TOTTENHAM FANS-ARE YOU READY? ARE YOU REALLY READY?

I wouldn’t want to be in the shoes of a Tottenham fan right now, especially after last night. So many problems in such a short span of time! Woi! First, Tottenham is playing against Arsenal this afternoon, and not just any Arsenal, or the Arsenal of old. This is a renewed, re-energized, allow me to say, RE-BIRTHED Arsenal, and after the Gunners’ exhilarating performance against Everton(5-1 baby!!) last weekend, Spurs need to bring their A-game this afternoon.

But, this is Arsenal, and a great performance is not always forthcoming (I swear I die a little every time Arsenal loses, but this is what love is, together through pain and joy). That coupled with the fact that Petr Cech will be missing in action today (Ospina just does not do it for me), and Kane is in amazing form and still, the season’s lead top scorer could give Tottenham the exact ammunition they need to obliterate our chances of a top-four finish. I do not expect to see much diving from the likes of Alli and Kane, owing to the magnitude of this game, but if there is, I hope they are both red-carded (fat chance!!).

Anyway, moving on to the second point on why Spurs fans should be cowering in their boots at this very moment, Juventus!! It is going to take a miracle for the Tottenham boys to beat Juventus in the first leg of their Champions League match. I mean going by what I saw yesterday, that defense is crazy and Gianluigi Buffon is even crazier. Fiorentina brought their all to that match and dominated almost the entire first half, yet nothing came of it!

It also seemed like luck was not with La Viola yesterday with their penalty appeal being denied after it was accepted five minutes before. The penalty was initially awarded because Dias’ cross made contact with Chiellini’s outstretched arm. However, the penalty was revoked five minutes later, when the ref came to the conclusion that Gil Dias was offside when he crossed the ball. The messed up thing is that replays clearly indicate that Dias was not offside at all!

To make matters worse, guess who scored the first goal for Juventus? One man, Bernadeschi, touted as the most hated former Fiorentina player ever! From the moment he signed to Juventus from Fiorentina, he was regarded as a traitor and a backstabber. This was his first match against his former side since his signing, and his former fans let him have it from the minute he stepped on that pitch yesterday. So when Juventus was awarded a freekick after he was felled by a Fiorentina defender, he had no reservations about taking that free kick and netting it in. (Italians have drama for days….)Yaani, this was not the night for Fiorentina. And did you see that solo Higuain run that led to Juventus second goal? Talk about a counter attack beautifully executed! Wow…

So, let me put this into perspective for you loyal Spurs fans. Congratulations for making it to the last 16 in the Champions League, but from here on out, it’s going to be a bloodbath! Your first game in the last 16 will be against a team that is the top team in Serie A, who have only conceded one goal in their last 16 matches, and that one goal was in December! Furthermore, you are going against a team whose goalkeeper has just capped 500 appearances for his team and is considered to be one of the best goalkeepers in the world. Do not forget that their charismatic striker has just re-discovered his spark, and he’s going all in for his team! Plus, the drama that will ensue in that game, woi!!

I am rooting for you guys, I really am. But, the way things are turning out, it’s going to be a long weekend for you guys, and an extra long week.

I wish you the very best of luck in both games, and take heart!!!

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Jaume Domenech-the goalkeeper with Acrobatic finesse!!

Let me begin by saying I loathe Barcelona FC. If Barca were food, they would be a mixture of bananas, green grams, peas, and carrots (foods that I absolutely hate). That’s right! I have a distinct hatred for one of the most successful clubs in history. Why the passionate dislike for the Catalonian team? Well, for starters, I don’t like how they play, especially how controlled their game is. Oftentimes, it feels predictable and lacks the kind of spontaneity I like seeing in a football match. I can equate all that passing that Barca players do in one match to using too many words to say something, or using too many sentences and ending up not saying anything meaningful.

And don’t get me started on their talisman, Messi. I usually feel that there’s just something off about him, but I cannot put my finger on it. To tell you the truth, I also find him quite uninspiring. The minute people started comparing him to the love of my life was the minute I lost complete interest in this man! He just doesn’t rock my boat like other players do.

Anyway, we are not here to talk about my feelings, there will be a time and a place for this (during my weekend rants to my dad about how much I hate Barcelona).

Today we are here to talk about the Copa Del Rey semifinal match that was played yesterday night. Did you catch it? I did, and I enjoyed bits and pieces of it.

My man of the match was one, Jaume Domenech, Valencia FC’s amazing goalkeeper. Barely eight minutes into the game, and he was called into action, ACROBATICALLY saving a Messi free kick. He was literally mid-air, stretched to the limit across the goal post, and still had the gusto to volley that ball out. It…was…wonderful!! For real, a GIF needs to be made out of this moment. Oh! You should have seen the look on Messi’s face…absolute frustration, and surprise that that did not go in. I loved it!!

