Myth busting the Africa Cup of Nations

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Jonny Singer reports from Bata, Equatorial Guinea on some of the myths surrounding the perception of African football…

The majority of European fans, and English fans in particular, watch very little African football. Our experiences tend to be based around World Cups, the odd player who plays in our leagues, and a passing interest in the Africa Cup of Nations every couple of years.

It is therefore not surprising that, while everyone here in Equatorial Guinea has warned against backing the Ivory Coast, in the UK they remain the bookies’ favourite.

Who cares that they conceded 11 times in six qualifying games? They have Yaya and Kolo Toure, Wilfried Bony, Gervinho, Salomon Kalou, Serge Aurier, Serey Die. We’ve heard of all those players – they must be good.

So when minnows Guinea, a country whose only English-based player is Sheffield Wednesday’s Kamil Zayatte, took the lead on Tuesday night, it might have come as a bit of a shock. It’s highly likely that those punters who put money on this tournament from the UK are going to be parted with it – and not inconceivable that it might even happen during the group stage.

But misconceptions about African football run deeper than not knowing which teams are in form. There are two myths that have somehow survived about the game on this continent that have very little basis. First, that the standard of refereeing here is significantly lower than in the European game, and secondly, that the goalkeepers are something of a joke. Continue reading

A Day Out with the Cerezo Osaka Ultras

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TFN’s Alastair Nasmyth returns with a special report from his trip to Cerezo Osaka…

Coming out of Tsurugaoka station you could hear the chanting already. It was an hour before kickoff, but the Cerezo Osaka Ultras were already whipping up the crowd. It was so loud I started worrying the game had started and I’d got my times wrong in my hungover state induced by all you can drink Karaoke (yeah that’s as dangerous as it sounds) the night before.

Cerezo Osaka are one of two teams in Osaka, Japan’s second largest city, the other being Gamba Osaka. This season they have had massively contrasting experiences similar to those previously seen in Manchester before the sheikhs turned up. Gamba have already won one piece of silverware this year (the Yamazaki Nabisco Cup, one of their two domestic cup competitions) and can secure a league and cup double with wins in their last two games of the season. Cerezo on the other hand are staring relegation in the face with two wins needed in their last two games to have a chance of staying up. In fact they are only being saved from the bottom spot by Tokushima Vortis’ Derby County circa 2008 performance and prop up the 17 teams above them with 13 points from 32 games. Continue reading

The False Nine claim consolation prize in Currys FIFA Cup

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Last week, The False Nine were invited to the Greenlight offices in Kings Cross to take part in the Currys FIFA Cup. This was a knockout FIFA tournament, played out on Greenlight’s giant flatscreen TV.

TFN, represented by James Dutton, were drawn against Boro Guide in the quarter-finals, in a tie that pit Germany against Spain. Unused to the next-gen gameplay of FIFA 14 on the PS4, TFN struggled in the early stages falling 1-0 behind before pulling it back in the second-half and claiming a deserved equaliser. The game fizzled out in extra-time and, after a few dodgy penalties – another result of the unfamiliar gameplay – Germany lost their first penalty shoot-out in living memory and TFN exited the tournament at the first hurdle.

Alongside the FIFA tournament was a table football event, in which TFN fared rather better. Hugo Greenhalgh saw off Alex of Charlton Live and the Sporting Formation boys before taking on Pete of Boro Guide in the Final. Conceding three goals in quick succession, it did not look good for TFN’s man in red. However, he pulled it back to claim the prize of an England shirt.

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It was a great evening and a good opportunity to meet some other football bloggers. Many thanks to Greenlight and Currys for putting it on!

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@The_False_Nine

KS Cracovia: Life as a Member of the Pasy, Part Two

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Kyle Hulme talks about his experience at last weekend’s Krakow derby…

Despite Poland being occupied by both Nazi and Soviet forces during the Second World War, Krakow remained pretty much unscathed – legend has it the Pope wrote to Roosevelt, asking that he pressed Stalin to take extra special care of the holy city – and so its many grand buildings and monuments remain as beautiful today as they were when they were first built.

