It is a personal interest of mine; trying to get inside the head of a sporting superstar… What makes them tick? In this case, Cristiano Ronaldo, who has returned to Manchester United. Ronaldo was signed by Man U from Juventus late last week after initial interest was shown by Manchester City, and is due to make his English Premier League (EPL) return in September, after the international matches break.
A five-time winner of the Ballon d’Or (Golden Ball) regarded as one of the most sought-after individual awards in football, I discovered that Ronaldo possesses certain characteristics which, allied with natural talent, set him on the path to greatness from an early age.
Feature caption AP: Ronaldo could well be donning the famous number 7 shirt again in his return to Manchester United and Old Trafford.
Ronaldo first signed for Man U at the age of 18, moving from Sporting CP in his native Portugal, and 18 years later he is back. The teenager’s initial move to United’s Old Trafford was his springboard to greatness.
Long-time friend Luis Lourenco says the mindset of the now 36-year-old Ronaldo remains as hungry for success as the self-confident teenager he once was. This is a now super-fit mature footballing superstar whose remarkable work ethic and single-minded pursuit of trophies remains undiminished. Ronaldo’s physical attributes, goalscoring skills, leadership and big match temperament have been recognised financially, too.
These stats below should give an idea as to why Ronaldo, at 36, could be forgiven for wanting to take it easy, rather than strive for more.
Apart from the World Cup, Ronaldo has won everything that he has set his sights on in football. He has more money than he knows what to do with. His new wages at Man U have been estimated to be in the region of £600 000 pound (12,1 million South African rand) a week (about R50 million a month), making him the highest paid player in the history of the EPL.
As of 6 April 2021, the respected Forbes magazine ranked Ronaldo third* on its list of the highest paid athletes in the world, with annual earnings of £87 million in 2020 of which £36m came from commercial ventures. Ronaldo’s net worth is £363m or R7,325 billion.
He is, with good reason, considered by many to be the most influential athlete of all time: Six months ago, Ronaldo became the first person in the world to reach 500 million followers across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Among a raft of major awards and career milestones, five months ago Ronaldo passed all-time great Pele’s tally, to reach 770 goals in all competitions. He is a five-time winner of the Fifa World Player of the Year title, three times an EPL winner and five times a European Champions League winner. And a Euro 2016 winner, in masterminding Portugal to their only major title.
Last year, Ronaldo became the first active team-sport athlete to top $1 billion in career earnings. Apart from a lucrative lifetime deal with Nike, Ronaldo the business also has major income streams from his CR7 branded clothing, accessories, hotels and gyms. News today indicates that Ronaldo will be given special dispensation to don the fabled Man U number 7 jersey again – previously worn by legends George Best (who said Ronaldo was the most exciting player he had ever seen) and David Beckham.
I mean, what more could this guy want? What is it inside the mind of this once-boy from Madeira** in Portugal that continues to drive the adult Ronaldo ever onward and upward?
The answer is simple, says his childhood mentor Leonel Pontes: “Ronaldo is different. He has never been a lamb that follows others. It is not life that sets challenges for Ronaldo; he sets his own challenges.”
That, clearly, is the flame that keeps this now-father-of-four going, always striving for more.
Born in humble conditions to a mother who was a cook and a father who was a gardener, Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro nearly didn’t make it into this world. With an alcoholic father and a mother achingly aware of their poverty-stricken life, mom Maria, already a mother of three, was only prevented from aborting Ronaldo by a doctor.
Fiercely proud and full of self-belief at a very young age, Ronaldo was once expelled from a school for throwing a chair at a teacher who he claimed was disrespecting him. He gave up formal schooling when barely a teenager to pursue a career in professional football.
“He was just 12 when he came to Sporting,” says Pontes, “and obviously he missed his family a lot. But he had this love for training, for the game, for competing. Deep inside, this is what moves him. He always knew what he wanted – and that made things easier.”
But, for the second time, it was almost all over before it had even begun when, at the age of 15, Ronaldo had to undergo major heart surgery. The surgery was a success and the rest is history.
Luis Martins, who worked with Ronaldo the youth at Sporting, says Ronaldo’s decision to return to Man U was not a romantic one based on the nostalgia of past glories.
Martins: “Going back to England, more specifically to the club where he felt so good in the past and grew up a lot as a player and a person, will always feel like a return home.
“It would have been much trickier had he joined Man City due to the rivalry with United. But it’s important to bear in mind that Ronaldo doesn’t pay much attention to these things – above anything else, he’s a player more focused on his performance and the performance of the team. Any way you look at it, it made sense for him to choose United.”
It is understood that a call from one of his great mentors, Sir Alex Ferguson, was a key factor in Ronaldo opting for Man United rather than Manchester City. Ronaldo sees Sir Alex as a father figure and probably the biggest influence on his life.
Ronaldo is a renowned scorer of goals, but he is also a leader. Look no further than how he has inspired the Portuguese national team. Rather than be burdened by leadership, the extra responsibility made Ronaldo an even better player. Leading by example, Ronaldo has been able to pull his team-mates together when they have wilted, as well as stick up for them with management.
Martins says the razor-sharp Ronaldo, who at 36 would put most of his peers to shame in the conditioning stakes, has always believed in hard work as the key to his success. And he listens: “If you tell Ronaldo something, if he feels it will be beneficial, he will add it to his life straight away.
