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24/08/04. Another new and exciting football season has kicked off in England. Having played two premiership matches each, the clubs will be looking for the right altitude that should see them through to success.

Three big guns Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea will be fighting for supremacy at the top of the table and moreover, hoping to clinch the championship. Arsenal are unbeaten in 42 top flight matches and may be looking forward to setting a new record or win the championship again. At least for now, the debate continues on how long they could go unbeaten in the premier league.

Gary Dowden (Joint Admin Topica Premier-L List) comments on what may seem to be a challenging season for these three teams.

As for the new season, well having seen both of Arsenal's games so far, they are going to take some stopping and with Man United still struggling to properly find their feet (I've also watched both of their games!), this could well be the season that the Gunners finally win back-to-back Prem titles.

Even yesterday [22nd Aug. 04] when Arsenal went 3-1 down at home, they never panicked and utimately took Middlesbrough apart with clinical passing and finishing which any club would find hard to combat.

United will be okay with the return of Saha and Van Nistelrooy, especially with Alan Smith doing so well and when Rio Ferdinand also comes back, they'll have that solidity at the back that's currently lacking. That said, Arsenal still look by far the better side and although they surely cannot go unbeaten again, I feel that it's again between Arsenal and MU, with Arsenal having the edge.

Chelsea have done the same this summer as they did last and brought in many new faces at stupidly high prices. Again, they'll take time to settle as a unit and I'd be amazed if they won the title this season. In fairness, they players they've bought and already have, make up a superb squad, and when they do mould together, they'll be awesome. But give it another season at least for them to get that `squad spirit` that currently exists at Highbury and Old Trafford.

Gary Dowden's Sites:
> Topica Premier-L list

> Arsenal now have their name in the history books after  going unbeaten in 49 top flight matches, breaking a 42 games unbeaten record that was once set by Nottingham Forest over two decades back. Their unbeaten run came to a halt when they suffered a 2-0 defeat to rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford on October 24, 2004. Ibrahim Dabo.

24/03/04.  Enthusiasm has filled the air as Arsenal is desperately seeking to win the English Premier League this season in a dramatic style. Much has been talked about the English giants who are yet to loose a premier league match this season - having already played 29 - as they have held on to an incredible form so far.

Currently topping the table by twelve points and judging by their outstanding performance, seemingly, it is now widely believed by many that the gunners are well prepared to continue producing good results in their remaining matches and probably continue their premiership unbeaten run to eventually win the championship.

Notably, it could also be realized that the team is very much prepared to prove many of its critics wrong. My colleague, Stewart Coggin [ Intl Chief] shares his views exclusively on the current form of the team.

While many football lovers might be wondering where the secret of the team's success lie, Stewart Coggin has the answer: "The great form of Thierry Henry, the settled back four and the remarkable team spirit are some of the main reasons behind the success. Kolo Toure has proved a vital player for us this season, and few would have predicted that. Jens Lehmann -barring a couple of embarrassing errors in goal- has been another boost."

Very much composed, Frenchman Arsene Wenger and his boys might be aware that such form is also accompanied with the desire and thirst for winning trophies. But, can they really win any? "This Arsenal team has the right balance of pace, power, technique and flair to achieve big things." Says Coggin.

However, Arsenal's unconvincingly slow start in this year's [03-04] UEFA Champions League brought about sentiments that their participation in the competition would again be a failure as they nearly crashed out during the early stages.

Nevertheless, a sound comeback has left them in contention for the championship and they have regained great confidence, high momentum and winning spirit.

Having now reached the quarterfinals, the question is whether their European campaign will culminate in the winning of the competition: "Yes, I genuinely believe Arsenal can win the Champions League this season," says Coggin.

But they might face tough challenges ahead: "I think Milan are the greatest threat to them achieving this. I would also say Real Madrid are a threat, but I'm not sure they have a strong enough defence to go all the way. Arsenal have this deep inner belief these days, and this will help them go far," he noted.

Undoubtedly, striker Thierry Henry has been in magnificent form this season. Presently the leading goal scorer in the premier league with 21 goals, Henry has been the lynchpin of the deadly attack spearheading the team in their run to triumph. With his undoubted skills; he has created an impact in every match he has played this season. "I do think Henry is now the world's greatest player," admits Coggin.

