#NigeriaDecides2023: 25% of Votes in the FCT is Not a Constitutional Requirement

People who follow Nigeria’s political scene are notorious for their ability to start a fight in an empty room and create fantastic conspiracy theories that the directors of Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible films would be proud of.

After Nigeria’s recently concluded presidential election last month, people have been arguing that the election winner Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s victory is invalid because he did not satisfy the requirement in Section 134(2) of the Nigerian constitution which requires the winner to get at least:

 “one-quarter of the votes cast at the election in each of at least two-thirds of all the States in the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja” (FCT)

This is Nigeria’s answer to the USA’s Electoral College. Winning a presidential election in Nigeria requires the winner to get the most votes and get at least one quarter (AKA 25%) of votes in at least two-thirds of the states (including the FCT). Although Tinubu got the requisite 25% of votes in 30 states, they argue that he cannot be president because he did not get 25% of votes in Nigeria’s capital. Opposition parties have even filed a court case to challenge Tinubu’s victory.

This argument is utter bunkum as there is no requirement for a candidate to get 25% of votes in the FCT (so long as the candidate got at least 25% of votes in at least two-thirds of states/FCT overall). They have misinterpreted the constitution. A better way to interpret section 134(2) is that a candidate has to get at least 25% of votes in at least two-thirds of Nigeria’s 37 sub-national territories.

If that is all you wanted to know you can stop reading there. If you want to know why the argument is garbage, continue reading…

1) Accepting that no one can be president without winning at least 25% of votes in the FCT would introduce some utter absurdities such as:

(a) a candidate who wins a landslide victory with 90% of votes in all 36 states could not be president simply because he got less than 25% of votes in the FCT; and

(b) FCT residents would become “super citizens” with more rights than everyone else in Nigeria. If e.g. 90 million people voted for a candidate in the other 36 states, but the election in the FCT had an incredibly low turnout of only 1000 people, those 1000 FCT residents would be able to override the other 90 million votes from voters outside the FCT.

2) Unlike controversial constitutional provisions in other parts of the world (US 2nd Amendment – I am looking at you!) Nigeria’s constitution is recent and the intent of its authors is very clear (and the authors are still alive). Nigeria’s constitution was promulgated in 1999. The current section 134(2) is a virtual copy and paste from the corresponding section 126(2) of its predecessor 1979 constitution; which had identical wording, except that it omitted the words “and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja”. The reason why the 1979 constitution omitted those six words is because in 1979, Lagos (not Abuja) was Nigeria’s capital. Lagos was also a state, hence there was no need to specifically mention it by name. However, by 1999, Nigeria had moved its capital from Lagos to Abuja. Abuja is not classified as a state and does not have a governor like Nigeria’s 36 states. It is a special federal owned territory (like the USA’s Washington DC which does not have a governor and whose residents complain of “Taxation Without Representation”). Hence, the eagle eyed people who drafted the 1999 constitution quite rightly updated its wording to reflect Abuja’s new status as the FCT, and because unlike the prior capital Lagos; Abuja is not a state.

3) I am now about to say something that contradicts point 2 above! Section 299 of the 1999 constitution states that “The provisions of this Constitution shall apply to the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja as if it were one of the States of the Federation”. Hence in interpreting section 134(2), we should read it as if Abuja is a state, which would make it mean that a candidate has to get at least 25% of votes in at least two-thirds of Nigeria’s 37 states (as I said above).

4) Section 179 of the constitution has very similar wording governing state governorship elections. Section 179 states that a candidate cannot be declared the winner of a governorship election unless he gets the most votes and gets at least:

“one-quarter of the votes cast at the election in each of at least two-thirds of all the local government areas in the State”

There is no requirement for the winner to also get at least 25% of votes in the state capital, so it would be very odd if the rule was entirely different for a presidential election.

5) There is another massive reason why the court case is DOA. Nigeria’s constitution was created specifically to ensure equal treatment between its hundreds of ethnic groups who speak over 500 different languages. Allowing the votes of FCT residents to “trump” those of people living in other parts of the country would destroy the constitution’s equal treatment provisions. For example section 17(2)(a) states that:

“every citizen shall have equality of rights, obligations and opportunities before the law”

Section 24 goes into more detail by stating that:

“A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person… be subjected … to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin…are not made subject”

Allowing the votes of people residing in only one city in Nigeria to take precedence over the votes of everyone else in the country would violate the constitution’s equality provisions.

Nail in the coffin.

Follow me on Twitter


What Will Manchester United Do About Mason Greenwood?

Almost exactly one year after the police started investigating Manchester United footballer Mason Greenwood for the alleged rape of, and coercive behaviour towards, his girlfriend Harriett Robson, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced today that Greenwood will not be charged.

So what will happen next? The massive media attention on the case, lurid social media audio tapes of Greenwood and Robson, and the bruises on her, mean that the issue will not just go away. Manchester United faces massive moral and football decisions regarding Greenwood.

In an era where it is difficult to keep anything private, most people have already made up their mind about Greenwood’s guilt or innocence; no matter the outcome of the police and CPS investigations.

On the football pitch Manchester United is in dire need of a center forward like Greenwood. In the year since Manchester United suspended Greenwood after the investigation against him, Manchester United played the nearly 38 year old Cristiano Ronaldo; until his relationship with the club became so strained that the club terminated his contract. 35 year old Uruguayan forward Edinson Cavani also left the club last summer after his contract terminated. In Greenwood’s absence and after the departure of Ronaldo and Cavani, the club played French striker Anthony Martial, but Martial has been frequently injured.

The center forward position became such a problem for Manchester United that the club went to the extraordinary step of terminating Dutch striker Wout Weghorst’s loan at Turkish club Besiktas, and negotiating a three way deal with his parent club Burnley that saw Besiktas paid £2.5 million for prematurely terminating Weghorsts’s loan with them so that Manchester United could negotiate with Burnley for Weghorst to go on loan to Manchester United instead.

At a time when Manchester United is cash strapped, the news that Greenwood is no longer under criminal investigation is an opportunity and a problem. The club must take one of three difficult roads:

If I was a betting man, I think the club will take a few weeks/months to allow the furore to slightly dissipate, then slowly reintegrate Greenwood back into the team after he makes a public apology or show of contrition (and perhaps agreeing to go to a gender sensitivity course).

  1. Reintegration into the Team: If the club brings Greenwood back into the team, it will face a massive backlash from the public who are appalled at the audio footage of him and who will demand explanations for how the club responds to allegations of violence against women. Greenwood would be booed mercilessly and every Manchester United away game will have a poisonous atmosphere.
  2. Sever Ties With Greenwood: This would be a very messy option that could embroil the club in a lawsuit. The club cannot fire Greenwood because he was not convicted of a crime and is still under contract. The only slim chance is to argue that Greenwood breached the “morality” clause of his contract and fire him for breach of contract. However, this has a slim chance of success and Greenwood could sue the club for unfair dismissal. If they try to punish him by keeping him under contract but out of the team, they will face the absurdity of paying an employee who does not come to work. If they try to terminate his contract they would have to pay him millions of pounds in compensation. Even worse, talented 21 year old strikers like Greenwood do not grow on trees, and United would essentially be paying millions to terminate the contract of one of the most talented young players in the world, so that he could then join another club for free. Greenwood’s best years are still ahead of him and he could be a star wherever he goes for the next 10-12 years. Terminating Greenwood’s contract is too fraught with economic and legal risk to be a viable option.
  3. Replace Greenwood: Replacing him will not be cheap either way. Some of the other strikers that United have been linked with (such as Napoli’s Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen) will cost over £85 million to buy. At a time when Manchester United has over £600 million of debt and has little or no transfer budget after over-spending in past transfer windows, the club may decide that economically, it has little choice but to endure the public backlash, and reintegrate its most talented young player back into the squad rather than further endangering the club’s financial future by buying a new player who may not perform as well as Greenwood.

Whichever, decision Manchester United takes will be tainted with controversy.

Follow me on Twitter

The Best Ever -v- The Best Now: St Joseph’s -v- Baiteze Squad (FA Sunday Cup, Round 4)

This fixture is the biggest match in this season’s FA Sunday Cup so far. It pits the reigning and defending cup holders Baiteze Squad (from east London) against the most consistent team in the 57 year history of the FA Sunday Cup (St Joseph’s from Luton). The match was supposed to be played last Sunday, but was postponed due to bad weather.

  • Date: Sunday January 29, 2023

  • Kick-off time: 1pm
  • Venue: Leighton Town FC, Bell Close, Lake Street, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, LU7 1RX (host stadium’s club plays at Step 5 of the National League System – in the Premier Division of the Spartan South Midlands League)


Location: Luton, Bedfordshire
League: Leighton & District Sunday League
Last season: 2nd in the Leighton & District Sunday League

Manager: Steven “Macca” McDaid
Captain: James Bishop


FA Sunday Cup winners (twice: 1995, 1996)
FA Sunday Cup finalists (1998, 1999, 2006, 2020)
Bedfordshire County FA Sunday Cup winners (2018, 2021, 2022)
South Bedfordshire Sunday League
, Luton District and South Bedfordshire Football League, North Home Counties Sunday League champions (17 times)

St Joseph’s are FA Sunday Cup royalty. The club has reached the final of this cup more times than any other team (6 times); and most recently reached the 2020 final (played in 2021 due to Covid). During the mid-late 1990s, St Joseph’s was the best Sunday team in Britain and reached the FA Sunday Cup final 4 times in 5 years between 1995 and 1999. It first entered this competition 36 years ago and has competed in it more times than any other team. St Joseph’s regularly fielded top class players in its squad; including former England international and Chelsea striker Kerry Dixon (who scored 147 goals for Chelsea) and former Leeds United manager Kevin Blackwell.