“What motivates him is being able to perform. He won’t change that now.”
*Another football megastar, Argentina’s Lionel Messi, was estimated by Forbes to have a net worth of £94,1 million. Forbes listed Messi as the world’s second highest-paid athlete in 2021. Swiss tennis legend Roger Federer was listed by Forbes as being the world’s highest-paid athlete. Federer moved just a touch ahead of the football superstars in 2020.
**Ronaldo’s childhood home was in Madeira (population 260 000), a four-island archipelago and autonomous region of Portugal off the northwest coast of Africa.
Oh how I miss it… flashback to 14 August 2019 and the opening of the newly minted Zungu Soccer Pavilion at Hilton College’s newly dedicated football ground, Zungu Field…
Results in recent years suggested there wouldn’t be much in it, but visitors Michaelhouse were full value for their first team’s 2-0 soccer victory over home side Hilton College on this balmy Autumn afternoon (14 August 2019) in the beautiful KZN midlands.
Jono Cook feature image: The Hilton and Michaelhouse first teams line up before the 14 August 2019 match that heralded the opening of the Zungu Soccer Pavilion on Zungu Field at the Hilton campus.
It is worth mentioning that Boys of Hilton were without their talismanic 2018 SA U17 soccer captain, match-winning goalkeeper and Manchester City trialist Constandino Christodoulou, who is out for two weeks due to injury.
And it is worth speculating whether Costi could have kept out the brace of goals that eluded his replacement, Jacob Kethro, but it would have taken a pair of phenomenal saves to deny first the on-song Men of House striker Alex Vermeulen and then fellow frontrunner the irrepressible Thabo Dlamini.
In truth, Jacob was offered very little protection by his defenders on both extremely well-taken goalscoring occasions so, Costi or no Costi, I think that this match belonged to House by a distance.
The Michaelhouse victory stage was set from the get-go, and Hilton were never given a chance to get back in the game or seriously threaten the visitors’ control.
After the initial midfield tussle for possession, a superb through-ball into the big box in the 5th minute found the athletic Michaelhouse striker Alex Vermeulen, who was strongly tackled before he could get in a goalshot.
In the 9th minute, great play on attack by Men of House centre back Luc Pousson saw a turnover but the versatile first XV rugby player was back in a jack-flash to close down a Hilton College counter-attack. This standout cameo of the Michaelhouse intent proved to be a blueprint for the game – Hilton were seldom given space.
Two minutes later a superb curling left-to-right free-kick by Michaelhouse left midfielder Mugabi Lubinga was placed square in the aerial zone of the dangerous Alex Vermeulen but a top-class header out of danger, under tremendous pressure, by Hilton College centre back Tapiwa Mushonga snuffed out the real and present danger.
Then nippy Michaelhouse marksman Thabo Dlamini got in the first of numerous goalshots in this absorbing match but Hilton keeper Jacob Kethro handled the threat comfortably.
It was all Men of House in the opening stages but the Hilton College tackles were decisive, accurate and very hard – there was no quarter asked or given in this annual soccer match – and one sensed that Boys of Hilton were beginning to find their feet.
The snag, though, was that Michaelhouse marksman and incisive 2019 KZN Inland U18 hockey forward Thabo Dlamini and partner upfront Alex Vermeulen [the 2021 Michaelhouse 1st XV captain), ably assisted by Siyanda Mkhize, were looking exceptionally sharp – and being supplied with a striker’s dream – lots of quality ball.
In the 17th minute Michaelhouse’s busy Gareth Kemp – playing in an attacking role behind the forwards – got in on the act but once again the goalshot attempt was fielded with relative comfort by the alert Hilton keeper Jacob Kethro.
A minute later it was Thabo Dlamini’s turn to just about wriggle his way through the crowded Hilton College goalmouth but the hungry sharpshooter was dispossessed at the moment critique.
Uncertainty under the sustained Michaelhouse pressure in the attacking third began to reveal itself when Siyanda Mkhize intercepted an errant Hilton College clearance but the Gareth Kemp goalshot was superbly saved by keeper Jacob Kethro diving to his left.
Into minute 21 and Gareth Kemp and Thabo Dlamini both got in (off-target) goalshots before a heavy tackle on Gareth Kemp a minute later earned Michaelhouse a direct free-kick just outside the big box, but the Alex Vermeulen strike flew high and wide.
The neutral scoreline was finally altered soon after, when Michaelhouse’s Kwanele Khumalo threaded his way through the left channel before his layoff was slammed into the Hilton College net by striker Alex Vermeulen to make the score Michaelhouse 1 Hilton 0.
Into the 25th minute and following a wayward Alex Vermeulen goalshot, Hilton took the opportunity to break out fast but their rare attacking move amounted to zero, as Men of House’s back four moved smartly to contain the threat.
Michaelhouse retaliated with back-to-back attacks at the other end that came close to nudging the scoreboard further in their favour.
About 29 minutes gone and finally Hilton garnered a great goalshot opportunity but captain Simi Bhembe blazed his strong strike over the crossbar, which led into halftime, the score reading Michaelhouse 1 (Alex Vermeulen) Hilton College 0.
* One could not help surmising that Men of House might come to regret they didn’t convert at least one more goalshot opportunity into something tangible on the scoreboard, but that would depend on what unfolded in the second half.
