must be put forward as soon as possible.

There were rumblings with the way in which Qatar was awarded the rights to host the 2022 tournament despite reservations around that Qatar high summer temperatures, which are not conducive to play any football and pose a serious danger to players.  Adding to the allegations that Qatar paid bribes to certain officials to vote in their favor.  Blatter the old fox was at his best now, coming on and giving a mixed message about the Qatari world cup and at some point hinting a possible re-vote.  Surely somewhere here there’s has to be a solution.

Just 3 days before the presidential ballot taking place, Bin Hammam was summoned to a meeting at FIFA house with his old time friend Mr. JS Blatter. Also at that meeting, there was a representative of the Qatar royal family and this got Bin Hammam mind to go into overdrive.  This is the moment of truth… A deal is presented to him:  Withdraw from the presidential contest and Qatar 2022 World Cup is safe cannot be touched and therefore no re-vote.

“And what about my case before the ethics committee?” asked Bin Hammam

“There’s no candidate, and there’s no case at all” Blatter respondent calmly.  Wow, that’s vintage Blatter in his perfect elements cards well played. The ball is in now sitting firmly on Bin Hammam’s turf. He’s got a choice to make Left or Right, East or West, Street or Avenue? The choice is yours.

Damn that was a hard pill to swallow, how Blatter can try to destroy a man who stood by him when everyone else was running for cover. The choice has just become clearer for the Qatari billionaire. He must step down and let Blatter go for the presidency for another four years unopposed so they fend off any fear of a revote.

Later that night Bin Hammam obliged and withdrew from the ballot.  The following afternoon he appeared before the FIFA ethics committee and to his shock he was found guilty of contravening FIFA’s ethical code……Okay where is our deal now, Blatter is nowhere to found, he ran for cover.  “Let the law take its course, however, they will be no revote on 2022 world cup” quipped Blatter.

Bin Hammam has been thrown to the wolves and eventually suspended from all football activities for a two-year period. Once again Blatter outperformed and knifed him in the process.

Was this a good deal or not? You be the judge.

Going Nowhere Slowly With Shakes Mashaba

SAFA president Dr. Danny Jordan came out guns blazing criticizing yet another uninspiring Bafana Bafana display against the lowly ranked Mauritania.
The once mighty giant of African football drew 1-1 with Mauritania ranked at Number 104 according to the latest FIFA World Ranking. The results spell disaster for Bafana Bafana as they failed to qualify for 2017 AFCON tournament to be held in Gabon.

After a disastrous qualifying campaign trail, the crème dela creme of SA football will sadly be watching the biannual soccer spectacle from the comfort of their homes like the rest of us. Bafana won 1 game, drew four and a single loss.
As always the defiant coach Shakes Mashaba was pleased and content with his charges on the day.
“I think it’s a disappointing performance – we have to say that up straight,” Jordan
“This must be the end of the journey, not the beginning because this cannot lead us into the 2018 campaign, where we will play the giants of the African continent. “I hope that the Nelson Mandela Challenge against Egypt will indicate to us that we have the team with the determination, will, and guts to win.
“What we saw tonight was disappointing. We had a goal given to us through a penalty; we had numerous opportunities, but we cannot continue to talk about the same things.”
I must say I’m now glad that the first citizen of football in South Africa Dr. Jordan is back and fully in charge of football matters after a political sabbatical at the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan. Judging by his utterances coach Shakes Mashaba is heading towards the exit door at SAFA House.

Public opinion is divided on whether Bra Shakes should step aside or continue to steer the ship to nowhere. The fact of the matter is that the masses of this football mad nation have lost hope with the status quo the national teams find itself in. The current situation had not been a once off occurrence, it has been bubbling under for a number of years, yet the so-called custodians of football seemed not to care in turn they looked the other way. Our football is in ICU and needs serious attention if we are to head back to the glory days.

For numerous football reasons, I wish Bra Shakes could vacate the seat, which has become very hot for to handle. The arrogance displayed by coach Mashaba in dealing with football matters such as proper planning prior to important matches and inconsistent team selection leaves much to be desired for. Don’t get me wrong Bra Shakes is one of the most decorated and experienced coach South Africa has ever produced, with a very impeccable record in nurturing and unearthing new raw talent.