"He is surely the most spectacular. His dribbling abilities, his pace and superb technique dazzle defenders week in, week out. Not just in the Premiership either. We all saw what he did to Javier Zanetti and the Inter defence at the San Siro...," he concludes.

Henry's hot form this season may have caught the eyes of many European club presidents including Real Madrid's Florentino Perez. The 27-year-old was the closest opponent to French compatriot, Real Madrid's Zinedine Zidane - in the last FIFA World Footballer of the Year Award.

Many pundits and football lovers are predicting him to deservedly win the next FIFA World Player of the Year Award.   

Jan/04. Much excitements and enthusiasm have been set for later this month when the African Nations Cup will officially kick off in Tunisia.  A new flavour is set to be added to the already exisiting hype in the competition with the introduction of a few new teams and also some that had been absent for a while.

I must congratulate Benin, Zimbabwe and Rwanda for the top performance they ushered in the qualifying series. Interestingly, these three teams will be making their first appearance in Africa's premier football competition.

If ever the war and atrocities which led to the 1994 genocide still remains on the minds of many Rwandans, then the achievements of their Country in the football arena recently will at least fill their hearts with joy.

Kenya will be making its first appearance in twelve years and Guinea qualified, taking advantage of the lifting up of the FIFA sanctions which kept them out of international football competitions for a while. They were banned in 2001 for political interference in football.

Moving to a different topic, life has being gradually returning to normal in my Country Sierra Leone after a decade long civil war. No more killing or amputating limbs of innocent civilians. Law and order has now been restored which enables us to focus on re-building a peaceful Nation which is blessed with many natural resources and also known as the Athens of West Africa.

Friends, relatives and viewers of my site, I'll like to encourage you to make the very best of whatever talent you have. Be of good courage and never let anyone pull you down. I'll have to leave you with a proverb which goes; 'Anything that is worth doing, do it well.'

Thank you very much again for your time. Ibm.

21/07/03. British Premier League club Chelsea, is now under the hands of Roman Abramovich. Mat Snow (Editor, Four-Four-Two Magazine UK) sheds his views on the acquisition of the club by the Russian Billionare oil Tycoon. Exclusive

I do not think it reflects well on Mr Abramovich that, having through financial wheeler-dealing cornered the Siberian energy supply, he prefers to fritter away millions on a wealthy Western football club while leaving his fellow countrymen destitute.

His millions reheat a UK football transfer and wages market which only recently had been recovering from a hyper-inflation which has done untold damage to many clubs and their fans. This is to be regretted.

01/07/03. FIFA Structure And Bias Over Foe's Death
By Alhajie Musa Turay (Gambia)

The football governing body, FIFA, they said, was formed to organize soccer in a civilized and exciting manner all over the world. I commend it in one effort that it has succeeded in expanding the game throughout the world, from Mongolia to Tristan da Cunha, Lapland to Antarctica. It has become one of the most powerful organizations on earth today.

Soccer is no doubt the most popular and loved sport today. It can account for over half of the world's population who are involved in it. It has brought some outer away countries to world attention and has greatly contributed to the enrichment and fame of footballers.

However, contrary to this commendation, it has also become a very bias organization. Despite the fact that its been headed by a single President, Sepp Blatter, its works are shared and disaggregated by a lot of administrators on region basis. Apparently it is a parental body that entails the welfare of footballers and officials.

But underneath, decisions and actions are taken by a chosen few, a few that have backens from the world's most powerful financial and political Countries. The election between Blatter and Hayatou was a far-tetch one in favour of Blatter.

The new idea about the African Nations - world cup qualifying rounds was brought up to the advantage of European club sides that habour most of the African profs. The long delay in giving Africa a chance of hosting the 'prestigious' world cup tournament is merely of financial or more precisely monetary grounds.

The intercontinental tournament is suppose to be the most exciting and tense tournament because it brings together all the champions in the various continents to compete for the supremacy. The just concluded champ. is by far the most disappointing one of them all as far as I am concern.

Following the death in action of Cameroon's Vivien Foe, a professional, a brother and an ambassador for Africa out there, I think his demise is a very big setback, especially physiologically on all soccer fans. Nonetheless, his burial arrangement has hardly been made, when the few so called powerful administrative manipulators suggested the game being continued.