Into the second half we went and I don’t know what Hilton College coach Cele Mbanjwa said to his lads but they looked a much-improved outfit. Would it be sustained throughout the half, though? Michaelhouse were certainly not going to give up their lead without a fight.
And as if to underline the Men of House resolve, a crucial intercept by Michaelhouse centre back Luc Pousson stymied a top-quality Hilton attacking sortie out left.
7 minutes into the second half and a beautifully-weighted through-ball ball by Michaelhouse centre midfielder Michael Ross set up Alex Vermeulen but his goalshot brought a fine reflex save from Hilton keeper Jacob Kethro.
After their promising start to the second half, the pressure on the Hilton defence was beginning to build again – a la the first half –and not much more than a minute or two after the Kethro save, it was the pocket Men of House rocket Thabo Dlamini put in the clear… and he coolly picked his spot to jettison Michaelhouse into a 2-0 lead.
A match constant was the Michaelhouse and Hilton supporters cheering, chanting and drum-rolling their first teams on to greater heights as they searched for victory in this annual match in the long history of these two great South African schools.
Well into the second half, Michaelhouse captain and keeper Noah Stanger finally got a meaningful touch on the ball but the Hilton chance was once again lost and the retaliation from deep saw Michaelhouse striker Thabo Dlamini set free with a seemingly sure-fire gold-rush opportunity – only to see his goalshot flash past the wrong side (the right side, from a Hilton perspective) of the far post.
A heavy tackle in midfield on Hilton College captain Simi Bhembe saw a Michaelhouse man yellow-carded and one pondered whether this could be the moment opportune for Hilton to erase the 2-goal deficit?
However, Michaelhouse centre back Nick Crampton again displayed a telling example of the Men of House’s resolve in this intriguing derby – tall and strong – a tower of stability and measured calm – in the heart of the visitors’ defence.
Then when Hilton had a player banished to the sin-bin after a heavy tackle, the visitors’ 2-0 lead in this annual marquee soccer match was already inscribed in the history books for the Men of House.
And so it was; leaving the big crowd satisfied with what they had witnessed as a spectacle, albeit with slightly mixed emotions depending on which side of the N3 your allegiances may lie.
Hilton College 0
1 Jacob Kethro
12 Motheo Makwana
2 Kopano Segoale (vc)
14 Tally Tshekiso
3 Tapiwa Mushonga
6 Suubi Mugerwa-Sekawabe
11 Tanaka Matsa
7 William Raw
9 Wandile Zulu
10 Simi Bhembe (c)
8 Jonathan Tlhagoane
18 Sabelo Moshesh
15 Lwazi Mkatshana
13 Onye Adirika
17 Mamucha Munthali
5 Vuyo Zungu
Head coach Celo Mbanjwa
1 Noah Stanger (c)
3 Luc Pousson
8 Nick Crampton
5 Michael Bradford
6 Mugabi Lubinga
10 Kwanele Khumalo
1 Conor MacColl
7 Gareth Kemp
4 Michael Ross
13 Alexander Vermeulen
9 Thabo Dlamini (vc)
18 Matthew Craigie-Stevenson
14 Hugo Ayo
11 Letlotlo Kebonang
15 Arden Scholtz
12 Siyanda Mkhize
Head coach Ryan van Wyk
I had the privilege of watching live schoolboy sport up close and personal for the first time in 14 months Monday and witnessed the best KZN10 first team soccer match I’ve ever seen. Glenwood were a revelation upfront while home side Westville were more composed in what turned into a thrilling 2-2 draw.
Those close to the sport concurred with my thoughts afterwards; the intensity and quality was top-drawer – and it dawned on me how much these boys were jumping out of their skins to play an actual full-blooded derby after the too-long months of absolutely nothing.
Feature photo: Prodigiously talented Michaelhouse soccer striker Alexander Vermeulen is also the House first XV rugby captain and current fullback, although Alex is an outstanding flyhalf too. We will have to wait until the official soccer term, the third term, to see Alex in action on our KZN10.com soccer fields, as with all the top private school teams.
My gut-feel is that Glenwood firsts are possibly the marquee team to beat in KZN this year, with Westville a close second. If DHS can establish consistency they are always a threat. It’s still very early days, though, and the keynote third school “soccer” term is when the true picture will be unveiled.
Michaelhouse, with their top-class striker Alexander Vermeulen – having swapped his first XV captaincy and rugger fullback boots for his soccer striker togs – is a genuine football prodigy in a good football school. Hilton College, Clifton, St Charles College and Kearsney will also be properly back in the fray, so there is much to look forward to.
Monday was a revelation to me; the spirit of KZN10 schoolboy sport lifted me to a place I haven’t been in 14 long months. Thanks boys, and thank you to the superb organisation of KZN High Schools Football Association that is fast becoming a hallmark of schoolboy soccer in the province.
The Jimmy Bellows soccer grounds at Westville Old Boys Club were alive with the spirit of KZN schoolboy football Monday.
And come 3pm Thursday on the AB Jackson soccer grounds across the road from Harry Gwala (formerly Jan Smuts) Stadium and adjacent to #RedBlackWhite country in Princess Margaret Drive we’ll see the Inland 2nd Term League Big One of the Moment when high-flying Alexandra High firsts take on neighbours Maritzburg College.
It should be a cracking match-up with #MCsoccer Maritzburg College firsts looking to improve on their rather sketchy opening match, which yielded a 1-0 win over plucky Linpark.