And then came the 36th minute where Domenech and Messi were one on one. Diminutive Messi got hit, he got hit bad. He got a knock on the head so bad, that I winced when he came tumbling down. The pair collided, but I feel like it was Messi’s fault. He was too close to goal, and you do not back up when you are inside your opponent’s goal area and not expect the goalkeeper to have something to say about it. It had to get messy, Messi!! I was kind of shocked that there wasn’t a card or a penalty, or anything at that point. I feel like Messi always gets his way, except this time, and I breathed a heavy sigh of relief.

There were numerous other times Domenech Suarez impressed me, but what I loved was his acrobatics when saving the ball, and his confidence in within his post. I cannot say the same for the other Valencia players. It’s like everytime they approached the opponent’s goal, they would get scared. Every freaking time!

I am not a complete Barca hater, Messi did cause a tingle to go down my spine. Only once!! It was around the 29th minute. He kicked an amazing long range kick that was almost like a curveball that missed its mark only so slightly. Ai! Talk about aim!! I was so glad it didn’t go in, but I was impressed, not a lot, just a little.

And then there was that brilliant mid-field run from Iniesta near the end of the first half. That was quite impressive! Didn’t amount to much, luckily, but it was a good try!

I loved Suarez’ run at the beginning of the second half, and how he managed to weave himself through the Valencia midfielders and defense. He shot the ball across goal, and the icing on the cake was that Coutinho was right there to kick the ball into the back post of Valencia’s net. Isn’t that sweet? But, honestly, I am really really happy that Coutinho saw goal yesterday! I hope this is the beginning of the end of Messi’s era. Speaking of which, did you catch the rumors about a certain Chinese team wanting to sign Messi? I know it won’t go through, but a girl has the right to hope (pray, fast and do some voodoo chants as well).

Even though Valencia did not go through to the finals, they really impressed me. They have an awesome goalkeeper, and they created amazing chances. They just had a bit of a confidence problem going for goal. Barcelona was, for me, not a delight to watch as usual, except for a few dazzling moments here and there. I do have to point out that even with all the possession and theatrics, Barca was getting kind of confused near their opponent’s goal post, otherwise, we would have seen many other goals.

Now, we just have to sit back and wait for the Copa Del Rey final between Barcelona and Sevilla FC on 21st of April. I want Sevilla to win, obviously!!

What was Your best moment of the match and who do you think will be the next Copa kings? Be sure to subscribe, and leave a comment below with your opinion!! You can also give me a shout here, here, and here.

PS: I do not know what’s going on in the Barcelona locker room, but, y’all need to shave your stubbles!! It’s not a pretty sight at all, well, except for Suarez. You look rugged and handsome, but the rest of you, don’t. So, please shave!!

WE NEED A KADENGE MOVIE LIKE YESTERDAY!!

Maragoli United. Abaluya United. Two legendary football clubs that were part and parcel of the exciting, politically tumultuous, football scene in a recently-independent Kenya. Honestly, I had never heard of Maragoli United until a few days ago, but back then, it and Abaluya United, among others were the ish! They were among the first official Kenyan football clubs and from these two clubs, a hero, no, a legend, emerged!

It was the 60s’ and football was the most popular sport in the country (definitely still is). Nairobi was the epicenter of the football scene with many of the football teams that were part of the first Kenyan championship based in the city. The football clubs in Nairobi back then were extremely tribal, and in most instances, all the players in a club would be from the same ethnic community (go here if you want more information on how ethnicity played a part in early Kenyan football)

 

Back then, Kenya was just an infant nation trying to find its place in this new big world and trying even desperately harder (and failing miserably) to unshackle itself from the reins of colonialism. Back then, our economy was thriving, with an average GDP of 6.6% p.a., and we had the opportunity to become one of the wealthiest nations in the continent.

One name stood out during this era, a name that has become engraved in our history books. A name that is still heard today when we talk about true Kenyan legends. A name that had Kenyans speaking in one tongue every time he kicked the ball, scored a goal or dribbled past a defender.

This is a man who almost single-handedly catapulted our nation to football dominance in the region from the very first international game he played.We associate this name with the beauty that can be Kenyan football, or Kenyan anything if we could just put our mind to it and love our nation.

Who am I rambling on about you ask? Joe Kadenge, baby!! Yes, he of the ‘kadengenampiraaaaaaaa….kadengenampiraaaaaaa’ fame. The man who was instrumental in the early successes and exploits of AFC Leopards (formerly Abaluya United) back then making it into one of the most successful Kenyan football clubs of all time. In addition, he was our powerhouse when it came to our participation in regional competitions such as the Gossage Cup and the East and Central African Senior Challenge Cup, which were the precursors to the CECAFA Cup.

