The Premier Soccer League would undoubtedly argue otherwise, but there’s little doubt that, a week before the season is due to start, they are faced with a crisis.
At the time of writing this, not a single sponsor had been secured for the upcoming season, with the league still engaging the four companies that have so generously backed them with millions of rands for the past five years.
Questions regarding why this situation remained unresolved right up to this late stage have legitimately been asked, but it would seem matters are more complex than when, drawn by the euphoria of World Cup 2010, corporate South Africa was ready to part with wads of cash to be associated with the domestic game.
A lot has changed since those heady days when Absa usurped Standard Bank at the very last moment to emerge at the PSL’s title sponsors in 2007, signing a R500m five-year deal which expires officially on Tuesday.
Today, Absa are apparently baulking at the PSL’s insistence of upping their sponsorship, reasoning they do not have sufficient basis to justify an increase while the banking giants are under financial constraints which have triggered fears of retrenchments.
Those close to the parties say the PSL’s demand of a huge raise from all sponsors is precisely the reason why not one deal has yet been renewed, even though MTN, who sponsor the top eight cup competition that’s supposed to kick off next week, are said to be closest to signing.
Nedbank, too, are chuffed that they have grown as a brand for the past five years – thanks to the popularity of the Nedbank Cup – and would have no problem continuing to be associated with the domestic game.
But the PSL would do well to accept the reality in which several corporates find themselves and soften their approach in negotiations. As already mentioned, five years ago SA football could demand whatever they wanted from potential sponsors due to excitement around the World Cup.
But with companies now shedding jobs it makes it difficult to justify spending close to R90m – as Absa did – every year on football when many employees could soon be out of jobs.
There’s no doubt that sponsors get value for money in terms of the exposure that a PSL platform offers, with almost every game shown on TV, but is the product really commensurate to what they pay? This is the PSL’s biggest challenge. Too many fixtures would qualify as a recommended sleeping pill. Some would struggle to fill half a stadium even if tickets were free.
Many clubs do not care much about development, recycle failed coaches and take fans – who supposedly should be the very basis for the clubs’ existence – for granted.
Last season’s pathetic attendance figures would also have served as a reminder that not all is rosy about the domestic game. It remains unclear how much of the R560m revenue the PSL raked in in the previous financial year was directed towards efforts to attract fans to the games.
It is all good to market the PSL as among the top 10 financially strong leagues in the world, but the reality is that – but for a handful of games – the product is nowhere near that.
Some PSL teams have long forsaken Caf competitions, foolishly not realising that their absolute contempt towards the African Champions League and the Confederations Cup is self-defeating and does not help improve the domestic league – and the national teams – in any way.
There is little doubt that the PSL will continue to enjoy significant backing from corporate SA, but the impasse with their four major sponsors should serve as a reminder that they can no longer rest on their laurels as there’s a lot of room for many things to be improved.
The current situation, in which a chief executive resigns every four months, does not project a good image and only fuels suspicions that the PSL prefers to fill the post with yes-men. By the way, amid this latest crisis, where’s Cambridge Mokanyane, the latest acting CEO? He’s hardly heard, this Mokanyane, and several attempts to solicit comment from him this week drew a blank. Perhaps he and his executive do not realise there’s a crisis.
Cote d’Ivoire have maintained their position as the best-placed African country in the latest FIFA World Rankings released on Wednesday.
Egypt regained second place on the list from free-falling Ghana who drop to third, with Burkina Faso and Nigeria making up the top five.
Senegal, South Africa, Cameroon, Algeria and Tunisia round out the Top 10 and will go into Saturday’s draw as top seeds in their respective groups.
It ensures that none of the above will be pooled together in the group stages of qualifying, though there are a few big names that all will be hoping to avoid, the likes of Morocco, Mali, Guinea and Gabon.
Only the top teams in each group will advance to the final stage of qualifying which will involve a two-legged play-off tie to determine Africa’s five representatives.
But before all that, the 24 lowest ranked sides in Africa must compete just to get into the group stages.
They will play-off in a two-legged tie, with the 12 better ranked sides, namely Gambia, Mozambique, Congo DR, Togo, Liberia, Tanzania, Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Namibia, Burundi being drawn against the 12 lower ranked teams.
They are Madagascar, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Chad, Swaziland, Comoros, Lesotho, Eritrea, Somalia, Djibouti, Mauritius, Seychelles.