Covid issues have unfortunately led to Carter and Haythorne (two traditionally strong soccer schools in the PMB/Inland region) not being present this year but that is offset somewhat by the presence of Hilton College, which is great to see.
* It is worth noting, once again, after the “surprising” 2-0 win by the Maritzburg College 2nds over Hilton last week that it is essentially not a Hilton first team, that is, it is not their premier selection of footballers.
Like the other private schools, Hilton boys are primarily geared towards their hockey or rugby commitments in the second school term, so not all the boys who are up for first team soccer consideration are available for this the second term league.
This is Hilton’s first venture into competitive second term football. An admirable initiative by Hilton.
It is in the third term – the big soccer term – that we will see what the Hilton first side (historically a strong outfit) and the other private schools are really made of, when all their boys are available for soccer selection.
Most of the government schools in the KZN set-up have the numbers to afford the luxury of year-round football squads.
STUFF TO TAKE NOTE OF
KZN U19 RESULTS
WEEK 1 – KZN INLAND STREAM
Wednesday 5 May – U19 League
Alexandra High School 5
[C. Chaba x3, S. Spipo, P. Phumelela]
Maritzburg Christian School (MCS) 1
Maritzburg College 2nds 2
[A. Simelane, T. Latha]
Hilton College Invitational XI 0
St Nicholas 4
(L. Newman ×3, S. Lurwengu)
Thursday 6 May – U19 League
Maritzburg College 1sts 1
WEEK 1 – KZN COASTAL STREAM
Monday 10 May – U19 League
[S. Ndlovu, S. Mzobe]
[B. Nduli, J. Lee]
[own goal, Mdluli]
[Vilakazi, S. Dlamini, Langazane, Buyisa]
Port Shepstone 3
[O. Skhosana x2, A. Ngcobo]
WEEK 2 (this week) FIXTURES – KZN INLAND STREAM
Wednesday 12 May – U19 League
Duzi River Fields (3.15pm)
St. Nicholas vs Maritzburg College 2nds
Zungu Field @ Hilton College (3.30pm)
Hilton College Invitational vs Linpark
Maritzburg Christian School (3pm)
MCS vs Newton
Thursday 13 May – U19 League
AB Jackson (3pm)
Maritzburg College firsts vs Alexandra
Mark Tovey, now 66, is a Northlands Old Boy (now Northwood after the amalgamation of Northlands and Beachwood) who played for Durban City U10 12 and 14 before signing for Durban United aged 16.
At age 23 Mark won the Federation Professional League and Cup Double with one of the great clubs of the segregation era, Durban City. In his second spell at City, Mark won the 1982 and 1983 National Professional Soccer League (NPSL) again under legendary SA coach Clive Barker.
Feature image: Mark Tovey of Northlands Primary and Northlands High School… in the twilight of a remarkable soccer career that culminated in 6 trophies at Kaizer Chiefs.
After joining Bush Bucks, Mark won the first ever National Soccer League (NSL) title (in 1985), once again under Barker, who was known as “The Dog”. In 1987, Player of the Tournament, Mark won the JPS Knockout Cup with Bush Bucks after Bucks won the replay against Orlando Pirates.
Chiefs owner Kaizer Motaung had been after the signature of Mark since Tovey’s teenage years and finally secured this now 33-year-old iconic South African footballer to play under the Amakhosi colours in 1988.
Mark Tovey won 6 titles while at Chiefs and it is widely held that this Northlands Old Boy played an instrumental role in the early career of Lucas Radebe, who became a household name with the national team Bafana Bafana and played with great distinction at Leeds United.
Mark Tovey, older brother of another SA star Neil, is a true legend of KZN schoolboy soccer.
The KZN High Schools’ Football Association’s (KZNHSFA) Coastal stream kicks off at Westville Old Boys (WOB) soccer grounds come 3.30pm this afternoon. (SEE ALL FIXTURES BELOW) It’s the opening round of the Coastal U19 2nd Term League – and 4 of the KZN10.com school 1st teams are involved – it’s Northwood vs Hillcrest on WOB 1 at 3.30pm with the KZN10.com derby between Glenwood and Westville on WOB 2 also at 3.30pm. The 4.40pm matches see DHS versus Kloof on WOB 2 while Port Shepstone tackle south coast rivals Kingsway at the same time on WOB 1.
With Westville 1sts taking the hockey honours over hosts Glenwood on the 3 Schools Turf Friday evening and Glenwood 1sts taking the rugby laurels over Westville on Dixons Saturday afternoon, this third leg of the winter sports triumvirate has added spice.
It is wonderful to see the work being put in by the KZNHSFA as there is an equivalent Inland U19 league as well as combined Inland-Coastal U14, U15 and U16 leagues in this the second term.
The U19 (1st team) leagues at Inland and Coastal are the main focus. Both of these leagues have 8 participating teams playing each other once, with the top 4 teams progressing to the semi-finals.
The Inland U19 league kicked off last week and the second round gets underway on Wednesday at the AB Jackson soccer fields adjacent to Harry Gwala Stadium in PMB’s Princess Margaret Drive with the marquee match looking to be that between Maritzburg College firsts and top-of-the-log Alexandra High School firsts.
Covid issues have unfortunately led to Carter and Haythorne (2 traditional strong schools in the PMB/Inland region) not being present this year but that is offset a bit by the presence of Hilton College, which is great to see.