He burst into the limelight when he scored the fastest goal in Kenya Premier League history while at Maragoli United. He has gone on to win numerous other accolades throughout his career and even after retiring from the beautiful game.

Did you know that the 1958 Gossage Cup was unofficially referred to as the ‘Kadenge Tournament’ owing to the massive popularity, skills, drive, and passion of the Kenyan right winger? Well, I thought you should know!! In the final match of the cup, his goal, and later his assist helped us win the 1958 Gossage Cup. Wow!!

This was just the beginning of a lustrous football career for Kadenge, as a player, and as the coach of our national team.

I am even getting goosebumps just writing about this man!! Now, can you imagine watching him play? Watching him move? Seeing his story, his battle, his wins, his tenacity, and the moments that made him, him? If eyewitness accounts and oral narratives are anything to go by, this man was pure magic on and off the field, and I wanna see it, I wanna live it!

He epitomizes everything we should strive to be, on and off the field. Kadenge is passionate, Kadenge is a patriot, he cared for something, and he helped it grow. Where would our football be, if the likes of Kadenge and other football greats did not exist? Where? We probably would not be a footballing nation at all.

We owe it to him, to all football legends of our nation, and to ourselves and to our children, to immortalize the contributions they made to our football. Sure, there is an autobiography here and there, but that is not enough! At least, I feel that that is not enough!

We need a movie, people! A movie based on his perspective of Kenya then, of football, of how tribalism affected the game then and now, the challenges he went through as a person, a player and as a coach, and how he feels the game has grown. Let’s be honest, many of us have never seen him play. But, what an honor, what a privilege it would be to travel back in time and see him score his first goal, or be in the stands as he takes away our breath with his out of this world dribbling skills, or watch him take Abaluya United from glory to glory. As fans, we need to feel connected to this icon and this part of our history, and I am convinced that a movie would do the trick.

He is a walking, breathing encyclopedia of not only our football history, but our national history as a whole, and we need to get his story now, first hand,  for our sake and for the sake of future generations.

Imagine inspiring a new, refreshed, enterprising, footballing generation where more Kadenges’ emerge. What a country that would be! I feel that is what we can get if we make a movie about the life of this footballing legend.

The idea is already out there, as depicted by the concept note developed by Black Arrow FC. I did not even know these guys existed until I stumbled on their page this week, but they are doing a really good job of wanting to tell Kadenge’s story. All these fellows need is partners to support the completion of the film. If you are out there and you feel compelled to help then please visit this page.

That being said, we are now at a conundrum! If a movie does happen, who is going to play Kadenge? Who do you have in mind?

Leave your comments below on who you feel should play Joe Kadenge if a movie was to be made about him. You can also tweet me with your ideal actor for the role on @gina_maha.

Let’s get cracking people, we have a movie to make!!

OF BAD BOYS AND EYEBROW RAISING TRANSFERS

Did you catch the Supercup derby last Sunday? Well, I did (on TV of course) and it was a hoot! It was right after church (where, btw, I am a Sunday School teacher), I had eaten, taken a nap, and I was more than ready for it. Down here, we call it the Mashemeji Derby, and every time these two teams meet, there’s bound to be fireworks for fans and players alike!

Can you believe these two teams have met 97 times, including last week’s match? Amazing!!

I was kind of jealous of the people who had made it to Afraha Stadium to watch the game. It felt like the teams and their fans were part of something familial and I was just an outsider looking in. This is perhaps one of the greatest and longest football feuds in our nation, and it sucks not feeling connected to the history of these two amazing teams!! 😦

Anyway, enough of the melodrama! Let me get right into it. It was a spectacular game with Gor looking stronger from the onset, in my point of view, and it was kind of disappointing that there weren’t as many goals as you would want in such an exciting clash! What did catch my attention, though, was the roughness of the game. This game was so intense and the referee had to make some tough calls throughout the game, including giving one ‘Gattuso’, a yellow card in like the first 15 minutes of the encounter.

I was struck by how aggressive he could be, but hey, he’s a midfielder, it’s bound to happen. What caught me off-guard is what the commentators said once he was shown the yellow. Their comments went along the lines of, ‘oh, this is normal, he’ll probably end up with a red, most probably won’t last the entire game’…(they were speaking in Swahili by the way just in case you were wondering). Shots fired!!

Gattuso is a skilled midfielder, with a stellar football career that has spanned more than five years. Having played for Gor Mahia, Sofapaka, and Tusker FC in the past, he has gained a reputation for being combative (in and out of the field) and an individual who is not squeamish about putting his body on the line in order to get the much-needed results for his team. He gets the job done……when, and if, he decides to show up.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a bad boy as much as the next girl, and his antiques over the years, especially while he was in Gor, were definitely newsworthy. From arriving late for training, missing training sessions, going missing completely from training camps, to numerous fines, and fights, and social media rants, this midfielder has earned a place on the list of  Kenyan football bad-asses!!

