Still No Change


There’s still no news out on any much-needed price reduction of the new Bafana Bafana jersey, the one the team will be sporting at the World Cup. For some reason those in charge, presumably at Adidas, have fixed the price of the replica jersey at between R1200 and R1500. With cheaper alternates available.


I’m sure they assumed we’d all be rushing to the stores to buy our new jersey in support of our country at the World Cup, and with this once in a lifetime chance, an African World Cup, we’d pay anything. What they failed to realise, presumably because they have never actually been to South Africa, is that 99% of South Africans can’t afford that price, and those that can would be fools to actual pay R1500 for a football jersey.


We all want to support our country in what will be its biggest ever sporting event – but not at any cost. Until the price is dropped, and radically not just fractionally, I’d urge all South Africans to go out and buy a Protea’s cricket shirt or a Springbok rugby jersey, both symbols of support for our country, and both having the Protea badge on them without the price doubling. Another option would be to choose another African teams jersey to wear, since we should all be supporting all the African qualifiers and not just our own Bafana. I’d recommend the Cameroon or Ivory coast jerseys, with the Cameroon away kit being particularly appealing. Unlike our new jersey you should be able to find these other teams, and just about every other team competing in international football, jersey’s for around about R600.

Don’t pay R1200 -R1500 for a jersey that the rest of our country can’t afford. It’s insulting to all of us and should not be supported. We must all get behind Bafana, but wearing their jersey is not the only way to show your support. Force Adidas to drop the price by not buying – it’s the right thing to do.



Les Bleus Les Cheats


France striker, and record goal scorer, Thierry Henry broke Irish hearts and “handed” favourites France a place in next years World Cup in South Africa. Henry, one of the most respected footballers in the world, added a new notch to his impressive resume, which now reads – Arsenal legend and record goal scorer, France legend and record goal scorer, cheat.


On a night when the former world champions were out played and out worked by a spirited Irish team, when France’s world class stars where made to look ordinary, a moment of controversy stole the limelight from what should have been one of Irelands greatest sporting nights.


Ireland’s world cup qualifying campaign, in which they’ve punched way above their weight, came to an end in the most bitter of circumstances. Drawn in a group they weren’t expected to get through, a group containing World Cup holders Italy, a Bulgarian team that much was expected of, always improving Montenegro and Georgia, and Cyprus, who have dented Irelands hopes in previous qualification campaigns, the Irish not only finished second, behind Italy, but remained unbeaten in doing so. 2nd place meant a playoff with one of the other 2nd placed teams.


They were dealt a blow when FIFA decided in the last week of qualification to change the rules and seed the playoff draw to ensure that bigger teams that were expected to top their groups but failed to do so, teams like France, Portugal, Greece, Russia and at one stage Germany, had a better chance of getting through to South Africa 2010. So the elation of finishing 2nd was quickly replaced by bitter taste shared by the other small teams to get through, Bosnia, Slovakia and Ukraine.


Ireland were always going to have to so things the hard way and a draw against France was predicted by most Irish fans and players. To make matters worse they were the only small team to be drawn away in the 2nd leg. This means that should a game go to extra time it would mean the home team in the return leg getting a significant advantage.


Ireland were unlucky not to come away with a draw in Dublin with Anelka’s deflected goal going in off the post and giving France a goal lead to take to Paris. In France last night Ireland put in a superb performance bossing their more illustrious hosts and after levelling the tie through captain Robbie Keane, they were unlucky not to finish France off with O’Shea, Duff and Keane having chances to add to the score. On last nights performance a heavy Ireland win would not have been unjust. France had their young keeper, Hugo Lloris, to thank for keeping their hopes alive.


With the score after 90 minutes 1-0 to the Irish the game went to extra time. Just as in the prevailing 90 minutes France did little to suggest they’d trouble Given in the Irish goal. With the first half of extra time nearing an end France were awarded a freekick just inside the Irish half. As the ball was played two French players were offside. The linesman flag stayed down. The ball found it’s way to Henry who stuck a hand out to control the ball and then to ensure it didn’t go out he handled it again before playing it to Gallas to nod the ball in to the Irish net with Given and the Irish players appealing for hand ball. The goal was awarded. In a moment Henry’s reputation was tarnished and Irish hearts were shattered. And FIFA rejoiced.


Henry has admitted he handled the ball, though he has said it is up to the ref to spot it and not him to basically not cheat. It’s all well an good for players to talk about fair play, and federations such as FIFA to preach it, but it has to be done on the field and not just given lip service. The fact is that with a place at the World Cup up for grabs Henry, and most other players, would have cheated to get their team through. It’s up to the ref and linesman to stop them, as tragic as that is. And the officials did not spot the two players offside, or Henry catching the ball, controlling it with his hand, and setting up the goal. The ref told the Irish players he is 100% sure it was not a hand ball. If that’s the case then he must have been in a good position to see it. Which makes him a liar. And a FIFA puppet.


