Sunday, 24 February 2013

Killing giants explained: How to produce Roy of the Rovers Cup upsets in THREE EASY STEPS

Pirates plundered: Mashale Rantabane
By an extraordinary stroke of good luck, I can explain to all those tiny teams out there, worldwide, who hope to produce a Roy of the Rovers Cup upset EXACTLY HOW TO ACHIEVE THEIR MIRACLE in three easy steps.

Yes, you’re a bunch of amateurs from, say, Maluti Further Education and Training College in a place called Phuthaditjhaba in an area with mysterious clicks called Qwa Qwa… and you play in the rather modest Free State Second Division.

(Note: Phuthaditjhaba (formerly Witsieshoek, is a seSotho name that means meeting place of the tribes. It is located on the banks of the Elands River. Neither Wayne Rooney nor Steve Pienaar have ever heard of it).

You’re a bunch of amateurs and you’ve been drawn in the FA Cup, Copa de la Ray or even the Nedbank Cup against the all-conquering multi-million conglomerate that has just won your country’s domestic League TWICE in succession.

People wear their replica shirts on every corner of every town, including Phuthadijhaba (or Witsieshoek/Whitey's corner).

Okay, let’s go a step further. Into the realms of impossibility. You’re playing Orlando Pirates, winner of SIX trophies in just two seasons. They haven’t lost in 12 games, they’re top of the Professional Soccer League – or will be if they win their game in hand over Kaizer Chiefs. Oh, and last week, the Buccaneers won their opening game of the African Champions League FIVE NIL!

So how do you beat The Sea Robbers? On my new show SportsTalk which I produce for Talk Radio 702 and Cape Talk 567 every night at 8pm, we spoke to Morena Ramoreboli, who is indeed in charge at Maluti FET College.

When I set him up for the interview with presenter Udo Carelse on Friday, I asked him: What are your chances? It was of course, a trick question. They didn’t have a chance.

To my surprise, rather than the modest and inevitable “we haven’t got a bloody hope”, Morena said: “We have a huge chance to beat them. We have prepared for this.”

With the wry smile of the hard-bitten former Fleet Street journalist, I set him up for his big interview. This is what he said. Word for word. We giggled in the studio. Nice bloke, hasn’t got a hope.

And they went on to win 4-1 against Roger de Sa’s shocked Buccaneers. Yes. 4-1. Against a side expecting a sixth successive clean sheet for Senzo Meyiwa. Against a side with Zimbabwe's TakeSure Chinyama and Zambia's Collins Mbesuma, a team that doesn’t show much concern about not having last year’s title-winning top-scorer Benni McCarthy available.
So in effect, read these words from Mr Ramoreboli.


“I can say I am excited but I am a bit worried about the way we are going to perform tomorrow.
“Obviously there’s a lot at stake and we want to win.

“I am worried. Will the players be at their best tomorrow or what?

“You know last season, we had a dream and we discussed this. But we did not win the League or qualify for Nedbank.

“This season things went according to our plan. To us it was not a miracle, it was not a surprise. We knew this would be our season, that we might play against these bigger teams.

“We have tried our level best to condition our players to do well against Orlando Pirates, physically and mentally.

“We have looked at some videos. What we know about Orlando Pirates, everybody knows. They won’t change their structure of the way they play. They may change players, but not tactics.

“Obviously when you play a big team there are three things you have to take in to consideration.

“ONE you must make sure they don’t play the kind of football THEY want.”

“TWO you must make sure they play each and every ball where you can see it.”

“THREE every time you win the ball you must make sure that you play quickly away from the area you have won the ball from.”

“Then we’ll do well against bigger teams. I’m telling you. That’s football. There are moments in football, and we must treat them very seriously.

“If we don’t have the ball we must switch on and defensive.

“If we have the ball, we must go on and attack.

“To be honest with you, with have some very good players, very young, very talented. We have a good man-marker Mashale Rantabane (he scored twice on Saturday). We won’t have any problem dealing with their top strikers.

“Pirates always congest the midfield, we must always make sure we don’t give them space where they have numbers.