Which is why I was sort of surprised to hear about his recent transfer to ‘The Den’, Gor Mahia’s main rival. I mean, doesn’t AFC Leopards have enough problems to deal with at the moment without having to add a temperamental, headstrong bad boy with a penchant for flouting team rules on to its worry list? And, doesn’t the coach know that bad boys equal heartbreaks? Take it from me, I am a girl, I know these things!

The Leopards could possibly be on the brink of financial collapse and the last thing the team needs is indiscipline or even a hint of it amongst its ranks. Otherwise, their entire 2018 campaign is in jeopardy.

But, who knows, Gattuso could be exactly what they need right now in these dark financial times. Drama, passion, action, and heat follow this man wherever he goes and he could be a critical ingredient to one of their most fierce cup challenges yet. This could be the home he has been looking for, and with proper management, Ingwe could be looking at their next midfield talisman. Only time will tell!!

Good luck to both team and player!

MY LOVE FOR SOCCER: WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

What inspired me to start a blog about football? (Slight update: it’s no longer just about football, but also about everything in this crazy head!)

The same thing that inspires me to get out of bed every morning, pure, intense passion!

I love football, I have since I was in primary school. If I can remember correctly, I was a puny girl in Standard Four or Five that was socially awkward and loved to read. You know what else I loved back then? You guessed it, playing football! I was not good at all, but I loved running up and down chasing after that ball every break time, home time, and games time. A big thank you to the dudes in my class that allowed me to play with them.

And then came the moment that would change my love affair with football forever. Before this, it was just a game, but it would soon become more than that. It would become a way of life.

It was around June 2002, I was in Standard Six, and by all accounts, it was shaping up to be a good year for me. Academically, I was doing good, I had managed to make a few friends in school, and my crush list was a mile long! World Cup fever was at its peak all over the world, and in our home. I remember my brother and I having stuck newspaper pullouts of Ronaldo,Rivaldo, Ballack, Beckham, Roberto Carlos, and Khan on our closet doors. On second thought, I think it was just me doing that! This was the first time I had ever even heard these names in my life, and seen so many football games in such a short span of time. I was soooooooooo excited! The World Cup, Brazil, to be specific, was all we could talk about in school, and all we could talk about at home. It was a spectacular time!

I cannot remember which game it was. I cannot even remember which day it was. I don’t remember if I had eaten, or done my homework. In fact, I don’t even remember if it was day or night! All I remember is catching a glimpse of him on the screen every few minutes. If he wasn’t ‘chengaing’ defenders with his amazing dribbling skills, he was threatening goal. I swear even the cameras could not catch up with him in that match.

And his hair! Gosh, I think he’s the reason I am obsessed with men with long hair to this day. You would just see a kasmall ponytail move from left to right every time he got the ball. I did not know it then, but I was laying my eyes for the first time on one of the greatest loves of my life for decades to come! It was not about his physique, (okay, maybe except his hair!), it was more about his skills on the pitch that absolutely blew my mind!

But, as far as I can remember, no one talked about him as much as I wanted. Everyone else was head over heels with the likes of Ronaldo. It didn’t matter, this special young man had caught my attention, and he would hold it hostage forever!

His free kick against England sealed the deal for me. I faintly recall I was sitting in my mum’s favorite chair when the highlight of that came on. I was witness to magic and my young, pre-adolescent brain was stunned.

Seeing him play that game that way ignited a flame of sorts within. I was hooked on football after that. It’s like he introduced me to a new world that I could engage with nearly every weekend. A world I felt comfortable in where I wasn’t shy, or scared, or ashamed about my excessively huge forehead, or the fact that I did not have a single ounce of confidence in myself. The more I engaged with this new world, the more I connected with people around me, because now I had something in common with them.

I have followed Ronaldinho’s career since that game up until he announced his retirement this year. I was so enamored by this guy that for the longest time I used his name, Moreira, as my surname on Facebook. This connection is deep, yoh, it’s deep. When he retired last month, I cried, and told everyone about him leaving the game, even my mum. Speaking of my mum, according to her, he was my first boyfriend because I could not shut up about him!! And she kept making fun of his teeth to infuriate me. And I would shout back that it wasn’t about how he looked, but about HOW HE PLAYED!!! You should hear how she pronounces his name…it’s heartbreaking!

Anyway, he was my first MVP, and I want to dedicate my future posts on this blog to individuals like him who make this and other sports so amazing, so magical, so life changing!

PS: A big shout-out to Radio Jambo for always having my back when the local TV channels were unable to air football matches, and we didn’t have DSTV and I was too young to go watch in a bar! You guys are also MVPs.

 

Making Sense of My World, One Post At A Time

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