Mauritania have withdrawn from the qualifiers and so will not be taking part.
These 24 sides will be drawn in a two-legged tie that will be played on November 11 and November 15 this year, with the 12 teams to qualify from those matches to join the remaining 28 teams in the draw.
The 40 sides will then be drawn into 10 groups of four sides and they will play on a home and away basis in a round-robin format that will last from June 2012 to September 2013.
The ties between the group winners will be played in October and November 2013, meaning the qualification process in its entirety is two years long, taking in 154 matches.
Juventus have accepted an offer from Paris Saint-Germain for Momo Sissoko, according to reports in Italy.
The Italian club are willing to sell the Mali international and a number of outfits have shown an interest.
Stoke City and Real Sociedad are understood to have made enquiries, but Paris SG have reportedly tabled a concrete offer.
It’s understood that PSG are ready to hand over €7m for the player initially, but that could rise by a further €1m depending on results.
It now remains to be seen whether the 26-year-old will accept the Ligue 1 club as a possible destination.
The Old Lady signed Sissoko in January 2008 for a fee of €11m from Liverpool. He’s played in 71 League games for the club since his arrival.
Emmanuel Eboue is heading for the Arsenal exit with confirmed interests from Turkish side Galatasaray.
This revelation was confirmed by Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger who is discussing the magnitude of incomings and outgoings.
“It’s not the number, it’s the quality,” Wenger said.
“How many will leave the club? I said from the start I will fight to keep everybody. Nicklas Bendtner might go and Emmanuel Eboue might go. They can talk to clubs, but the rest I will fight.”
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger was delighted with the showing of Gervinho on debut against Cologne.
The former Lille striker struck both goals in the 2-1 friendly win.
The brace, the first a deftly executed lob and the second a brave and well-timed tap-in, bode well.
Wenger was understandably delighted Gervinho got off the mark so quickly.
“If you went six weeks without a goal for a striker you raise questions,” reasoned the Frenchman.
“But now it’s out of the way. You could see how quick he is to get behind defenders. He has qualities that are always very interesting for a team like us.”
The relatively inexpensive £10.7m fee that secured Gervinho’s release from Lille may help to unburden him.
Is he a bargain?
“I hope so,” said Wenger. “We look first at the quality of the player and, after, if we have the money, we spend it.”
Reading have secured the services of defender Bongani Khumalo on a season-long lone deal following the approval of Tottenham.
The 24-year-old is yet to play a first-team game for Tottenham after joining them in January this year from Supersport United.
A number of Championship clubs, as well as SPL champions Rangers, were reported interested in the services of the South African.
Nania FC made history by becoming the first team outside the top-flight to win the MTN Ghana FA Cup when beating holders Asante Kotoko 1-0 after extra-time on Sunday.
The Accra-based side, owned and coached by legend Abedi Pele, won the final thanks to a goal scored by substitute Evan Omani.
Omani was teed up inside Kotoko’s box and the forward back-heeled to beat hapless goalkeeper Soulama Abdoulaye who was stuck on his line in the 105th minute.
Nania recovered from a poor first half extra-time to sting the eight-time winners of the FA Cup to bring more glory to their club owner who led the side on the pitch.
The club will receive 20,000 Ghana cedis (US$ 13,333) prize money and a ticket to play in next year’s Caf Confederation Cup.
The first half ended with Nania FC dominating proceedings with a replica of a Barcelona-style of football but lacked the finishing power.
Kotoko were quiet but had they had moreopportunities and they could have opened the scoring with experienced duo of Ahmed Toure and Alex Asamoah upfront with several chances.
In stoppage time of the first 45 minutes, Nania midfielder Prince Baffooe’s shot slipped through the hands of goalkeeper Soulama but the resultant corner-kick was wasted.
Earlier in the 21st minute, Kotoko striker Toure accelerated on the break controlled in the area and laid a pass to the on-rushing Boateng but the latter shot wide disappointingly.
The script was the same in the second half with Nania winning the plaudits but failing to finish off a lacklustre Kotoko side. The highlights only came in time added on.
First, a lovely header on goal by Nania FC’s Babamu Yussif was saved by goalie Soulama who stretched to keep the scoreline still barren.
On 94 minutes, Nania goalkeeper Michael Osai was forced to make a double save inside the box. He failed to clutch Frank Boateng’s powerful shot from 20-yards to his chest fell to Nathaniel Asamoah whose shot was saved again.