“We have Lucky Mokoena up front (he also scored twice on Saturday). And a young boy, Godfrey Niels. He’s the next Benni McCarthy. I believe he will be that good.

“Obviously we want to win. I will be interviewed today like you are doing now, I won’t be honest if I say I don’t believe I can do well and get what I want.”

I spoke to Morena again after the game. He just laughed: “You didn’t believe me. I told you we could win! I am very excited. We are all excited. If you prepare properly, you can all be winners.”
I’m not arguing. And woe betide the side drawn against Maluti FET College in the next round of the Nedbank Cup. Especially if you’re an AmaKhosi who’s been making fun of the Pirates.

Even Kaizer Chiefs aren’t safe!

This column forms the bulk of my Neal and Pray column in The New Age on Tuesday.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Oscar victorious: he's free, but under THESE conditions

Bladegunner: Oscar and sister Aimee leave court 

OSCAR PISTORIUS, in case you hadn't heard, was granted bail on a charge of murder before the full glare of the world's media this afternoon. Clearly, that's something of a victory for the first amputee to compete in the able-bodied Olympics.

The man who put four bullets through his toilet door on Valentine's Day, killing his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, has been cleared to live a normal life - at least until June 4 when the case resumes.

Tonight, on SportsTalk on just after 7pm, we will be asking James Evans, the head of Athletics South Africa, if Oscar will be able to compete in the South African national championships in Cape Town on April 12 and 13. Just this morning, his coach, Ampie Louw, said he hopes to have him back on the track training by Monday.

But do his bail conditions allow Oscar to train... or even compete? Should they be harsher? Will he want to compete again given his apparent emotional state over the past four days in the dock? Oscar was due to spend a further night in Brooklyn Police station tonight as the R100,000 cash installment on his bail could not be paid by the end of the day.

But a last-minute deal with his highly-efficient defence team saw him whisked to an "upmarket home" in plush Waterkloof. After today's lengthy summation from magistrate Desmond Nair - which at one point touched on the Boer War - questions continue to be asked about the role of discredited Investigations Officer Hilton Botha - but for now attention must turn to Oscar's bail order.
These are the full set of conditions set by the long-winded Nair after a two-hour speech in Pretoria:

1 Oscar, who has already given up his passport, is not allowed near any airports without permission.

2 |(This is the best bit). He must surrender all firearms.

3 He cannot communicate with prosecution witnesses.

4 Pistorius has to inform authorities if he leaves Tshwane municipality.

5 He must be in contact with a state probation officer to asses his emotional state and receive counselling where necessary.

6 Pistorius is banned from consuming alcohol or drugs. He must take random alcohol and drug tests if instructed.

7 Magistrate Nair turned down the defence's request for R250,000 bail and instead instructed Pistorius to pay R1m - but said he could be released after a cash payment of R100,000.

8: He will return to court on June 4 when the case resumes.

9: He will NOT be permitted to stay at the crime scene, his home in the secure Silver Woods estate east of Pretoria.

10: Pistorius must not return to scene of the shooting, he cannot talk to residents except Stander family and contractors.

11: He must report to Brooklyn police station between 7am and 1pm every Monday and Friday.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

PSL: Q3 update

Team Played   Points     GD
Kaizer Chiefs  4 10 5
Orlando Pirates 3 9 4
Free State Stars  4 7 3
Bidvest Wits  4 7 0
Mamelodi Sundowns  4 6 3
Platinum Stars  4 6 2
Moroka Swallows  3 5 2
Bloemfontein Celtic  4 5 1
AmaZulu 4 5 -1
SuperSport United 3 4 0
Golden Arrows 4 4 -1
Chippa United 4 4 -2
University of Pretoria  3 2 -2
Ajax Cape Town 4 2 -4
Maritzburg United 4 2 -4
Black Leopards 4 1 -6

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Without comment: The Oscar Pistorius affidavit

Charged with murder: Oscar Pretorius

Barry Roux, the advocate for Oscar Pistorius, read this 10-page statement to the court in Pretoria today, while girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, shot four times at Oscar's home on Valentine's Day, was being laid to rest in Port Elizabeth.
Last year, Oscar - still just 25 - became the first amputee to run in the Olympics at the summer games in London.
His application for bail on a charge of murder will continue tomorrow.