Just to put it ingenuously Mashaba is an old skool coach that has consistently been unable to utilize and embrace new modern tools of football, therefore it is unlikely that we will reach 2018 Russia World Cup with him at the helm. An urgent reshuffle of the technical team is required urgently, one would say the timing is wrong to change things around thus it will disrupt genesis of the team. And my question is which team are you talking about? At this moment we have no team that signifies the nuclear of the current Bafana Bafana team. Any world class coach can hit the ground running with the current crop of talented players at our disposal.

The lack of planning should also be directed towards SAFA’s door. The governing body is tasked with setting the tone and vision on issues pertaining to football maters such development of the game et al. Over the past couple of years we have seen all sorts of visions (planning for the future) like Vision 2006 to Vision 2018 and 2022. I have never experienced, seen or even enjoyed the fruits of each vision, as they keep on shifting year on year. The association has failed dismally.

There’s nothing wrong with planning for the future, however, central to every plan is the period within which the desired results are expected. Like wine, football planning requires a sizable amount of time to fully mature. All these short gun visions haven’t bared any fruits, our football hasn’t developed an inch, and we have failed to produce world class players like in the yesteryear’s. The time is now to implement long term plans for development at grassroots levels to produce the kind of players suited to the South African way of playing.
As we normally say that our country does not operate in isolation and it is part of the global economy, we should take cues from major footballing nations such as Germany, Spain, Holland and France on development issues in order to create our own identity. It can’t be business as usual and remain the laughing stock of the continent yet we have world class facilities to produce the best of the best.
South African football is in urgent need of patriotic men and women who will rise to the occasion and deliver the nation out of the wilderness of world football to a promised land wherein we are able to compete with the best in the game. A concerted effort is needed from all key football stakeholders to bring about the required change. Until such time we will continue to bask in the glory of 1996 African Cup Of Nation victory.

Follow @tmolokwane

Compensation Sub-Committee agrees compensation of FIFA President and Secretary General

The FIFA Compensation Sub-Committee and the FIFA President have agreed that the FIFA President’s gross basic salary will be CHF 1.5 million per year plus benefits. The Sub-Committee and the FIFA Secretary General also agreed that the Secretary General’s gross basic salary will be CHF 1.3 million plus benefits.

The Compensation Sub-Committee, chaired by Tomaz Vesel, has determined these figures by taking into account a number of factors, including two independent expert opinions prepared by external human resources consultants.

FIFA President’s compensation
Annual gross salary: CHF 1,500,000
Bonus for 2016: 0
Benefits: Car and lodging free of charge during term of office and contribution for expenses in accordance with FIFA’s expenses regulations (CHF 2,000 per month)

FIFA Secretary General’s compensation
Annual gross salary: CHF 1,300,000
Bonus for 2016: 0
Benefits: Car and contribution for expenses in accordance with FIFA’s expenses regulations (CHF 2,000 per month)

The Compensation Sub-Committee decided that bonuses would not be awarded for 2016 because the Sub-Committee members, the President and the Secretary General believe that FIFA’s current compensation policy is inadequate and open to malfunction and misuse. Bonus payments from 2017 onwards will be awarded in accordance with objective criteria related to FIFA’s mission and operations as well as the outcome of the organisational reforms that are currently being implemented.

All elements of the contracts of the President and Secretary General are in line with Swiss law and FIFA rules and regulations. All amounts paid this year will be presented in FIFA’s 2016 Financial and Governance Report. The Compensation Sub-Committee will regularly monitor the implementation of the contracts to ensure full compliance.

Furthermore, the Compensation Sub-Committee will conduct a comprehensive review of FIFA’s compensation policy and develop a new draft policy in the coming months that adheres to the organisation’s commitment to transparency and good governance.

The FIFA President’s annual compensation represents less than 25% of his predecessor’s compensation (average for 2010-2015 including bonuses).

The FIFA Secretary General’s annual compensation likewise represents less than 25% of her predecessor’s compensation (average for 2010-2015 including bonuses).

Tomaz Vesel, chairman of the FIFA Compensation Sub-Committee: “Dr Peter Braun, Mr Issa Hayatou (chairman of the FIFA Finance Committee) and I are very satisfied with the outcome of this process which has been transparent and responsible.

The compensation amounts in our view are absolutely appropriate considering the challenging duties of the President and the Secretary General. The FIFA President plays a key role as the leader of FIFA. He leads the organisation, setting its overall strategy with a clear mission to develop and protect the game. He also has a great responsibility with regard to the reform process that has begun at FIFA. The Secretary General ensures that the FIFA administration operates effectively in support of its mission to develop football and support member associations around the world. Importantly, both executives play a key role in implementing the reforms that are so important to FIFA’s future.