* It is worth noting, after the “surprising” 2-0 win by the Maritzburg College 2nds over Hilton last week that it is essentially not a Hilton first team, that is, it is not their premier selection of footballers.
Hilton boys are primarily geared towards their hockey or rugby commitments in the second school term, so not all the boys who are up for first team soccer consideration are available for the second term league.
It is in the third term that we will see what the Hilton first side (a strong outfit) is really made of, when all their boys are available for soccer selection. Most of the government schools in the KZN set-up have the numbers to afford the luxury of year-round football squads.
After the no-show due to Covid last year, it will be intriguing to see the outcome of today’s Westville Old Boys soccer ground matches, as well as the quality of football at this genesis stage of the season, with football finding its way back –just like the hockey and rugby lads are tentatively doing.
KZN COASTAL U19 2ND TERM LEAGUE FIXTURES
PMB/KZN Inland U19 2ND TERM LEAGUE FIXTURES
COASTAL/INLAND COMBINED LEAGUES
In breaking news, Maritzburg College product Ryan Moon has landed a three-year contract with Swedish premier league club Varberg Bols FC.
The 25-year-old Moon, who is from Woodlands in Pietermaritzburg, leaves his current club Stellenbosch FC and is due to fly out on Thursday. The Sweden premier league, or Allvenskan, kicks off the new season next weekend.
Feature photo: Ryan is presented with a Maritzburg College Old Boys blazer by headmaster Chris Luman at a function in the school’s Alan Paton Hall in mid-2018.
Apart from his distinguished years at Maritzburg College, where he excelled in the Red, Black and White colours, Moon also learnt his trade at the Woodland and Pirates soccer clubs in Pietermaritzburg before making his debut for his local SA premier league club Maritzburg United in 2015.
Hardly a year later his exploits earned a move to traditional SA soccer giants Kaizer Chiefs.
In another local tie-up, Moon’s representative is fellow Maritzburg College Old Boy, the 29-year-old Gauteng-based attorney Modise Sefume, of Giyose Sefume Attorneys, who revealed to News24 today that negotiations have been ongoing in a bid for Ryan to realise his overseas dream.
“We’ve been working on it a couple of months now,” said Modise. “The guy is excited, it is a big opportunity and he really wants to get there, get going and prove himself.”
Ryan leaves with the blessing of Stellenbosch FC and his immediate goal will be to break into the Varbergs starting line-up and help his new club to improve on last year’s 11th-place finish in Sweden’s premier division.
Ryan’s older brother Bryce has, like his younger brother, also played for Bafana Bafana. Their dad, Patrick, was also a prominent footballer.
Read more about Ryan in this earlier KZN10.com article
The alarming drop in form of reigning England Premier League (EPL) champions Liverpool is one of the talking points of the moment in football. It can happen to all teams, even the "best" teams, not least our schoolboy sides, so it is informative to take a look-see.
Even on a normal, ho-hum day there is so much being written about Liverpool it is virtually a full-time job (seriously, you will know what I mean if you tried) trying to keep up with all of it, particularly as there are so many divergent but valid viewpoints being bandied about.
So, I’ve tried to cobble together at least some of it, but by no means have I captured it all.
"Anfield, with people and without, is completely different," is how Man City boss Pep Guardiola termed it last month, echoing a sentiment that has been publicly and privately expressed by Liverpool's players. The famous Kop stand at Anfield is a formidable opponent on its own. It could be argued that the Kop bereft of Kopites is akin to a 1- or 2-0 lead for a visiting team.
The 1-0 loss to relegation-threatened Fulham at Anfield on Sunday was the team's 6th successive home defeat. No other title-defending EPL team has ever suffered such a large fall-off in points at this stage of the season.
A major factor has been the number of injuries to important personnel, predominantly in key positions, which has seen the club featuring 19 different centre-back combinations during this campaign. Midfielders have been shifted out of their usual slots to fill the void at the back, which in turn has exacerbated the pressure in the more attacking zones of the field.
With the pressure, other cracks are also becoming prominent, including the players' mentality and attitude as well as questions surrounding the decisions made by manager Jurgen Klopp.
The chances of retaining the EPL title are almost gone and even a top-four Champions League berth next season appears to be fading fast for Liverpool, who now lie in 8th place on the log.
The Telegraph's football journalists have delved into the topic with the thoroughness that one has come to expect of this prominent UK news website. Chris Bascombe, for example, reports of the criticism levelled by the club's former player Jamie Carragher, ex-Liverpool captain and manager Graeme Souness, as well as fiery ex-Man United skipper Roy Keane.
Carragher said the club as a whole had not dealt well with adversity, Keane described it as crisis time and Sky pundit Souness called the decline unfathomable and that Liverpool had not shown Fulham the respect they deserved.
“It beggars belief how a team can go from being so good, to [being] so average,” Souness expounded. “People talk about the manager, but Jurgen Klopp has learned a lot about his dressing room. It's about players. Some of them have not stood up to the challenge.”
Klopp has, to his credit, not harped on using the injury situation as a handy scapegoat for the club's plight yet one cannot help but feel for the manager in this respect. On a family level, too, Klopp has suffered much; the death of his mom perhaps even more deeply felt by his being unable to attend her funeral.