St Joseph’s was founded 52 years ago at the Harp Social Club in Luton, before moving to the parish center attached to St Joseph’s Roman Catholic church in Luton about 45 years ago. It initially played in the South Bedfordshire Sunday League (which later became the Luton District and South Bedfordshire Football League) and has been collecting trophies since. It moved to the North Home Counties Sunday League in the 2014-15 season, and after winning an incredible 17 league titles across 3 different leagues in its history, St Joseph’s departed in 2020 (along with their long time league rivals Club Lewsey) to seek new challenges in the Leighton & District Sunday League. Predictably, St Joseph’s took to their new league like ducks to water (with a 100% record having won all of its games – before Covid suspended the season) and also won the Division 1 Cup.

St Joseph’s – The “London Slayers”

Baiteze must beware, as St Joseph’s is arguably the best team Baiteze has ever faced. St Joseph’s also has an excellent record against London teams. En route to the 2020 FA Sunday Cup final, St Joseph’s played against three different teams from London. St Joseph’s declared itself the “London Slayers” after beating then London Sunday Challenge Cup holders Lambeth All Stars 3-0 in round 3, then followed up that victory by beating the highly rated unbeaten league leaders of the Hackney & Leyton League Sporting Club de Mundial 2-1 in round 4, and then also beat former Croydon Municipal Sunday League champions Portland (who were then playing in the Orpington & Bromley District Sunday League) 1-0 in the semi-final.

St Joseph’s lost the closely contested 2020 final in a heart-breaking manner. After the game finished 0-0 after 90 minutes, Elliott Nevitt scored a late winning goal in extra time to give Campfield (from Liverpool) a 1-0 victory. Nevitt is now a professional footballer for Tranmere Rovers and won their player of the year award last season.

St Joseph’s squad includes very good players who play for semi-professional clubs on Saturdays. These include former Luton Town academy player Sean McMonagle, and Dale Turney. Both McMonagle and Turney also play for Step 5 Saturday clubs in the Premier Division of the Spartan South Midlands League (Harpenden Town and Potton United respectively).

It also has an active youth team with 17 different teams playing under the St Joseph’s banner at age grade level. St Joseph’s also had a Saturday team playing in Division 1 of the Bedfordshire County League (Step 8 of the amateur football pyramid). The Saturday team won the Bedfordshire County FA’s Intermediate Cup in May 2021 after a 3-2 win over Stopsley United in the final at Barton Rovers FC’s stadium. However, the Saturday team recently disbanded after a horrid 2022-23 season which saw them bottom of the table after losing their first 8 games (conceding 49 goals in the process and scoring only 8).

One of the quirks of this season’s FA Sunday Cup 4th round draw is that the only teams from Luton competing in this cup (St Joseph’s and Club Lewsey) were both drawn against “YouTube teams” from London. SE Dons beat St Joseph’s fellow Leighton & District Sunday League team Club Lewsey 1-0 last weekend. Although St Joseph’s and Club Lewsey are rivals on the pitch, they have very good relations off the pitch. A Club Lewsey official told me that:

The rivalry with St Joes is always a fierce one on the pitch with the games normally being close tight affairs with both teams always in it. Off the pitch it’s a different story, the two groups of players get on well in the bar afterwards and many are friends off the pitch.

To get revenge on behalf of their mates from Club Lewsey, St Joseph’s will have to beat the reigning cup holders.


Location: Newham, east London
League: Essex Sunday Corinthian League
Last season: FA Sunday Cup winners, 2nd in the Essex Sunday Corinthian League


FA Sunday Cup winners (2022)

Prior FA Sunday Cup performance:

  • 2019-2020: Round 2: lost 1-2 to Shire United (Thames Valley Sunday League) – November 2019
  • 2021-2022: winners

Leadership Team:

Manager: Billy Hession
Captain: Adeyinka “Ade” Cole

The cup holders Baiteze Squad are trying to do something only three teams have done in the 57 year history of the FA Sunday Cup: win the competition twice in a row. Their opponents St Joseph’s are among that famous trio that won the cup twice in a row.

For the unitiated/those unfamiliar with them, Baiteze is one of the most popular of the so-called “YouTube teams” who professionally film and upload HD footage of their games with commentary to YouTube, and also film and upload other videos of them playing against professional footballers such as Alex Iwobi of Everton, Calvin Bassey of Ajax, and Joe Aribo of Southampton.

They combine a Match of the Day style highlights package of their games, with outlandish commentary, behind the scenes fly on the wall footage of what it is like playing for, and running, an amateur football club, and the larger than life characters at the clubs.

Baiteze were originally a group of semi-professional footballers who filmed themselves doing tricks and cross bar challenges online with against professional footballers. However, they did not become a real football team until they joined forces with a club called Mile End FC which started playing in the Hackney and Leyton League about 15 years ago. Mile End was a good but unspectacular mid-table team in that league until an influx of the Baiteze players into Mile End’s squad led the team to change its name to “Mile End Baiteze Squad”. The merged club won the Hackney & Leyton League’s Premier Division championship three times (2016, 2018, and 2019).

However, an acrimonious split with their manager Justin Gardner (who also managed Barking FC on Saturdays in the Isthmian League (Step 4)) in 2020 saw the club split into two. One group of players continued playing for Gardner in the Hackney & Leyton League under the Mile End Baiteze Squad name, while the younger players moved to the Essex Sunday Corinthian League to play as Baiteze Squad name. Mile End Baiteze Squad took the club’s football history and goodwill, while Baiteze Squad walked away with the cream of the club’s talented players and its social media following.

Baiteze made many critics eat humble pie last season. Many Liverpool teams were against the entry of what they considered to be an arrogant and brash “YouTube team” with no history. Teams from Liverpool have won this cup more times than any other city in the country and tend to consider themselves as guardians of amateur football’s traditions. The Liverpool teams spent so much time on “the game has gone” complaints that they did not notice that Baiteze is actually a very good team. Five of the six teams that Baiteze beat to win this cup last season were reigning champions of their respective leagues (and the sixth won its league during the season). Beating league champions from Ipswich, Kent, south London, Doncaster, Middlesbrough, and north London was no mean feat. During that cup winning run, Baiteze also beat Middlesbrough Dormans – who knocked out the then reigning Cup holders Campfield, and also beat the then reigning Metropolitan Sunday League champions and London Sunday Challenge Cup holders Grand Athletic – who had been unbeaten for about 40 games and 18 months.

Baiteze’s squad includes ex Liverpool academy player Jason Banton (who also played professionally for Plymouth Argyle), and its captain Ade Cole plays semi-professionally on Saturdays for Isthmian League Premier Division team Margate (Step 3).

Baiteze’s victory in this competition also provided free publicity for the FA and for every team they play against. Since Baiteze films and uploads all of its games to YouTube (accompanied by the colourful commentary of Joel Mensah), it has showcased the FA Sunday Cup to its massive young, urban based, music conscious Gen Z fanbase that did not even know this cup existed 1 year ago. Baiteze’s thrilling 3-2 win against SE Dons win in this competition last season in front of a crowd of almost 2000 at Barking FC was the most well attended FA Sunday Cup match in decades, and drew a bigger crowd than most finals. Baiteze’s mere presence in this competition drew attention to it, and increased participation and fan attendance. After decades of not bothering to enter this competition, 9 London teams entered it this season (4 of whom are first time entrants). That is probably not unconnected to Baiteze’s win last season.

Being national champions came at a price. Baiteze’s players now` have huge targets on their backs, as every opponent raises their game and badly wants to beat them in order to claim the scalp of the national champions. Baiteze had a horrid October during which they conceded 10 goals in only 2 games, in successive 3-7 and 2-4 defeats to Flyhouse Athletic and London All Stars respectively. However, they bounced back with an emphatic 4-0 league win against London Sunday Challenge Cup holders Hatch Lane.

It is very difficult to predict a winner of the FA Sunday Cup because so many good teams compete in it. After round 2, any team remaining is generally good enough to beat any other team. However, the winner of this St Joseph’s v Baiteze tie must be considered among the favourites.

“we would smoke them”

In a strange portent, the person who manages St Joseph’s Twitter account predicted back in 2021 that “we would smoke them” if t Joseph’s ever got to play Baiteze. 16 months later, what was presumed to be a “fantasy match-up” is now reality. There is also a bad omen for Baiteze going into this game. The last time St Joseph’s played a YouTube team from London; St Joseph’s convincingly won 3-0 (against Lambeth All Stars in 2020).

Good luck to both teams.”In a strange portent, the person who manages St Joseph’s Twitter account predicted back in 2021 that “we would smoke them” if ever got to play Baiteze. 16 months later, what was presumed to be a “fantasy match-up” is now reality. There is also a bad omen for Baiteze going into this game. The last time St Joseph’s played a YouTube team from London; St Joseph’s convincingly won 3-0 (against Lambeth All Stars in 2020).

Good luck to both teams.

Can An African Team Win the World Cup?

This is the third part of a series of articles I am writing about why an African team has never won the World Cup. You can read Part 1 and Part 2 at these links. I concluded Part 2 with alarming stats about the number of late goals that African teams conceded in the dying minutes of matches at the 2018 World Cup: in the 95th (twice), 91st (twice again), 89th, , 86th, 78th, and 74th minutes. African teams conceded 8 goals in the last 15 minutes of games during the group phase alone.

Why does this keep happening? It points to something fundamentally wrong in the psychological approach of African teams, and and their ability to retain peak performance during a game’s closing moments.

The Visible

Modern football requires much more than a strong starting 11, and successful teams usually have game changing substitute players t hat they can bring on to replace tired players or change the game when things are not going their way. If France is losing a game, it can bring on a midfielder who plays for the European champions and a winger who plays for the team that has won the German league every year for the past 9 years. No African countries have such strength in depth. It is rare that an African team can make multiple substitutions late in a game without weakening the team. Does Egypt have another player who can be as effective as Salah? Ditto Senegal with Mane, Algeria with Mahrez, and Nigeria with Osimhen. The inability to have substitutes who are just as good as the starting 11 has repeatedly cost African teams.

