Blue Is The Colour

I often get asked how I became a Chelsea FC supporter. Some Arsenal loving friends of mine love to give me stick about the love affair starting when Roman Abramovic bought the club from Ken Bates. But nothing could be further from the truth.

You see in the early 90s I watched a lot of Italian football and as a result I became rather familiar with a lot of players plying their trade in Serie A. So I began watching English football around 1996. Ruud Gullit was in charge of Chelsea at the time and he brought in the likes of Roberto Di Matteo, Gianfranco Zola and Gianluca Vialli.

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Chelsea FC Museum

I immediately fell in love with the club as the Italians were only players I easily recognised.

But up until this year, I had actually never watched the Blues playing at Stamford Bridge. I’d watched them beat Manchester United 1-0 at Old Trafford in 2013. As satisfactory as that win was, I still wanted to watch them play at the Bridge.

And so at the turn of the year, I thought that a trip to London to watch my favourite team would make a great birthday present. But as I perused the fixture list, there were no high profile clashes scheduled for the 25th of April, but Man City would be paying us a vising early in the month of April. So I figured I would just celebrate a little early. And with my wife’s and close friend’s help the flights and match tickets were booked.

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But my first game at the home of the Blues would come earlier than expected, it fell on April fool’s day. I looked forward to the clash against Crystal Palace, but the result did not go our way as we lost 2-1. But a few days later, I got a fantastic birthday gift when I watched the boys from the upper west stand as they beat Manchester City 2-1.

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So I was content with seeing my beloved Blues as they made a genuine charge for their fifth Premier League title. But to my surprise I would be back in London just a few weeks later to watch them play their first home game after securing the title. Shield, South Africa’s #1 selling deodorant brand were announcing a partnership with Chelsea Football Club and I travelled with them. I was fortunate to watch the legendary John Terry score his last goal for the mighty Blues as we went on to beat Watford 4-3.

 

Though we missed out on a league and cup double (I won’t say much about the FA Cup final) I would say we had a pretty successful season.

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We are back if the Champions League and I can’t wait to see how Don Conte is going to tackle this great challenge. But one thing I do know is that my love affair with this great club started because of a few Italians and I am glad that my first set of games at the Bridge coincided with an Italian coach leading us to league glory.

Scenderà su di voi azzurri!!!

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Il Gladiatore Totti

The Legendary Francesco Totti will finally hang up his boots at the end of the season. Brining to end a glorious 24-year career at Roma.

The 40-year-old forward and club captain has scored 307 goals in 783 appearances since making his Roma debut.

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He will then take up a position as a director at the club he has served all his career. Roma’s final game of the season at home to Genoa on 28 May will be his last.

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His boot sponsor Nike recently released an exclusive signature Tiempo Totti X Roma football boot ahead of the Rome derby against Lazio. And I think that was a rather fitting tribute to a rare breed of player in the modern game.

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Only 2500 pairs of the golden limited edition boots were released and as expected he went for the 10th pair. The boots feature a fully leather upper with Totti’s trademark elasticated fold-over tongue bearing the Roman numeral ten to represent his shirt number at Roma.

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The only difference to the boots that hit the shelves is that Totti has further personalised his with the names of his three children Christian, Chanel and Isabel above the Swoosh.

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GRAZIE CAPITANO!

THE BASE

Last week adidas South Africa launched an innovative small-sided football venue in Johannesburg.
THE BASE is without a doubt one of the dopest diski venues around.
It boasts 4-a-side and 2-a-side pitches, a Pana court, media room, dedicated skills area and if like me you enjoy playing EA FIFA games, there’s a game room to keep you entertained as well.

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General view of the Adidas Base launch in Johannesburg on 9 February 2017 2016 ©Barry Aldworth/eXpect LIFE

The first time I came across this concept was in 2015 when a similar venue was launched ahead of the UEFA Champions League final in Berlin, Germany.
There we witnessed the legendary Zinedine Zidane playing 2 vs. 2 games alongside his sons Enzo and Luca.
Mesut Ozil and Ander Herrera also teamed up for a little action the Berlin BASE.

 

 

THE BASE will be made available free of charge to school kids, and it will be open to the rest of the public from Wednesdays to Sundays, from 3pm until late, but it will open much earlier on weekends.

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General view of the Adidas Base launch in Johannesburg on 9 February 2017 2016 ©Barry Aldworth/eXpect LIFE

 

If you’re a young footballer between the ages of 16 and 24, you can also take part in the TANGO LEAGUE.
What is that you ask?
It’s a tournament lunched in London last year, and it’s held at Football Bases across the world, and it’s coming to Africa for the first time.
Basically, there will be 8 teams jamming per day starting on Saturday the 25th of March 2017. At the end of the season, the league’s most valuable player stands a chance to be invited to adidas’ global events and they’ll also clinch themselves a boot deal.

So what are you waiting for?

Get stuck in.

 

The Blue Blast ACE

Last month, adidas Football launched its Blue Blast football boot collection.
The Blue Blast was launched under the “Stadium to Street” umbrella, with the street version available for the first time ever in South Africa.

