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17.03.2009 Feature Article

Blatter's comments unfair

I don't think it is fair to begrudge the English for making their Premier League arguably the most fascinating domestic football competition in the world.

The recent comments by FIFA President Sepp Blatter that the English Premiership was becoming too powerful much to the detriment of football promotion worldwide is to my mind not a fair comment at all.

Blatter is not happy that top foreign players are dominating the English league and he would prefer some kind of rationalization, where clubs would be restricted to a certain percentage of home grown players.

I am not going to hesitate to call this kind of suggestion retrogressive. Football is a universal language and every footballer must be free to ply his trade whichever place suits his desires.

The English has toiled to make their premiership a showpiece and the rest of the world must learn their strategies to also make their leagues tick.

The rest of Europe would have to sit up else English teams will continue to dominate the champions league and we would possibly continue to have two English teams traveling away from home to fight for the ultimate silverware on a neutral ground. Remember Manchester United versus Chelsea in Moscow last season?

The harsh reality of the Barclays Premier League is that great care has been taken among many others things to create an environment that allows players to perform at their peak hence the massive patronage.

Sepp Blatter is not enthused that only a few clubs have dominated the tournament over the past decade, an indirect suggestion that he might prefer an equitable distribution of star players to ensure fair play.

This is utopian and in any case with Sir Alex the veteran cook in the Manchester United kitchen for more than two decades, he is extremely hard to beat in the selection of the right ingredients to make the soup really tasty and appetising.

Consistency and the ability to beautifully blend the old and the new have made Sir Alex Ferguson an icon at Old Trafford. If only Arsene Wenger would take a cue from his United counterpart and stop parading only teenagers at a go, he could prolong his stay at the Emirates Stadium.

Arsene Wenger has so much faith in his stylish youngsters who at times play to the gallery and I was surprised to hear his remarks about what he described as "Ronaldo's arrogance on the field that is provocative to defenders".

Well, Sir Alex thinks otherwise. He says "when a player expresses himself in an entertaining way defenders don't enjoy it. It can antagonize and frustrate them and they dish out the treatment. It was the same when George Best was playing.

Ronaldo has this wonderful courage. He just wants to entertain and do something good with the ball. All the great players have a touch of what you call 'nice arrogance'. I don't see why I should restrict him."

This reminds me of Ghana's amazing winger of old Osei Kofi of Asante Kotoko fame, dubbed in his hey days as "soccer show boy". Dribbling was his hobby. On a good day, he could dribble the same defender thrice in twists and turns.

He was often accused of playing to the gallery even though he split defences with ease and created easy goal scoring chances. Sports Director Ohene Djan backed Osei to the hilt insisting that without Osei's dribbling antics he would cease to be effective.

He encouraged the pint sized player to perfect his dribbling and he did it so profusely at times much to the annoyance of striking partner Wilberforce Mfum who would be waiting for a pass whilst Osei was pleasing the crowd with his antics.

The young man grew to become a star international attraction and was reported to have turned down an offer to play for English club Stoke City in the late sixties.

It is said that goals are the tonic of football but I believe that one could enjoy a goalless game that is pregnant with wonderful display of football skills spiced with intelligent ball control and fine passing. I suspect FIFA boss Blatter appreciates good football.

I saw him on TV right in the thick of the crowd at Old Trafford during the Manchester United- Inter Milan match on Wednesday and he appeared to be enjoying himself.

He must intensify his efforts in raising the standard of the game world wide by encouraging those down the ladder to strive to reach the top and not the other way round where he wants to dilute the ingredients in the highly rated English Premier League by cutting down the number of foreign players in the competition.

Club supporters throng the stadium to see players of their favourite club colours and care less about the players' nationalities.

Manchester United and the other famous clubs attract admirers throughout the universe not because of their countries of origin but for their brand of football.

If you want to stretch the argument of fairness that far, then one would suggest that the number of Manchester supporters should be cut down so that the other clubs would have their fair share of fans. Is this possible?

And Blatter talks about a few clubs dominating the Barclays league, Ghana should be a finer example where two clubs, Kumasi Asante Kotoko and Accra Hearts have between them won more than 40 cups in the 50 year old national league. Who talks about fairness in this world in which we live in.

Credit: Ken Bediako; Times

Ken Bediako
Ken Bediako, © 2009

This author has authored 1 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: KenBediako

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