For example, during the 2014 World Cup, Nigeria had been the stronger team in ts 2nd round game against France and Nigerian midfielder and Lazio player Ogenyi Onazi had been the best player on the pitch. When Onazi was stretchered off, with a bad injury, Nigeria brought on Reuben Gabriel, the the drop in Nigeria’s midfield quality was precipitous. France exploited the newfound freedom and midfield and scored 2 late goals to win the game.

Lack of strength in depth is something that African countries cannot control. In most European countries, football is the national sport. In contrast, Africa has several variations in culture and topography that make it hard for football to become a continent-wide undisputed number 1 sport. For example, in South Africa, cricket and rugby rival football for attention, and the country’s racial divide means that football is the number one sport for one race, while cricket and rugby is the priority for another. The high altitude and mountainous terrain in east Africa tends to produce brilliant Olympic gold medal winning long distance runners from Ethiopia and Kenya, but no world class footballers.

Europe’s best footballers tend to come from a few countries (usually France, Germany, Italy, and Spain). Erling Haaland and Robert Lewandowski are outliers because they come from outside Europe’s traditional football powerhouse countries. In contrast, Africa’s best defender is from north Africa in an area straddling the Middle East and on the cusp of southern Europe, its best winger is from Africa’s far western border next to the Atlantic Ocean, its best goalkeeper is from a country adjacent to the equator, and its best centre forward is from Gabon. It is inconceivable that Europe’s best centre forward could e.g. be a player from Albania or Cyprus.

While this spread of footballing talent across the African continent may be considered a good thing, it actually spreads Africa’s football talent too thin. So thin that at any point in time no African country can claim to be the continent’s undisputed best or to have harvested the majority of the continent’s best players. It is extremely hard for a team to win the World Cup without a concentration of talent in the starting 11 and being able to make substitutions without weakening the team.


International football is not like club football where a team can address a weak position in its squad by buying a player from another team. When an international team has a weakness – it has to live with it. Ivory Coast cannot address a defensive vulnerability by “buying” Ruben Dias from Portugal and Virgil Van Dijk from the Netherlands. However, there is another way that African countries can “buy” players from other teams…

When David Alaba won the Champions League with Bayern Munich in 2020, he draped the Austrian and Nigerian flags over his back. Alaba (whose father is Nigerian) once said that he would have gladly played for Nigeria rather than Austria – had the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) actually contacted him. Losing a world class talent like Alaba to another country is a monumental oversight bordering on criminal negligence. (Un)fortunately, there are others like him.

There are several bi-racial or dual national players of mixed African and European ancestry; who currently play in Europe’s top leagues. Several African players have already won the World Cup – while playing for European countries. France is probably the most famous example of this as it has regularly picked players such as Zinedine Zidane, Karim Benzema (both Algeria), Marcel Desailly (Ghana), Patrick Vieira (Senegal), Kylian Mbappe (Cameroon and Algeria), Paul Pogba (Guinea), and Ngolo Kante (Mali) – who were in France’s 1998 or 2018 World Cup winning squads. The direction of football talent has largely been in one direction: African players playing for the European countries that they or their parents migrated to. There are at least 11 players of Nigerian descent playing for European countries at this World Cup – such as Bukayo Saka (England), Jamal Musiala (Germany), and Manuel Akanji and Noah Okafor (both Switzerland). Several other European countries also have players of African descent in their squads at the present World Cup. Germany had Antonio Rudiger (Sierra Leone), Leroy Sane (Senegal), Belgium had Romelu Lukaku (whose father represented the Democratic Repubic of Congo’s national team).

African countries can take advantage of their diaspora talent and adopt a ”two can play at that game” approach. The examples of Wilfired Zaha (Ivory Coast), Victor Moses (Nigeria)). Senegal’s Kalidou Koulibaly, Algeria’s Riyad Mahrez, and Gabon’s Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang (all three of whom were good enough to play for France – where they were born and raised) show that it is possible for African teams to convince dual national players to play for them – even when a European country wants to pick them. All of the players (except Mahrez) named in this paragraph represented England or France at youth team level before opting to play for the African country their parents came from.

African academies cannot compete with European academies, so why not let European academies do the work for them and scout promising Europe-based young players of African descent who are good enough to play international football? This is a chicken and egg problem and solution that requires a lot more than simply asking a European born player “do you fancy a game with us?”. African teams need to perform well enough in order to convince Africans born in Europe that winning the World Cup with an African team is a realistic possibility and not just an inaccurate prediction by Pele.

In an alternate universe in which the NFF had better and earlier scouting, Nigeria’s current squad could have included Alaba, Jamal Musiala, Bukayo Saka, Manuel Akanji, Karim Adeyemi, Tammy Abraham, Eberechi Eze, and Dele Alli. When placed alongside Nigeria’s current players such as Victor Osimhen of Napoli, Calvin Bassey of Ajax, Wilfried Ndidi of Leicester City, and Samuel Chukwueze of last season’s Champions League semi-finalists Villarreal, Nigeria could have had a squad good enough to reach the World Cup quarter-finals.


African teams need to learn a thing or two from common European football clichés such as:

If he feels contact he is entitled to go down”

Force the referee to make a decision”

Get in his head”

Stay down”

There is a psychological sophistication to European and South American football that African teams have not yet mastered. When they play against African teams, European and South American teams often play like street wise Vegas hustlers playing cards against novices.

This week Morocco’s coach Walid Regragui said that:

“African teams were portrayed as teams who played for fun with no efficiency. Those days are over.”

European and South American teams are grand masters at manipulating the emotions of their opponents and the referee, and at dictating a game’s tempo. Woe betide the team that concedes an early goal to Argentina, Germany, Italy, or Uruguay. A team unfortunate enough to suffer this fate will spend the rest of the game witnessing the opposition slow the game down by taking corners, free kicks, and throw ins with the urgency of a relaxed tortoise, using substitutions to interrupt the opposition’s momentum, and getting treatment for mysterious and inexplicable “injuries” that occur at important moments of the match.

The pious may call such stretching of the Laws of the Game to breaking point “dark arts” or “gamesmanship”. The cynical may call it cheating. Not only are Europeans really good at football, but they are also brilliant at cloaking such misconduct behind shades of grey vocabulary such as “game management”.

Elite professional football is usually determined by split second decisions, interventions, and calculated manipulations that gradually demoralise the opposition. This is football’s equivalent of “mental disintegration” as former Australian cricket captain Steve Waugh once called it. Incidents such as late penalties and red cards that dramatically alter a game’s trajectory do not occur by chance. They are usually engineered or influenced by players’ conditioned behaviour.

For example, in the 1990 World Cup quarter-final match when England was losing 1-2 to Cameroon with only 7 minutes left, England striker Gary Lineker could easily have evaded the challenge of Cameroon’s goalkeeper Thomas Nkono. Lineker later admitted that he refused to get out of Nkono’s way, and instead deliberately allowed his legs to collide with Nkono so that he could get a penalty for his team.

At the 2014 World Cup Ivory Coast needed only a draw in its final group game against Greece to qualify for the 2nd round. With the score at 1-1 in the 93rd minute, Greece’s Georgious Samaras ran past Ivory Coast defender Giovanni Sio, and kicked the back of his own foot and fell down to make it look as if Sio tripped him. It was an outrageous “penalty” that would never have been awarded in this VAR era.

While I do not approve of it, European and South American teams understand that systematically pressurising the referee to give them free kicks and caution opposition players, is a tactical part of the game as important and rehearsed to them as taking a corner or a free kick. African teams have not caught up to this aspect of the game and often give the impression that elite football is a fair game played in a corinthian spirit and that the team that performs best will win.

African children are generally raised to respect authority and show deference to their elders. Many African cultures regard it as appalling behaviour for young men in their 20s to harangue a middle aged man (AKA the referee). When one watches the AFCON, one is struck by the near absence of diving, players feigning injuries, or vehemently arguing with the referee (except in games involving Algeria!). This contrasts with Europe, where social dissent is encouraged or even esteemed as a part of building critical thinking.

We saw evidence of the famed African naivety at the 2014 World Cup, when France’s Blaise Matuidi hit Nigeria’s Ogenyi Onazi with a horror studs up, ankle breaker “tackle” that looked more like a gangland contract hit than a tackle. Incredibly, Matuidi was not red carded for his horrible challenge. Although primary blame for this lies with the incompetence of the American referee Mark Geiger, some of the blame also lies with the (lack of) reactions of the Nigerian players who calmly stood out and waited to see what the referee would do for the assault and battery on their team mate. They did not surround the referee to demand a red card, nor did the Nigerian substitutes jump off their bench, and run up to the halfway line finger wagging and waving imaginary cards at the referee. In contrast, at the same World Cup when Portugal was denied a penalty against Germany, the great Cristiano Ronaldo chased the referee for 25 yards to demand that he award a penalty.

When Alexis Sanchez scored for Chile against Germany in the 2017 Confederations cup, no Chilean player initially went to celebrate with him – because the Chilean players were instead angrily hounding the referee and demanding that he book Germany’s Sebastian Rudy for a foul on Chile’s Arturo Vidal in the move that preceded Chile’s goal! The cojones required for a team to refuse to celebrate scoring a goal because they were aggrieved with the referee for giving them advantage and letting them score, gives a window into the hard mind required to win at world level.

Quite simply, African teams (except Algeria!) need to stop being so innocent and become more cynical.

The measures I have advised are monumentally hard to implement. However, the expansion to a 48 team World Cup from the next tournament should gradually increase the number of African teams that qualify for the knockout rounds. The experience of playing such high-profile knockout matches on a consistent basis is likely to see 1-2 African countries emerge as challengers to the Europe-South America duopoly. If I was to predict where those African challengers are likely to emerge from, I would predict one from north African (probably Algeria, Egypt, or Morocco) and another from west Africa (probably Ivory Coast, Nigeria, or Senegal).

Follow me on Twitter

When Will an African Country Win the World Cup?

