Al-Ahram Weekly Online   1 - 7 October 2009
Issue No. 966
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875


Let them go

FIFA PRESIDENT Joseph Blatter has criticised the leading clubs in Europe for not allowing eligible players to feature for their country at the current Under-20 World Cup in Egypt. The 24-team tournament is missing a host of young talent from Italy, Germany and England -- who have been forced to stay at home because of club commitments.

Blatter told reporters: "It's not right that the big European clubs don't free up their young players for the World Cup, when they don't have any obligations and are not in the first team.

"When they aren't playing they can't gain experience. It's better for them to enjoy the second major world competition than to stay at home warming the substitutes bench."

Blatter also said Diego Maradona's struggle to get Argentina to next year's World Cup and the failure of the nation's under-20 team to reach its version could signal a "crisis" in Argentine football.

Argentina won the past two Under-20 World Cups, and three of the last four, by playing attractive football and producing stars like Lionel Messi, Javier Saviola and Sergio Aguero. But it has failed to reach this year's tournament in Egypt. Maradona's team, meanwhile, is also is in danger of missing out on the World Cup in South Africa.

"When they played the qualification in South America, they were not up to qualify among the four best teams. That's the case," Blatter said of the under-20 team ahead of the opening match of the Under-20 World Cup between host Egypt and Trinidad and Tobago. "They are also struggling a lot to be in South Africa next year. Perhaps it's an indication that this so-called dominating nation in youth football, and also in senior football, is a little bit in a crisis."

The son of Pele

"HE IS my leader and commander on the pitch. He has a lot of experience and has the ability to conjure up something special when you need it most. He's inspirational. He pushes the team forward and, against Uzbekistan, we saw just that."

These are the words of Ghana coach Sellas Tetteh about his captain Andre Ayew, following his country's 2-1 win over the west Asians. Although his name might not allude to it, but Ayew is the son of Abedi Pele, one of the finest Ghanaian and African players of all time. Pele captained the Black Stars for six years and is the country's all-time leading scorer with 33 goals in 73 appearances, earning the nickname 'The African Maradona' in the process.

"I don't get tired of answering questions about my father but I do find it difficult when people compare us. We are different players and we are different people. I'm not an out-and-out winger; I'm a midfielder. I can hold the ball up when I need to and I can play behind the strikers. I'm not as quick as him, but maybe I'm a little bit stronger on the ball. The decisive factor is that he was voted as the best player in Africa three times but I've never had that honour, so there's no way I can compare myself with him."

Pele was 27 when he earned his first African Footballer of the Year award, so at the age of 19, Ayew still has a lot of time to catch up with his legendary father. Although a Marseille player, he is currently on loan with Arles following a similarly successful spell with Lorient last year.

Two hat-tricks

VENEZUELA'S Jose Rondon and his team mate Yonathan Del Valle both scored a hat-trick during the 8-0 victory over Tahiti at Al-Salam Stadium in Cairo. This has never happened in the history of the U-20 World Cup. Argentina's Ramon Diaz and Javier Saviola both scored two hat-tricks in the FIFA U-20 World Cup (Diaz against Algeria and Indonesia in 1979; Saviola against Egypt and France in 2001). This was topped by Brazilian Adailton's rare double hat-trick during his team's 10-3 victory over Korea Republic. Almost as impressively, Australia's Salapasidis knocked in four goals in one match when his team defeated eventual champions Argentina 4-3 in 1997. Eight years later in 2005, Llorente of Spain equalled this feat, scoring four goals in their 7-0 victory over Chile.

500 African strikes

CAMEROON's Mallorca-based striker Germain Tiko secured a place in the record books when he notched his side's second goal against South Korea. It was the 500th scored by an African team in the history of the tournament.

Losing streak

ENGLAND have never beaten South American opposition at the FIFA U20 World Cup. In five previous attempts they have managed just four draws and one defeat, a 2-1 loss to Argentina in 1997.

Third time lucky?

THOMAS Rongen is in charge of a USA squad for the third time at a FIFA U20 World Cup. In 2003 and 2007 he managed to lead his troops into the quarter-finals.

(Compiled from

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