If one looks at just a few aspects of the slippery slope Liverpool find themselves on, the numbers are startling:
* 8 home games without a win; on just 1 occasion (the 1951/52 season) have they ever had an even longer winless streak at Anfield
* the 6 home losses equals the same number of consecutive home defeats suffered in the '53/54 season. Four home losses in a row is the next-highest
* 8 defeats in their last 12 EPL games; as many defeats as in their previous 121 EPL matches
* 115 goalshots at Anfield (not including penalties) with zero actual goals to show for it; which leads to a truly remarkable statistic: the longest drought for a home side on record
* Fulham's win on Sunday is the first time since October 2010 (Blackpool on that occasion) that a newly-promoted team has won at Anfield
Given the situation, perhaps the best chance left to retain Champions League football at Anfield will be for Liverpool to win the current competition - and that journey continues today when they take a 2-0 first-leg lead into their meeting with RB Leipzig in Budapest in the round-of-16 return match, both sides intent on earning a berth in the quarter-finals.
Apparently FSG (Fenway Sports Group) the owners of Liverpool still back manager Klopp, the man who as recently as 45 days ago, was closing in on an unbeaten home run spanning 4 years and who as recently as Boxing Day 2020 was at the helm of the EPL log-leaders.
One wonders how Klopp would be feeling if Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich was his boss. The man who holds the purse strings at Stamford Bridge fired Carlos Ancelotti a year after his Chelsea side had won the Double.
Jose Mourinho was hired, sacked, re-employed and then fired again by the Russian despite not losing a home league match for more than 3 years. And it's not just a Chelsea trait.
Claudio Ranieri was ejected by Leicester City a bare 9 months after piloting them to a storybook English Premier League title.
If one looks at his managerial career, Klopp has found it difficult in previous times of adversity. Of course, that has been the plight faced by many a manager who has tried and failed to stop the rot.
The German was the darling of the Rhineland around 2004 when he engineered Mainz to promotion to the Bundesliga for the first time ever. He was in charge three years later when they were relegated and was further unsuccessful in getting them back to the top-flight of German club football.
At Borussia Dortmund, Klopp took the club to the Champions League final 8 years ago and just 18 months or so later the German side were relegation-threatened in the Bundesliga.
Another source of concern is that it has not so much been the defeats themselves, but the nature of those defeats that have caught the attention of many.
Outplayed is an unequivocal word, but one cannot prevent that adjective entering one’s thought process when applying one’s mind to the manner in which they were (well-) beaten by Burnley and Brighton. Not very long ago, it might be fair to say that the 2 B’s would barely have measured up to once-mighty Liverpool.
What this turnaround in fortunes has clearly shown is that a hiccup or series of hiccups is quickly grasped and exploited by those who appear hungrier on any given day, particularly against a team that is driven by Klopp’s attack-minded philosophy.
Let’s hope the house of cards does not descend from collapsed mode into complete disintegration.
Time will tell.
Images Rex PA AP
In the SA Combined Schools U19 semi-final penalty shootout against Cape North A at Bedfordview the KZN A goalkeeper Thandolwethu “Ollie” Zondi saved 3 spot-kicks for his province to win 3-2 on penalties.
In the KZN A vs KZN B final, at 4-4 in the penalty shootout, Ollie Zondi saved KZN B’s 5th penalty before bouncing back up to score the winning penalty himself! For KZN A to win the SA Combined Schools soccer title 5-4 on penalties.
Feature image: Ollie Zondi before his goalkeeping heroics in the heart-stopping penalty shoot on Goldstones when Maritzburg College regained the Raw Cup from DHS.
That eye-catching penalty-stopping ability, particularly in a penalty shootout, the most critical stage of a match which has gone that route, with the outcome resting on the (goal)line (if you’ll pardon the pun), plus Ollie’s goalkeeping prowess and imperious “ownership” of “his” piece of real estate, the big box, in regulation play, were key factors in the selectors’ decision to pick Ollie for the SA Combined Schools U19 team as well as naming him Goalkeeper of the Tournament.
‘Whilst others dream of scoring goals, I am that different guy, who dreams of saving them’
Ollie, the Maritzburg College first soccer team goalkeeper was also superb in the penalty shootouts that clinched the PMB High Schools Football Association second term MTN League final – and he did it again on Goldstones for the Red, Black and White to take the Raw Cup, the oldest KZN inter-school sports trophy, away from arch-rivals and Cowie Cup winners DHS, arguably the best first team outfit in the province.
So, he’s “not too shabby” hey Nige…?! So, Maritzburg College director of soccer and #RedBlackWhite first team head coach Daniel Haswell, what’s your assessment of Ollie the goalkeeper?
“My opinion of Ollie the goalkeeper? That’s easy, Jono. A lot of players say they want to play professionally and so on but what sets Ollie apart is that he focused first on training and improving. I’ve never seen a goalkeeper so dedicated to training, he trains like an absolute beast!
“And, Jono, we never made it easy for him; in fact we purposely make it tough because that is the way to test the boys – to see if they have what it takes. Their attitude to training is so important.
“Here I must credit Maritzburg College specialist goalkeeper coach Caniggia Garaba for his training regimen. Sometimes I would look at our GK’s diving at practice on the unforgiving AB Jackson field and shake my head. I got the goalkeepers gym mats and said, ‘Please guys, use these to land on!’.