"I deny the aforesaid allegation in the strongest terms.

"On 13 February, Reeva would have gone out with her friends and I with my friends.

"Reeva then called me and asked that we rather spend the evening at home.

"I agreed and we were content to have a quiet dinner together at home.

"By about 10pm on 13 February 2013, we were in our bedroom. She was doing her yoga exercises and I was in bed watching television.

"My prosthetic legs were off. We were deeply in love and I could not be happier. I know she felt the same way.

"She had given me a present for Valentine's Day, but asked me only to open it the next day."

"I am acutely aware of violent crime being committed by intruders entering homes with a view to commit crime, including violent crime. I have received death threats before. I have also been a victim of violence and of burglary before.

"For that reason, I kept my firearm, a 9mm Parabellum, underneath my bed when I went to bed at night.

"During the early hours of 14 February, 2013, I woke up, went onto the balcony to bring the fan in and close the sliding door, the blinds and the curtains.

"I heard a noise in the bathroom and realised that someone was in the bathroom. I felt a sense of terror rushing over me.

"There are no burglar bars across the bathroom window and I knew that contractors who worked at my house had left the ladders outside.

"Although I did not have my prosthetic legs on I have mobility on my stumps.

"I believed that someone had entered my house. I was too scared to switch a light on. I grabbed my 9mm pistol from underneath my bed.

"On my way to the bathroom, I screamed words to the effect for him/them to get out of my house and for Reeva to phone the police.

"It was pitch dark in the bedroom and I thought Reeva was in bed. I noticed that the bathroom window was open. I realised that the intruder/s was/were in the toilet because the toilet door was closed and I did not see anyone in the bathroom.

"I heard movement inside the toilet. The toilet is inside the bathroom and has a separate door.

"It filled me with horror and fear of an intruder or intruders being inside the toilet.

"I thought he or they must have entered through the unprotected window.

"As I did not have my prosthetic legs on and felt extremely vulnerable, I knew I had to protect Reeva and myself.

"I believed that when the intruder/s came out of the toilet we would be in grave danger.

"I felt trapped as my bedroom door was locked and I have limited mobility on my stumps.

"I fired shots at the toilet door and shouted to Reeva to phone the police.

"She did not respond and I moved backwards out of the bathroom, keeping my eyes on the bathroom entrance.

"Everything was pitch dark in the bedroom and I was still too scared to switch on a light. Reeva was not responding.

"When I reached the bed, I realised that Reeva was not in bed.

"That is when it dawned on me that it could have been Reeva who was in the toilet.

"I returned to the bathroom calling her name. I tried to open the toilet door but it was locked. I rushed back into the bedroom and opened the sliding door, exiting onto the balcony and screamed for help.

"I put on my prosthetic legs, ran back to the bathroom and tried to kick the toilet door open.

"I think I must then have turned on the lights.

"I went back into the bedroom and grabbed my cricket bat to bash open the toilet door. A panel or panels broke off and I found the key on the floor and unlocked and opened the door.

"Reeva was slumped over but alive.

"I battled to get her out of the toilet and pulled her into the bathroom.

"I phoned Johan Stander who was involved in the administration of the estate and asked him to phone the ambulance. I phoned Netcare and asked for help.

"I went downstairs to open the front door. I returned to the bathroom and picked Reeva up as I had been told not to wait for the paramedics, but to take her to hospital.

"I carried her downstairs in order to take her to the hospital. On my way down, Stander arrived. A doctor who lives in the complex also arrived.

"Downstairs, I tried to render the assistance to Reeva that I could, but she died in my arms.

"I am absolutely mortified by the events and the devastating loss of my beloved Reeva.

"With the benefit of hindsight I believe that Reeva went to the toilet when I went out onto the balcony to bring the fan in.