Apparently there is no sympathy on the side of these administrators. Most other soccer crazy fans were least in the mood to think about the sad loss of Foe than to go and watch that 'gloomy final.' As in the words of one Ibrahim Dabo, a friend and cousin of mine: 'It is going to be a tense battle, Cameroon are not going to sit back and allow the death of Foe to dawn on them.'

Ibrahim replies:

Hi Alhajie, The death of Foe was indeed a shocking news not only to football fans but also to other works of life especially taking into consideration the manner in which his death occured. Foe collapsed and later died during the Confederations Cup semi-finals. Afterwards, the first thing that struck my mind about the competition was that the final between Cameroon and France 3 days later, would be postponed.

FIFA later confirmed that the final would go on as scheduled. This came after Foe's wife - who was at the stadium when her husband collapsed - reportedly said the match could go on as scheduled. Despite the pshycological effect on them, the players also seemed determined to play the final on the June 29th. Some Cameroon officials also felt that the final should go on and hoped they won, so that could serve as a big tribute for the fallen star.

Once the final had been confirmed, I expected that the Cameroon players with a very strong courage and determination on their part, would go out there vigilant and at least usher a vibrant performance on the pitch - which they did. As in football terms, bringing the trophy to Africa for the first time would not only have been a big achievement for Cameroon and African football but also a grounds of remembrance for one who contributed much to his Country, the Late Marc-Vivien Foe.

28/06/03. Kwesi Baffour in Ghana asks:
Hi Ibrahim. It's great to have come across your site. The death of Marc-Vivien Foe may have come as a shock to many people. Don't you think it's a sad story for African football?

Ibrahim replies:

Of course, it is indeed sad news for football, Cameroon and for the grieved family of the late Marc-Vivien Foe. At 28, Foe had been very instrumental to both club and Country and it was really shocking that while earning his 62nd cap, this sad incident occurred.

The African champions Cameroon have maintained a superb form in this year's Confederations Cup in France and one could imagine how his teammates felt upon hearing that a player whom they started the match with - which they beat Colombia 1-0 - had died 45 minutes after collapsing in the 72nd minutes of play. Their post match celebrations had to be cut short when they learnt that they had just lost a star and hero.

Foe will always be remembered not only in Cameroon but in the football world as well. Despite the fact that his death will surely affect his teammates during the Final against France on June 29, a win will at least console the grieved Cameroon football family.

Related Link
Tributes Flow In For Foe

By Alhajie Musa Turay (Gam)
07/06/03 This is the time I think Gambia should try by all means to have their name printed in important sport magazines and international sport columns in newspapers around the sub region and even beyond.

If ever Gambians have partaken in soccer festivals outside their borders before, they should treat the one on June 7th a special one in Dakar. They have already started it here in March when they hosted the Senegalese in the first leg. This is the team that made headlines last year with stunning achievements but there is no problem in the Gambian team to stand tot eh challenge.

If ever it was a daunting task to be undertaken, the Scorpions have already done half the job. On that day, the Gambian players were more engaged in man-marking and neutralizing their opponents whilst the Senegalese on the other hand were busy arguing amongst themselves and making all kinds of unnecessary complains to the referees.

The much-vaunted Teranga Lions were reduced from a hero status to a zero one. They became among their supporters them most disappointing team ever. The coach, players and supporters alike were very much discouraged and even lacked what to say about their fate in this tournament.

"There is a psychological war going on in the Senegalese camp." This is apparent in their friendlies where they have lost a couple of matches. Really they are trying to make up for lost glories to the point that they opted recently to play host to under-dogs like Cape Verde, a team that do not have any soccer pedigree in the sub region. So it is up to the Gambians to make much of their abilities in Dakar.

I should suggest here that, Jatto-No-Jatto, injured player-no-injured player; all the rest of the team should have in them now is to win.

THREE STRIKES AND OUT! - By Grace Taylor (U.K.)

24/04/03 It seemed like a repeat setting of the 1998 game. As everyone, everywhere looked at the intoxicating, unfolding drama, sublime sub-plots and virtuosa displays abounded.

Over 90 minutes of spellbinding minutes was a feast fit for watching even for the legends of a glorious bygone age.