“An important factor is that Ollie had Luyanda Mawela, also a fine Maritzburg College goalkeeper, constantly pushing him to perform.
“We called Ollie and Luyanda the ‘Goalkeepers’ Union’ because they always supported each other, whichever one was playing, and they would back each other when we [the first team squad and coaching staff] would banter them with comments like, ‘Oh, the goalkeepers are training in the shade again’ or hiding when we were doing conditioning testing.
“The truth of the matter is that no-one trained harder than Ollie – and his performances as well as his impressive physique are proof of that.
“Jono, I also want to add that Ollie saved an incredible 17 out of 50 penalties. It is an incredible penalty-save percentage. If a school first team’s goalkeeper – given the format of many of the competitions we play in at this level – is stopping 1 out of every 3 penalties taken, this gives that team a massive advantage.
“As mentioned, penalty shootouts are an important part of football – especially at schools level with all our cup competitions. They cannot simply be regarded as a ‘lottery’ or ‘pure luck’.
“So we looked at how we could get an advantage out of them. Ollie and (fellow keeper) Luyanda Mawela worked hard at agility and the mental aspect of it and also watching other teams, to see where and how they preferred to take penalties.”
Ok coach Dan, you’ve certainly established Ollie’s credentials as a goalkeeper and a person, so let’s hear Ollie’s story up close and personal.
“Hi Ollie, do you feel this Player of the Tournament award is recognition for the hard work you have put into your goalkeeping this year?”
“Yes, sir. I feel that a lot of hard work at training, on and off the field, plus a lot of help from my coaches and teammates has led me to winning this award.”
“Ollie, so what is it about football that attracted you to the game?
“Sir, I grew up in a family that always loved the sport. The 2010 FIFA World Cup being hosted in South Africa made me realise how big the sport of football was, and I instantly wanted to be part of it. How people from across the world came together to watch the World Cup really attracted me.”
And like the sure-footed shot-stopper he is, Ollie’s response was immediate when asked who have had the biggest influence on his soccer career so far.
“Mr Justin Tocknell was my first-ever coach; he introduced me to goalkeeping and also built my foundation in terms of establishing and setting personal goals. Mr Mba Mlotshwa, a Pelham Senior Primary School teacher and soccer coach, also made a big impression on me.
“At high school Mr Dan Haswell, our Maritzburg College first team head coach, trusted in me and my talent – even after me first playing rugby!
“Mr Haswell took me in and personally got me a goalkeeper coach, Mr Caniggia Garaba, who really started from basics and helped me up my game. Mr Haswell exposed me to a soccer-friendly environment and helped me understand many elements of the game.
“Putting all these parts together has enabled me to play for the Maritzburg College first team for 2 years and to play in 60 first team games. This has taught me that the whole team has put their trust in me to be their last man, so I should also trust each of them in their particular roles.”
Ollie is clear as to what his personal goals in football are, both in the short- and long-term
“My goal is to see myself playing for clubs that are recognised on a national level, to play for teams I grew up watching and supporting, and also to move on to represent my country if possible.”
Ollie, the Maritzburg College first team season this year, what have been the highlights and your disappointments?
“The first team this year was not only a team but a brotherhood. The respect and support the boys gave one another was simply outstanding, so it’s no coincidence that we won 3 trophies. On a personal level, I feel good that I kept 12 clean sheets and saved 17 penalties.
“A major disappointment was not being able to earn my 50th cap for the first team on Maritzburg College Reunion Day, due to unforeseen circumstances.”
Ollie is also chuffed that Maritzburg College has started awarding soccer scholarships. “This will definitely enhance the quality of football at the school.”
After attending Pelham Senior Primary School, Ollie was again sure-footed in taking the next step.
“I chose Maritzburg College due to me seeing how the boys of the school carried themselves. And the school’s name. The great academics and sports were also very influential in my decision.
“Maritzburg College as a school, I would say, is the best in the world. As I said, the academia is one of the best in the country and the sport produces some of our country’s greatest sportsmen.
So Ollie, what has football and goalkeeping taught you about yourself and about life?
“Football as a sport showed me that in order to achieve a certain goal, you need to put in loads of work, be patient, be committed and you also need the help of others to achieve it.
“Goalkeeping showed me that people trust you, and sometimes more than you trust yourself! Your team-mates and coaching staff believe in you, put their beliefs in you, so you need to believe in yourself, too, and also believe in them.”
Ollie’s favourite player is Atletico Madrid and Slovenia goalkeeper Jan Oblak.
“For me, Jan Oblak is the best goalkeeper in the world, yet at the same time he is so humble. He is so down-to-earth, but when it’s game time he lets his talent do the talking. His ability in goals really amazes me.
“Jan Oblak is from a country like mine, that doesn’t have the greatest soccer side compared to the other great footballing countries, but he didn’t let that get in the way of him playing for one of the great teams in Spain and the world.”
To see Ollie Zondi on a soccer pitch, it always struck me that it was akin to watching a great performer on stage. By his engaging persona and sheer presence, Ollie “owns” his team’s penalty area, making it crystal clear to opposition strikers that he’s the boss-man and they’d better be very aware of the statement he’s making.
So I should have known the answer as to what would he like to do or be outside of football!
“I would like to be in the entertainment industry. To be a presenter or an actor. I really love this industry.”
I think we’ve established by now that goalkeeping is Ollie’s preferred position on a soccer pitch.