"I cannot bear to think of the suffering I have caused her and her family, knowing how much she was loved.

"I also know that the events of that tragic night were as I have described them and that in due course I have no doubt the police and expert investigators will bear this out."

Sunday, 17 February 2013

What we know about Oscar Pistorius. And what we don't

Reeva and friends, retweeted on twitter by Francois Hougaard

There is a thin but comforting line between sport and news. This week, for obvious reasons, the vibrant world of goals, trophies and fans was rudely interrupted by the sound of gunfire.

Oscar Pistorius, the first amputee to compete in the able-bodied Olympics in London this year, is one of South Africa’s few globally recognised sporting stars. The news that he had shot his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp simply shook the world we live in, turned sport upside-down.

Yes, Popes resign, meteorites flash across Russian skies, trains crash… and sport carries glibly on, reporting on Robin van Persie versus Cristiano Ronaldo, South Africa v Pakistan… even Bafana Bafana v Mali despite the war raging around Timbuktu.

But Oscar impinges. He is a genuine sporting hero. Loved by all for his tenacity in the face of being born with no shin bones, his ability to lead an superstar sporting life while most others would retire to a wheelchair and self-pity.

How do we cope when a star of that magnitude appears to be crashing and burning?

The initial tale – picked up wholeheartedly by the Oscar-sympathetic newspapers – suggested he had mistaken the beautiful Reeva for an intruder in his high-security estate. Tragic but accidental.

But once details from unnamed police sources emerged, that theory appeared to fall apart. By Sunday morning, we had suggestions of blood in the bedroom, a shot fired, a cricket bat used… and a frightened woman hiding in the bathroom. Then four bullets through the door.

Two of those bullets hit Reeva in the head. She did not die instantly. Lurid eye-witness reports suggest Oscar tried to resuscitate his girlfriend – though why he called a mutual friend rather than the emergency services to report the incident remain unexplained.

All we can say with any confidence before Oscar’s return to court on Tuesday is that he pulled the trigger, he - and he alone - killed the woman he called “baba”.

With former Sun editor Stuart Higgins arriving to provide “positive spin” to his heavyweight legal team, we read of Oscar’s father Henke telling the UK Sunday Telegraph: “Crime is endemic in South Africa. When you see somebody in your house, you shoot.”

He went on to explain how “Oscar grew up hunting, my sons grew up with guns” and he said Oscar's action were "instinctive - and sportsmen react to instinct" but that hardly explains the need for small arms in a secure estate – or why Oscar had SEVEN more gun licences pending.

It doesn’t explain recent incidents involving the police where Oscar had lost his cool with so-called “love rivals” Quinton van den Bergh and Francois Hougaard.

As journalists – even sports journalists – we are trained not to pre-judge issues until all the facts come to light. In this case, we must attempt to stick to that creed.

But it’s damned difficult.

I’ve spoken to a lad who went to Constantia Primary with Oscar. He says, disabled or not, Pistorius was a bully. That he was cock of the walk at Pretoria Boy’s High. That he was, predictably for a sporting celebrity, surrounded by sycophantic yes men who let him act as he pleased.

The more recent of the many women in his life suggest he was not the most chivalrous of men. Others talk of his parents' divorce, his mother's death. A bloke who, for all his talent, went the way of so many top sportsmen... down the road of arrogance, shagging and insecurity

And always, in the background, the beautiful Reeva, loved by all. Gone.

Given recent cases – Shrien Dewani and Nico Henning spring to mind, just have a look on Google – it’s hard to believe in justice for the well-off and famous. But we must. On Tuesday, let’s hear what forensics have to say. If today's police leaks were accurate. How Oscar’s legal team explain away the shooting of multiple bullets at an apparently defenceless woman.

And hope that justice is done.

This story will appear as my Neal and Pray column in on Tuesday.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Keshi and Nigeria: There can only be one winner

Where Eagles Dare: Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi

STEPHEN KESHI. Mastermind. Just when you thought Nigeria could go no further against the Ivory Coast in the African Cup of Nations quarter-finals, he wheels out the master-plan and surges to AFCON 2013 glory.