This is the 2nd part of an article I posted a few days ago. In the first part, I examined why no African team has ever won the World Cup. In this second part, I will look at what African teams can do to improve their chances of winning the World Cup.

Teams Without an Identity

Brazil has Joga Bonito or “Samba Football”, Italy has Catenaccio, Holland has Total Football, Spain has “Tiki-Taka”, and win, lose, or draw; the relentless pressure fighters of Argentina, Mexico, and Uruguay always engage their opponents in a 90 minute long street fight. Many European and South American teams have an institutionalised pattern of play which endures regardless of changes in coaching and playing personnel.

Which African team has a clearly articulated and visible pattern of play that is synonymous with them? None. An African team’s paying style usually lasts as long as the current coach is in charge and changes as soon as a new coach is appointed.

This lack of an identifiable playing style also gives fuel to European “expert” football pundits who fill our TV time with gormless “They have lots of pace and power” narratives about every single African team – even if half of the team are 5’6 tall plodding anorexics.

The teams who have won the World Cup in the last 25 years possessed two attributes: (1) a pattern of play that was drilled into their players from childhood; and (2) a national elite coaching centre where the country’s best young players were trained and which acted as an “Ivy League” school for the country’s best footballers. African countries have neither.

France’s football academy at Clairefontaine trained several of the players that were in its squads that reached the 1998, 2006, and 2018 World Cup finals. 7 players that played for Spain in the 2010 World Cup final were graduates of Barcelona’s famed La Masia football academy (Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Segio Busquets, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Pedro, and Cesc Fabregas).

African teams do not have a carved in stone pattern of play because of three reasons:

1) Most African countries do not have football coaching centres of excellence like France’s Clairefontaine; where an institutionalised playing ethos can be implanted into young players;

2) Their insistence on hiring European coaches; and

3) African football academies are businesses committed to producing players that can be sold to the highest European bidder, rather than for producing national team players.

Outside Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, and South Africa, most African football clubs and leagues are either owned by the government, or by private businesses that use them as a vanity project. Wall to wall coverage of the English Premier League, La Liga, and the Bundesliga means that local TV broadcasters prioritise spending lots of money on buying TV rights to European football leagues, and invest less in their own leagues. European clubs can invest these vast revenues into their academies and into producing the footballers of tomorrow. Conversely, most African football clubs do not have the commercial revenues to engage in such projects. The end result is that most African football fans fervently follow and watch European football teams on TV, and have never watched their local hometown club (if that club is even on TV). This prioritisation of Europe is not limited to TV coverage.

Most African national teams are managed by European coaches. However, an expatriate European coach who does not speak any languages of the African country he coaches, and who is on a short-term contract, does not have the time or incentive to institutionalise a consistent style of play that will survive him. Only indigenous coaches who understand the culture and mentality of their players can drill the players to consistently play one way that best suits the players.

It is scandalous that African FAs do not place more faith in their indigenous coaches; especially as the most fluid and well drilled African team of this century had an indigenous coach. On January 29, 2004 Egypt lost an Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) match 1-2 to their north African rivals Algeria. This was significant because Egypt did not lose another AFCON match for the next 15 years. Egypt won three successive AFCON championships. The coach who led this unprecedented era of success was Hassan Shehata. Shehata’s achievement was all the more impressive because Egypt’s era of dominance overlapped with Ivory Coast’s “Golden Generation” of Drogba, the Toure brothers, Salomon Kalou, and Gervinho. Egypt emphatically beat that brilliant Ivory Coast team twice during that winning AFCON sequence.

That (pre-Mohammed Salah) Egyptian team had the discipline and tactical sophistication to make an impact at the World Cup. It was the most organised team in Africa between 2006-2010. To some extent Egypt was the “Spain of Africa” during that era. Like Spain (who relied on a core of Barcelona players), the core of Egypt’s squad was also drawn from one team: the serial African champions Al-Ahly (Africa’s equivalent of Real Madrid). Al-Ahly won the African Champions League 5 times in the 8 years between 2005 and 2013. About 8-9 members of Egypt’s treble AFCON winning team played for that brilliant Al-Ahly team (such as Mohammed Aboutrika, Essam al-Hadary, Mohammed Shawky, Wael Gomaa, Ibrahim Said, Mohammed Barakat, Emad Motaeb, and Hossam Hassan). Egypt could do this because Al-Ahly was that rarest of African teams: a rich team, with a massive fanbase, that could pay its players enough to keep its squad together and prevent them from migrating to Europe.

To some extent, this World Cup is Africa’s most prolific World Cup as African teams have won a record 8 games; including victories over world champions France, Brazil, Belgium (who finished third at the last World Cup), and Spain. Every single African team won at least one game, and Cameroon and Tunisia were unfortunate to be eliminated despite losing only 1 game. It is pertinent that this success came at a time when all 5 African countries appointed indigenous coaches to lead them at the World Cup. Morocco’s current coach Walid Regragui was appointed only 3 games before the World Cup started. He coached Wydad Casablanca to win the African Champions League before taking the national team job.

Naïve” African Teams

European football commentators are fond of describing African teams as “naïve”. Although it is tempting to dismiss this as patronising European references to Africa, the truth hurts. African teams’ results at the World Cup tell only a partial story. The manner in which African teams lose is very illuminating. African teams have perfected the art of playing better than the opposition but still losing the game. There is a 32 year long catalogue of African teams grasping defeat from the jaws of victory with brain fart calamities at critical times.

When businesses conclude a deal that went badly, or have a year where profits dip; they usually conduct a retrospective review to discover why, and to prevent its reoccurrence. African football teams should do the same:

  • Cameroon v England (1990) – with only 7 minutes left, Cameroon was 2-1 up against England and on the verge of being the first African team to reach the World Cup semi-final. Instead of shitting up shop, Cameroon continued attacking, gave away two clumsy penalties, and lost the game 3-2.
  • Nigeria v Italy (1994) – Nigeria was 1-0 up against Italy in the 90th minute and on the verge of reaching he quarter-final in its first World Cup appearance. Then lost concentration in the last minute, conceded a late equaliser to Roberto Baggio, then conceded a penalty in extra time to 10 man Italy and lost 2-1.
  • Ghana v Uruguay (2010) – Although the public has made Luis Suarez the villain of this game, as Suarez has pointed out; it was not him who missed the crucial penalty for Ghana with the last kick of the game. Even after Suarez stop a goalbound Ghana shot on the line with his hands, the game was still in Ghana’s hands. They were facing a Uruguay team that was down to 10 men and without its star striker. Ghana also had the additional advantage of a penalty with the last kick of the game, and could have killed off Uruguay instantly by converting the penalty – since there was no time left for Uruguay to equalise. Instead, Asamoah Gyan blazed the penalty against the crossbar, the game went to penalties, and Ghana contrived to lose the game from a position where it seemed impossible.

  • At the 2018 World Cup, there was an astonishing sequence of African teams conceding winning (for the opposition) goals in the dying minutes of games. African teams conceded goals in the 95th (twice), 91st (twice again), 90th, , 86th, 78th, and 74th minutes. Conceding 8 goals in the last 15 minutes of the game in the group phase alone, is so alarming that it points to something fundamentally wrong with African teams.

There are two primary reasons (one visible and the other insidious) that explain why African teams are susceptible to late goals. I will examine these in the next part of this series.


Spoiler alert: if you want to read an article about African football featuring the archetypal video footage of barefoot African children playing on a bobbly dusty pitch, or an African player talking about his poverty stricken upbringing – stop reading now! There will be none of that here. Conversely, if you want to read an article about African football with deep analysis, revealing historical insights, and lots of information you probably do not know – then keep reading…

African players can take the blame and the credit for proving the greatest player of all time wrong, every day of the week for the past 22 years. When Pele made his now infamous prediction that an African country would win the World Cup before the year 2000, it did not seem bizarre. Yet, 22 years after 2000, not only has no African country won the World Cup, no African country has reached the quarter-finals since 2010. Even Asia has progressed further than Africa as South Korea reached the semi-final 20 years ago.

African countries have produced some of the World Cup’s most iconic moments: such as Cameroon stunning world champions Argentina on the opening day of the 1990 tournament, and Cameroon were only 7 minutes away from beating England and reaching the semi-final before two Gary Lineker penalties eliminated Cameroon.

Then came Rashidi Yekini’s spine tingling celebration after scoring Nigeria’s first ever World Cup goal in 1994:

History repeated again in 2002 when the late Papa Bouba Diop’s goal helped  Senegal beat world champions France on the opening day of the 2002 tournament, before Senegal reached the quarter-final:

Ghana also emulated Cameroon and Senegal in 2010 when it also reached the quarter-final.

As a bonus I have also included a video of gratuitous violence: Benjamin Massing of Cameroon’s tackle on Argentina’s Claudio Cannigia in 1990 that resembled a gangland contract hit more than a tackle on a sports field:

Despite these presumed breakthrough moments, why have African teams not been able to transition from creating entertaining memories at the World Cup to actually winning it?

It cannot be a lack of talent. The best player in the Premier League is an African, several African players have won the Champions League, and African players currently play for the champions of England, Germany, France, Italy, and Portugal. Ironically, African football teams became less successful at the World Cup when their individual players’ profiles hit at an all time high.

Those who like simple, binary solutions should look away now! There is no single reason why no African country has won the World Cup. Instead, there are many. For ease of reference, I have grouped them into things that are the fault of African countries, and things outside their control.

Self-Sabotaging FAs

If there was a manual on how to sabotage a national football team, many African football associations would be best selling authors of it. Time and time again, African FAs have created poisonous relations with their footballers (who are accustomed to first class superstar treatment while playing for their European clubs) by getting into bonus rows with players, not arranging adequate accommodation or training facilities for players, or interfering with the coach’s job by forcing him to pick or drop players he does not want to. Although I could write an entire book about African FAs, I will spare you that and limit myself to the worst examples of corrupt incompetence by African FAs.

