Africa needs a slice of the European pre-season pie

Staggering is about the only way to describe the numbers coming out of the International Champions Cup played across the United States last month.

Spanish giants Barcelona won the mini-tournament, but it is fair to say that all of the participating teams went home winners on different levels.

It may be only a relatively inconsequential pre-season tournament serving as tune-up games for European giants to find their sea legs, but the benefits showed why the USA and Asia remain preferred destinations for these events rather than Africa.

Launched in 2013 by former NY/NJ MetroStars GM Charlie Stilitiano, who has been involved in previous iterations of these pre-season scrimmages, the ICC appears to have now settled into a money-spinning rhythm.

And it is churning out some heady numbers…

LA Memorial Coliseum, where Real Madrid played City, tweeted that the crowd attendance of 93 098 was the largest to witness a football game at the venue in their 94-year history.

Barcelona vs. Juventus drew 82 104 at MetLife Stadium; Real Madrid vs. Barcelona was witnessed by a sell-out crowd of 66 014 at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium; 67 401 turned up in Florida for the first Manchester Derby outside of England; and 65 109 watched Manchester United edge Real Madrid on penalties at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

Ticket prices for these games ranged from $85 to an eye-popping $3 500. This is outside the fans who paid an average of $25 to watch training sessions or the parking fees on both match-days and training sessions. At the FedEx Field in Maryland, those parking charges were $15-a-head.

And then there were the hotels which ring-fenced the grounds. As of three days before a game, hotels closer than a 15-minute drive from FedEx Field were all fully booked, mostly by fans coming in for the game.

One couple, proudly showing off their Manchester United kit, told KweséESPN that they came all the way from Canada to see the Red Devils play Barcelona. So chalk up air fares too.

Post game, ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft raised surge pricing to nearly 75% as traffic backed up all the way into the stadium.

There was joy for kit sponsors too. Online sales aside, long lines of eager fans lined up all game long purchasing replica shirts, scarves and other merchandise on sale at the grounds.

All of these translated to good news for the clubs’ revenue base. Each of the clubs reportedly earned between $11.7million and $25million for their troubles, with a guarantee for star players to play certain minimum minutes.

It is a win-win for all. All except Africa …

The continent boats an undeniable passion for European football and its stratospheric star power, and while there aren’t very many places on the continent where a tournament like this can mint this level of revenue for the clubs, there are still a fair few which can be developed and grown.

Not long after the ICC, the French Super Cup was played in Morocco to a sold out crowd. Top European clubs have also played pre-season games in South Africa. Everton, complete with Wayne Rooney, were involved in a game in Tanzania.

Although the joint visit of Manchester United and Portsmouth to Nigeria a few years ago was not quite a raging success, the Red Devils still made around £2million for flying in on the morning of the game, playing in the evening, and flying out again on a private jet which organizers say cost about $1milion at the time.

All these prove that there is a market on the African continent to explore – not only for the European clubs, but to give African club sides a chance to test their mettle against some of the world’s best players.

Not to mention the commercial and marketing opportunities available for exploitation. Africa needs a slice of this pie.

Top African done deals of the last seven days

Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu of Ghana Sydney Mahlangu/ BackpagePix

Across Europe, the new season is already underway, but the beginning of the on-field action hasn’t seen any slowing down of the business off it.

As ever, African players have been the subjects of some of the more eye-catching moves of the window.

Here are five that have got us particularly excited this week.

Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu [Udinese – Bursaspor] loan: Badu had appeared set for a move to England, as while the Ghana international denied there was ever any chance of a move to Huddersfield Town, Birmingham City definitely wanted him in the Midlands.

Harry Redknapp even went so far as to accuse Badu of breaking his promise to play for the Blues after completing a loan move away from the Super Lig to Turkey.

While we’ll now not get the chance to see a fascinating all-African midfield duo of Cheikh Ndoye and Badu in the Championship, Birmingham’s loss should be Bursaspor’s gain…although the Black Star needs to prove that his career hasn’t stalled after a few average seasons.

Kelechi Iheanacho [Manchester City – Leicester City] £25m: One of the biggest moves in world football this weekend saw Iheanacho leave Manchester City for 2016 Premier League champions Leicester.

The Nigeria international had appeared destined for a move away from the Etihad Stadium this summer after being deemed surplus to requirements by Pep Guardiola, although a £50 million buy-back clause inserted by the Sky Blues suggests that someone at the club still believes in the wonderkid.

Despite picking up an injury on his debut, Iheanacho has all the tools to be a big hit at the King Power Stadium – his goals-to-minutes ratio in the Prem demonstrates this – and a partnership with Jamie Vardy should bear fruit.

Usain Bolt beaten by Justin Gatlin in 100m final

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Justin Gatlin won his second world 100m title 12 years after his first to ruin eight-time Olympic champion Usain Bolt’s final individual race.

Bolt, who retires after next week’s 4x100m relay, was third behind American Gatlin, who clocked 9.92 seconds, and Christian Coleman (9.94).

Bolt’s 9.95 seconds equalled his best effort of 2017 but he always trailed.

Gatlin – banned twice for doping – was booed before the race and celebrated wildly, holding his hands to his ears.

The 35-year-old – in lane eight – was behind his compatriot Coleman from the blocks but wore down the margin in the closing 20 metres to take his first major title since 2005.

Great Britain’s Reece Prescod – who qualified for his first major final with an impressive time of 10.05 in the semi-final – finished seventh in 10.17.