And just when you thought he’d be focused on the Confederations Cup in Brazil, he bashes off a resignation letter to the Nigerian Football Federation and announces his fiendish plot live on air.


He had everyone running around pulling their hair out. Until this morning when he calmly told Sports Minister Bolaji Abdullahi he’d had another think and would stay in charge of the Super Eagles.

Presumably after he had explained how he wants to remove all those who plotted against him in the build-up to South Africa 2013 – and exactly what kind of package/car/retirement plan/medical scheme he wanted to go forward with.

The right honourable Mr Abdullahi called those “certain assurances” as the smoke cleared this morning.

This is no ordinary bloke. A winner on the field for his nation in 1994, Keshi spent time preparing for the big one with foreign forces Togo and Mali before he turned his eagle eye on the coveted double of playing and coaching in an AFCON triumph for his homeland. Only Egypt's Mahmoud El-Gohary had ever managed it before.

Right now Keshi is so far ahead of the men who tried to sack him before the 2-1 win over Cote d’Ivor he’s in a different time zone.

In England we’d call this a willy measuring contest. More polite cultures – like the USA where Keshi has spent a lot of time since playing for Sacramento in 1996 - might refer to such extravagant gestures as “strategizing” with a z.

In simple terms, Keshi is bigger than anybody in Nigeria at the moment. He has the trophy, he has broken the drought, he has knocked back the knockers.

Of course, he could have gone home, had a chat with the powers that be and simply agreed a new package. But this way, calling Nigeria’s bluff while he was still in Johannesburg, Keshi arrives in Abuja as an all-conquering untouchable.

He didn’t just see off Africa’s footballers, he has utterly destroyed his detractors. For now.

In a vast nation riven by all kinds of rivalry - particularly between supporters of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Goodluck Jonathan - sporting success can be a useful tool.

One widely quoted source this morning “close to the president” revealed: “Yes, it is very true that Keshi resigned his position as coach of the Eagles. That he confirmed to us. It was quite alarming given the complaints he brought up. There were a lot on things going on that the nation didn’t know.

“He informed us about backlog of salaries, his official car that has only been on paper since he took office. Even in South Africa, money was an issue. It is appalling but the key thing is that Keshi has calmed down and has agreed to continue as the coach of Nigeria.”

But he was never less than calm. By revealing how he’d been sacked before the quarter-final, how his fumbling federation had already booked tickets home before taking on Drogba and the Toure brothers, he has gone 2-0 up and we’re deep in to ego-injury time.

And then there were those classic quotes after the quarter-final triumph: “I don’t have anything against white coaches. Just those that are carpenters at home and coaches in Africa. “

Presumably a pale imitation had already been lined up by the Nigerian federation before their self-esteem started flooding back. But that is guesswork, as is the name of the possible replacement.

Then he was at it again after the emphatic 4-1 semi-final win over Mali in Durban: “If José Mourinho, gets a call from a rich team, he goes. I'm here for now, but if God grants me this AFCON, we'll see if there's anyone out there who wants me.”

That Keshi has now become the first African (South Africa’s Clive Barker could dispute it, but that’s another debate entirely) to win AFCON since Cote d'Ivoire's Yeo Martial in 1992 is a perfect epitaph to his bold outbursts.

Africa, perhaps the world, lies at his feet. Nigeria were never going to accept a public relations stunt like resigning to sports host Robert Marawa, despite his apparently regal status.

Nigerians at home and diasporically around the world honestly believe Keshi – with a little help from Emmanuel Emenike, Victor Moses and man of the tournament Jon Obi Mikel – could take these Jolly Green Giants to Confederations Cup contention and have the World Cup wobbling.

A Nigeria which has tried 19 coaches in 19 years since their last AFCON victory in 1994 simply could not allow Keshi to walk away. And he knew that.


NFF President Aminu Maigari says he has not spoken to Stephen Keshi since the coach announced his shock resignation on Monday evening.

