Sven’s men got me singin’ the blues
November 30, 2010

My final week out here in Rwanda is turning out to be another quite slow affair. Moto excursions, to monitor the REAP English training for teachers, have been put on hold due to issues regarding the funding of travel expenses so I’m stuck in Nyakarambi, mainly working from home, with the odd stroll up the hill to the District Office for a bit of exercise!

I’ve actually just returned from a session discussing my VSO reference with the District Education Officer, Telesphore, having eventually pinned him down for half an hour and amazingly without any distractions from his mobile.        

The mobile phone culture out here is crazy. Incoming calls take precedence over anything and everything so if you’re in the middle of a conversation with somebody and their phone goes you’re just left standing there, mid sentence with your mouth gaping open, while they wander off and take the call. If you’re lucky they might return – that’s if they remember! It’s very frustrating and to us seems very rude, but not so to them.

Anyway all of my final reports have now been completed and submitted so I’m not quite sure how I’ll be occupying my work time for the rest of the week. My leisure time, however, is pretty much spoken for.

Tomorrow evening I’ve been invited over to Kibungo for a farewell pasta dish with Cathy and Louise and on Thursday I’m hosting a brochettes and beer evening at KMC as a  ‘thank you and goodbye’ to those I’ve got to know most closely over the last three months.  

My day hardly got off to the brightest start, having logged on first thing to find Sven’s Leicester team had stuck one over Forest in last night’s local derby at the Walkers Stadium. Apparently, according to Billy, we just didn’t compete and if it hadn’t been for a fine goalkeeping performance from Lee Camp the score might have been embarrassing.

I have to admit I thought it was a nice touch when Sven, who of course has both England and Notts County on his cv, remarked in his post match interview that perhaps he had made a few Magpies fans happy!    

Forest considered it too soon for either of their new loan signings, Aaron Ramsey and Marcus Tudgay, to start the game but I guess they’ll be taking a bow at home against Bristol City on Saturday. I wonder what the chances are of picking up the score in Addis Ababa airport!

  

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North London ‘derby’ in Nyakarambi!
November 21, 2010

We have been promising ourselves a Saturday afternoon visit to KMC to watch a match on Msafiri’s big screen. Given that this weekend we were at a loose end in Nyakarambi and that Mark is a ‘Gooner’, the North London ‘derby’ seemed an obvious call.

Sod’s law decreed that this would, of course, be the Saturday afternoon that Msafiri had let his function room for a wedding party, so no football. Fortunately, however somebody else with an eye for the main chance had set up a 26 inch TV in a back room behind Uncle Innocent’s café.

We dutifully paid 200RWF entrance fee and took our place on wooden bench, hemmed in by about seventy football mad locals, and with a distant view of the small screen. About 75% of the crowd were Arsenal ‘fans’ and the rest were cheering on Spurs because they were followers of Chelsea or Man Utd.

The first half was a cake walk for Arsene’s team and the camera even caught him smiling. Perhaps it was too easy, because the second half saw an amazing turn around and Harry’s Spurs surprisingly found themselves 3-2 winners,  without really playing that well. A ‘game of two halves,’ if ever there was, and  Arsene was finally shown throwing his water bottle on to the ground in frustration!

To be honest all five goals were the product of dubious defending and who knows what Cesc Fabregas was thinking of when he stuck up an arm to let Spurs back in with an equalising penalty which provided, an out of condition, Rafael Van der Waart with his one and only meaningful contribution  to the game.

Game over and we repaired to the ‘front terrace’ of KMC to drown Mark’s sorrows and catch the dying embers of the day. As we watched the wedding guests, dressed in their finery, come and go we were soon joined by Msafiri sporting his ‘Tora Paul Kagame’ T-shirt and a long face. He is also a Gunners fan and had been watching the game up in his room.

Msafiri has taken to wearing a range of PK leisure wear since last Sunday when he attended a FPR meeting addressed by a local MP who apparently robustly refuted the findings of the recent controversial UN enquiry.  