It was an enchanting evening to say the least, whilst the world watched Real Madrid`s exceptional qualities; United also had attention drawn to them by a making of a five-star mockery when Ferguson made a decision to leave Beckham on the bench until the 63rd minute.

Despite Beckham`s late efforts, the damage had already been done, inflicted by Ronaldo`s hat trick. He effectively put the aggregate equation beyond a side of even United`s resilience. Ferguson`s men were left always chasing the game; but what a chase, what a game!

United won on the night, Real on aggregate but Football won overall.

Zinedine Zidane was immense. Ridiculing Ferguson`s assertion that he `does not hurt opponents with deft touch after touch, accurate pass after pass that constantly carried the ball through United`s bemused midfield.

Zidane sent the excellent Guti running forward. Guti angled a fantastic pass to Ronaldo whose burst of pace took him clear. Ronaldo`s shot, blending power and placement to irresistible effect, raced past Fabien Barthez. Devastating!

Later Barthez at least showed his more agile side, clawing over Figo`s mis-hit; but even Real`s fluffed efforts were on target.

Ferguson`s men`s crossing were weak but then what`s new! Real, simply raced through the gears all the way through the game.

The third time, Ronaldo sealed his hat-trick this time with an exceptional strike from 25 yards.

United fans, were in ore, even they know class when they see it... ...

Victory Awaits Us - By George Simons (U.K.)

13/04/03 The 6-2 pounding of Newcastle United in their grounds on Saturday should signify that Manchester Utd`s days are far from being over.

Teams that think they would have an easy ride through in the UEFA Champions League may be getting their points wrong and only time will tell, as they will surely eat their words.

Many had loosed hopes on Man. Utd winning this year's Premier League around December through January. We might now be proving our critics wrong.

Almost everyone might agree with me that, just as Man . Utd, Del Bosque`s side is also one of the best in the world with top class players such as Ronaldo, Zidane, Raul, Figo, etc.

Man. Utd is nevertheless a very composed and successful side as well, prone to medals and championships. It is rather unfortunate that these two great teams met in the quarterfinals. Instead, I would have loved to see them play in the final in May.

Man. Utd needs to teach Real Madrid a lesson and this will be in the return leg of the quarterfinals on the 23rd.

Also, it should be noted that it would be a moment of euphoria in the 'theatre of dreams' during the Champions League final as Man. Utd. Will have the privilege of lifting the trophy whilst the celebrity stars in Madrid would all but watch on TV with pain in their hearts.

IT`S NO CONTEST - By Grace Taylor (U.K.)

10/04/03 Judging by the anonymity in Tuesday`s 3-1 quarter-final first leg defeat at Real Madrid, reality still burns through the cloud of defeat.

Whilst Man. United nurse their wounds, it has to be said that Real`s Luis Figo`s goal in the 12th minute had the crowds clapping, singing and bowing down enmasse in reverence to `Fi-Go, Fi-Go`.

Figo is not just a totemic figure of the era ushered in by President Florentino Perez at Bernabeu, given the way he was wooed from arch rivals Barcelona in 2000 to universal incredulity. He is so much more.

He can cross and do wondrous things with a dead ball, like Beckham and better. He stands as an integral part of Real`s creative forward momentum, his every movement betraying a sublime and adventurous understanding with Zidane, Roberta Carlos and Raul et al.

There is no doubt that United`s Roy Keane is assumed to be one of the most influential central midfielders in the land. However, his residual importance to the club he has served so well is being questioned after a disappointing performance. In the game, he was once eclipsed by the fires lit by Zinedine Zidane, Raul and Luis Figo.

Raul and Figo, the goal scorers of Real`s spectacular goals - shone with their ability to work the ball through opposing lines and at one point they were passing the ball around in front of Man United.

Zidane was untouchable without after burners. His brain was simply too quick for anyone in red.

It remains to be said that David Beckham has still to get the better of Roberto Carlos and from a less parochial perspective, United are never prepared properly in any game with the technique to retain possession.

Tuesday night was a lesson and United have to re-educate themselves on whether they want to come back for yet another defeat

This is a time to worry, Manchester United...move over... .ur dayz r over... ..

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Ibrahim Dabo & Issa Hayatou (President of the Confederation of African Football -CAF-)