It is very clear to the members of the Sub-Committee and President Infantino that FIFA needs a new compensation policy. That is why it was proposed that no bonus would be paid in 2016 to the President and the Secretary General.

Historic shortcomings demonstrate that the present policy is inadequate. We will be reviewing the policy with an eye towards developing a new draft that is in keeping with the organisation’s commitment to good governance and transparency, one that will seek to prevent excessive payments as unfortunately happened in the past. As part of this review, we are carefully examining all payments made to previous FIFA management.”

Gianni Infantino, FIFA President: “Given the earlier misunderstandings and misrepresentations concerning this process and my compensation, I am pleased that this matter is now resolved and that I have a signed, valid employment contract. I am satisfied that the framework of the talks I had with the Compensation Sub-Committee were transparent and open-minded.

Further, the financial elements of the contract reflect more than any word can my strong will to end the types of behaviour that, in the recent past, have led to abuses. Today’s announcement demonstrates the importance that FIFA’s new leadership places on transparency and good governance. I am particularly happy that the Compensation Sub-Committee will be reviewing the current compensation policy and developing a new and improved policy. I am determined that abuses of the system will not happen under my presidency.”





Ex FIFA President Joao Havelange dies

The President of FIFA from 1974 to 1998, Joao Havelange died in Samaritano Hospital, Rio de Janeiro. He was 100.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino expressed his sympathies: “During his 24 years as FIFA President football became truly global, reaching new territories and bringing the game to all corners of the world. Something the whole football community should be grateful for. I extend my condolences to his family.”

Born in Rio de Janeiro on 8 May 1916 to Belgian immigrants, Jean-Marie Faustin Godefroid de Havelange proved himself to be an exceptional swimmer and represented Brazil at two Olympic Games, competing in the 400m and 1500m freestyle events at Berlin 1936 and forming part of the country’s water polo team at Helsinki 1952.

Though he trained as a lawyer, Havelange continued to pursue a career in the world of sport, becoming the head of the Brazilian delegation at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956 and the honorary president of Fluminense Football Club. In 1958, at the age of 42, he was appointed chairman of the Brazilian Sports Association (CBD), which later became the Brazilian Football Association (CBF).

Voted on to the International Olympic Committee in 1963, Havelange was elected President of FIFA on 11 June 1974. During his six terms in office a total of 50 new associations joined the governing body of world football. It was also during his presidency that FIFA organised the inaugural Women’s World Cup in 1991 and the first Futsal, Men’s U-20 and Men’s U-17 World Cups, in 1989, 1977 and 1985 respectively.




Die Mannschaft to go all the way #EURO2016



I’m a big fan of Les Bleus; however going into tonight’s mouth-watering UEFA EURO 2016 semi-final clash with Die Mannschaft my loyalty is undergoing a major test. In my opinion this is the final before the real final.

My loyalty is learning towards Joachim Louw’s men to walk all over the red hot French side, which enjoys full backing of their home supporters. Both sides locked horns in the 2014 World Cup Brazil quarterfinals, where Germany went through courtesy of Mats Hummels solitary goal.
Be rest assured that football history is going to get a new entry after tonight’s match, irrespective of whether this is done within regular time or extra time and even penalty kicks.

Germany has never lost against the host nation in any major tournament in 50 years. Die Mannschaft are ready to hit the ground running, and live up to the expectation of the ever demanding German fans back home.
Anything less than lifting the Henri Delaunay trophy would be seen a failure by both sets of fans.

The odds are stack against France, and I’m fully behind Germany to go all the way. It is really difficult to see this German team losing ground at this stage. Germany is limping through to the finals without Mario Gomez, Sam Khedira, and Mats Hummels.
Don’t be fooled by Germany’s lacklustre performance against Italy in the quarters, this team possess big match pedigree and they’re going to step up tonight. Expect a flood of goals.

Germany has the best defence by far spearheaded by Manuel Neuer, and they should be able to contain Les Bleus danger men Griezmann, Pogba and Payet.
Didier Deschamps has a full string squad of 23 men to choose the 1st XI.

Verdict: Germany wins
Final Match: Germany Vs Portugal, Stade De France, 10 July 2016