At the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, a row between Ghana’s football association and players over unpaid bonuses led Ghana’s layers to threaten to boycott and forfeit their final group game against Portugal. The row became so incendiary that it was resolved only when Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama intervened and arranged for $3 million in cash to be flown by a private jet from Ghana to the players in Brazil, then delivered to them by cars under police escort just before the Portugal game. Some of the players kept $100,000 in cash in their bags in the dressing room. An embarrassing photo of Ghana player John Boye kissing a large bundle of cash after receiving his bonus payment went viral online.

The reader may wonder why a multi-millionaire professional footballer cares about what they get paid for playing for their country, and consider them as greedy. There are at least two reasons why bonus payments matter to African footballers. Firstly, bonus payments to African players often get siphoned off and shared amongst a host of hangers attached to the national team, FA, and government. Players feel cheated when others take money that was earned by them putting their bodies on the line while playing for their country. Secondly, African players are also subject to financial commitments and pressures that the average European player will never encounter. While a European star player usually uses his fortune to provide for his wife and proverbial 2.4 children, a star African player is also expected to provide for his parents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles, extended family, people from his hometown, and also be a philanthropist. Current and retired African footballers such as Sadio Mane, Samuel Eto’o, Didier Drogba, and Nwankwo Kanu have contributed vast sums of money to building and funding hospitals, schools, and charities in their countries.

The Coaching Turnstile

Keeping track of African national team coaches is an exercise in observing turnstile vacancies appear and disappear.

A favourite tactic of African FAs is to appoint a coach 3-4 years before the World Cup. The coach usually builds a rapport with the players, implements his tactics and pattern of play, and qualifies his team for the World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON). Due to the AFCON’s scheduling, it usually occurs about 6 months before the World Cup. If said coach does not win the AFCON, his FA usually fires him, and appoints a new coach who then comes in and rips up the tactical blueprint and formation that the prior coach used and drilled the players in during the previous 4 years. The poor players then have to play in a new unaccustomed system, for a coach they do not know, while simultaneously dealing with the small matter of facing the best teams in the world at the World Cup. Even the much heralded Morocco team at this World Cup is playing for a coach (Walid Regragui) who was appointed 3 months before the World Cup started. Regragui managed Morocco in only 3 matches before the World Cup started.

Nigeria is a notorious example in this regard. Nigeria has qualified for the World Cup on 6 different occasions. Yet only 3 times has the coach who led the qualifying campaign also led the team to the World Cup. In 1998, 2002, and 2010, the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) fired the coach 6 months or less before the World Cup started, and Nigeria went to the World Cup to play the likes of Argentina, Croatia, Denmark, and England with a coach who had met the players only a few times before the World Cup.

As if these prior examples were not enough, after qualifying for this year’s AFCON and reaching the final round of qualifying for this year’s World Cup, the NFF essentially sabotaged its own team by firing Nigeria’s coach who had made progress with the team during the past 5 years just before the AFCON. The outcome was ugly. Nigeria (which had reached at least the semi-final of the AFCON 14 times in 17 tournaments) crashed out of the AFCON in the 2nd round to a very average Tunisia team, and then failed to score a goal from open play in 180 minutes of football against an also average Ghana team in their World Cup qualifying play-off; culminating in Nigeria’s failure to qualify for the World Cup for only the second time in 28 years.

Most African countries have an incredible number of ethnic groups and languages, and multiple religious and other sectarian divides that make Northern Ireland, Israel v Palestine, and Celtic v Rangers seem like polite dinner parties. For example, over 800 languages (over 10% of all languages in the world) are spoken in Cameroon and Nigeria alone. Convincing the public that the national team coach selected players purely on merit, and without ethnic or religious bias; is a delicate act with massive ramifications that can affect national stability. It is much easier to employ a European coach with no local ethnic or religious loyalties (or axes to grind) in the African country he coaches, since he cannot be accused of ethnic bias. The logic is sound, but the execution is not.

Employing European coaches would be justifiable if African FAs hired the next Ferguson or Guardiola. However, for some head scratching reason they hire utterly dire journeyman D level European coaches. For example, Nigeria’s striker Victor Osimhen spent the last few years being coached at Napoli by a knowledgeable tactician like Luciano Spalletti, then showed up to national team duty to be coached by a German coach called Gernot Rohr who had never managed in a top four European league or won a trophy, and who got the Nigerian team job after winning nothing with Gabon, Niger, and Burkina Faso.

Appointing a coach without elite experience to coach a squad of European based superstars at the World Cup, is probably not going to end well.

Snakes and Ladders

None of Africa’s five best players is at this World Cup. Apart from Sadio Mane who is out injured, Mohammed Salah (Egypt), Riyad Mahrez (Algeria), Victor Osimhen (Nigeria), and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon) are fit, but not playing at this World Cup because their countries did not qualify. The reasons for that lie in the most gruelling and laborious World Cup qualification system in the world.

It is actually easier to qualify for the World Cup in Europe than in Africa. In Europe seeding generally keeps teams apart, and most decent countries can rack up cricket scores in qualifying games against mighty footballing giants like Andorra, Gibraltar, San Marino, Liechtenstein, and the Faroe Islands (some of whom have won only 1-2 games from the last 200 they have played). Of the 32 teams in the World Cup, about 40-60% (since the 1982 World Cup) are usually from Europe, and about 50% of teams in South America’s CONMEBOL confederation automatically qualify for the World Cup (in South America – it is almost harder not to qualify for the World Cup!).

In contrast, until the 1982 World Cup, Africa got to send only 1 or 2 teams to the World Cup. FIFA now allots only 5 World Cup places for Africa’s 55 countries. This means that 90% of African national teams cannot qualify for the World Cup.

African World Cup cut-throat snakes and ladders qualifiers are almost designed to ensure that Africa’s best teams never make it to the World Cup.

To whittle 55 countries down to 5, African football has a byzantine and exhausting three step qualification process. The first step is a two-legged knockout round. The winners from this round then advance to a group phase (of 10 groups). In Europe and South America, finishing top of a qualifying group means automatic qualification for the World Cup, whereas in Africa; it merely introduces a new way of being eliminated. Only the winners of each African qualifying group advance to the third round; which again reverts to a knockout cup format. The paucity of slots for African teams at the World Cup makes African World Cup qualifying extremely competitive and cut-throat, with zero margin for error. The knockout games render the top teams vulnerable to shocks/upsets, and ensure that the best teams do not make it to the World Cup. Rarely are the 5 African World Cup qualifiers the best 5 teams in Africa because the top African teams often get placed in the same group.

Because Africa has only 5 World Cup places, its countries end up in “Celebrity Death Match” groups against each other. The excellent and fluid Egyptian team that won the AFCOn 3 times in a row between 2006 and 2010 were grouped with their fierce rivals Algeria in the qualification campaign for the 2010 World Cup. In the final group qualification match, Egypt had to beat group leaders Algeria by at least two goals in a north African knockout derby. Those who are interested can read here for the background to the Egypt-Algeria rivalry.

The game was played in in front of a frenzied crowd of 100,000 and was so tense that the governments of both countries threatened diplomatic action against each other. Egypt won after scoring a 95th minute goal that sparked a pitch invasion.

Yet, that victory was still not enough for Egypt to qualify for the World Cup. Egypts win left them tied with Algeria on points, goal difference, and head-to-head results! The two teams therefore had to play a third tie-breaker play-off game on neutral territory (in Sudan!). Algeria caused an upset when they beat Egypt – meaning that perhaps the best African team of this century never played at the World Cup.

One of the qualifying groups for the last World Cup had Algeria, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Zambia. That group consisted of 4 of the last 5 African champions and the highest ranked African country at the time. A European equivalent would be Spain, France, Portugal, and Belgium in the same World Cup qualifying group from which only one of them could qualify!

Due to such blood and thunder qualifying campaigns, most African teams are usually emotionally and physically exhausted by the time they arrive at the World Cup after a gruelling qualifying campaign and playing the AFCON only 6 months before the World Cup. It is because of cut-throat qualifying incidents like this that African countries are begging FIFA for more World Cup spots.

The “Europeanisation” of African Football

20-30 years ago, most African international footballers either played for clubs based in Africa, and those who played for European clubs had first built their club careers in Africa before making a name for themselves and being signed by an African club. These days, it is rare to find an African footballer at the World Cup who has played a full season of football in an African league. Most African footballers playing in Europe go straight from African youth academies as young boys or teenagers to European clubs, and do not bother playing professional club football in Africa. Examples of players who travelled this African academy to Europe road include Thomas Partey of Ghana and Arsenal and Wilfried Ndidi of Nigeria and Leicester City.

African academies do not exist to produce players for their national team or domestic league. Instead they exist purely as factories for producing assembly line clone African players suitable for European football teams.

Many other African players were born and raised in Europe and have never lived in the African country they play for. For example, Kalidou Koulibaly and Pierre-Emerick Aubemeyang were born and raised in France and played for France at under-21 or under-20 level before opting to play for Senegal and Gabon. Hakim Ziyech was born in Holland and played for Holland’s under-19, under-20, and under-21 teams before representing Morocco at full adult international level. Many dual-national African players often opt to play for an African country only after it becomes apparent that they will not be first choice for the European country in which they were born.

This “Europeanisation” of African football means that most African players now come in two models: those trained in African academies to be a good fit for a European club, and those who grew up in Europe that European coaches have pre-drilled to play to a tactical European style (a good example is how Mourinho drilled a teenage Mikel who was a playmaking number 10, to instead become a defensive midfield destroyer). Nowadays most African teams are “Diet Europe”. Instead of playing with their own style, African countries come to the World Cup African and try to “out-Europe” the European teams with identical playing styles.