Msafiri maintains he has never been into politics too much but understands the current standing and popularity of PK and, being rather astute, he clearly recognises that nailing his colours to the mast can’t be all together bad for business.     

He has been very friendly and helpful to us since we moved to Nyakarambi and is a bit of a local Mr Fixit. I had set him the mission of trying to find someone local who might be prepared to transport me and my luggage to Kigali Airport in two weeks time, at a decent rate, so I don’t have to struggle with it on the bus.

It seems he might have come up trumps and in typical African style, with a big smile on his face he declared that he could confirm arrangements two days before I’m due to leave. My response that I needed to know at least a week before leaving was met with another big grin and a, ‘Don’t worry Phillip I won’t let you down!’ Past experience suggests he won’t so I’ll just relax and go with the flow.          

On arriving home a  quick trawl on the internet soon put  the North London ‘derby’  into perspective. The result of the day was obviously down in Cardiff where Billy’s Boys beat the table toppers 2-0 to move the Tricky Trees into the top six of the Championship!

Earnie on a roll and Martin O’Neil for Forest?
August 25, 2010

Forest have hardly got off to a flyer this season but it is early days and their displays have warranted a better points return than the meagre two out of a possible 9 they  have accrued.

On Saturday, having dominated the first half at the splendid Madejski Stadium, they went in 1-0 down after Reading scored from their only meaningful attack of the half.

However, shortly after the interval Forest got their just reward when Reading’s, otherwise outstanding, Italian keeper, Federici, produced a goalkeeping howler to gift them a deserved equaliser. A clearance against one of his own defenders rebounded to Robbie Earnshaw who reacted in a flash to round the keeper and roll home his first goal of the season.   

Earnshaw has worked hard and looked very sharp this season but been denied, in previous games, by a combination of the woodwork and good keeping. He had earned his slice of luck and it was good to see the trademark celebratory somersault in action again.

Given that once Earnie gets on a roll he tends to get goals in clusters, I wouldn’t bet against him appearing on the score sheet again next weekend when Forest take on one of his former clubs, Norwich, at the City Ground.

I hope so as this will be my last opportunity to see the Tricky Trees before leaving for Rwanda. I would like to think that by the time I return, in early December, they will be sitting in the top six!   

In his post-match interview, Forest manager Billy Davies once again berated the acquisitions committee for its inability to dip into the transfer market.

Billy’s familiar mantra is born out of frustration and his realistic assessment that if last season’s promise is to bear fruit this time a round Forest need a couple of quality players to strengthen a pretty thin looking squad.    

It is difficult to know what is going on behind the scenes but are Billy’s protestations beginning to grate with the committee and are they, in turn, keeping a firm grip on the purse strings, hoping that he might step down?   

I was astonished to see the News of the World speculating that should this be the case Forest are lining up Martin O’Neil as a possible replacement!

Martin was a great European Cup winning player for Forest who has an emotional attachment to the club. He seemed to be in line to take over as manager when Cloughie retired but things didn’t work out. Instead he went on to enjoy management success at Leicester, Celtic and Aston Villa.

If Forest were to get promoted to the Premiership a manager of O’Neil’s stature would certainly enhance their chances of staying there but I can’t really see him stepping down into the Championship unless the acquisitions committee hand him total control over the spending on players. After all he apparently quit Villa because he was unhappy with the transfer funds being made available to him there.

Much as I would love to see Martin O’Neil and his assistant John Robertson (another Forest legend) at the City Ground I can’t help feeling it would be very harsh on Billy Davies who has done a tremendous job at the club since he took over.

I would certainly say he is the best manager we have had since Cloughie and he has a proven track record in the second tier. However there is still a question mark over whether he has what it takes to operate in the top league.

If, and it’s a big if, Forest have enough money to approach O’Neil they surely have the funds to make realistic bids for the couple of players that would strengthen Davies’ squad.

It’s an intriguing situation but I think if Martin O’Neil goes anywhere it’s more likely to be as England manager, should Fabio Capello fail to convince over the coming months!