Jonny Singer returns with five critiques of lazy match reports…
1. Last month I had the pleasure of covering the Africa Cup of Nations for a couple of news outlets. Going to matches, travelling around Equatorial Guinea, interviewing players and getting to know, and watch, better and more experienced journalists was an experience I’ll never forget. But as well as all the fun and games (and hard work) there were some tough experiences, not least during the semi-final between the hosts and Ghana.
You might think, from the media coverage, some of which I contributed to, that this was a terrifying experience. It was not. None of us in the press box felt in any danger, though one photographer did take quite a nasty blow from the crowd.
However, it was quite a raucous, panicky environment – and in such environments, mistakes can be made. What was reported as tear gas, turned out to be smoke bombs. The height of the helicopter over the stadium varied from six foot to 40, depending on accounts. We, as journalists, had a duty to report – but we did so with the understanding that what we were providing was imperfect. Re-watching video footage would eventually prove that what we ‘saw’ with our own eyes was, at times, inaccurate.
All of this makes it even more ridiculous that one of the articles that a colleague was asked to write was entitled ‘five things we learned’.
This was not a time for analysis. At the time we didn’t have any idea what we were witnessing in terms of the bigger picture – that would come with time and perspective. To try and tell the world ‘what we’d learned’ was at best futile, at worst grossly irresponsible. Continue reading →
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 →
TFN’s Alex Stewart returns with a column on football’s dreaded “narrative”…
Football is confusing, isn’t it? I mean, take Arsenal. Arsenal are shit, aren’t they? We all know that. They’ve a porous defence, weak full-backs who can’t head the ball, injury problems galore, and Arsene Wenger is so confused about who to buy he’s actually taking suggestions by text. Sure, they’re probably top six this season, but only because everyone else is so woeful. And Manchester City are fantastic, right? They’ve qualified for the next round of the Champions League at long last, they’ve got the best striker in the Premier League and they’ve just bought another really, really good one. Vincent Kompany is more than a footballer, he’s a heroic saviour of all that is good and decent in this world, as well as being an elegant, handsome man to boot.
And then Arsenal go and beat City at home and suddenly, aren’t City shit? The Vincent Kompany rare error is becoming the Pepe Reina rare error, according to someone on Twitter. Forget the strikers: City are a one-man team who always lose when Yaya is away on duty with his national side. They have no plan B and no way of rousing themselves from their indolent, slightly apathetic superiority complex and when pushed, often fall over. And aren’t Arsenal amazing? I mean, Alexis Sanchez is the best player in the league, and Wenger was absolutely right to stick with Francis Coquelin and Olivier Giroud and bring in David Ospina; the man is a genius. And Santi’s Cazorla’s not lazy; he’s just been saving himself for the big occasions. Continue reading →
The False Nine’s David Dodds previews Group B in the African Cup of Nations…
Ghana will go into the tournament as one of the favourites. The Black Stars have moved up four places in the latest FIFA rankings and have beaten Egypt and Tunisia in pre-AFCON friendlies. Continue reading →