Yet wandering around the main square on Saturday afternoon, it was as though you were walking around a warzone; large groups marching through the city, chanting; casings of explosion-type fireworks and flares strewn across the floor; Polish flags attached to famous landmarks flying bravely and the remnants of symbols of the enemy, left charred and burning on the street. Continue reading

KS Cracovia: Beginning Life As A Member of the Pasy

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Kyle Hulme files his first foreign report for TFN from his new home in Krakow, Poland, with tension growing ahead of the city’s biggest derby…

Yesterday I sauntered along the medieval cobbles of this beautiful city, twisting and turning through the winding streets in search of some essential piece of contraband. I reached my destination, an unassuming shop in the most shaded part of the street, immediately noticing that the store I was headed towards was stocked to the brim with the paraphernalia of Polish national pride and sporting achievement.

Entering nervously, I quickly found what I came for, clumsily stuffing a package into the hidden pocket inside my jacket. I made for the exit all the while hoping nobody had seen what I’d just taken from the shelves. Don’t worry, this wasn’t theft. The package was paid for before it was secreted away within my coat, and I hadn’t bought anything illegal either. This concealed package didn’t contain drugs, weaponry or anything of the sort, but just a simple scarf, barred in the red and white: the colours of KS Cracovia.

Such is life in the City of Knives.

Continue reading

Saying Goodybe to Luzhniki

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Andy Shenk writes for Russian Football News on his experience at Spartak Moscow’s final fixture at the Luzhniki Stadium…

Ever since I arrived in Moscow on Tuesday, the weather has been gorgeous. Balmy temperatures, sunshine and a cool breeze for five days now – not the type of good fortune generally associated with the Russian capital. When I left last December after a three-month stay, I think I’d seen a total of five days of sunshine during the autumn. Otherwise, rain, sleet, snow, chilling winds and grey skies overhead dragged on and on and on.

It was pretty foolish, then, of me to bring my jacket along to the Spartak – Krylia Sovetov match Friday night at Luzhniki Stadium. The ubiquitous babushkas may still have been bundled up in overcoats, but everyone else was dressed lightly, enjoying the May 9 holiday weekend.

After a 20-minute walk and 30-minute metro ride, I stepped out of the Sportivnaya metro station and into the crowds of Spartak fans that were meandering toward Luzhniki.

It shocks me every time I’m at a Russian football match, especially after I’ve been away for a while. The media whines and complains about the sport’s rotten fans – the constant swearing, alcohol, and violent clashes. And my disinterested Russian friends look shocked when I tell them I prefer to sit in the cheap seats with those horrid fan clubs. Continue reading

Wigan win the FA Cup: a United fan’s report hidden within the City support

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Manchester United supporter Greg Johnson accompanied his City-supporting father to the FA Cup Final to watch Wigan Athletic triumph, tradition fade and football win the day…

Emerging from underground, the first thing that hits you about Wembley is its size, looming impossibly large in the middle-distance, with its craning white arch. Strangely, however, as you approach the stadium it almost begins to feel out of scale, like a dolly zoom warping its 90,000 capacity into a confusingly manageable frame.

Unmistakably large but hardly intimidating, the venue, shrinking in stature with every step, fits the occasion perfectly. Once grand enough to occupy a whole date on the national events calendar, FA Cup Final Day is now FA Cup Final Evening; shunted into the primetime TV slot with the early distraction of an afternoon Premier League fixture to contend with.

I was a Manchester United fan in stealth mode, attending my first fixture at the new Wembley alongside my City supporting father. Aged four he took me to see Denis Irwin, Paul Ince and Eric Cantona at Old Trafford a number of times thanks to spare tickets gained through work. One of those games happened to be the 9-0 dismantling of Ipswich Town – an experience that painted my impressionable, glory-hunting young mind the colour red.

Having accidentally fallen for Manchester City’s main rivals while he introduced me to my love of football, joining him for the game was the least I could do, and besides; father and son, the FA Cup final, Wembley: in many ways this was a dream I’d long wished to realise. Continue reading