I’ve had the privilege of playing in these over the past four weeks and I must say I am truly impressed by its comfort and support of my rather weak ankles.

The Blue Blast ACE 17+ PURECONTROL’s latest feature is an all-new Purecut Sock System.
It’s designed to provide an optimal fit, while the highly stretchable material helps to lock your foot in place while adjusting to even the most complex movements.
So with any sudden turn on the field, you still feel protected and not like you’re going to break your ankle. The boots also features a 360 degree fully PRIMEKNIT upper.

But you don’t have to take my word for how good the boot is, I had a chat with Abbubaker Mobara and the no-nonsense defender has given it his stamp of approval.

Nike Hypervenom Phantom 3

Nike recently brought out the third generation Hypervenom. The boot is designed with goal scoring in mind and it’s no wonder it’s led by a strong line-up of strikers like Marcus Rashford, Robert Lewandowski, Harry Kane, Gonzalo Higuaín, Edinson Cavani, and in South Africa, Bernard Parker and Thabo Mnyamane.

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The Hypervernom Phantom III has a completely new look, which includes a few technological advancements. Something that definitely caught my eye are the multi-layered Poron foam pods which have been integrated into a Flyknit upper. The pods are said to create a dampening soft touch at low velocity contact with the ball, but activate rigidity when striking it with high velocity to create a firm launching pad for a true strike. Sounds cool, but I actually don’t know what that means.

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Nike have also included a new plate with far more flexibility. And Parker is an advocate of the new plate as he doesn’t like any stud pressure from his weapon of choice.

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The flywire cables enable players to fine-tune the fit at each loop for a more precise lock-in to support lateral cuts, with extra lateral stability provided by the new Dynamic Fit Collar.

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To be honest, I was more impressed with the look of the low lo-cut version of the boot.

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One man who knows all about goal scoring is the second deadliest striker in a Bafana Bafana jersey.
Shaun Bartlett banged in 28 goals in 74 appearances for South Africa and the Hypervernom III has received the thumbs up from the former Charlton Athletic striker.

 

Journey of 5000 miles

 

Mamelodi Sundowns recently cleaned up at the 2016 CAF Awards held in Abuja, Nigeria. Dennis Onyango was named the African Player of the Year – Based in Africa, while Pitso Mosimane walked away with the Coach of the Year award. And Bafana ba Style were crowned Club of the Year.

But not only that, Onyango together with teammates Khama Billiat and Keagan Dolly made it onto the continent’s finest XI side. And all that came about as a result of their triumph in the CAF Champions league.

While watching the awards on television I remembered how I had received an unexpected call a day before my departure to Egypt to cover the Champions League final.

Keagan Dolly had left behind his new mercurial superfly boots and he needed them for the match against Zamalek.

And the gentleman on the other end of the line asked if I could take them to the land of the Pharaohs, and I duly agreed.

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O.R. Tambo International Airport

And so off I went to O.R Tambo International on Friday the 21st of October with the precious cargo safely packed in my backpack.

We had a bit of trouble trying to check-in for our Egypt Air MS840 flight to Cairo. Together with the group of journalists I was travelling with, we were told our names were no longer on the list of passengers.

And then I started to panic a little bit, because I had to deliver these boots to Keagan, and if I wasn’t on that flight that meant he wouldn’t get them. After a few hours of toing and froing with the airline’s officials, the issue was finally resolved and our names had miraculously reappeared.

But it was only once I was past the boarding gates that I felt at ease knowing I would fulfil my duty as the carrier of a nation’s hopes.

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O.R. Tambo International Airport

It was an eight hour flight from Johannesburg to Cairo and just as we were flying over Ethiopia I decided to check my backpack again to make sure all was still in order.

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And once we touched down in Cairo on Saturday morning, we still had a four hour bus ride to Alexandria where the clash between Zamalek and Sundowns would take place the following day.

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Cairo International Airport, Egypt

But our departure was not so smooth as the Egyptian authorities confiscated our cameras because we did not have an approval letter from CAF to bring them into Egypt. After two hours of trying to reason with the officials, who only spoke in Arabic, we left the airport and made the long journey to Alex….without the cameras of course, but I still had the boots in my backpack.

I needed to communicate with Keagan to arrange a collection point. And as the South African journos scurried through the city centre in search of mobile sim cards, I sat and watched the manic taxi drivers in the never-ending traffic.

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Alexandria, Egypt

We South Africans love to complain about our taxi drivers, but they have nothing on their North African counterparts.

Once we all had means to communicate, we finally arranged to meet at the Borg el-Arab Stadium with Keagn, where “The Brazilians” would hold their final training session before their date with destiny.

Come match-day, I hoped that Keagan would score for Sundowns on their way to lifting the Champions League trophy. Sadly it wasn’t to be as they lost the second leg tie 1-0 through a Nka Ohawuchi goal. But still, I had great satisfaction in my heart as I watched Dolly hoist the trophy above his head following the 1-3 aggregate win.

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I knew that in a very small and perhaps insignificant way, I had played a part in getting that long awaited star for Masandawana.