"I was as surprised as anybody else to hear that he had resigned because I never saw a letter from him. I employed him and there are processes in place for doing things.

If he wanted to resign, he should have shown me respect by informing me the proper way,” Maigari tells

Despite Keshi having met with Sports Minister Bolaji Abdullahi into the early hours before agreeing to rescind his decision, Maigari said he had not spoken to the coach.

"I haven't talked to him. If he has something to tell me, he should come and tell me."

Abdullahi, however, said he spoke to Maigari before going into his meeting with Keshi. All three are on the same chartered flight taking the team to Abuja, but Keshi and most NFF officials avoided each other all the way to boarding.

Abdullahi admits that some friction remains, but says there will be time to resolve all that.

"This is not the time for that. For now we have resolved the issue and he will be staying. After the reception we will sit down and sort things out. Obviously, there are certain things that weren't handled properly, but we will have plenty of time to sort them out."

1979       ACB Lagos           10           (1)
1980–1984           New Nigeria Bank            42           (4)
1985       Stade d'Abidjan                13           (2)
1986       Africa Sports      22           (2)
1986–1987           Lokeren               28           (6)
1987–1991           Anderlecht         99           (18)
1991–1993           RC Strasbourg    62           (9)
1993–1994           Molenbeek        40           (1)
1995       CCV Hydra           20           (1)
1996       Sacramento Scorpions   16           (3)
1997–1998           Perlis FA               34           (4)

1981–1995           Nigeria 64           (9)

2004–2006           Togo
2006–2008           Togo
2008–2010           Mali
2011       Togo
2011–    Nigeria

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

KIRSTEN BOSH: Gordon Igesund to stay in charge of Bafana Bafana until 2018

Good Gord: Igesund and I before AFCON
GORDON IGESUND will sign a FIVE-YEAR contract with Bafana Bafana which will see the Silver Fox guide South Africa BEYOND the World Cup in Brazil next year to 2018.

Igesund will enter negotiations over a new contract on Monday, saying: “I want to see the job through. I’ve always said that.”

Though both big-spending Bidvest Wits and former club Moroka Swallows were lurking in the shadows hoping Igesund would leave the national job after AFCON, Igesund now seems sure to stay in place until the World Cup in Russia in five years’ time.

Despite failing to achieve his mandate of reaching the last four of the African Cup of Nations on home soil, the South African Football Association have come out in support of the man appointed in June last year.

Bafana went out to Mali, Africa’s third-best side, on penalties in the quarter-finals of AFCON 2013 on Saturday, having out-played their highly-ranked opponents for 120 minutes in a hard-fought 1-1 draw.

Last night on SportsTalk, the show I produce for Udo Carelse on Talk Radio 702, SAFA president Kirsten Nematandani said: “We would have loved to get to the final, but considering the fact we started with a relatively very, very young team and a coach who came in five months ago, we have been somewhere.

“Look, I think every federation would aspire to have a coach that goes along the cycle of the World Cup. That is that aim of every footballing nation, that ultimately you qualify for the World Cup. 
Gordon came in just five months back, surely to me it would make a lot of logical sense to have a long-term place for a coach.

“To me, at this point in time, Gordon is a man who has done us very proud as we talk. We set a target but when you don’t reach it, it’s not the end of the world. You still have to review the issues that come up.

“The time factor comes in… and putting together a team in such a short space of time. The next target is the World Cup. We shouldn’t be rushing to begin to feel all is gone.

“We have committees to deal with the issue of Gordon’s future. Now, during March, we will be preparing the team for the World Cup qualifiers. We need a long term plan that will sustain this organisation.

"You have to aim high. If this level of performance is maintained  there is no reason why Gordon should not be our coach until 2018.”

Igesund, gradually coming back down to earth after guiding his team through a run of four games against higher-ranked side without defeat, said: “What we have done is bring back Bafana playing with pride.

“You can’t walk in to the side anymore just because your name is Joe Soap. These players have shown their pride and passion.  The players who weren’t here will have to fight their way in to this team.

“We have come a long way in a short time, but there is a long way to go.”