Groups of Death

Some challenges that African countries experience are not of their making. One of these is FIFA’s ranking and seeding system. Because African countries are ranked lower than their European and South American counterparts, they are always unseeded and are placed in pot 3 or 4 for the World Cup draw; inevitably meaning that African teams get drawn in a “Group of Death” with two “superpower” teams from Europe and South America. Hence Ivory Coast’s excellent Drogba-Toure et al team got put in horrible groups with Argentina, Holland, and Serbia (2006) and Brazil and Portugal (2010), while Nigeria has been placed in the same group as Argentina in 5 of the 6 World Cups that Nigeria has played in. The African hard luck story got even more bizarre at the 2018 World Cup after Senegal lost only one game and finished level on points and goal difference with Japan. However, Senegal was eliminated because its players had picked up 1 more yellow card than Japan during the tournament (yellow cards which were actually harshly awarded against Senegal’s players while playing Japan). Senegal was the first team in the 92 year history of the World Cup to be eliminated in such a manner.

Prior to the 1998 World Cup, Tunisia may have considered themselves the unluckiest team in the world. Their best defender (Abdennour) and star attacker (Msakni) got injured before the World Cup and missed the tournament. Then their goalkeeper joined them on the injured list, and the reserve goalkeeper got injured 15 minutes into Tunisia’s first World Cup game and was also ruled out of the tournament. Then in Tunisia’s second game two of their players were seriously injured and stretchered off in the first half.

The Man In Black 

In addition to being in Groups of Death, African countries have also been on the receiving end of some absolutely appalling and baffling refereeing decisions. While English football fans are still apoplectic about Maradona’s handball goal against England in 1986 (36 years ago – before most of them were born!), African countries have a catalogue of refereeing grievances that the officials should hang their heads in shame for.

“a criminal act. It’s even worse than what Suarez did”

Nigeria played France in round 2 of the 2014 World Cup. The score was 0-0 in the second half and Nigeria’s midfielder Eddy Onazi was running the show until France’s Blaise Matuidi pole-axed Onazi with this shocking studs up, horror ankle breaker “tackle” that led to Onazi being stretchered off and put in plaster cast. For some unknown reason the American referee Mark Geiger (who was standing 2 yards away) did not send off Matuidi.

Diego Maradona (who has no axe to grind in a match between France and Nigeria) was so outraged by Matuidi’s assault on Onazi that he appeared in public with a photo of Matuidi’s studs stamping down on Onazi’s ankle and said “It is impossible that the referee did not see this challenge as a criminal act. It’s even worse than what Suarez did (biting Chiellini).”

The game completely changed after Onazi was stretchered off and France (with Matuidi who should not have been on the pitch) scored 2 late goals to win the game.

“VAR is Bull—it!” – Spain v Morocco (2018 World Cup)

The refereeing (if organised incompetence can be called that) in the Morocco v Spain game at the last World Cup in 2018 was the closest thing to match fixing I have ever seen on live TV.

Apart from the host of errors in the video above, the tragi-comic officiating culminated in the 92nd minute with Morocco winning 2-1. The ball went out of play for a Moroccan goal kick deep into injury time at the end of the game. The referee incorrectly gave Spain a corner. With the referee pointing to the left corner, and the Moroccan players facing the way he was pointing, Spain then took a quick corner from the opposite side of the pitch to where the ball went out of play, and scored a 92nd minute equaliser from it. The linesman disallowed it for offside, but VAR overruled him, and incredibly, the referee and VAR allowed Spain’s goal to stand despite the plethora of errors and rule breaking that preceded it.

It was so farcical that it provoked Nordin Amrabat (the older brother of Sofyan Amrabat who is in the current Morocco team) into his now infamous “VAR is bull—-!” comment into a TV camera after the game (which became a meme).

This was part 1 of this. In the 2nd part I will examine what African countries can do to optimise their chances of winning the World Cup.

Half Price Sale: What Britain 🇬🇧 Did to Nigeria and Nigeria’s 🇳🇬 Soldiers of Fortune

FA Sunday Cup Review: Highgate Albion v Hatch Lane

FA Sunday Cup, Round 2

Sunday November 13, 2022 (2pm Kick-Off)
Ware FC
, Wodson Park, Wadesmill Rd, Ware SG12 0UQ

Two Winning Cultures

This was an excellent game between two very successful teams. The home team Highgate reached last season’s FA Sunday Cup final, while Hatch Lane are the reigning London Sunday Challenge Cup holders. This match was of a much higher standard than the FA Vase game I watched the previous day between two Step 5 teams, and I think both of Highgate and Hatch Lane would beat either club I saw in the FA Vase.

Before this game players and officials from the Barnet Sunday League could be forgiven for believing that Hatch Lane has a grudge against teams from their league! This was the third time in less than 5 months that Hatch Lane has been drawn against the Barnet Sunday League’s three best teams. In May, Hatch Lane beat Trabzonspor (UK) 2-1 to win the London Sunday Challenge Cup, then in October started their defence of that cup this season by beating the Barnet Sunday League’s champions AFC Oakwood on penalties after a 3-3 draw.

Last Sunday Hatch Lane faced last season’s beaten national FA Sunday Cup finalists Highgate Albion (yet another team from the Barnet Sunday League!) in the 2nd round of this season’s FA Sunday Cup.

Highgate Albion had won the Barnet Sunday League three times in a row until last season when Highgate, Trabzonspor (UK), and AFC Oakwood were involved in an epic three way tussle for the Barnet Sunday League championship that continued until the last game of the season. Going into their final three games of the season, Highgate were in third place and 7 points behind 1st place Oakwood, and had to win all of their final three games to win the championship for a fourth consecutive season. Two of those final three games were against 2nd placed Trabzonspor (UK) and league table leaders Oakwood. Highgate beat Park Royals and 2nd placed Trabzonspor (UK) to set up a “winner takes” all championship decider on the last day of the season against Oakwood. However, Oakwood beat Highgate 1-0 to clinch the championship and end Highgate’s three year grip on the title.

Meanwhile, Hatch Lane are reigning treble holders after winning the Essex Sunday Corinthian League’s Senior Division, the Senior Division Cup, and most impressively of all –the London FA Sunday Challenge Cup at the first attempt. Hatch Lane was the first team from the Essex Sunday Corinthian League to win that trophy for 19 years.

Several players from both teams know each other as they also face each other in the Essex Senior League while playing for their Saturday semi-professional clubs. Some are event team-mates on Saturdays! For example, Highgate’s left-back Nnamdi Harold-Egole and Hatch Lane’s left winger Samrai Gebrai are team-mates for Essex Senior league leaders Enfield. Hatch Lane’s squad also included the Coley brothers: Ayrton and Tremayne. They are either identical twins or the most similar looking older and younger brother I have ever seen in my life!

This game was emblematic of the problems that London teams face in finding stadia for FA Sunday Cup matches. Due to the FA’s rules for this competition, teams cannot play their matches on the public parks that many London Sunday teams play at. Hence teams have to rent stadia elsewhere – often far away from their base. The fact that the home team Highgate (who are based in north London) had to play a “home” game at Ware FC in Hertfordshire (30 miles and a 1 hour drive away from their neighbourhood) shows how serious the problem is. Ironically, the away team Hatch Lane (from east London) had a shorter trip to the stadium!

Angry Birds

One of the weirdest things I noticed about the main spectator stand is that it had a net in the roof; where several birds had nested…and perished while up there. There were several bird corpses up there (with 1-2 looking like they had broken necks). I think someone needs to tell Ware’s ground staff that their main stand has turned into a bird cemetery.

I carefully watched each team’s warm up for tell-tale signs of which of them was more “up for it”. Hatch Lane had a more structured and fluid warm up with cones and running drills, whereas Highgate had a more casual warm-up that involved lots of them firing long range shots at their goalkeeper.

Highgate played its traditional 4-2-3-1 formation, while Hatch Lane played 4-3-3.

Highgate Albion line-up:

 Charles TaylorGK
 Rob MagwoodRB
 Ian Maitland (captain)CD
 Alvin KyeremehCD
 Nnamdi Harold-EgoleLB
 Pele RileyMidfield
 Shehzad AnwarMidfield
 Billy HayesMidfield
 Solomon OforiRW
 James Esprit*Center Forward
 Tage KennedyLW

*Replaced by Richard Kofi-Ennin (53rd minute)

Hatch Lane line-up:

 Martin ArnauchkovGK
 Tremayne ColeyRB
 Psaul Henry-Aimoglou (captain)*CD (right)
 Billy GolledgeCD (left)
 Mekael Williams**LB
 Ashaan SiddikMidfield
 Inarhu Martin***Midfield
 Dan RudolphMidfield
 Amaree Robinson-JonesRW
 Dan CouldridgeCenter Forward
 Samrai GebraiLW

*Replaced by Ashley Wackers-Kyricou (89th minute)
** Replaced by Aundre Spencer
*** Replaced by Fernandez Magba due to injury (48th minute)

“Hatch Lane look an excellent team”

Someone who watched Hatch Lane’s 3-0 win over FC Steamers of Norwich in round 1 of this competition told me that:

“Hatch Lane look an excellent team and it will take a very good side to beat them and must be considered as having a very strong case to win it. Very fit, very quick with a couple of very calm, controlled technical players in the mix…I understand they’ve been drawn against one of the finalists from last year’s competition in the next round which will be a very good indicator of the level they are at.”

The teams walking out for the match

I could see what he meant. Hatch Lane rarely hit the ball long and always looked to pass to feet – even when under pressure. Even when they took free-kicks, the free kick taker rolled the ball along the ground to a team-mate only a few feet away. Most of Hatch Lane’s attacks went through their deep lying left footed regista playmaker Ashaan Siddiq. He reminds me of Fernando Redondo in style – very composed on the ball. I thought he could have been more effective if played further forward in an attacking midfield position. However, given the number of attacking players at Hatch Lane’s disposal, I understand that it may be difficult for the team to accommodate all of its attacking players.

“don’t do that again!”