Despite struggling for fitness and form in his valedictory season, Bolt had still been favourite to secure his 20th global gold.

It was supposed to be Gatlin’s year in 2015, when the American went to the World Championships in Beijing on the back of a 28-race unbeaten run.

Bolt produced his great miracle to beat him that night in the Bird’s Nest, but in the stadium where he won 100m Olympic gold in 2012, he could not provide the perfect ending to a perfect career.

Gatlin, double Olympic champion in Athens in 2004, had been booed every time he went to his blocks at these championships, his doping past making him the cartoon villain of a troubled sport.

He was to have his revenge in spectacular style, standing tall and putting a furious finger to his lips as his win stunned the capacity crowd.

The crowd at the stadium took a little revenge of their own, chanting, “Usain Bolt! Usain Bolt!” as the result began to sink in.

But this was a deserved victory in its execution if not its formation, a last hurrah for a man that many in the sport wished no longer had the chance to compete.

Source: BBC

Ghana To Celebrate Olympic Day

The Ghana Olympic Committee (GOC) will join other National Olympic Committees (NOC) to observe this year’s edition of the Olympic Day this Saturday, June 24, 2017.

The day would be held under the theme – ‘Move, learn and discover.’

Ghana would mark the day with a walk/run from the campus of Martyrs of Uganda Basic School to the Accra Sports Stadium with participants drawn from Keepfit Clubs, athletes, selected schools and the general public.

The walk is also expected to feature Members of Parliament from Ablekuma South (Alfred Oko Vanderpuye), Odododiodio (Nii Lantey Vanderpuye) and Osu Klottey (Dr Zanetor Rawlings).

Other expected participants would be the Executives of the GOC and the Presidents of the various National Federations.

At the Accra Sports Stadium, participants would be taken through some aerobics while some selected disciplines like; weightlifting, judo, armwrestling, taekwondo and tennis would have an exhibition.

President of the Ghana Olympic Committee, Mr Ben Nunoo Mensah would address participants with other speeches from the Sports Minister, Mr Isaac Asiamah and the Director General of the National Sports Authority (NSA), Mr Robert Safo Mensah.

The International Olympic Committee created the Olympic Day as an event to commemorate the establishment of the Olympics and also to educate the sport loving people and the society about Olympism.

The Olympic Day is a festive event bringing together people of all age and from every background. The activities must be linked to Olympism and its promotion.

In January 1948, the IOC approved the idea of Olympic Day to commemorate the creation of the IOC on June 23, 1894 in Paris, a sort of “birthday” of the Olympic Movement at the 42nd IOC Session in St Moritz, Switzerland.

Olympic Day was held for the first time with a total of nine National Olympic Committees (NOCs) hosting ceremonies in their respective countries: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Great Britain, Greece, Portugal, Switzerland, Uruguay and Venezuela.

The Olympic Day is usually held with 1.5 km Olympic Day Fun Run, 5 km, and 10 km running activities.

Don’t Move To Big Clubs …Saani Tells Starlets

The communications director of the Ghana Football Association, Sani Daara has advised current Black Starlets players to consider playing for smaller teams abroad than to dream of moving to bigger teams at their stage. The Black Starlets recently participated in the Africa U-17 tournament held at Gabon and emerged as runners up.

The brilliant performance displayed by the young Ghanaian footballers have sparked speculations that these starlets would move to top clubs in Europe.

Clearly, the players would want to play at the top level and want to join big teams in Europe, “It is every player’s aim to move to high level, so we pray after the world cup, we get big teams like Chelsea, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester and others to play,” Bismarck Owusu Terry revealed.

“My aim after world cup is that I can get a big club to play like Chelsea, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United,” Emmanuel Toku the number 10 shirted man added. But Saani Daara, who doubles at the deputy General Secretary at the GFA, has counselled these potential football greats to be very careful about the clubs they aspire to play.

He argued that the teams these young players commit their future to will determine the success of their career.

Speaking to Onua FM, he cited: “We can check the players who moved to Real Madrid, Adiyah moved to AC Milan, they never allowed them to play, where is he now?”

He further advised the parents of these players to be very vigilant and be mindful about the clubs selected for their wards.

“The parent of these children should be extremely vigilant. For me my wish is that these young players should ignore the big teams chasing them, if they agree for big teams like Manchester United, Chelsea, Barcelona, Real Madrid to sign them, they will not allow them to play,” he cautioned.

“History tells us that our players who were transferred to so-called small teams got benefit from their move and the nation also benefited…Consider Michael Essien, he started from Bastia, before Lyon, then later he moved to Chelsea, Stephen Appiah started at Udinese, Juventus and moved to Fenerbache, Kwadwo Asamoah also moved to Udinese, before Juventus” .

Abedi Warns Black Stars After Ethiopia Win

Ghana legend Abedi Ayew Pele has cautioned the senior national team against complacency after a blistering start to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.

The Black Stars brushed Ethiopia aside with five goals without reply last week and the former African Player of the Year is urging the team not to drop the momentum in subsequent games.

“For now, we do not have to jubilate so much because things go so fast in football,” Abedi warned.

“We have other matches to play in the qualifiers. Even though the countries we will face [Kenya and Sierra Leone] are not as strong as expected, we will still face them and those matches will have to be played nonetheless. It is always good to have such a start but we have to prepare [for the rest of the qualifiers] adequately,” he noted.

The Black Stars will continue the Group F qualifiers against Kenya in March 2018 before facing the Leone Stars later in September.