“I love goalkeeping because whilst others dream of scoring goals, I am that different guy, who dreams of saving them. I feel that a keeper not only keeps his team from conceding a lot of goals, but also keeps his team’s hopes up. If your team trusts you in goals, that’s half of their worries gone and allows them to focus more on scoring.”
So how much time does Ollie put in to improving his football?
“I work whenever I get time to. Most of the time it’s at least 4 times a week. Soccer is the only sport I participate in. In the off-season I will rest more and work at most twice a week.”
Ollie, is there anything else you’d like to add?
“I really would like to add my appreciation and gratitude to my God Almighty, who I believe is at the centre of everything in my life and football. “
Ollie, thank you so much for your patience and time, it’s been an absolute pleasure getting to know you.
“Thank you too sir for showing such an interest in me and coming to watch our games when you could.”
Ok, let’s a last word from Ollie Zondi’s coach, Dan Haswell: – So Dan, does the Ollie Zondi persona change into something else off the field?
“Definitely not, Jono. Off the field, Ollie is an absolute gem as well. He is a great team unifier with the way he talks, and he is always leading the team in songs before and after games.
“Ollie’s got a great future ahead of him, either as a goalkeeper or whatever he chooses to do, because he is a fine young man with a great heart – and the type of boy that we are proud of at Maritzburg College.
The scene is set for the 8th annual MTN PMB High Schools Football Association Cup, to be held at Howick High from Friday to Sunday this weekend and one can argue with conviction that it’s anyone’s ballgame.
Having watched a number of the teams this year it is a lottery as to who emerge with the trophy.
The strength of the teams in Pietermaritzburg (PMB) and KZN midlands boys’ high school football is so evenly-matched this year.
The unpredictable nature of the outcomes this season means that it’s impossibly hard to determine with any semblance of accuracy, who the finalists will be, come the aftermath of the 3pm trophy match on the Howick High School turf on Sunday.
What is absolutely dead-certain as we draw close to Friday afternoon’s opening exchanges is that there are 20 schoolboy first teams with gold medals on their mind and nothing else.
Any of the usual big guns could win it, as they have all beaten each other over the course of the season. The tournament kicks off at 1pm on Friday, with the boys’ final scheduled for 3pm on Sunday.
Hilton College are the two-time defending champions and are looking to become the first side to win the trophy three times – 2017 winners, 2018 winners, 2019 winners.
They beat Maritzburg College in an excruciating penalty shootout in last year’s final and the boys of the RedBlackWhite will be pushing to go one better.
It has certainly been a trophy season for the Maritzburg College lads, having already picked up the PMB A League and the Primo League titles in 2019.
St Charles College – the most dangerous of sides – were one of last year’s semi-finalists.
Saints bowed out to Hilton in yet another agonising penalty shootout, penalties that were so masterfully managed by ace Hilton College keeper Costi Christodoulou, last year’s SA U17 soccer captain and Manchester City trialist.
Haythorne made up the 2018 semi-final quartet. And like the French rugby team, one never knows which Haythorne brand of football will turn up on the day – it can be inspirational stuff that feeds off the moment, or it can be rather disappointing.
Of some of the other teams, Carter are never to be trifled with in Cup football while I personally have a great deal of time for the Michaelhouse team.
Terrific strikers, a solid pair of central defenders, intelligent distributors of the ball – and the most committed of captains in goalkeeper Noah Stanger, the Men of House are, in my opinion, in with a very real chance to wrest the trophy away from their Hilton rivals.
Alex have had a rather disappointing season to date and will no doubt be thirsting to prove a point, as will first-time entrants Eastwood, who won the PMB B League this year and will want to show that they thoroughly deserve their promotion to The Big Show.
Last year was my first taste of MTN PMB FA Cup football and it was a fabulous eye-opener.
The Howick High School set-up is great and the organisation of what is an extremely time-pressured schedule by Uraisha Haswell and her team is second to none.
From humble beginnings, this tournament has become the most popular and most intensely-fought-for accolade in the Pietermaritzburg and KZN midlands region.
This year, there are a total of 36 teams participating: the 20 boys’ teams, as mentioned earlier, and 16 girls’ teams.
In the girls section, Edendale Technical College have ruled the roost of late and are two-time defending champs but they were pushed all the way in last year’s final by hosts Howick, who will be determined to lift the trophy for the first time, on home soil.
Ixopo and Carter will also expect to be in the final stages – or perhaps there could be a surprise from the likes of GHS or from the spirited Kokstad College girls.
It’s been a long wait.
Now the waiting is over.
Hosts the Maritzburg College U15C soccer team made new friends over the weekend when they met a team from the Kenosis Community Trust.
The Maritzburg College U15C’s match-up with the boys and girls of the Kenosis team produced a soccer match that brought much reward, fun and frivolity.
The Kenosis Community Trust is a foster care programme that serves the needs of orphaned and vulnerable children.
New friends were made and much common ground discovered.
Bonds of this nature extended by our KZN10 schools, which this website and social media serves is applauded.
Long may these initiatives continue across this website and social media’s chosen KZN10 schools.
As has been mentioned before by the KZN10.com website and social media offering; our common bond in sport brings the communities of our beautiful province closer together.
* Source – Maritzburg College Facebook, shared by Michael Dibben.
Featured photo: SnapsbyRambo