After 25 minutes Highgate’s manager Adam Shahein went ballistic when his defenders and goalkeeper left a bouncing ball to each other and Hatch Lane’s left winger Sam Gebrai ran through, pounced on the loose ball and lobbed the ball over the Highgate keeper’s head. Fortunately for Highgate, the ball bounced wide. Shahein gave his team an earful and screamed at them “don’t do that again!”.

While Hatch Lane were more technical, Highgate were more physical. Shortly after Shaihen’s tirade, it was the turn of the Hatch Lane management to lose their cool. They were irate when Highgate’s left back Nnamdi Harold-Egole brought down Hatch Lane’s tricky right winger Amaree Robinson-Jones with a clumsy and late tackle. The referee yellow carded Egole, and despite long treatment, Robinson-Jones (another member of the semi-professional contingent – who plays on Saturdays for Step 4 team Witham Town in the Isthmian League, Division 1 South) carried the injury for the remainder of the half.

When not directing their anger at the referee, Hatch Lane’s coaching crew commented amongst themselves that Highgate looked “well drilled”.

Hatch Lane almost takes the lead from a corner

There is no way I could see it from here.”

Highgate’s regular goalkeeper Alexandru Gavriloaia is a character. He was on the substitutes bench today, but his replacement Charles Taylor was outdoing him with hair raising antics. In the 52nd minute he let a back pass roll under his foot and towards the goal. I thought I was about to see the most tragic-comic goal I had ever seen in this competition, but he sprinted back and stopped the ball with his studs just before it crossed the line. The Hatch Lane players and management were convinced that the ball crossed the line (and I suspected it did too). However, both the referee (who was near the halfway line) and assistant (who was 35 yards away from the goal) refused to award the goal as in the referee’s words “There is no way I could see it from here.”

Highgate kept inviting pressure by committing careless fouls in their final third of the pitch. It was not due to Highgate being a “dirty” team, but more due to Hatch Lane’s players being so fast, nimble, and skillful that the ball usually “disappeared” with a Hatch Lane player before a defender could get to it.

Free kick to Hatch Lane (taken by Ashaan Siddik)

I kept thinking that “Highgate will eventually pay for giving away all of these free-kicks”, and sure enough, from one of such free kicks Highgate headed it out from their penalty area, but the ball floated towards Hatch Lane’s midfielder Dan Rudolph standing about 20-25 yards from goal who unleashed a first time “worldie” volley into the corner of the net. The Highgate keeper got his hand on it but could not keep it out, given the extreme power it was hit with. Rudolph’s team-mates celebrated by “worshipping” the right boot he scored with.

Highgate looked in serious trouble as the goal gave Hatch Lane more confidence. Robinson-Jones suddenly shook off his first half injury and caused Highgate problems with his mazy runs. Highgate also had to make an enforced change by removing central defender Alvin Kyeremeh, and then rejigging its formation by moving right-back Rob Magwood to center back, and central midfielder Billy Hayes to right back.

Highgate’s captain Ian Maitland also left his center-back position and started roaming around the pitch. He wore the number 99 shirt (a very unusual number for any position!) hence his undefined roving role was probably apt. I cannot tell you exactly which position he went to as he just wandered around into attacking areas to unsettle Hatch Lane. This tactic worked last season when Highgate were losing 0-2 to Mayfair from Liverpool in the semi-final of this competition, and Maitland scored 2 goals (including a dramatic 93rd minute winning goal that Highgate described as “the most important goal in the club’s history”). Maitland’s 2 goals helped Highgate overturn a 0-2 deficit to win 3-2.

Rather than disorganise Highgate, these switches made them more dangerous and they started creating openings. Highgate’s rapid left winger Tage Kennedy (who also plays semi-professionally on Saturdays for Step 3 club Haringey Borough in the Premier Division of the Isthmian League), threatened and created an opening which forced a great left handed save from Hatch Lane’s keeper Martin Arnauchkov. Kennedy also created another opening for himself but shot narrowly wide with only 8 minutes left. I kept thinking two things: (1) “Why didn’t Highgate attack like this before?!” and (2) “If Highgate get back into this game, it will involve Kennedy.”

Just as I thought, Kennedy used his searing pace to surge into the Hatch Lane area, where he was brought down. The referee awarded a penalty in the 84th minute and Kennedy celebrated as if he had scored the winning goal – and taunted Hatch Lane’s manager while he was at it. 

If VAR existed at this level, it was one of those decisions that VAR would not overturn whether or not the referee gave the penalty. While the Hatch Lane defender impeded Kennedy, it was more of a shoulder to shoulder collision than a violent hack.

With only 5 minutes left there was one obvious candidate to take responsibility for the crucial penalty. This season is Highgate’s 40th anniversary as a club. Only one player in the current Highgate squad had been born when Highgate was formed. Throughout the club’s 40 year history, one surname has been on the Highgate team-sheet across three generations: Maitland. Highgate’s captain and veteran center-back Ian Maitland made his debut for the club before some of his team-mates were born. Almost a quarter of a century and about 500 games later, Maitland still plays for Highgate. He followed in his father Nigel’s footsteps; who also played for Highgate, and even played for the club alongside his younger brother Frankie. Last year a third generation of the Maitland family played for Highgate as Ian’s son Charlie made his debut for the club.

Hatch Lane’s goalkeeper Martin Arnauchkov and his teammates tried everything to put Maitland off and “get in his head” before he took the penalty. This is what happened when Maitland eventually got to take the penalty:

The FA has abandoned extra-time and replays at this stage of the competition. Drawn games go straight to penalty shoot-outs, and with the score at 1-1 Hatch Lane made a last minute substitution and withdrew their captain Psaul Aimoglou and brought on Ashley Wackers specifically to take a penalty. You can probably guess what happened when Wackers took a penalty…

For those who like suspense and want to experience the drama, here are videos of the entire penalty-shoot out:


It is a shame that one of these two excellent teams had to be eliminated. Highgate won the penalty shoot out 4-3. It got back into the game not based on blinding skill, but instead on sheer willpower. However, they will need to reduce the number of free-kicks they give away if they want to repeat last season’s run to the final.

Follow me on Twitter



3pm: Saturday November 12, 2022

Ashton Playing Fields, 598 Chigwell Road, Woodford Green, IG8 8AA

Since elite professional football gets so much attention, I like to give coverage to grassroots football. Today I will feature an FA Vase match between two clubs that play at Step 5 of the amateur football pyramid. The FA Vase is a nationwide football competition for amateur English teams playing at Steps 5-6 of the pyramid (their equivalent of the FA Cup).

Woodford Town: One Club – Many Histories

The home team Woodford Town has quite a history. It is one of those “phoenix clubs” that has gone out of existence and reformed multiple times. The original Woodford Town was formed 85 years ago in 1937 and played in several leagues such as the Southern, Spartan, Athenian, and Essex Senior Leagues. Some former famous professionals such as Jimmy Greaves (who won the World Cup with England), Johnny Haynes, and Joe Kinnear played for Woodford. Jimmy Greaves’ father was also the club’s chairman.

Woodford’s Sunday Team

In Woodford Town’s heyday about 50 years ago, it was a very successful team and played in the Southern League at a time when it was a feeder league into professional football (before the National League was formed). Woodford Town also operated a successful Sunday team which won the famous Hackney & Leyton Sunday League in 1973 (while its reserve team also won Division 1 of that league in the same season). Since Sunday teams normally play on public parks, many of Woodford’s Sunday league opponents would switch their home fixtures to Woodford’s stadium on Snakes Lane (which it shared with the Saturday team) – even when though the opposition were the home team! They did this to have the luxury of playing in a “proper” stadium rather than the muddy bumpy pitches at Hackney Marshes or other parks. Woodford’s Sunday team also entered the national FA Sunday Cup competition in the 1973-74 season, and was good enough to beat the highly rated Arras FC from Middlesex en route to the quarter-final; where it lost 1-2 to Robin Hood’s Retreat from Bristol. Robin Hood’s Retreat fans were quite a lively and fun loving bunch, who came to their team’s matches dressed as Robin Hood and his merry bunch of outlaws! (including Friar Tuck and Maid Marian) Keeping in character, when their team scored, they would run onto the pitch brandishing mock swords. This is quite a long way from vuvuzelas and flares in the modern game!

Back to Woodford Town

The Years of Darkness

Woodford’s history got dark and murky in the 1990s and early 2000s. Firstly, the club was evicted from its Snakes Lane stadium in 1993, and the stadium was destroyed in a fire in 1996. In 2003, the Essex Senior League expelled Woodford from the league after Woodford finished bottom of the league three seasons in a row between 2001-2003 (and 2nd from bottom four seasons before in 2000). Woodford could hardly complain as they took some awful beatings during that era; such as a 0-15 loss to Stansted in the 2001-2 season, and Chris Stevens of Ilford scored 8 goals against them in a 9-0 massacre the prior season. The club was dissolved and disappeared after this expulsion from the Essex Senior League.

After this, Woodford’s story got even more complicated. It has had three different existences:

  1. The original club that played between 1937 and 2003;
  2. A reformed club that played between 2016-2017; and
  3. The third (present) club that plays under the Woodford Town name.

The current team is an alchemy of several different clubs with various legacies. For those who do not like detail – be warned as the story is about to get very detailed and confusing!

The Second Woodford Town Era (2016-2017)

Woodford Town’s second existence inadvertently had its roots in the same year it was dissolved. In 2003 Soner Mustafa formed an under-12s youth football team called Bush Hill Rangers; which played in north London. In 2007 an adults’ team called Goffs Oak was founded and started playing in the Premier Division of the Hertford & District League in Hertfordshire. After Goffs Oak gained promotion to the Hertfordshire Senior County League in 2010, it won Division 1 of that league at the first attempt and gained promotion to the Premier Division (Step 7).

