The meaningless football tournaments of the summer–mostly to the benefit of sponsors–are thankfully now over. Club football calendars from around the world have been synched (mainly to please European club owners), so this weekend was basically the start of the 2013/2014 season. This is also the first time North American fans of the English Premier League can watch every game. With the opening weekend out of the way, we can safely say NBC’s off to a good start–no one misses Eric Wynalda and Warren Bartlett or FOX’s plastic studio, but Piers Morgan as a guest host? And what’s with underestimating the football knowledge of American-based fans or presenting supporting a club is like picking different kinds of cereal? At least NBC have great commercials; though this one misses the mark. Starting today we’ll do a weekly post on the goings on of the weekend. The whole thing is of course futile since there’s no more weekend games in football–there’s professional football now everyday of the week. That said, we can’t promise deeper meaning and trenchant analysis. Lots of videos of goals and Wilfried Bony with his short off or discussions of his humongous thighs. Our primary goal is to follow the fortunes of African and players of African descent playing at the highest levels, so there’s going to be an overabundance of incidents, goals, ridiculousness and media from Western Europe. So here we go.
1. File under #EatMyGoal: Juventus–featuring Ghanaian Kwadwo Asamoah, Paul Pogba (above, who had come on as a substitute in the 23rd minute and scored the first goal) and Angelo Ogbonna (along with AC Milan’s Mario Balotelli one of the few black Italians in the Italian national team) answer Lazio’s racist fans with a 4-0 thumping (Italian commentary).
2. England’s Premier League kicked off on Saturday. In the first match of the day, Kolo Toure (who prays before matches) almost scored on his Liverpool debut against Stoke (who fielded French-Congolese midfielder Steven N’zonzi). But it was Kenya’s Victor Wanyama who impressed journalists and pundits the most as Southampton won 1-0 later that day. A penalty in the closing minutes conceded by West Brom’s Congolese midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu was the differene. The Telegraph’s Brendan McLoughlin described Wanyama’s performance: “Of the new faces on show, it was Victor Wanyama who caught the eye. Composed and commanding in the middle of the park, the £12.5 million signing from Celtic immediately looked at ease on his debut.” Even Paul Merson (former Arsenal striker, now a pundit on Sky), who once referred to Nelson Mandela as “the little black chap,” was impressed. But not before he mangled Wanyama’s last name. Watch for yourself.
3. Wilfried Bony, also known for his “legs like tree trunks” and for drinking coffee with no shirt on, scored on his debut for his new club Swansea against Manchester United. Bony transferred from a Dutch club to Swansea inspired Shola Ameobi, a British-Nigerian striker who plays for Newcastle, to conclude (in an interview with BBC Sport) that African football “is on the up.”
4. The star of that game was Robin van Persie (arguably the best player in the Premier League right now), but Daniel Nii Tackie Mensah Welbeck, who scored once last season, scored twice yesterday.
5. Finally, to end the first round of games in the Premier League, Yaya Toure scored this free kick as Manchester City put in four goals pass Newcastle.
6. Mozambican midfielder, Simão Mate Junior, made his debut for Levante in their 7-0 loss to Barca remembered more for Lionel Messi’s two goals. (Still nice to see a Mozambican in La Liga.)
7. On Saturday South Africa’s Orlando Pirates beat Egypt’s Zamaek 4-1 in a group game in the African Champions League. This comes after they had beaten another Egyptain side Al Ahly 3-0 in Cairo. These are big wins given the reputation of Egyptian clubs in the continental competitions. But, we forget that Pirates were 1995 African champions and 1996 Super Cup champions. Highlights of the Pirates-Zamalek match courtesy of @MattMzansi’s Youtube channel (with South African commentators).
8. The Confederation of African Football has announced that the draw for the final round of 2014 World Cup qualifiers have been moved from Egypt to Morocco due to unrests. The event will still be on September 16th.
9. Supersport, Africa’s version of Sky Sports and ESPN, just announced a deal to screen Nigeria’s premier league. Quite a lot of money it seems, but as Mafika Sihlali reminded us on Twitter a steal considering Supersport paid $100 million for the rights to South Africa’s Premier Soccer League.
10. And, finally, AIAC’s Elliot Ross writes (for Al Jazeera’s new US channel) about Manchester City’s owners new venture: an MLS team in New York City. The big question: Will committed New York soccer fans take an American team seriously?
* Elliot Ross contributed to this post. The quarterbacking of the title is a nod to the mocking Twitter account @USASoccerGuy.