Then came the substitute Omani who scored with a beautiful goal to seal the historic victory to keep Abedi Pele firmly in ther historic books of Ghana football.
The FA Cup was revived this season after a ten-year break and was sponsored by telecommunication giants MTN.
Kotoko won the last edition in 2001 beating city-rivals King Faisal 1-0 at the same venue.
Asante Kotoko: Soulama Abdoulaye, Mohammed Sabato, Anokye Prince, Kuffour John, Mohammed Awal, Akuffo Michael, Boateng Frank, Adjei Daniel Nii, Mohammed Fatau, Toure Ahmed, Asamoah Alex/Nathaniel Asamoah.
Subs: Ohene Brenya Henry, Asamoah Nathaniel, Oduro Stephen, David Offei, Gershon Akuffo, Haruna Ganiyu, Isaac Amoako.
Coach: Bogdan Korack
Nania FC: Sai Michael, Kwao Ebenezer/Richmond Nketiah, Tetteh Joseph, Abankwa Abraziz, Lartey Lawrence, Owusu Akwasi, Osei Ebenezer/Evans Omah, Baffoe Prince, Salifu Nuhu/Yakubu Musah, Amewu David, Babamu Yusif.
Subs: Mensah Baba, Nketia Richmond, Alorzuke Israel, Salifu Mohammed.
Coach: Abedi Pele Ayew
Striker Didier Drogba is set to ink a one-year contract extension with Chelsea which will keep him at Stamford Bridge until 2013.
The Ivory Coast captain, who joined the Blues from Marseille in 2004, revealed negotiations have begun on a new deal.
“We’ve started talking,” he said. “Everybody knows what I feel about Chelsea and what I want.
“I will definitely be here next season. I said a few years ago I will be here until the end of my contract and I am.”
“Now I need to keep playing well here and giving my best, like I always try to do.
“This will be my eighth season at this club and it means a lot for any striker to stay that long at Chelsea.”
For the first time in his Chelsea career, Drogba admits he will not be assured of a first-team place this season.
The muscular striker is set to compete with record signing Fernando Torres for the starter’s role with new boss Andre Villas-Boas seemingly set to employ one striker.
With the likes of Nicolas Anelka and Daniel Sturridge, who impressed on loan at Bolton last term, also in the squad, Drogba knows competition up-front is going to be fierce.
“Yes, I think we are (contending for one place),” added Drogba.
“That’s the manager’s choice, but it’s been like this for me for all my years at this club.
“It was the same when Eidur Gudjohnsen was here, when (Andriy) Shevchenko was here, and all of the other times.
“I’m 33, I’m the oldest player and, even if that feels strange, I’m not worried.
“If I deserve to play then I will play. If I’m not good then I won’t. It’s good for the team to have some competition.”
Ivory Coast international Gervinho marked his Arsenal debut with both goals in a 2-1 win over Bundesliga side Cologne in a pre-season friendly on Saturday.
Gervinho, signed in the summer from French champions Lille, played just 29 minutes before he was substituted following a collision with Cologne goalkeeper Michael Rensing.
His first goal came after a fine pass from Jack Wilshere before a Theo Walcott cross set-up the second.
Striker Benni McCarthy could be making a return to the South Africa following ongoing talks with PSL side Ajax Cape Town.
Initial reports in the press appeared to speculate that McCarthy would use his time with the Urban Warriors to regain some semblance of fitness before trying his hand at another overseas move.
But the former Porto, Blackburn and West Ham player has revealed that Ajax would be his first choice destination for next season.
McCarthy attended his first training session at Ikamva on Thursday where he looked leaner and sharper compared to just a few months ago when still a Hammers striker.
He told the club’s official website: “I enjoyed my first training session with Ajax Cape Town today.
“This morning’s training session was a good session for me. The players here made me feel like one of the boys and I settled in easily.
“I am impressed by the facilities here. Before I left there were only two fields, now when you look out from the balcony you can see five perfect fields making this complex equal to the best anywhere in the world.
“Last night I watched the team play a friendly at Nyanga Stadium and I must say they are quick and very skillful. There are a few players here that really impressed me and they could make it internationally if given the chance.
“I would like to thank the club for allowing me to train with the team as it gives me an opportunity to be with my family here in Cape Town.”
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