By now the young boys that played for the Bush Hill Rangers youth team were approaching their late teens and looking to progress into adult football. Goffs Oak and Bush Hill Rangers reached an agreement in 2011 whereby Bush Hill Rangers would play as Goffs Oak’s reserve team. Bush Hill Rangers was renamed Goffs Oak Reserves and won Reserve Division 1 of the Hertfordshire Senior County League at the first attempt in the 2011-2012 season. The following year Goffs Oak‘s first and reserve teams merged and the successor club resumed using the Bush Hill Rangers name.

Then in 2014, Bush Hill Rangers gained promotion to Division 1 of the Spartan South Midlands League (Step 6), and changed its name to “Woodford Town” in 2015 after merging with a youth football club of the same name. The club regarded itself as a resurrection of the original Woodford Town FC, and although it won the Middlesex Premier Cup in 2016, it played only one season under that name before dissolving due to being unable to continue playing at its new home stadium at Goldsdown Road in Brimsdown (the former home stadium of Brimsdown Rovers). With that, Woodford Town FC died for a second time.

…but only for one year

Summary of Second Woodford Town Era:

  • 2003: Bush Hill Rangers formed as an under-12s youth team
  • 2007: Goffs Oak FC founded and starts playing in the Premier Division of the Hertford & District League
  • 2010: Goffs Oak is promoted to Hertfordshire Senior County League
  • 2011 Goffs Oak and Bush Hill Rangers reach agreement for Bush Hill Rangers to become Goffs Oak’s reserve team
  • 2012: Goffs Oak and Bush Hill Rangers merge, with the successor club being called Bush Hill Rangers
  • 2015: Bush Hill Rangers changed its name to Woodford Town
  • 2018: Soner Mustafa resurrects the Bush Hill Rangers name and forms a new team called Bush Hill Rangers which wins Division 1 of the Hertfordshire Senior County League in its first season

The Third Woodford Town Era (2017- Present)

Woodford Town was born for a third time from an unlikely source. In 2000 a team called Mauritius Sports started playing in the London Intermediate League. Mauritius Sports was formed as a team for members of the Mauritius diaspora in London. In 2004 Mauritius Sports merged with former London Intermediate League champions CMB Metal Box FC to form Mauritius Sports (CMB). In 2007, Mauritius Sports merged again; this time with a Middlesex County League team called Walthamstow Avenue & Pennant. The merged club was renamed Mauritius Sports & Pennant. Confusingly, Walthamstow Avenue & Pennant was itself formed from a merger between two clubs: Walthamstow Avenue and Pennant (confused yet?!). At this stage, the club was an amalgamation of three teams (Mauritius Sports, Walthamstow Avenue,and Pennant).

The club changed its name a bewildering 6 more times in the next 10 years as follows: Mauritius Sports Association UK (2009), Haringey & Waltham Development (2011), Greenhouse London (2013), Greenhouse Sports (2015), Woodford Town 2017 (2017), before changing again to the present name of Woodford Town (2019).

If you wonder how “Greenhouse” got into the name, that occurred after the club became associated with the Greenhouse Bethwin charity, but had to abandon the name after severing its association with the charity.

After 8 name changes in 12 years, Woodford Town was back – playing in the Essex Senior League, just like the original club. The club’s chairman Tony Scott nostalgically wanted to return to its former stadium at Snakes Lane in Woodford, Essex. However, after being empty and disused for 26 years, the stadium was derelict and overgrown with weeds. Although floodlights were still at the stadium, the club could not redevelop it as it was on a flood plain, had drainage issues, and would require lots of renovation to comply with modern health and safety laws.

After decades of nomadic existence ground-sharing with other clubs and playing in far away locations such as Brimsdown in Middlesex and Broxbourne in Hertfordshire, in 2021, the club instead found a new home at the newly renovated Ashton Playing Fields on Chigwell Road; which was a few minutes away from its old Snakes Lane stadium. After Redbridge Council invested £1.6 million to develop Ashton Playing Fields as a multi-sport athletics and football arena, with a stand that can host 250 spectators, Woodford Town returned to its original neighbourhood for the first time in 27 years.

Summary of Third Woodford Town Era:

  • 2000: Mauritius Sports FC is formed
  • 2004: Mauritius Sports merges with CMB Metal Box to become Mauritius Sports (CMB)
  • 2007: Mauritius Sports merged with Walthamstow Avenue & Pennant to form Mauritius Sports & Pennant (Walthamstow Avenue & Pennant was itself created from mergers between Walthamstow Avenue & Leyton Pennant)
  • 2009: Changed name to Mauritius Sports Association UK
  • 2011: Changed name to Haringey & Waltham Development
  • 2013: Changed name to Greenhouse London
  • 2015: Changed name to Greenhouse Sports
  • 2016: Changed name to Haringey & Waltham
  • 2017: Changed name to Woodford Town

Woodford Town’s history is so convoluted that a forum user called “Forest Gump” created an info-graphic which he posted on the Nonleaguematters.com forum and in the Walthamstow FC programme when they played Woodford Town. Walthamstow’s history also intersects with Woodford Town’s (do not ask!).

Links Between the Present and the Past

While the new Woodford Town is adamant that it is a reincarnation of the original club (and the FA recognises its claim), the links are tenuous. It is basically a club that started life as a Mauritius diaspora football team, changed its name 8 times in just over a decade, until it found a historic name that resonated, stuck with it, then claimed to be the original Woodford Town reborn.

Nonetheless it has a tenuous parallel with the original club. The current manager Shane Baptiste played for the very successful Bancroft United and Eureka teams in the same Hackney & Leyton Sunday League that the Sunday team of the original Woodford Town played in. Baptiste won the league twice with both clubs, and also won the London FA Sunday Intermediate Cup with Eureka in 2009, and the Middlesex County League with Bethnal Green United (now Tower Hamlets FC) in the same year. While Baptiste manages Woodford Town on Saturdays, he also manages a talented young team called London All Stars on Sundays in the Essex Corinthian Sunday League.

You may wonder why I spent so much time discussing Woodford’s history. Well, its wild history was far more interesting than the FA Vase game I watched today. Woodford Town is currently in mid-table in the Essex Senior League (10th place of 20 teams) while the away team Fakenham Town (from Norfolk) is in 6th place (of 20 teams) in the Premier Division of the Eastern Counties League.

Ashton Playing Fields is not the most spectator friendly place to watch a football match. Since it is used for multiple sports and by Woodford Green Athletics Club With Essex Ladies, and for athletics events, the pitch is surrounded by an 8 lane running track, a long jump and triple jump ramp, and 2 sandpits. As such the stand and spectator areas are very far from the pitch. It is reminiscent of old east European stadia such as Red Star Belgrade.

“Is a training bib your kit?”

Alejandro Machado’s header gave Woodford the lead after 10 minutes. Thereafter the game on the pitch was attritional, and most of the entertainment came from the noisy band of drum beating Woodford fans. English football fans create notoriously witty chants and Woodford’s fans did not disappoint. They taunted Fakenham’s players with chants of: “Is a training bib your kit?” (a mocking reference to Fakenham’s half red, half white shirts), and “Your town is made up. Fakenham – your town is made up.”

Fakenham’s Jack Robinson soon quietened the Woodford fans. Just before the 30 minute mark, he raced through on goal (from a suspiciously offside looking position) to equalise. Robinson celebrated by looking at the Woodford fans and making a “sush” gesture to them. Woodford’s goalkeeper Callum McEvoy could have done better as Robinson did not hit his shot with great power or speed.


“how much money do I have?”

I was very surprised at how direct the football was. It was rare for either team to play more than 3-4 passes before hitting a long ball. The ball also spent an unnecessary amount of time in the air. Just when I was despairing at the lack of goal mouth action, Jack Robinson produced a moment of real quality. He ran at Woodford’s defence from the left, before hitting a fierce left footed drive that went in off the post to put Fakenham 2-1 ahead.

Thereafter, Fakenham managed the game very well and ignored a noisy group of teenage Woodford town fans who hurled obscene four letter abuse and insults at Fakenham’s keeper Callum McEvoy throughout the second half. Their four letter expletives got so much that some Woodford fans moved away from them to give their ears a respite. They were making such a nuisance that they even had time to distract their own team’s ballboys, and walked through the perimeter barrier separating the spectator area from the playing surface. A Woodford official came over, and told them to get away from the playing surface. Bizarrely, one of them came over to me, showed me a handful of coins, repeatedly asked me “how much money do I have?”, told me “I don’t know how much money and I have” and insisted that I should count the value of the coins in his hand for him as he could not calculate for himself. I do wonder what they teach teenagers in school nowadays (or if he realised that his phone has a calculator app).

Back on the pitch, Fakenham managed the game well and looked to be heading through, but with only 8 minutes left, Woodford’s Alejandro Machado scored his second goal of the game to equalise from a corner by Dimitri Christou. With the final score 2-2, Fakenham won 4-3 on penalties to advance to the next round.

Team Line-Ups:

 Callum McEvoyTom Coombe
 Montel McKenzieBen Terry
 Kai PetersMitchell Rasberry
 Alejandro MachadoDaniel Hogston
 Lee SharpeJayden Wright
 Guy KiangbeniAlex Walpole
 Ope MosuroJack Robinson
 Normand Kebi (c)Jack Guyton
 Luke ParrottAshley Jarvis
 Jaedon PhillipsFinn Whiteley
 Zee LopesJake Watts
 Dimitri ChristouJosh Gauntlett
 Jake HaskinsCalum Dickinson
 Wale OdedoyinTam Demunga
 Nathan KpemouFinlay Page
 Bailey BrownTjay Kerr
 Andre AndersonJude Frostick
  Joshua Blower

27 Years Ago: Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Last Words in Public Before Being Executed – #NaijaHistory

On this day 27 years ago MOSOP leader Ken Saro-Wiwa was executed after a special tribunal convicted him of inciting a mob to murder four pro-government Ogonis. Saro-Wiwa had been campaigning against international oil companies and the Nigerian government, and demanding that they pay compensation for the environmental damage that crude oil drilling caused to his Ogoni homeland (such as oil spills that polluted farms and rivers).