Had Ireland gone out to a legitimate goal, or on penalties, they would have been disappointed, but not so let down and bitter. Remember when Paolo Di Canio stopped play from a goal scoring position because an opponent was hurt? Remember when Arsenal replayed a game against Sheffield United because they scored a goal that was well within the rules but not the spirit of fair play? Henry could have joined the small band of fair play purveyors but made a choice that he must be called out on.


The match should be replayed so that a fair result is obtained but there is no chance of that happening. FIFA wanted France to go through and the officials ensured that happened. The game, just like life, is unfair and justice is a hope and not a given. Given that this is a sport, subject to control and scrutiny more so than life, we should expect more. The right thing would be for the game to be replayed, but since FIFA won’t risk France missing out, something their performance deserved, they won’t sanction a replay. They could ban Henry from the World Cup, sending out a message against cheating and doing more than talking about fair play. Again, this won’t happen.


Ten years ago, in a playoff match between Ireland and Belgium, Belgium were awarded a throw that was clearly an Irish throw and scored directly from that play, knocking Ireland out. After last nights happenings it seems that Irish luck is merely a myth. The heroes from the Irish team last night had their World Cup dreams shattered by pure and simple cheating. The likes of Given, Kilbane, Keane and Duff won’t in all likely hood have another shot at a World Cup. Where’s the justice? Henry should be ashamed of what happened but Blatter, Plattini and co will be smiling as Irish hearts bleed. Football is a game – fairness should be the least we expect.


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When Greed Comes Before Sense



On Saturday and Tuesday Bafana Bafana debuted their new World Cup shirts, and while looking stylish in their new Adidas kit, the gleaming yellow shirts weren’t inspiration enough to break Bafana’s goal scoring drought – even with recalled Benni McCarthy. At least they didn’t lose. Two 0-0 draws, against Japan and Jamaica, may not inspire confidence in the host country progressing to the second round of the World Cup, but not losing was a step in the right direction, post Joel Santana.


What South Africa needs, with dwindling confidence in the national team, is the imagination to be caught by Bafana fever, with support from the people lifting those on the pitch, as it’s clearly not happening the other way around. Initiatives like the one asking people to wear a Bafana jersey to work on Friday’s are a sound way to drum up national support and bring back pride in our team. So with a new shirt, the one that will be worn during the World Cup, no on sale we can expect Bafana fans to go out in mass and cover the country in a sea of yellow, swelling the pride we have in our team, and hopefully translating that onto good performances on the pitch. Sound reasoning right? There’s one thing that can throw a spanner in that plan, and by spanner I mean totally kill the idea. The price of the new Bafana jersey? Between R1200 and R1500 depending on where you shop. Insanity or greed, perhaps both, is at play here.


With a country struggling with poverty and unemployment Adidas, or whoever has dreamed this price, have made the jersey of the national team of the national sport, out of reach to those real supporters who love the game and love the team. At a time where we should be bringing the country together to ensure that Africa’s first World Cup will be a success this aberration has insulted the people of South Africa. Firstly, who can afford to pay over a grand for a football replica jersey? Secondly, who would want to? Apparently the only ones who can afford the new jersey are those that will probably get it for free, the players, the SAFA and Adidas boards, and the countries president. The people, the real fans, will have to make do with knock offs and the old jersey, and while I am completely against buying fake goods, and wouldn’t do it myself, this is one instance where’d I’d fully support such illegal actions. The average man should be able to buy the shirt of the team he supports, not the highest earning 1% of the country.


Adidas have made a cheaper shirt available, one that does not have the Protea badge on it, which is available for about R599. Again two points to consider here, firstly, while R599 is still on the high side, and still way to high for the average South African, how insulting is it to say to Bafana fans that you can’t afford the real thing, so here’s a cheaper option that isn’t quite the real deal? Secondly, who are they trying to fool by suggesting that one little badge costs an extra grand?


Brian Kerby, the managing director of Adidas, had this to say at the launch “We also wanted to incorporate something that will symbolise the unity of South Africans and we chose the South African flag, which is prominent on the front of the jersey. The jersey defines who we are as South Africans.” Nice sentiment, but how about making it affordable to South Africans? Hopefully parliament, who likes to make their views clear when it comes to Rugby and Cricket, will make a big fuss and investigate what exactly is going on here. They’ve already said that no more jerseys will be produced without the Protea badge. Hopefully this doesn’t mean that the only price available will be R1500.


Until the price drops I won’t be buying the new jersey of the team I support, and I’d suggest that everyone do the same. We need to take a stand against greed.